Today is Mexico’s Independence Day! After a war that lasted over 11 years, Mexico achieved independence from Spanish rule and would begin a path toward self-determination. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence. Yes, decolonize!
While some believe it was Ávila’s wealthy family that allowed him to live life as his truest self, it certainly may have helped, but his courage in battle and in life must be honored and celebrated. Ávila’s identity was not always met with kindness, but the soldier was well-equipped to deal with challenges to his gender. The pistol-whipping colonel was a ladies man, skilled marksmen, and hero. This is the story of Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila.
Amelio Robles Ávila
Amelio Robles Ávila was born to a wealthy family on November 3, 1889, in Xochipala, Guerrero. In his youth, Ávila attended a Catholic school for little girls where he was taught to cook, clean, and sew. However, at a young age, he began to express his gender identity. He showed an aptitude for things that were, at the time perceived to be, masculine like handling weapons, taming horses, and marksmanship.
Perhaps, it was a natural response, if not the only response, to being pressured to conform to a gender identity that isn’t yours — Ávila was perceived as stubborn, rebellious, and too much to handle for the school nuns. But it would be his tenacity and obstinance that served him in the long run.
In 1911, when Amelio robles was arranged to be married to a man, he enlisted as a revolutionary instead.
Not a woman dressed as a man, just a man.
To force the resignation of President Porfirio Dîaz and later, to ensure a social justice-centered government, Mexico needed to engage much of its population in warfare. This meant that eventually women were welcomed with many limitations. Soldaderas were able to tend to wounded soldiers or provide food for the militia but were prohibited from combat and could not have official titles.
Amelio Robles legally changed his first name from Amelia to Amelio, cut his hair, and became one of Mexico’s most valuable and regarded revolutionaries.
“To appear physically male, Robles Ávila deliberately chose shirts with large chest pockets, common in rural areas, and assumed the mannerisms common among men at the time,” according to History.com.
While he was not the only person assigned female to adopt a male persona to join the war, unlike many others Ávila kept his name and lived as a man until the day he died.
“After the war was over, their part in it was dissolved along with whatever rank they held during the fight, and they were expected to return to subservient roles. Some did,” writes Alex Velasquez of Into. “Others, like Amelio Robles Ávila, lived the rest of their lives under the male identities they had adopted during the war.”
You come at the king, you best not miss.
Ávila fought courageously in the war until its end. Becoming a Colonel with his own command, he was decorated with three stars by revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata. He led and won multiple pivotal battles where his identity and contributions were respected.
However, that respect was sometimes earned through empathy other times through the whip of his pistol. Ávila was a man and anyone who chose to ignore this fact would be taught by force. On one occasion, when a group of men tried to “expose” him by tearing off his clothes, Ávila shot and killed two of the men in self-defense.
Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila
Unsurprisingly, Amelio Robles was a bit of a ladies man, though he finally settled down with Angela Torres and together they adopted their daughter Regula Robles Torres. In 1970, he was recognized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense as a veterano as opposed to a veterana of the Mexican Revolution, thus Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is considered the first trans soldier documented in Mexican military history. The swag is infinite!
After the war, Ávila was able to live comfortably as a man where he devoted his life to agriculture. He lived a life, that still for so many trans people around the world seems unfathomable. Colonel Ávila lived to be 95 years old and the rest — no all of it — is history.
I’m an unlikely sailor of tall ships. Too clumsy, too prone to motion sickness, too white and nervous about symbols of colonisation. Nevertheless, in 2013 I found myself up the mast in the middle of the Tasman sea, surrounded by nothing but open ocean.
I was researching a novel about Eugenia Falleni, an Italian-born-woman-turned-Sydney-dwelling-man who was tried for the murder of his wife in 1920. As the commonly told version of the story would have it, Falleni “disguised herself” as a cabin boy and sailed from Wellington to Sydney on a Norwegian barque in the last years of the 19th century. According to some enthusiastic (but factually dubious) accounts, Falleni “roistered” around the Pacific, calling in at Honolulu, Papeetee, and Suva, drank with men, and passed as a man, but arrived in Sydney pregnant.
This “Norwegian barque” was a Schrodinger’s box, and Falleni was the cat. Falleni was man and woman in the same instant, and only tunnelling back through time, lifting a hatch on the deckhouse roof and peering in would decide the moment when Falleni, in the eyes of those watching at least, switched from one gender to the other. Many of Falleni’s biographers have tried to imagine the moment of the onlookers’ “discovery”. As a would-be novelist, I had to as well.
But where to start? Too under-confident in my concept to approach anyone from the transgender community, I started with the ship. If I could get the realist details of the external world right, I told myself, perhaps the interior, psychological uncertainties would resolve themselves in the process. Procrastination disguised as research, perhaps, but I did not know that then.
A Google image search of barques revealed that one was – bizarrely for the 21st century – sailing from Sydney to Auckland, almost exactly the reverse passage Falleni would have made in 1897. I lost a few hours clicking through links that led to sites, which led to my booking a berth as voyage crew on the STS Lord Nelson, set to leave Darling Harbour for Auckland on October 10 2013.
The Lord Nelson is not Norwegian, but wannabe time travellers can’t be too fussy. “Nellie”, as she’s affectionately known by those who sail her, is owned and worked by the South Hampton-based Jubilee Sailing Trust, an organisation established in the late 1970s to make off-shore sailing a possibility for those with special needs.
Despite Nellie’s mod-cons, my first night beyond the heads was a waking nightmare. The voyage crew slept below decks towards the bow of the ship in an area called the fo’c’sle. The fo’c’sle is far from the stabilising main mast, moves the most, and is the worst place to be if you are feeling queasy. It thrashed up and down, side to side, while we tried to sleep on shelves masquerading as bunks, our green faces nudging and retreating from the lee cloths that kept us in our beds.
We could hear the slurp and spray of the Tasman as it slammed against the porthole windows. Something aggressive barged at the hull repeatedly, and the aftershocks made the ship quiver like a dog in a thunderstorm. In my sleepless paranoid state I was convinced hammerhead sharks were head-butting the keel, trying to get at the tender voyage crew inside. (Later I would learn that the noise was made by the anchor rolling around in the anchor locker.)
Over the following nights, most of us gingerly made our way from our bunks to the stairs in the lower mess, then waited for the ship’s roll to help our weakened legs climb the stairs onto the deck. Once on deck we had to clip onto the safety wire that ran around the deckhouse and vomit into paper bags before flinging them into waves, which loomed five metres above us on the windward side of the ship, or dropped, suddenly, from beneath.
The ship would nuzzle into these waves, before rising on their peaks, tilting, then sliding down into a temporary gully. Why did I think this state of interminable queasiness would help me with a novel? I was literally, and figuratively, at sea.
All at sea
It was a feeling of motion-sickness that originally inspired me to write about Eugenia Falleni. In 2005, Sydney’sJustice and Police museum hosted City of Shadows, an exhibition of long-forgotten police photographs recovered from a flooded warehouse. I left the exhibition with the accompanying book, and later pored over the photographs for traces of the suburbs I thought I knew. One picture in particular captured my attention: a mugshot of a man in a cheap suit and tie, his short hair combed into a sideways part.
