Coccinelle’s real name was Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy and she was born on August 23, 1931 in Paris. Fashion, singing and acting soon turned out to be her great passions. In 1953 she made her stage debut at the cabaret Madame Arthur in Paris.

Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy later became known far beyond the borders of France with her own cabaret show. She performed with it in other European countries and in South America, among other places. In Spain and Argentina she made the films Los viciosos and Días de viejo color in the 1960s.

She did all of this at a time when few queer people were publicly professing their gender identity or sexual orientation due to the threat of legal and societal sanctions.

For example, in Coccinelle’s native France, in the 1950s, it was illegal to wear clothing that lawmakers felt would not match the gender assigned at birth. Coccinelle was assigned the male gender at birth.

Sex reassignment surgeries were rare in the mid-20th century. The Danish painter Lili Elbe, for example, is one of the few people who had an operation carried out in Germany in 1930. Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy became the first known French person to undergo gender reassignment surgery. That was in Casablanca in 1958, two years after Morocco’s independence from France and Spain.

“Coccinelle” is the French word for ladybug. Jacqueline-Charlotte Dufresnoy got her nickname as a teenager. The occasion was a sensational, fashionable decision by the young woman who wore a red dress with black dots at a party.

In 1960, Coccinelle married a Catholic, setting a religious and legal precedent in France. Parallel to her career as an entertainer, she founded the organization “Devenir Femme”, which supported transgender people on their path to gender reassignment.

Coccinelle also helped found the Center for Aid, Research, and Information for Transsexuality and Gender Identity.

Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy died in Marseille on October 9, 2006 at the age of 75.