Writer and trans activist Rachel Pollack dies aged 77

Rachel Pollack and her creation Kate Godwin, the first trans superhero
Rachel Pollack and her creation Kate Godwin, the first trans superhero Copyright PM Press - Facebook
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Rachel Pollack was a pioneering trans activist, authority on tarot and the occult and created the first transgender superhero in mainstream comics, Kate Godwin

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Award-winning author and trans activist Rachel Pollack has died aged 77.

The writer was a leading authority on tarot and the occult, and a comic-book writer who created the first mainstream transgender superhero.

She first found success in 1971 with her short story 'Pandora’s Bust', which was published in Michael Moorcock’s seminal new wave magazine New Worlds. Pollack transitioned soon afterwards. 

She was an incredibly prolific writer, publishing numerous non-fiction works including many on tarot, as well as publishing seven novels and four collections of short stories, including 'Unquenchable Fire' in 1989, which won the Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction. Her last work, 'The Fissure King', was published in 2017.

Pollack’s friend, the author Neil Gaiman, tweeted the news of her death, including a Facebook post from her wife Zoe Matoff. She had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma several years ago but recovered, but it was reported she had been diagnosed with a different variant of lymphoma.

Gaiman has spoken about their nearly four-decade long friendship, saying they bonded over their Jewishness. He explained: “Despite being a bastion of the new age she was also incredibly Jewish. There’s an orthodox prayer that begins ‘Thank you, God, for not making me a woman’. I remember her telling me that after she came to following her surgery she said, ‘Blessed to you God for not making me a woman, but thrice-blessed to the doctor who did’.”

Pollack was born in Brooklyn, New York and later moved to the UK. In London, she and British writer and cultural critic Roz Kaveney belonged to the Gay Liberation Front, which drew up the first trans manifesto published in 1972, called ‘Don’t Call Me Mister You F*cking Beast’.

Kaveney paid tribute to his former collaborator, telling The Guardian: “Rachel was a crystallising force in the trans movement and so many other areas. She was perpetually an inspirational figure, and was one of the first professional trans writers who had a career while out, and proved that it was possible to do that”.

From 1993 and 1995, Pollack wrote the monthly Doom Patrol comic for the DC Comics Vertigo imprint and created the character Kate Godwin, who is considered to be the first transgender superhero in mainstream comics.

She was also very well known for her huge influence in the tarot and occult words, with writer and historian Morgan M. Page, saying: “Quite simply, Rachel was the greatest living authority on the tarot”.

Her 1980 book 'Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom' is a reference point for all modern researchers of tarot interpretation and Pollack also designed her own tarot decks. She became an important force in the women’s spiritual movement and worked hard to reclaim the goddess figure, bringing trans women into its identity.

Countless fans have taken to the internet to pay tribute to Pollack, with one calling the pioneer “one of the greatest real life superheroes”.

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