Rupert Raj | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Rupert Raj

Rupert Raj, transgender activist, trans social author, former psychotherapist (born 10 February 1952 in Ottawa, ON). Raj is a transgender pioneer who dedicated his career to clinical research, counselling and advocacy for the transgender community. Raj established (and co-established) some of Canada's earliest trans advocacy organizations, including the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals (disbanded). Raj also established the first known national transsexual newsletter in Canada, Gender Review: A FACTual Journal. (See also Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada.)

Portrait of Rupert Raj, c. 1988.

Early Life & Transition

Rupert Raj was born in Ottawa in 1952. Early on in life, Raj developed a passion for science from his father, an East Indian nuclear physics professor, and an interest in psychology and sociology from his Polish mother. At the age of three, Raj felt that his external female presentation did not match his internal male persona (see Gender Identity). Raj believed that his gender identity was unique until 1969, when his psychotherapist notified him that literature was available on transsexualism. (See also Transgender.)

Raj experienced gender dysphoria (discomfort experienced by a person whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex) throughout his childhood and it worsened towards the end of high school. Unable to receive a testosterone injection in Ottawa before the age of 21, Raj located a Manhattan doctor for the procedure, marking the beginning of a gender transition that lasted until 2012. In 1971, Raj began his studies in psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa. During this time, Raj used an adopted male name, Nicholas Christopher Ghosh (he later changed his name to Rupert Raj). During this time, Raj felt like an Existential Outsider, a term he describes in his autobiography, Dancing the Dialectic: True Tales of a Transgender Trailblazer (second edition) (2020), as: "those rare, countercultural revolutionaries of our world, socially-alienated, creative visionaries."

Trans Activism

After relocating to Calgary to take the University of Calgary's gender program, Raj established the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals (FACT) in 1978. It was a registered non-profit corporation that lobbied for and educated trans people (See Transgender). When Raj moved to Toronto in 1979, FACT's head office was relocated there, and operated in the city until 1986. In 1982, Raj established a gender counselling and educational service for trans men, Metamorphosis (later renamed Metamorphosis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF)). In his autobiography, Dancing the Dialectic, Raj states that 'metamorphosis' alludes to "gender transition from female to male due to certain birth-assigned females' sense of self-alienation and gender anxiety arising from being born in the "wrong body."” The organization operated from 1982 to 1988 with the goal of educating transgender males on phalloplasty medical developments and locating funds for research on medical technology. (See also Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada; The Road to Inclusion: Transgender Health Care in Canada.)

Oral History Interview with Rupert Raj (2016) from The ArQuives on Vimeo.

Raj volunteered and ran programs at the 519 Church Street Community Centre (now called The 519), located in the Church and Wellesley Village, Toronto's historically LGBTQ2+ neighbourhood. In 1999, Rupert co-founded a peer-support group for transmen and female-to-males. Topics included gender identity exploration, disclosure management and identity management.

In 2002, Raj started a position as a psychotherapist at Toronto's Sherbourne Health Centre. He co-facilitated an arts-focused group for trans youth, TransFormations, and a psychoeducational group for people considering transitioning, Gender Journeys. During this time, Raj co-founded The Trans Health Lobby Group, later the Trans Lobby Group (TLG). The group successfully lobbied to reinstate coverage of sex reassignment surgery (now called gender confirming surgery) under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) for trans Ontarians in 2008.

The TLG lobbied for modifications to the Ontario Human Rights Code (see also Human Rights). In 2012, Bill 33 (Toby's Act) was passed, which added "gender identity" and"gender expression." Ontario was one of the first jurisdiction in North America to pass such a law.

Counselling and Psychotherapy

In 1988, Raj established a private consulting firm, Gender Worker (later Gender Consultants), which provided counselling services to transgender people, crossdressers and gender resource providers until 1990. Raj has since retired.

After receiving a Master's in Counselling Psychology from Chicago-based Adler School of Professional Psychology in 2001, Raj established a private practice, RR Consulting, and counselled queer, transgender, intersex and Two-Spirit people. (See also Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada.)

Literary Work

Book cover of Rupert Raj's Dancing the Dialectic: True Tales of a Transgender Trailblazer (2017). Published by TransGender Publishing. Art by Valerie Suwariarto.

Rupert Raj is a prolific author. He has co-written five trans-focused research papers and six trans-themed chapters for book anthologies. In 1978, as part of the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals, Raj established the newsletter Gender Review: A FACTual Journal. Based first out of Calgary and then out of Toronto, the newsletter is believed to be the first national transsexual newsletter in Canada. It had subscribers in North America, Europe and the South Pacific until 1986. In 1982, Raj established the Metamorphosis Newsletter (later Metamorphosis Magazine) in Toronto, geared to transmasculine readers, that ran until 1988. The newsletter is said to be "the first exclusive newsletter for trans men in the world." (See also Alternative Media in Canada.)

In 1988, Raj initiated the Gender NetWorker newsletter, which provided a resource for trans peer counsellors, professional therapists and gender clinicians.

Raj authored or edited three books: Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader (with Dan Irving) (2014); Of Souls & Roles, Of Sex & Gender: A Treasury of Transsexual, Transgenderist & Transvestic Verse from 1967 to 1991 (2017, rev. 2018); and Dancing the Dialectic: True Tales of a Transgender Trailblazer (2017, 2020).


Rupert Raj retired in 2017 and has since dedicated his time to not only trans activism, but also eco-activism and animal liberation (see Environmental Movement in Canada). In 2022, Raj received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Simon Fraser University for more than fifty years of international and Canadian trans activism. That same year, Fantasia Fair, a long-running transgender conference now known as Trans Week, honoured Raj with the Transgender Pioneer Award.

Honours and Awards

  • Man of the Year Award, Chicago Gateway Gender Alliance, Chicago, (1986)
  • Listed in The International Who’s Who in Sexology (First Edition), published by The Institute for Advanced Studies in Human Sexuality (in San Francisco) (1986)
  • Lifetime Community Achievement Award, “Sexin’ Change: Reclaiming our Genders and Bodies,” National Trans Conference, Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University (2001)
  • Trans Planet Lifetime Achievement Award, Sherbourne Health Centre's Supporting Our Youth (SOY) program, Toronto (2001)
  • Access, Equity, and Human Rights Pride Award, City of Toronto (2007)
  • Steinert & Ferreiro Award, Community One Foundation (2010)
  • Inductee, The ArQuives: Canada's LGBTQ2+ Archives (2013)
  • Inspire Award, Trans (Health) Lobby Group (2013)
  • Youth Role Model of the Year Award, The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (2017)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, Simon Fraser University (2022)
  • Transgender Pioneer Award, Fantasia Fair (now Trans Week) (2022)

Further Reading

External Links