Dr. Perkins Had a Secret (Local Lore: The Best La Jolla Stories Ever Told)

The best La Jolla stories ever told!


On Thursday, Oct. 22, 1936, retired physician Eugene C. Perkins died of a heart attack at age 67 in La Jolla, his home of 12 years. Six months earlier, Perkins — who moved to San Diego from Buffalo around 1916 — was predeceased by his wife of 28 years, Margaret Curren Perkins.

So what’s so remarkable about any of that?

Nothing at all — except that the death certificate, which stated Eugene’s gender as “male,” was corrected in red ink to read “female” after San Diego County health officer Alex M. Lesem examined the body.

A 1969 La Jolla Historical Society oral history, printed in the Spring 2015 issue of the Society’s Timekeeper magazine, quotes La Jolla resident Beatrice Blankenship discussing the ensuing national scandal.

“I called Uncle Arnold, who had lived across from the Perkins all these years,” Blankenship recalled. “I told him, first of all, that Dr. Perkins was dead, and my uncle was shocked. Then I said, ‘I have a still greater surprise for you — Dr. Perkins is a woman.’ I repeated it three times and Uncle Arnold said, ‘Well, there is something wrong with this telephone.’ ”

In 2016, Perkins was celebrated by a Department of City Planning LGBTQ history as “one of the earliest known transgender individuals in San Diego.”

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