Last Friday revered trailblazer Jan Morris tragically passed away aged 94, on what was International Transgender Day Of Remembrance.
Announcing her passing on Friday Morris’s son, Welsh poet Twm Morys said in a statement, “This morning at 11.40 at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, on the Llyn, the author and traveller Jan Morris began her greatest journey. She leaves behind on the shore her life-long partner, Elizabeth.”
Morris’s cause of death has not bee announced.
Born James Morris in Somerset in 1926. At age 17, they for a short time served as an intelligence officer in Palestine before returning to Oxford to study English and to work as a journalist. At age 26, Morris was the only journalist to accompany Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary on their 1953 ascent of Everest, breaking the story in the Times on Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Day.
As a long-celebrated journalist and traveller after undergoing gender reassignment surgery in Morocco in 1972, Morris made international headlines in 1974 with the release of her tell-all book Conundrum. A work which famously detailed her gender transition. At a time, such a story was very much off limits and at odds with the narrative being pushed through and by broader society.
“I did not know exactly where it was – in my head, in my heart, in my loins, in my dreams. Nor did I know whether to be ashamed of it, proud of it, grateful for it, resentful of it. Sometimes I thought I would be happier without it, sometimes I felt it must be essential to my being,” Morris wrote. “Perhaps one day, when I grew up, I would be as solid as other people appeared to be; but perhaps I was meant always to be a creature of wisp or spindrift, loitering in this inconsequential way almost as though I were intangible.”
Think Again, published in March this year as an anthology of her personal diaries and reflections, will remain the last in her long-standing legacy.
In 2018, Morris in an interview with the Financial Times, said of her transition that it “changed me far less than I thought it had and it may have overshadowed my books at first, but it’s faded now.” Adding she was “glad the world had so changed, and she had written so much and that her transition was no longer the first line of any article about her.”
Of course, these achievements barely touch the surface of what was the life of a truly remarkable individual who paved the way for so many who followed.
Morris is survived by her partner of more than 50 years, Elizabeth Tuckniss and their four children.