Dianna Boileau, Dr. Harold Challis and Transgender Rights

In 1970, Dianna Boileau (c. 1930s-2014) became the first Canadian to receive gender-affirming surgery. The catalyst for Dianna’s transition was Dr. Harold Challis, a British physician at La Verendrye Hospital in Dianna’s hometown of Fort Frances, with a rare and progressive understanding of gender for the time. Dr. Challis saw Dianna frequently in her youth and learned of her struggles among her peers. His counsel helped Dianna and her family with her transition to begin living openly as a woman. In 1970, Dianna received gender-affirming surgery through the new Gender Identity Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto. In 1972, she told her life story in a ground-breaking autobiography, recounting her relationships and medical journey, but also incidents of harassment, discrimination and abuse. The international media blitz that followed traced the challenges of being trans in her time and provided a public face for transition when few existed. Dianna married in the 1980s and disappeared from the public eye. The fight for provincial funding for medical transition waged until 2008. It helped unify and focus the trans movement in Ontario for decades to come. By going public with her story, Dianna helped bring awareness to transgender rights and medical transition.


In front of La Verendrye Hospital in Fort Frances

Region: Northern Ontario

County/District: District of Rainy River

Municipality: Town of Fort Frances