What struck me most was the melancholy in the subject’s eye; how brow-beaten he looked. To me, he seemed composed, but so close to the verge of a nervous breakdown that I was physically jolted out of being a passive viewer. I flipped to the back of the book to read a brief footnote:
Eugenie Falleni [sic], 1920, Central cells. When hotel cleaner “Harry Leon Crawford” was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife three years earlier, he was revealed to be in fact Eugenie Falleni – a woman and mother who had been passing as a male since 1899…
Turning back to the portrait of the sad man, his face — or my perception of his face — morphed into that of a woman’s. But in the moment that he, the sad man, morphed into she, the “cross-dressing murderer”, I have to admit that the thrill I felt was associated with my own jolt in perception; like the moment Escher’s black birds turn into white birds flying in the opposite direction. What would it be like to live your life oscillating between what others expected to see?
I had, up until this voyage at sea, written hundreds of thousands of words that did not ring true. Possibly this bad writing was due to a nervousness that what I was attempting was culturally insensitive. I am not transgender, I am not working class, I am not, and have never been, Italian. Should I even be attempting to write Falleni’s story? In the interests of forging the most respectful way forward (and appeasing my guilt), I did eventually meet with a trans man my supervisor knew. I was anxious going into the meeting, because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was asking from him. Did I want his permission? And if he gave it, what then?
My fears, it turned out, were founded. While he generously gave me his morning, he seemed a little frustrated by the need to have to explain that his experience as a trans man was going to be very different to another trans experience, especially one lived a hundred years ago. I flushed with embarrassment. Of course I didn’t want him to suddenly be the spokesman of the entire trans community, no, not at all.
Sitting across the table from him, my cold coffee growing skin as I babbled, I realised how condescending the categories of identity politics can be. While they are vital in giving the disenfranchised a collective voice, identity politics can also flatten the myriad possible expressions of how people might live between genders into one “type” — where one person’s experience can stand in for another’s.
Deviants to dysmorphia
Falleni told detectives that they dressed as a man for the economic opportunities. According to the local Sydney tabloid press, Truth, Falleni told detectives they “thought it better to give up life as a woman, because they worked for long hours for a small wage”. But Falleni also married two women and owned a dildo (also held in the Justice and Police Museum’s collection) — and presumably engaged in sexual relationships with women. Living at a time that did not have a language for what would now be considered transgender experience, it’s not surprising Falleni avoided citing sexual or instinctual reasons for passing as a man.
At thetime of Falleni’s trial, the term used to describe anyone not living a hetero-normative existence was a “sexual invert”, a pathological condition of deviancy. Falleni’s barrister, Archibald McDonnell, vaguely suggested that Falleni was such an “invert” by arguing that Falleni had “the masculine angle of the arms”. The judge interrupted McDonell’s cross-examination of the government medical officer to ask if he was making an insanity plea, proving that, at the time, there was confusion about whether “sexual inversion” was a sexualityBut as historianRuth Ford argues, it was not in the interest of the Crown to classify Falleni as an invert, because it would have “detracted from their case, which emphasised Falleni’s deceptive nature — her fraud and lies”.
Since Falleni’s arrest, various attempts have been made to categorise Falleni’s gender-crossing. In 1939,Dr Herbert M. Moran wrotethat Falleni was a “homosexualist” and suggested their “disorder” was congenital. He wrote:
She was condemned even from her birth and her abnormality derived from the very nature of her being. The temperamental outbursts, the vulgar debauches, the filthy speech, were but minor manifestations of her interior disorder.
her female bodily attributes were like having an unwanted, additional limb attached to her body that she overwhelmingly felt did not belong to her.
Others have resisted classifying Falleni’s gender and sexuality. Alyson Campbell, director of Lachlan Philpott’s 2012 play about Falleni,The Trouble with Harry, admits to having initially wished to impose a lesbian subjectivity on Falleni’s story. However she conceded that neither lesbian or trans identities were “available to a person such as Falleni, navigating a way through the undocumented, secret world of being a female husband.”
I did not want to invade Falleni’s very private existential conundrum and claim their identities for my empire (read: my cv), and yet I couldn’t shake the story off.
What kept drawing me back was not an urge to answer the questions of who Falleni was (which are not my questions to answer), but rather an urge to come to terms with how Sydney dealt with the uncertainties that Falleni’s various identities posed. The shock remains fresh: Falleni’s trial occurred almost 100 years ago, and although the terminology we use to discuss cases like this has changed, the tendency to categorise and scrutinise “abnormal” behaviour hasn’t.
This was also a story about patriarchy, how its control is insidious and polices everyone — men and women and those who are neither or both — at every level of bureaucracy. Though my experience is by no means comparable to Falleni’s, this is something I have experienced first-hand.
A stranger amongst men
When the seas died down around Nellie, we were well clear of land. Surrounded by nothing but open ocean, my life now depended on something as small as a house, as buoyant as a bath toy, something only as strong as its shipwrights knew how to make it.
Sexual innuendo was social currency on the ship, and your first voyage was a test, to see if you could take it. It was fun, at first, to be around authority figures who couldn’t give a shit about “minding their manners” and affecting professional decorum. It helped that the first mate Leslie — a woman — had stripes, and was just as crass as the men.
I ended up staying on from Auckland to Wellington, this time as a trainee bosun’s mate, the volunteer crew responsible for maintaining the ship’s equipment. On this leg a watch leader presented me with a lock that had fallen off the ladies’ toilet door in the fo’c’sle, along with four very short screws. I found Leslie and the Captain in the chart room and asked Leslie what she thought I should do with it.
She looked at me incredulously. “Fix it.”
“Right,” I said, “but where are the screws?”
“You’ll have to get them from Mr Chips,” she said.
“Ah, but Pip,” the Captain said, “I’d be careful how you ask Chips for a screw.”
I found the second engineer, Mr Chips, on the stern platform with the first engineer, Marco, sitting in a coil of rope and sipping his third cup of tea for the day.
“Chips,” — I was already on the defensive — “I know how this is going to go, but I need four long screws.”
Chips said nothing for a while.
“Right,” he eventually said, “well you’ll find them in the container in the middle of the workshop.”
Marco groaned at the wasted opportunity.
Negotiating sexual innuendo with the cook was more precarious. When a handful of us were asked to scour the hot galley, I volunteered to scour the lard that had accumulated under and behind the ovens. At one point I had my torso wedged under the ovens, and my arse had nowhere else to be but high in the air. Derek the cook stood behind, supervising. The next day he sat beside me while I was sitting on the deck.
“I think you visited me last night in my dreams,” he said softly. “But you weren’t wearing French knickers when you cleaned the ovens, were you?” The comment was meant to be funny, but it made me weary. Really? I thought. Is this how it’s going to be? The game was: they prodded, and you deflected. It was both exhausting and boring.
Later, in the bar, I told Derek he was a sleaze. I said it publicly, and jovially, knowing “preciousness” would not be tolerated. Mr Chips inhaled sharply and Derek’s face fell. An unspoken rule of the ship became clear to me: women should take a joke, but an accusation of sexual impropriety — even if made in good humour — would not be tolerated.
Derek’s revenge came at dinner. My meal was loaded with so much chilli powder, I could barely swallow it. He didn’t talk to me for three days, but by the time we reached Napier he was cracking jokes about my “free passage” with a playful elbow in the ribs. I laughed along, to show him I could take it.
After we’d tied up in Wellington, Marco and I were taking a moment to recover from the wind over a cup of tea in the upper mess.
“So, what are you writing about?” he asked.
I told him the spiel. By then, I’d learned it by rote.
“Falleni…” Marco said, trying out the name, “so she was Italian? Of course she was. I bet she was hairy, too,” he chuckled, and shot a knowing look at Mr Chips.
As he did, I thought I saw a horse passing by on the dock outside. I did a double take. Yes, there was a horse out on the dock, being led by a woman in a shabby suit and bowler hat. She turned to look at the ship, and I saw her moustache, the whiskers growing out of her cheeks.
