The illustrious club singer, born on August 23, 1931, went by the stage name Coccinelle.
Labelled a male at birth, Coccinelle was the first known French person to undergo sex-reassignment surgery in Europe after World War I.
Here’s what you need to know about the transgender celebrity’s legacy.
Who is Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy?
Born in Paris, Jacqueline-Charlotte Dufresnoy was said to have experienced feelings of gender dysphoria from the age of four.
She took the stage name Coccinelle, meaning ladybug, after her showgirl debut in 1953 at Chez Madame Arthur, a drag cabaret which was restored and reopened in 2015 as Le Divan du Monde.
She later became a regular act at Le Carrousel de Paris, a nightclub that hosted other famous trans performers including Merie-Pier Ysser, stage name Bambi, and April Ashley – one of the earliest British women to face the same surgery.
Coccinelle decided to have sex-reassignment surgery in 1958, performed by Dr Georges Burou in Casablanca.
Speaking of the operation, she said: “After the operation, the doctor just said, ‘Bonjour, Mademoiselle,’ and I knew it had been a success."
Before the age of 30, the singer made further history with her marriage to French journalist Francis Bonnet.
Their union was the first marriage of a trans person to be recognised by the French government – and the Catholic church that re-baptised her as Jacqueline.
Although Coccinelle went on to marry twice more, this marked a moment in history that set the precedent for the legal right to marry for trans people in France.
Activism was not central to her early life and works, but later in life she founded Devenir Femme, an organisation meaning to ‘To Become Woman’. She also helped establish the Center for Aid, Research and Information for Transsexuality and Gender Identity.
Suffering a stroke in the summer of 2006, Coccinelle died shortly after on October 9, in Marseille.
What movies was Coccinelle in?
Coccinelle’s first film after her return to France was Alessandro Blasetti’s Europa di Notte (1959).
Major stardom followed after Italian artist Ghigo Agosti dedicated a song to the cabaret star called Coccinella, in the same year.
In 1962, she starred in Los Viciosos, an Argentine thriller, and in 1968, the Spanish romance Dias de Viejo Color.
She also built a renowned singing career, beginning with the title track of Premier Rendez-Vous, Henri Decoin’s 1941 film.
Her autobiography was published in 1987, titled Coccinelle par Coccinelle, and detailed her rise to stardom and a life of activism.