203 W Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Twentynine Palms Cemetery Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino County, California, USA
Kenneth Lisonbee (October 11, 1903 - December 22, 1991) was a trans man who was born Katherine Rowena Wing in Springville, Utah. The grandchild of Mormon pioneer Joseph Smith Wing, his childhood was spent on his family’s wheat ranch in central Utah. By 1925 Kenneth was living as a man (going by the name of Kenneth Wing) in Los Angeles and training to be a barber. Around this time Kenneth began dating a young woman named Eileen Garnett, and the pair married in 1927. This marriage was short-lived, however, and Kenneth would later report that it was broken up when Garnett’s family moved in with the newlyweds and discovered his “true sex.”
After his marriage broke up, Kenneth began going by the name of Kenneth Lisonbee, perhaps to avoid legal persecution. Sometime in mid-1928 Lisonbee returned to Utah for a visit, during which he became reacquainted with Stella Harper, a childhood friend. Harper accompanied Lisonbee when he returned to Los Angeles in October 1928, and the pair moved into an apartment at 203 West Garvey Avenue. While this arrangement seemed to suit Lisonbee and Harper quite well, some in the neighborhood were suspicious of the couple, and on January 10, 1929, they were taken into police custody and Lisonbee’s “true sex” was revealed. After Kenneth Lisonbee’s arrest in 1929, the Los Angeles Times reported that he was planning on “no more adventuring about the world, but a railroad ticket straight home to dad, who always said she was the best boy he ever had.”
True to his word, Lisonbee returned to his parent’s house in the rural outskirts of Eureka, Utah, shortly after his release from police custody. However, he did not return alone; the 1930 federal census lists both “Katherine R. Wing” (Lisonbee’s legal name) and Estella Harper (the woman with whom he had been living in Los Angeles) as residing with Lisonbee’s parents outside Eureka. Although the census counted Lisonbee as female in 1930, it’s clear that Lisonbee’s parents to some extent tolerated his male gender expression—the local papers reported that his parents had been aware that Kenneth had been dressing as man prior to his 1929 arrest.
While it’s unclear whether Lisonbee ever publicly (or privately) claimed the identity of Kenneth while in Utah, by the mid-1930s he was once again living full-time as a man, with his parent’s knowledge. By that point he had again relocated to southern California and taken up work at the same barbershop in Wilmar where he had worked prior to his 1929 arrest. This time, however, he returned to California not only with Stella Harper in tow, but with his parents as well. The foursome (Lisonbee, his parents, and Stella Harper) settled together in Alhambra, California, a city in the San Gabriel Valley, eight miles from central Los Angeles. Lisonbee’s 1940 arrest was prompted by a traffic stop, which resulted in police questioning the name provided on his driver’s license.
Kenneth Lisonbee and Stella Harper, 1929
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