“Oh my God,” I said, and pointed out the window behind his back. He turned to look, and there were more women now, all in shabby suits and moustaches.
Marco turned back, unfazed. “So the wife, she had to know.”
“Well, apparently not,” I said, on automatic pilot, transfixed by the scene out the window.
“But how did they fuck?”
“With a dildo,” I said. “It’s on exhibit at…”
The women began to chant. They were on strike. They were re-creating the Great Strike of 1913 for the museum over the road, but it was the world of my novel and it was real and it was right outside the window.
During the month I spent in Wellington, I wrote the first part ofmy novelthat stuck. It had nothing to do with sailing ships, nothing to do with being a spokesperson for a transgender experience that was not mine to share, and everything to do with being a fish out of water: a stranger amongst men.
Eugenia Falleni was sentenced to death forthe murder of Annie Birketton October 6 1920, but shortly afterwards this sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Falleni was released from Long Bay Penitentiary in February 1931, after which they lived as Jean Ford, and built a successful business as a manager of “residentials”.
On June 9, 1938, Jean Ford sold her Glenmore Road “residential” business for £105, and on the same day was hit by a car on Oxford St. Ford was taken to Sydney Hospital, but died on June 10, aged 63. Throughout their lives, Falleni maintained their innocence.
A year after my voyage on Nellie, Suzanne Falkinerre-released her 1988 biographyof Falleni with revisions and new information. There were details that hadn’t jumped out at me before. The main one suddenly rendering redundant months and thousands of dollars worth of research: Falleni probably didn’t travel to Sydney by a “Norwegian barque” at all. The son of one of Falleni’s New Zealand friends recalled that
the last time [Falleni] met my mother, [Falleni] told her that she was going to work her way as a stoker [someone who stoked a fire for a ship’s engine] on a ship to Australia, which she did. After she arrived in Australia, she [or someone who wrote for her] wrote to my mother saying she had arrived safe and that she hardly slept at all on board ship and kept an iron bar under her pillow for protection.
A stoker? On board a barque? Not likely. In becoming obsessed with the mysteries of Falleni’s identity, I had ignored details that were not convenient to my own myths. Or perhaps I wanted to go to sea, be at sea, a little while longer.
NB: in this article, I have chosen to refer to Falleni according to their surname, for its gender-neutrality, and have used the pronoun “they” when referring to Falleni’s collective self, and “he” or “she” for Falleni’s particular identities that presented as decidedly male or female.
Pip Smith’s novel,Half Wild, has just been published.
Organisation now bases enrollment in boys-only programs on the gender listed on application to become a scout
The Boy Scouts of America now allows transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs.
The organization said on Monday it had decided to begin basing enrollment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scour, rather than birth certificate.
Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the organization’s leadership had considered a recent case in Secaucus, New Jersey, where an eight-year-old transgender child had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender, but that the change was made because of the national conversation about gender identity.
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said.
“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”
Rausch said the enrollment decision went into effect immediately.
“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.
Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015.
Transgender boy removed from Boy Scouts troop in New Jersey
Joe Maldonado is at the center of the first known case of a trans child being banned from organization
Joe Maldonado wanted to join the Boy Scouts because many of his friends were a part of it. The eight-year-old went to school with the boys in the group, hung out with them and played on the basketball team with some of them, said Kristie Maldonado, his mother.
But about a month after joining Pack 87 in Secaucus, New Jersey, Joe was asked to leave because he is transgender, according to Kristie Maldonado. His case is believed to be the first known in which a scout was rejected based on their gender, Justin Wilson, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, told NorthJersey.com.
“Because he wasn’t born a boy, he was no longer able to go back into the Boy Scouts,” Maldonado told the Guardian.
Maldonado said she was unaware of any issues with her son until she received a call from a scouting official, asking whether Joe was born a girl. “At first, well, I didn’t answer him. I just said, you guys didn’t ask for a birth certificate. I said no one had ever seen my child naked,” she said.
The call came as a surprise to Maldonado because Joe was open about his gender identity and had been accepted as a boy at school. The other kids in the troop had never had an issue with him, Maldonado said.
But the official told her that some parents had mentioned Joe’s name had previously been Jodi, and that Joe could no longer be a part of the troop, Maldonado said.
“If they had said right from the beginning, because I know it’s a touchy subject and I know it’s a private organization, I would have said, OK, we can’t join. We can’t do it this year. I would have made an excuse for Joe,” she said, “But you don’t accept a child, then a month later you throw them out.”
The Boy Scouts of America endured years of controversy before ultimately lifting bans on gay scouts and leaders in recent years. Maldonado said she took this as a sign that her son would be allowed to join. “I took it as, OK, if they’re accepted, why not transgender?”
But a spokeswoman, Effie Delimarkos, said in a statement the organization considered transgender children as a separate issue.
“No youth may be removed from any of our programs on the basis of his or her sexual orientation,” she said, but added: “Gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation.”
The Boy Scouts declined to directly address Joe’s situation or say whether there was a written policy on transgender participants. The statement said Cub Scout programs were for those identified as boys on their birth certificates.
Wilson told NorthJersey.com that the Boy Scouts of America organization was not known to have rejected any scouts due to gender identity prior to Joe’s case. He knew of at least two transgender boys who were Cub Scouts in other states and did not know of any instances in which scouts were asked for birth certificates as a condition of membership.
Eric Chamberlin of the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts acknowledged having called Maldonado last month, NorthJersey.com reported. He declined further comment and referred questions to the scouts’ national office, saying the issue involved “our membership standards”.
Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts told the Associated Press that it would admit transgender children to its coeducational programs, but not to programs that are for boys only, like the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
By making the family’s story public, Kristie Maldonado is also hoping for change. “The change is I want for them to go not by birth certificate or what they’re born with, but go by their identity. Our definition of identity is how you feel,” Maldonado said. “When they say identity, they’re going by the birth certificate.” She wants transgender kids to be included, “no questions asked”.
The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.
The Boy Scouts did not respond to questions about whether the group would accept a transgender girl whose birth certificate indicated she was assigned male at birth.
Boy Scouts of America ends ban on gay and lesbian troop leaders
On the heels of gay marriage legalization, the organization’s new policy allows local units to select their leaders to appease both liberal and religious groups
The national governing body of the Boy Scouts of America has ended a blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion because of their faith.
The new policy, aimed at easing a controversy that embroiled the Boy Scouts for years and threatened the organization with lawsuits, takes effect immediately. It was approved on Monday night by the BSA’s 80-member national executive board in a teleconference.
The ban pitted leaders and members of the 105-year-old organization against each other, often fragmenting according to faith. The new policy seeks a compromise between more liberal groups, such as the New York City scouting group, and regions whose groups are run by staunchly conservative faiths, such as the Mormon church.
Under the new policy, local units will be able to select their own leaders according to their own standards, meaning church-run groups can “choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own”, according to a statement from organization executives.
“It is not a victory but it certainly is progress,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality, told the Guardian earlier on Monday. “I think this is the most progressive resolution we could’ve expected from the Boy Scouts.”
Wahls noted that the organization had banned gay people since 1978, and that its decentralized structure – religious organizations charter about 70% of Boy Scout troops – means some prejudices have deep roots.
“What really has to happen is change in the sponsoring organizations,” he said, adding that his concern was not with specific religious groups but for full inclusion.
“I’m not worried about Mormon units not allowing gay leaders as there aren’t a lot of openly gay Mormons anywhere,” he said. “But discrimination sends a harmful message to gay youths and straight youths, and it has no place in scouting.”
Scouting law says that a boy scout is cheerful, so we’ll be OK
Zach Wahls, Scouts for Equality
On 13 July, the organization’s executive committee, headed by president and former defense secretary Robert Gates, unanimously approved the resolution, saying there had been a “sea change in the law with respect to gay rights”.
“The BSA national policy that prohibits gay adults from serving as leaders is no longer legally defensible,” the organization said in a statement earlier this month. “However, the BSA’s commitment to duty to God and the rights of religious chartered organizations to select their leaders is unwavering.”
The vote took place only a month and a day after the US supreme court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the US, striking down state bans and punctuating the swift progress of gay rights with its 5-4 vote.
The board’s vote also follows only two years after a long and bitter debate at the organization’s 2013 meeting in Texas, where 60% of some 1,400 scout leaders voted to end the ban. The organization said at the time that it had no intentions of revisiting the issue.
But earlier this year the New York City chapter hired a gay camp counsellor, and said it would force the issue in court if necessary to keep the counsellor employed.
The Boy Scouts has about 2.5 million members between the ages of seven and 21, as well as 960,000 volunteers in local units, according to the organization. Membership has steadily declined about 4-6% each year for several years, contributing to the internal crisis over what to do.
John Stemberger, chairman of the breakaway Christian youth outdoor program Trail Life USA, told Reuters on Friday that lifting the ban was an affront to Christian morals and would make it “even more challenging for a church to integrate a [Boy Scouts] unit as part of a church’s ministry offerings”.
But major Catholic and Mormon supporters appeared to approve of the new policy. On its site, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting said that the Boy Scouts did not endorse homosexuality. The committee then wrote: “Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
The Mormon church meanwhile reasserted itself earlier this month, saying in a statement that it has “always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs”.
LGBT (or GLBT) is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which was used to replace the term gay in reference to the LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. Activists believed that the term gay community did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred.
The initialism has become adopted into the mainstream as an umbrella term for use when labeling topics pertaining to sexuality and gender identity. For example, the LGBT Movement Advancement Project termed community centres, which have services specific to those members of the LGBT community, as “LGBT community centers”, in a comprehensive studies of such centres around the United States.
The initialism LGBT is intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures. It may be used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant adds the letter Q for those who identify as queer or are questioning their sexual identity; LGBTQ has been recorded since 1996. Those who add intersex people to LGBT groups or organizing use an extended initialism LGBTI. The two acronyms are sometimes combined to form the terms LGBTIQ  or LGBT+ to encompass spectrums of sexuality and gender. Other, less common variants also exist, motivated by a desire for inclusivity, including those over twice as long which have prompted criticism.
As lesbians forged more public identities, the phrase “gay and lesbian” became more common.A dispute as to whether the primary focus of their political aims should befeminismorgay rightsled to the dissolution of some lesbian organizations, including theDaughters of Bilitis, which disbanded in 1970 following disputes over which goal should take precedence.As equality was a priority forlesbian feminists, disparity of roles between men and women orbutch and femmewere viewed aspatriarchal. Lesbian feminists eschewedgender roleplay that had been pervasive in bars, as well as the perceivedchauvinismof gay men; many lesbian feminists refused to work with gay men, or take up their causes.
Lesbians who held theessentialistview, that they had been born homosexual and used the descriptor “lesbian” to define sexual attraction, often considered the separatist opinions of lesbian-feminists to be detrimental to the cause of gay rights.Bisexual and transgender people also sought recognition as legitimate categories within the larger minority community.
After the elation of change following group action in the 1969Stonewall riotsin New York City, in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, some gays and lesbians became less accepting ofbisexualortransgenderpeople.Critics[Like whom?]said that transgender people were acting outstereotypesand bisexuals were simply gay men or lesbian women who were afraid tocome outand be honest about their identity.Each community has struggled to develop its own identity including whether, and how, to align with othergenderand sexuality-based communities, at times excluding other subgroups; these conflicts continue to this day.LGBTQ activists and artists have created posters to raise consciousness about the issue since the movement began.
From about 1988, activists began to use the initialism LGBT in the United States.Not until the 1990s within the movement did gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people gain equal respect.This spurred some organizations to adopt new names, as theGLBT Historical Societydid in 1999. Although the LGBT community has seen much controversy regarding universal acceptance of different member groups (bisexual and transgender individuals, in particular, have sometimes been marginalized by the larger LGBT community), the termLGBThas been a positive symbol of inclusion.
Despite the fact thatLGBTdoes not nominally encompass all individuals in smaller communities (see Variants below), the term is generally accepted to include those not specifically identified in the four-letter initialism.Overall, the use of the termLGBThas, over time, largely aided in bringing otherwise marginalized individuals into the general community.Transgender actressCandis Caynein 2009 described the LGBT community “the last great minority”, noting that “We can still be harassed openly” and be “called out on television”.
In response to years of lobbying from users and LGBT groups to eliminate discrimination, the online social networking serviceFacebook, in February 2014, widened its choice of gender variants for users.[relevant?–discuss]
In 2016,GLAAD‘s Media Reference Guide states thatLGBTQis the preferred initialism, being more inclusive of younger members of the communities who embracequeeras a self-descriptor.However, some people considerqueerto be a derogatory term originating in hate speech and reject it, especially among older members of the community.
Many variants exist including variations that change the order of the letters;LGBTorGLBTare the most common terms.Although identical in meaning,LGBTmay have a morefeministconnotation thanGLBTas it places the “L” (for “lesbian”) first.LGBTmay also include additional Qs for “queer” or “questioning” (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark and sometimes used to mean anybody not literally L, G, B or T) producing the variantsLGBTQandLGBTQQ.In the United Kingdom, it is sometimes stylized asLGB&T,whilst theGreen Party of England and Walesuses the termLGBTIQin its manifesto and official publications.
The order of the letters has not been standardized; in addition to the variations between the positions of the initial “L” or “G”, the mentioned, less common letters, if used, may appear in almost any order.Longer initialisms based onLGBTare sometimes referred to as “alphabet soup”.Variant terms do not typically represent political differences within the community, but arise simply from the preferences of individuals and groups.
The termspansexual,omnisexual,fluidandqueer-identifiedare regarded as falling under the umbrella termbisexual(and therefore are considered a part of thebisexual community).
Some useLGBT+to mean “LGBT and related communities”.LGBTQIAis sometimes used and adds “queer, intersex, andasexual” to the basic term.Other variants may have a “U” for “unsure”; a “C” for “curious”; another “T” for “transvestite“; a “TS”, or “2” for “two-spirit” persons; or an “SA” for “straight allies“.However, the inclusion of straight allies in the LGBT acronym has proven controversial as many straight allies have been accused of using LGBT advocacy to gain popularity and status in recent years,and various LGBT activists have criticised the heteronormative worldview of certain straight allies.Some may also add a “P” for “polyamorous“, an “H” for “HIV-affected“, or an “O” for “other”.Furthermore, the initialismLGBTIHhas seen use inIndiato encompass thehijrathird genderidentity and the related subculture.
The initialismLGBTTQQIAAP(lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer,questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) has also resulted, although such initialisms are sometimes criticized for being confusing and leaving some people out, as well as issues of placement of the letters within the new title.However, adding the term “allies” to the initialism has sparked controversy,with some seeing the inclusion of “ally” in place of “asexual” as a form ofasexual erasure.There is also theacronymQUILTBAG(queer and questioning, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual, asexual and ally, and gay and genderqueer).
SimilarlyLGBTIQA+stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other terms (such as non-binary and pansexual)”.
In Canada, the community is sometimes identified as LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Two Spirit).Depending on the which organization is using the acronym the choice of acronym changes. Businesses and theCBCoften simply employLGBTas a proxy for any longer acronym, private activist groups often employLGBTQ+,whereas public health providers favour the more inclusiveLGBT2Q+to accommodate twin spiritedindigenous peoples.For a time thePride Torontoorganization used the much lengthier acronymLGBTTIQQ2SA, but appears to have dropped this in favour of simpler wording.
The term trans* has been adopted by some groups as a more inclusive alternative to “transgender”, where trans (without the asterisk) has been used to describetrans menandtrans women, while trans* covers all non-cisgender (genderqueer) identities, including transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid,non-binary,genderfuck, genderless,agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit,bigender, and trans man and trans woman.Likewise, the termtranssexualcommonly falls under the umbrella termtransgender, but some transsexual people object to this.
When not inclusive of transgender people, the shorter termLGBis used instead ofLGBT.
The relationship ofintersexto lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, and queer communities is complex,but intersex people are often added to the LGBT category to create an LGBTI community. Some intersex people prefer the initialismLGBTI, while others would rather that they not be included as part of the term.LGBTIis used in all parts of “The Activist’s Guide” of the Yogyakarta Principles in Action.Emi Koyama describes how inclusion of intersex inLGBTIcan fail to address intersex-specific human rights issues, including creating false impressions “that intersex people’s rights are protected” by laws protecting LGBT people, and failing to acknowledge that many intersex people are not LGBT.Organisation Intersex International Australiastates that some intersex individuals are same sex attracted, and some are heterosexual, but “LGBTI activism has fought for the rights of people who fall outside of expected binary sex and gender norms”.Julius Kaggwaof SIPD Uganda has written that, while the gay community “offers us a place of relative safety, it is also oblivious to our specific needs”.
Numerous studies have shown higher rates of same sex attraction in intersex people,with a recent Australian study of people born with atypical sex characteristics finding that 52% of respondents were non-heterosexual,thus research on intersex subjects has been used to explore means of preventing homosexuality.As an experience of being born with sex characteristics that do not fit social norms,intersex can be distinguished from transgender,while some intersex people are both intersex and transgender.
Criticism of the term
The initialismsLGBTorGLBTare not agreed to by everyone that they encompass.For example, some argue that transgender and transsexual causes are not the same as that of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people.This argument centers on the idea that being transgender or transsexual have to do more with gender identity, or a person’s understanding of being or not being a man or a woman irrespective of their sexual orientation.LGB issues can be seen as a matter of sexual orientation or attraction.These distinctions have been made in the context of political action in which LGB goals, such assame-sex marriagelegislation andhuman rightswork (which may not include transgender and intersex people), may be perceived to differ from transgender and transsexual goals.
A belief in “lesbian & gay separatism” (not to be confused with the related “lesbian separatism“), holds that lesbians and gay men form (or should form) a community distinct and separate from other groups normally included in the LGBTQ sphere.While not always appearing of sufficient number or organization to be called amovement, separatists are a significant, vocal, and active element within many parts of the LGBT community.In some cases separatists will deny the existence or right to equality of bisexual orientations and of transsexuality,sometimes leading publicbiphobiaandtransphobia.In contrasts to separatists,Peter Tatchellof the LGBT human rights groupOutRage!argues that to separate the transgender movement from the LGB would be “political madness”, stating that:
Queers are, like transgender people, gender deviant. We don’t conform to traditional heterosexist assumptions of male and female behaviour, in that we have sexual and emotional relationships with the same sex. We should celebrate our discordance with mainstream straight norms.[…]
The portrayal of an all-encompassing “LGBT community” or “LGB community” is also disliked by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.Some do not subscribe to or approve of thepolitical and social solidarity, and visibility and human rights campaigningthat normally goes with it includinggay pridemarches and events.Some of them believe that grouping together people with non-heterosexual orientations perpetuates the myth that being gay/lesbian/bi/asexual/pansexual/etc. makes a person deficiently different from other people.These people are often less visible compared to more mainstream gay or LGBT activists.Since this faction is difficult to distinguish from the heterosexual majority, it is common for people to assume all LGBT people support LGBT liberation and the visibility of LGBT people in society, including the right to live one’s life in a different way from the majority.In the 1996 bookAnti-Gay, a collection of essays edited byMark Simpson, the concept of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ identity based onLGBT stereotypesis criticized for suppressing the individuality of LGBT people.
Writing in the BBC News Magazine in 2014, Julie Bindel questions whether the various gender groupings now, “bracketed together” … “share the same issues, values and goals?” Bindel refers to a number of possible new initialisms for differing combinations and concludes that it may be time for the alliances to be reformed or finally go “our separate ways”.￼ In 2015, the slogan “Drop the T” was coined to encourage LGBT organizations to stop support of transgender people; while receiving some support from feminists￼￼ as well as transgender individuals,￼ the campaign has been widely condemned by many LGBT groups as transphobic.￼￼￼￼
Many people have looked for a generic term to replace the numerous existing initialisms.Words such asqueer(an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, or gender-binary) andrainbowhave been tried, but most have not been widely adopted.Queerhas many negative connotations to older people who remember the word as a taunt and insult and such (negative) usage of the term continues.Many younger people also understandqueerto be more politically charged thanLGBT.“Rainbow” has connotations that recallhippies,New Agemovements, and groups such as theRainbow FamilyorJesse Jackson‘sRainbow/PUSH Coalition.SGL(“same gender loving“) is sometimes favored among gay maleAfrican Americansas a way of distinguishing themselves from what they regard aswhite-dominated LGBT communities.
TheNational Institutes of Healthhave framed LGBT, others “whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity varies, those who may not self-identify as LGBT” and also intersex populations (as persons withdisorders of sex development) as “sexual and gender minority” (SGM) populations. This has led to the development of an NIH SGM Health Research Strategic Plan.TheWilliams Institutehas used the same term in a report on an international sustainable development goals, but excluding intersex populations.
^Parent, Mike C.; DeBlaere, Cirleen; Moradi, Bonnie (June 2013). “Approaches to Research on Intersectionality: Perspectives on Gender, LGBT, and Racial/Ethnic Identities”.Sex Roles.68(11–12): 639–645.doi:10.1007/s11199-013-0283-2.
^Cahill, Sean, and Bryan Kim-Butler. “Policy priorities for the LGBT community: Pride Survey 2006.” New York, NY: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2006).
^Becker, Ron (2006). “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class: The Affordable, Multicultural Politics of the Gay Nineties”.Television & New Media.7(2): 184–215.doi:10.1177/1527476403255830.ISSN1527-4764.
^Parent, Mike C.; DeBlaere, Cirleen; Moradi, Bonnie (June 2013). “Approaches to Research on Intersectionality: Perspectives on Gender, LGBT, and Racial/Ethnic Identities”.Sex Roles.68(11–12): 639–645.doi:10.1007/s11199-013-0283-2.
^Cahill, Sean, and Bryan Kim-Butler. “Policy priorities for the LGBT community: Pride Survey 2006.” New York, NY: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2006).
^Becker, Ron (2006). “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class: The Affordable, Multicultural Politics of the Gay Nineties”.Television & New Media.7(2): 184–215.doi:10.1177/1527476403255830.ISSN1527-4764.
^Jump up to:abMeyer-Bahlburg, Heino F.L. (January 1990). “Will Prenatal Hormone Treatment Prevent Homosexuality?”.Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.1(4): 279–283.doi:10.1089/cap.1990.1.279.ISSN1044-5463.human studies of the effects of altering the prenatal hormonal milieu by the administration of exogenous hormones lend support to a prenatal hormone theory that implicates both androgens and estrogens in the development of gender preference … it is likely that prenatal hormone variations may be only one among several factors influencing the development of sexual orientation
^Tatchell, Peter (24 June 2009).“LGB – but why T?”.mother-ship.com. Mothership Blog. Archived fromthe originalon 3 July 2009. Retrieved18 March2015.To try and separate the LGB from the T, and from women, is political madness. Queers are, like transgender people, gender deviant. We don’t conform to traditional heterosexist assumptions of male and female behaviour, in that we have sexual and emotional relationships with the same sex. We should celebrate our discordance with mainstream straight norms. The right to be different is a fundamental human right. The idea that we should conform to straight expectations is demeaning and insulting.
^Park, Andrew (June 2016).A Development Agenda for Sexual and Gender Minorities. The Williams Institute.
^Young, R M & Meyer, I H (2005) The Trouble with “MSM” and “WSW”: Erasure of the Sexual-Minority Person in Public Health Discourse American Journal of Public Health July 2005 Vol. 95 No. 7.
^Glick, M Muzyka, B C Salkin, L M Lurie, D (1994) Necrotizingulcerative periodontitis: a marker for immune deterioration and a predictor for the diagnosis ofAIDSJournal of Periodontology 1994 65 p. 393–397.
Enrolling at Parsons College in New York the other day, a friend was asked to state her name, subject and PGPs. Her what? Her preferred gender pronouns. In other words, did she want to be referred to as ‘she’ and ‘her’, or ‘he’ and ‘him’, or ‘it’, or ‘they’, or none of the above, and was she a Mr, Miss, or Mx? If she wasn’t sure, a support group was on hand to help, called the LGBTQIAGNC. There was no need — she said her name was Clare and ‘she’ would do fine. And the rest of the class? ‘No one stated a PGP other than the obvious,’ she reports, ‘although we do have a large LGBT community.’
Your reaction to that story might be to think how marvellously inclusive Parsons is — an institution so evolved that people can live gender-neutral lives without prejudice. Or it may be to ask: what on earth does LGBTQIAGNC stand for? And to wonder whether some people in the gay rights movement haven’t veered off course. As one activist sighed when I asked if he could spell out the acronym, ‘Matthew, there are so many letters now that nobody can keep up.’
A little light googling reveals that it stands for ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and gender-non-conforming’. Go a little deeper and you discover that there are dozens of different acronyms, and that nobody can agree on what the official one should be. Well, how do you find a name for individuals who are united by being different? Other terms being tacked on to the LGBT movement include ‘questioning’, ‘pansexual’, ‘ally’ or ‘allied’, ‘straight’, ‘leather’ and ‘fetish’, though nobody has found a way of stringing them together to make a snappy word, which I always thought was the point of an acronym. Someone did come up with ‘Quiltbag’, though perhaps understandably, it hasn’t caught on. A more sensible suggestion is ‘Glow’ — ‘gay, lesbian or whatever’.
Peter Tatchell, who has done more for gay rights than almost anyone, is bewildered by the proliferation of incomprehensible acronyms. ‘It’s great to be inclusive,’ he says, ‘but the new alphabet soup is a confusing and alienating mess — made even worse when people get into spats over missing initials or the inclusion of initials they disagree with. The longest I’ve ever seen is LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA. This is absurd. It makes us a laughing stock and devalues serious issues around sexuality and gender.’
The problem seems to be that the western world is only just coming to terms with transgenderism. For even the most enlightened liberal, the idea that we are anything other than just men and women is unfamiliar territory. Perhaps that’s because incidence of intersexuality is rare. Accurate figures are hard to come by, though the Intersex Society of North America puts the number of people born with neither XX nor XY chromosomes at one in 1,666. Is that really enough to merit institutions asking for our PGPs? Or for the Whitney Museum to install gender-neutral toilets, in addition to male and female ones? Or for some British schools to insist that teachers no longer address classes as ‘boys and girls’, for fear of offence?
This might all sound silly — and the rush to take offence does undermine the LGBT movement. But surely it is important to create a society in which trans people can live without fear and prejudice? According to Stonewall, nearly half of trans people under 26 have attempted suicide. That perhaps puts a few odd pronouns into perspective.
Personally, I wonder if the trans movement isn’t now at the beginning of an arc that gay rights and anti-racist campaigns were at a generation ago. In the 1950s, we prosecuted Alan Turing for homosexual acts but now recognise this as such a terrible injustice that he has been given a posthumous royal pardon. In the 1970s, we used to laugh at racist jokes in Rising Damp – now they appal us. I still doubt that, in 50 years’ time, terms like Mx will have caught on. But by then, it will perhaps be entirely irrelevant what gender or sexuality you are, and we’ll look back on the PGP as a relic of a long-gone fretful age.
There is now a K in LGBTQQICAPF2K+
This is a new one for us but welcome the Ks
There is now a K to add to the ever-growing LGBT+ acronym – and apparently, it stands for “kink”. The acronym which has grown since the 90s, out of a need to move away from the limiting “gay community” adds letters to encompass any community that defines itself as anything but heterosexual or cisgender.
The LGBT initialism was coined in the late 80s / early 90s.
So what do all the letters mean?
L – lesbian
G – gay
B – bisexual
T – transgender
Q – queer
Q – questioning
I – intersex
A – asexual
A – agender
A – ally
C – curious
P – pansexual
P – polysexual
F – friends and family
2 – two-spirit
K – kink
However, the addition of the K has been met with some reservation from many on the question website, Quora. Users were quick to dismiss Kink as part of the LGBT+ community.
Sarah remarked, “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t believe that fetishes belong in the same acronym as sexualities and gender identity”.
While Caitlin added, “However, I and others believe that it shouldn’t be included in the acronym. Kink is not inherently non-cis or non-straight, and including it can feed into the stereotype of queer people being “sexual deviants”. BDSM is fine in a community of its own but it’s strange and unnecessary to include it with sexual orientations and gender identities”.
John wrote, “I’m gay, and I do not and will not use this silly LGBTQLAPK sh*t. They keep adding a silly letter for inclusion. You are just labelling yourselves, and that is a silly thing to do.”
The internet informs me that this week is Bisexual Awareness Week (consider: is your cat aware of the bisexual movement? Oh, and on a serious note, visibility matters). Allow me, then, to raise some questions about the way medieval studies has handled and assimilated the fascinating case of John Rykener, a male-cross dressing prostitute. If you took a gender-oriented medieval studies course in the last decade or so, or if you’ve read Karras’ Sexuality in Medieval Europe textbook, you’ve probably met John Rykener’s story in one form or another.
Allow me to tell you about Eleanor Rykener: assigned male at birth, she fell in with a woman named Elizabeth Broderer, who gave her women’s clothing and called her Eleanor. We do not know if Eleanor sought out Elizabeth, or if Elizabeth identified something in the young man she knew as John Ryknener that she could exploit: but as far as we know, it was with Elizabeth that Eleanor first lived as a woman.
Elizabeth was conducting a complicated and exploitative business, in which her daughter substituted for Eleanor in bed with men who believed they were sleeping with Eleanor. It is not recorded whether money was involved, but that seems likely. The court record says that Elizabeth’s daughter Alice did this ‘for lust’, but I would not be willing to take that as a given: it seems plausible to me that Eleanor and Alice worked together, willing or unwilling, in a scenario which allowed Elizabeth to maintain her daughter’s public respectability while Eleanor accrued the ill repute of a prostitute.
Somehow, from there, Eleanor met a woman named Anna, who is referred to by the court transcript as “meretrix quondam cuiusdam famuli domini Thome Blount” (the whore of a former servant of Thomas Blount). It is possible that Anna was a prostitute regularly frequented by this former servant of Thomas Blount, but the various evidence assembled by Karras, in Unmarriages, on the varied roles and statuses of unmarried couples, leads me to think Anna might just as easily have been the mistress or even domestic partner (eg, if the said servant were already married and separated) of this unnamed gentleman. For reasons not given in the record, she taught Eleanor how she might have sex with men ‘in the manner of a woman’: for which we can read, in a receptive position.
We do not know why Eleanor sought out this information, or why she acted on it. Perhaps she desired a sexual relationship with a man. Perhaps she wished to extract more substantial benefits, material or otherwise, from her work as a prostitute – since she was socially stuck as a prostitute anyway. It seems she was still living with Elizabeth Broderer, and – for one reason or another, bear in mind we do not know her motivations – an individual named Phillip, the rector of Theydon Garnon, would seem to have been her first client. (Or perhaps her non-commercial lover? Bear in mind this is entirely possible: People do sleep with trans women because they like them!) Eleanor seems to have been of limited resources at this time, because she took (was given? stole?) some garments from Phillip. When Phillip demanded their return, she convinced him to back off by asserting that she had a husband who would defend her in court.
Next, Eleanor seems to have made a break for it: she moved to Oxford, and tried – for five weeks – to establish herself as an independent women in a women’s trade, that of embroidery. She continued to sleep with men (in a marsh, the court record says). Once again, we cannot say whether she sought their company for pleasure or for money. Something may have gone wrong, though, because Eleanor next moved to Burford to work as a tapster. In Burford she continued to sleep with men, but here the court records that only four of her eight lovers paid her. Did she expect payment from the others and not receive it? Perhaps. But it’s equally plausible that she enjoyed and desired sex with men. This possibility I have seen raised in discussion of John (Eleanor) Rykener as a male homosexual.
Next, in Beaconsfield, Eleanor had sex with two men “as a woman” and one woman, Joan, “as a man”. Now, here I want to stress some things we DO know and some things we DON’T. We DO know that when the medieval record speaks of “ut vir concubuit cum” and ” concubuerunt ut cum femina” (‘[he] as a man lay with [Joan]’ and ‘[they] lay with [him] as a woman’) it does not speak of what clothes Eleanor was wearing at the time, or what name she went by. The issue at hand is who did what to whom, as is nicely demonstrated by the verb forms: he-as-a-man had sex with Joan, they (two franciscans) had sex with him-as-a-woman.
What we do not know here includes:
• Whether Joan of Beaconsfield considered herself to be having sex with Eleanor, or with John, Rykener.
• What Joan and Eleanor did together. Concubere could in fact mean lie down together, and Eleanor did not give her testimony in Latin: we don’t know what she said that she and Joan did which the court records as ‘concubuit‘. Eleanor may have spoken in compatible passive/active terms, or she may not.
• Assuming that Eleanor and Joan had penis-in-vagina intercourse, that does not tell us why they did so. Even if Joan met and bedded John Rykener, did she know about Eleanor? Was there an experiential difference, for either of them, between Eleanor(?John)’s conduct in bed and that of other men?
• Conversely, we do not know which identity Eleanor was presenting when she slept with the two Franciscans – but that possibility has already been raised by queer historians, who are generally quite keen to point out that John Rykener’s male lovers could have known exactly who and what they were doing.
Returning to London, Eleanor committed ‘the aforementioned vice’ with several more churchmen, but the record does not state if they paid her – nor, in this instance, does it specify cum femina. However, it seems her efforts to find more respectable work had not succeeded, because finally, we know that she propositioned one John Britby to commit a ‘libidinous act’ with her in a stall by Soper’s lane, for an agreed-upon-sum. John Britby swore to the court that he thought she was a woman at that time.
The court record also says that Eleanor had sex cum vir with assorted nuns and married women. This addition lacks the detail of her encounters with men and with Joan, and I would be inclined to suspect it of being an embroidery upon Eleanor’s testimony, designed to both mark out John Rykener as a particularly depraved individual and enforce public perception of him as male by ensuring that everyone knows he could and did have lots of sex cum vir. However, even allowing for the fact that this assertion has less to hold it up than the previous account, I find it curious1 that it tends to appear as a footnote only to the history of John Rykener, when the following comment about numerous priestly clients who pay better than other man gets a fair bit of circulation.
Eleanor Rykener is rarely cited, despite what her testimony can tell us about women’s lives in marginal professions in the 15th century. (I note that Kim Racon at Notches has also blogged about this lack.2) John Rykener is spoken of, and John/Eleanor, but never Eleanor or Eleanor-John. Whenever I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this topic, I’ve made a point of speaking of Eleanor Rykener and her trial, because… well, it seemed the decent thing to do.3 At the very least, Eleanor Rykener was a cultivated public persona (comparable to a drag act, perhaps?) – and given she seems to have run away and tried to take up a woman’s profession other than prostitution twice, the common summary of her story as ‘male crossdressing prostitute’ is incredibly reductive. Karras herself notes on p. 184 of Medieval Sexualities that the Rykener and a 14th century Venetian prostitute, probably a hermaphrodite, named Ronaldo/Ronaldina, are far from the standard sodomite, who did not normally wear women’s clothing. It is very unlikely that John Rykener was, in modern terms, a sad gay man who found crossdressing the only way to get laid – there’s enough other evidence to suggest that medieval blokes found ways to bang that didn’t involve ladies’ clothes!!
