American jazz musician Billy Tipton developed a reputable touring and recording career in the mid-twentieth century, along with his band The Billy Tipton Trio.
After his death in the late 1980s, it was revealed that Tipton was assigned female at birth, and his life was swiftly reframed as the story of an ambitious woman passing as a man in pursuit of a music career in the male-dominated field of jazz.
Born Dorothy Lucille Tipton in Oklahoma City on December 29, 1914, Tipton grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was raised by an aunt after his parents divorced when he was four.
As a high school student, Tipton went by the nickname "Tippy" and became interested in jazz, playing piano and saxophone. Tipton was not allowed to join the all-male school band at Southwest High School. He returned to Oklahoma for his final year of high school and joined the school band at Connors State College High School.
Around 1933, Tipton started binding his breasts and dressing as a man to fit in with the typical jazz band image of the era. As Tipton began a more serious music career, he decided to present as a male musician, adopting the name Billy Lee Tipton. By 1940, Tipton was living as a man in his private life as well.
The genre-defying documentary No Ordinary Man seeks to correct the misrepresentation of Tipton as a female who passed as a man by collaborating with trans artists to help tell his story from his point of view. As they collectively celebrate Tipton’s story as a musician living his life according to his own terms, they paint a portrait of a trans culture icon and what it means to be a trans man in the wider culture.
The movie will be out on platforms on July 16. Watch the trailer here: