‘Extraordinary, trailblazing and inspiring’ trans writer and historian Jan Morris has died, aged 94
The trailblazing trans writer, journalist and historian Jan Morris has died, aged 94.
Morris’ death was announced on Friday, 20 November, by her son Twm, who said: “This morning at 11.40am at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, on the Llyn, the author and traveller Jan Morris began her greatest journey. She leaves behind on the shore her lifelong partner, Elizabeth.”
The acclaimed Welsh writer was born in 1926 and began her journalistic career working at The Times. In 1953, she accompanied the British Mount Everest expedition, and went on to break the story of the first successful ascent to the top of the world’s highest mountain.
Morris famously reported on the expedition’s success with a coded telegram sent back to The Times, and the story broke on the morning of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
Morris went on to report on the Suez Crisis for The Guardian and made history when she provided the first “irrefutable proof” that France and Israel had colluded to invade Egyptian territory.
Jan Morris was an acclaimed trans writer who opened up about her transition in her book Conundrum.
Throughout her long and varied career, Morris broke new ground in journalism and was acclaimed for her unique writing style – but she became an international sensation with the publication of her 1974 book Conundrum, in which she came out as trans.
The book detailed Morris’ transition and became her first book to be published under her new name. It has gone down in history as one of the first books to discuss gender affirmation surgery.
Writing in Conundrum, Morris said she knew she had been “born into the wrong body” when she was aged three or four, and said she knew that she should “really be a girl”.
Throughout her childhood, Morris felt “a yearning for I knew not what, as though there were a piece missing from my pattern, or some element in me that should be hard and permanent, but was instead soluble and diffuse”.
Morris married her wife Elizabeth in 1949, before she transitioned, and the couple remained together after Morris came out as a trans woman.
In March, Morris spoke to The Guardian about her extraordinary career, and in the course of the interview, a bird began tapping its beak on the window.
“Do you hear the bird tapping?” Morris said in the interview. “It used to portend death didn’t it? We have it every day at different windows.”
She also reflected on her transition, saying: “I should say I would never use the word change, as in ‘sex change’ for what happened to me. I did not change sex, I really absorbed one into the other.
“I’m a bit of each now. I freely admit it. There is obviously all of this debate about it all at the moment, but for me it was never a black and white thing. Never could be. It was a sort of instinct. A question of spirit almost.”
Morris’ death has been widely mourned on social media as people come together to remember the extraordinary life of the trailblazing writer.
Many pointed out the significance of Morris dying on Trans Day of Remembrance.
On #TDOR we lose one of our most generous, playful, cerebral and exciting writers. Jan Morris' Conundrum, written 46 years ago, still should be compulsory reading. As should all the rest of it, really. Rest in mischief and power, Jan. pic.twitter.com/yL5hEvZic3
— sara huws (@sara_huws) November 20, 2020
Oh. I've just learned of Jan Morris's death today, aged 94.
She was one of the most extraordinary, inspiring, kindest people I ever had the luck to meet.
Please read her.
Read Trieste, read Conundrum, read Coronation Everest…
This interview with her catches some of her magic. https://t.co/zp75wP1SxY
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) November 20, 2020
Very sad to hear of the death of Jan Morris, one of @PrideCymru's Icons from their Allies and Icons exhibition and a true role model not just for trans people but also historians and writers. The world is less for losing her.
— Lisa Power (@alisapower) November 20, 2020
Sad news that writer Jan Morris has died, aged 94. A pioneer in so many ways, and still writing well into her 90s. She had the most incredible life. https://t.co/8IYzvmkgGW
— David Llewellyn (@TheDaiLlew) November 20, 2020
Our thoughts are with Elizabeth, Twm and Jan’s wider family and friends. A true role model and an inspiring, talented writer.https://t.co/0b05MR9T1E
— Stonewall Cymru (@StonewallCymru) November 20, 2020
This is such sad news. Had the great pleasure of publishing Jan Morris’s Venice books at Folio. What a life. Thoughts with her family. https://t.co/xyuxmZ0gFG
— Catherine Taylor (@KatyaTaylor) November 20, 2020