The Joe Bruin costume was presented in 1963, with Charles Dennis. Josephine Bruin wouldn’t be added until a couple of years later, in 1967. (Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin)


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Editor\"s note: Professor Dennis to be consulted ~ above the consumption of both \"he\" and \"she\" pronouns in the story, and also the daily Bruin and Professor Dennis collaboratively came to the conclusion the this choice would permit for the ideal explanation that her distinctive experience. This choice is not intended to be representative or reflective that the experiences or preferences of every transgender people.

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This post was updated on might 15 in ~ 9:36 p.m.The Bruins had a problem.

Josephine Bruin, a live Himalayan brown be affected by each other donated by alumni in 1961, was getting too large for her house in the Rally Committee chair’s backyard. So she to be shipped off to the san Diego Zoo, and also the Rally Committee began the search for a new mascot.

They had actually a be afflicted with costume, to buy by the alumni, however no one to wear it.

Enter Charles Dennis, one undergraduate college student – that would later come to be a professor in ~ UCLA – v no particular aspirations to it is in a mascot. His Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother, Doug Nichols, was the head cheerleader in 1963, once they were both juniors.

“At the fraternity residence he to be asking, ‘Who would favor to stay this costume?,” Dennis said. “Doug kept pushing the beer, free beer.”

Dennis i agreeed to it is in in the suit, to wave to fans, to cheer top top the football team, concealed from view.

“It was sort of fun, we would ride ~ above a bus under to the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum,” Dennis, now 75, said. “Of course, there was a keg on the bus.”

But every the if he organized a secret. The costume hid Dennis native the crowd, yet inside the suit, he to be struggling to find his very own identity.

“Have you ever before tried to organize an inflated beach round underwater?” Dennis said. “I maintained that beach ball underwater because that 50 years. 24/7.”

He had actually known from around the age of 5 the he liked things the weren’t traditionally masculine.

“It was a different time,” Dennis said. “There wasn’t even a indigenous to explain what ns was.”

Dennis to be Joe Bruin for the 1963 season. He tumbled around the sidelines of home gamings with a balsa hardwood staff, tripping and also falling together he helped the cheer squad excite the home crowd. The warm of the costume fogged up his glasses.

“People assumed it to be a component of the act,” Dennis laughed. “But i couldn’t see a lick.”

The timeless rivalry in between the UC flagship schools developed a raucous and also festive atmosphere at the Coliseum, even though the video game would have little outcome ~ above the standings.

“Oski, the (California) mascot, come up and blew an waiting horn in an eye feet of my costume,” Dennis said. “So, I provided him a smack with my balsa wood staff. Both teams started chanting, ‘fight, fight, fight.’”

No struggle happened, but the golden Bears won 25-0. The Bruin football team walk 2-8 the season, including a demoralizing loss come the Trojans in former of 82,460 civilization at the Coliseum 3 weeks after ~ that.

Fifty-five years later on – and with a lot much less fanfare – Professor Michelle Dennis currently teaches in the Luskin college of publicly Affairs’ public policy department in ~ UCLA.

Without the Joe Bruin costume, hiding in level sight for half a century wasn’t easy.

“Periodic cross -dressing, and also accumulating – in an enig – women’s clothing,” Dennis said. “That’s pretty common.”

Dennis met a girl; they acquired married in 1964 and had children. As a man, Dennis progressed through a career in publicly service, working for Los Angeles ar from 1965 come 1983, and also then for the City the Santa Monica – very first as a manager of finance, then together the city controller – prior to retiring in 2003. In 2004, Dennis went back to UCLA to teach, still making use of the name Charles Dennis.

Dennis led a dual life together a man in public, and also when possible, a woman in private. She found a growing ar on the internet that mutual the exact same sense that dysphoria.

In the mid-’90s, she uncovered a word: transgender.

By 2000, Dennis’ two kids were grown and out of the house, and she felt the time had involved make the transition. She and also her wife gained their kids together and told them.

To Dennis’ surprise, her son and daughter had each guessed at the truth and also were both accepting. Her daughter had accidentally discovered a bookmark around transgender identity on the internet browser of she dad’s computer; her kid had discovered women’s apparel in the earlier of Dennis’ closet.

“My kid said, ‘I knew mother didn’t wear size 10 shoes,\"” Dennis recalled through a giggle.

Not everything went together smoothly together that. Dennis and her mam separated, ultimately divorcing in 2004.

Age gift a factor, Dennis determined it was also late to do a organic transition, for this reason she decided versus having gender confirmation surgery. She felt she self-identification to be enough.

“Transgender civilization are always the same person inside, always,” Dennis said. “The outside maybe it s okay presented differently, yet who they fundamentally are, from the beginning, is constantly the same.”

At the same time, she, as Professor Charles M. “Mike” Dennis, was teaching at UCLA in the Luskin school of publicly Affairs.

Four years ago, she approached the head of she department.

“I really want to teach together Michelle,” Dennis said. “They claimed fine, as lengthy as you save it consistent.”

The school adjusted her photo and bio ~ above its website to reflect her self-identification as a trans woman.

“It didn’t seem come make any kind of difference come the students,” Dennis said.

And for this reason the professor taught together she was expected to, as a woman, and also has due to the fact that 2014.

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She met another woman in 2010, and they got married. Her relationship with she adult youngsters is quiet strong, and also she has since become friends through her ex-wife.

“That’s what wake up in life: friend go follow me and every one of a suddenly you concerned a crossroads and also you’ve got to make a selection and it is in responsible for the choice,” Dennis said. “(I) didn’t plan this can be fried destination, however I’m an extremely grateful the this is the means it is.”