Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual & Transgender Month - Also known as Gay Pride Month is almost over.
So what does the LGBT community and it's celebrations have to do with motorcycling in Canada?

The recent publicity surrounding Bruce Jenner and his becoming Caitlyn has drawn much fire from society in North America as most people today just simply don't see what Bruce, now Caitlyn has done as news.

That is the acceptance factor of today. It's no big deal.

But imagine being a Grand Prix Motorcycle Racer and struggling with your identity in the 1950's.

Canada has had some rather famous people, who are transgender, come out of the closet so to speak.

Jamie Lee Hamilton - a Vancouver politician, aboriginal people's advocate and an advocate for sex trade workers. Born in 1955 as James Arthur Hamilton, her parents were both political activists.
In 1970 she was the first youth to be treated in Canada for gender identity disorder.

Jenna Talackova - born in 1988, raised in Vancouver, she began gender transition at 14 years of age. She completed he sex reassignment surgery at 19. She is best known for her role in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada Pageant when the Canadian pageant committee attempted to disqualify her. However, Donald Trump's office issued a statement reversing the Canadian organizers decision. She placed in the top 12 of the pageant.

Alec Butler - born in 1950 as Audrey Bulter, this Cape Breton native is an award winning playwright and filmmaker.

Aaron H. Devor - born in 1951 as Holly, Aaron is an internationally respected expert on gender, sex
and sexuality who teaches at the University of Victoria in BC.

Michael, now Michelle Duff
But did you know that before most of these people were born, before they declared that they were born in the wrong body and decided to do something about it, that a Canadian motorcyclist had also done the same thing?

In fact, this motorcyclist is one of the very first persons in Canada to have their gender reassigned.

The first Canadian person whose documentation is complete and verified was Dianna (Clifford) Boileau in 1969, her reassignment was completed in 1970.

Born Michael Alan Duff in 1939, the Toronto
native married twice and had two boys and a girl.
In 1984 Michael became Michelle and her gender reassignment was completed in 1987.

Michelle went on to become an author of young adult title books, is a children's writer and a photographer.

Michelle - Michael Duff had an incredible racing career, one that spanned 14 years from 1955 to 1969. Hers is a fascinating story, one filled with exotic motorcycles on exotic tracks surrounded by equally exotic people.

At 13 she caught the bug for riding by sneaking her brother's motorcycle out of the garage.

By 15 she was racing competitively.

In 1964 she won the Belgian Grand Prix becoming the first North American to win a World Championship Grand Prix and the first rider to lap the Spa race course at 120 MPH on a 250 Yamaha.

The following video from the National Film Board, Ride for Your Life, deals with the near fatal crash Michael had in Japan in 1965 and why he wanted to get back on the track.

In spite of the fear that Michelle had that she might not be accepted by race fans or competitors, Michelle has found acceptance from both fans and colleagues.

"Make Haste Slowly" is her autobiography.

She is a captivating writer and if you love motorcycles, her story is one you'll want to delve into deeper. If you'd like to read more on her story and the glory days of Grand Prix racing in Europe, visit the references below.

If you are blessed to be riding today, please remember to ride like everyone around you is blind and cannot see you.

Belt Drive Betty
Editor & Rider

Research for this article: - A Gender Variance Who's Who - Michelle Duff - A career with a twist
National Film Board of Canada (
IJMS (International Journal of Motorcycle Studies)

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