Dorsey, Issan

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Dorsey, Issan Gender: M
Thomas Dorsey Jr.
born on 7 March 1933 at 05:49 (= 05:49 AM )
Place Santa Barbara, California, 34n25, 119w42
Timezone PST h8w (is standard time)
Data source
Quoted BC/BR
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Scholfield
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_piscol.18.gif 16°33' s_mo.18.gif s_cancol.18.gif 21°25 Asc.s_piscol.18.gif 03°17'


American Zen Master, psychedelic drug addict and AIDS activist, he died of AIDS in 1990 at Maitri Hospice, a San Francisco center for AIDS patients, which he founded.

Dorsey is the subject of the biography, "Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey." A gay man and drag queen, alcoholic and finally Buddhist teacher, he was a female impersonator in San Francisco in the 1950s and his LSD experiences led him to Zen. In 1989, after 20 years of Zen practice, he became Abbot of San Francisco's Hartford Street Zen Center where he founded the famed Maitri Hospice for AIDS patients.

Born to a large Irish-Italian Catholic family with 10 younger brothers and sisters, he was a mediocre student though he found his niche in amateur theatre. He acknowledged his homosexuality in his adolescence. After six months of college, he on a whim decided to join the navy. As a sailor in the 50s he was initiated into gay life in Laguna Beach; on a ship to Korea, he fell in love with a fellow sailor. He and his lover received dishonorable discharges and went on to perform in gay nightclubs. His character, Tommy Dee was born, the leader of a traveling drag show, "the Party of Four." Tragically all the other members were killed in a car crash, with only Tommy surviving, though seriously injured. From the accident, and through years of abusing his body with drugs and the rigors of performing, he ended up in San Francisco General where doctors realized his organs were badly askew, and he underwent life-saving surgery. He suddenly gave up drugs after living in a commune, absorbing Buddhist philosophy, and experiencing the death of his brother.

Link to Wikipedia biography


Source Notes

Sy Scholfield quotes birth certificate in hand


  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Aids
  • Diagnoses : Psychological : Abuse Drugs
  • Family : Childhood : Family large (eleven kids)
  • Family : Childhood : Order of birth (oldest of 11 kids)
  • Passions : Sexuality : Gay
  • Personal : Religion/Spirituality : Eastern (Zen Buddhist)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Live Stage (drag queen)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Night Club/ Vaudeville