“II: The Questioning of John Rykener 1395: Transcription
Corporation of London Records Office, Plea and Memoranda Roll A34, m.2 (1395)
Undecimo die Decembris anno regni regis Ricardi secundi decimo octavo, ducti fuerunt hic coram Johanne Fressh maiore et aldermannis civitatis Londoniensis Johannes Britby de comitate Eboracum et Johannes Rykener, se Elianoram nominans veste muliebri detectus. Qui die dominica ultimo preterita per quosdam dicte civitatis ministros noctanter inter horas octavam et nonam super quoddam stallum in venella vocata Sopereslane inventi fuerunt iacentes, illud vitium detestabile, nephandum, et ignominiosum committentes, pro seperali examinatione coram dictis maiore et aldermannis super premissa fienda et audienda etcetera. Qui quidem Johannes Britby inde allocutus fatebatur quod ipse per vicum regium de Chepe die dominica inter horas supradictas transiens, dictum Johannem Rykener vestitu muliebri ornatum, ipsumque mulierem fore suspicantem fuerat assecutus, petens ab eo, tanquam a muliere, si cum ea libidinose agere possit. Qui ab eo argentum pro labore suo petens sibi consentiebat, invicem transeuntes ad illud complendum usque stallum predictum. Ipsi tamen tunc ibidem per ministros predictos in eorum maleficiis detestabilibus capti fuerunt, carcere vero mancipati hucusque, etcetera. Et predictus Johannes Rykener in veste muliebri hic adductus de materia predicta allocutus cognovit se fecisse in omnibus prout idem Johannes Britby superius fatebatur etcetera. Quesitum fuit ulterius a prefato Johanne Rykener quis ei docuit dictum vitium exercere et quanto tempore, in quibus locis, et cum quibus personis masculis sive feminis illud actum libidinosum et nephandum commisit. Qui in animam suam sponte iuravit et cognovit quod quaedam Anna, meretrix quondam cuiusdam famuli domini Thome Blount, primo docuit ipsum vitium detestabile modo muliebri exercere. Item dixit quod quaedam Elizabeth Brouderer prius vestivit ipsum veste muliebri; quae etiam conduxit quandam Aliciam filiam suam diversis hominibus luxuriae causa, ipsam cum eisdem hominibus in lectis eorum noctanter absque lumine reponens et eandem summo mane ab eisdem recedere fecit, monstrando eis dictum Johannem Rykener veste muliebri ornatum ipsum Alianoram nominantem, asserens ipsos cum ipsa sinistre egisse. Item dixit quod quidam Philippus, Rector de Theydon Gernon, concubuit cum eodem Johanne Rykener ut cum muliere in domo cuiusdam Elizabeth Brouderer extra Bisshoppesgate, quo tempore dictus Johannes Rykener asportavit duas togas ipsius Philippi. Et quando idem Philippus illas petiit a prefato Johanne Rykener, ipse dixit quod fuit uxor cuiusdam hominis, et si ipse illas repetere vellet faceret maritum suum versus ipsum prosequi. Item dictus Johannes Rykener fatebatur quod per quinque septimanas ante festum santi Michaelis ultimo elapsum morabatur apud Oxonium et operatus est ibidem in veste muliebri in arte de brouderer nominans ipsum Alianoram. Et ibidem in marisco tres scolares ignotos, quorum unus nominatur dominus Willielmus Foxlee, alius dominus Johannes, et tertius dominus Walterus, usi fuerunt sepius cum ipso abominabile vitium supradictum. Item fatebatur prefatus Johannes Rykener quod ipse die veneris proximo ante festum sancti Michaelis supradictum venit apud Burford in comitate Oxonium. Et ibidem fuit commorans cum quodam Johanne clerc atte Swan in officio de tapster per sex septimanas proximas sequentes, infra quod tempus duo fratres minores, quorum unus nominatur frater Michael et alius frater Johannes Barry, qui sibi dedit unum anulum aureum, et unus frater carmelitus et sex diversi homines extranei commiserunt cum illo vitium antedictum. Quorum quidem fratrum et hominum supradictorum quidam dabat dicto Johanni Rykener .xii. d, quidam .xx. d, quidam .ii. s. Item fatebatur idem Johannes Rykener quod fuit apud Bekenesfeld et ibidem idem ut vir concubuit cum quadam Johanna filia Johannis Mathew, et etiam ibidem cum ipso concubuerunt ut cum femina duo fratres minores alienigenae. Item fatebatur dictus Johannes Rykener quod post eius ultimum adventum Londoniae quidam dominus Johannes quondam capellanus ecclesiae sanctae Margaretae Patyns et alii duo capellani in venellis retro ecclesiam sanctae Katerinae iuxta turrim Londoniensem commiserunt cum illo illud vitium antedictum. Item dixit dictus Johannes Rykener quod ipse sepius concubuit cum quampluribus monialibus ut vir, et etiam concubuit modo virili cum quampluribus mulieribus, tam maritatis quam aliis, quarum numerum ignorat. Item fatebatur dictus Johannes Rykener quod quamplures presbiteri fecerunt illud vitium cum illo ut cum muliere, quorum numerum ignorat, et dixit quod citius cepit presbiteros quam alios quia plus vellent sibi dare quam alii.
I: The Questioning of John Rykener 1395: Translation
On 11 December, 18 Richard 11. were brought in the presence of John Fressh, Mayor. and the Aldermen ofthe City of London John Britby of the county of York and John Rykener., calling [himself] Eleanor, having been detected in women’s clothing, who were found last Sunday night between the hours of 8 and 9 by certain officials of the, city lying by a certain stall in Soper’s Lane” committing that detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice. In a separate examination held before the Mayor and Aldermen about the occurrence, John Britby confessed that he was passing through the high road of Cheap on Sunday between the abovementioned hours and accosted John Rykener, dressed up as a woman, thinking he was a woman, asking him as he would a woman if he could commit a libidinous act with her. Requesting money for [his] labor, Rykener consented, and they went together to the aforesaid stall to complete the act, and were captured there during these detestable wrongdoings by the officials and taken to prison. And John Rykener, brought here in woman’s clothing and questioned about this matter, acknowledged [himself] to have done everything just as John Britby had confessed. Rykener was also asked who had taught him to exercise this vice, and for how long and in what places and with what persons, masculine or feminine, [he] had committed that libidinous and unspeakable act. [He] swore willingly on [his] soul that a certain Anna, the whore of a former servant of Sir Thomas Blount, first taught him to practice this detestable vice in the manner of a woman. [He] further said that a certain Elizabeth Bronderer first dressed him in women’s clothing; she also brought her daughter Alice to diverse men for the sake of lust, placing her with those men in their beds at night without light, making her leave early in the morning and showing them the said John Rykener dressed up in women’s clothing, calling him Eleanor and saying that they had misbehaved with her. [He] further said that certain Phillip, rector of Theydon Garnon, had sex with him as with a woman in Elizabeth Bronderer’s honse outside Bishopsgate, at which time Rykener took away two gowns of Phillip’, and when Phillip requested them from Rykener he said that [he] was the wife ofa certain man and that if Phillip wished to ask for them back [he] would make [his] husband bring suit against him. Rykener further confessed that for five weeks before the feast of St. Michael’s last [he] was staying at Oxford, and there, in women’s clothing and calling himself Eleanor, worked as an embroideress; and there in the marsh three unsuspecting scholars – of whom one was named Sir William Foxlee, another Sir John, and the third Sir Walter – practiced the abominable vice with him often. John Rykener further confessed that on Friday before the feast of St. Michael [he] came to Burford in Oxfordshire and there dwelt with a certain John Clerk at the Swan in the capacity of tapster for the next six weeks, during which time two Franciscans, one named Brother Michael and the other Brother John, who gave [him] a gold ring, and one Carmelite friar and six foreign men committed the above-said vice with him, of whom one gave Rykener twelve pence, one twenty pence, and one two shillings. Rykener further confessed that [he] went to Beaconsfield and there, as a man, had sex with a certain Joan, daughter of John Matthew, and also there two foreign Franciscans hall sex with him as a woman. John Rykener also confessed that after [his] last return to London a certain Sir John, once chaplain at the Church of St. Margaret Pattens, and two other chaplains committed with him the aforementioned vice in the lanes behind St. Katherine’s Church by the Tower of London. Rykener further said that he often had sex as a man with many nuns and also had sex as a iman with many women both married and otherwise, how many [he] did not know. Rykener further confessed that many priests had committed that vice with him as with a woman, how many [he] did not know, and said that [he] accommodated priestsmore readily than other people because they wished to give [him] more than others.”
Eugenia Falleni lived for decades as Harry Crawford until arrested for murder
Caitlyn Jenner and now the Oscar-nominated film The Danish Girl have shone the light on the difficulties faced by transgender people as never before. Jenner’s transition and Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili Elbe (formerly Einar Wegener) is bringing understanding and acceptance that others could never have dreamed of.
Take the tragic story of Sydney’s Eugenia Falleni, born about 1875, who lived most of her life as Harry Crawford. From an early age Falleni felt more comfortable as a male. For many years she lived secretly as a man in Sydney, but in the 1920s her story was made public under the most tragic and humiliating circumstances.
Eugenia is believed to have been born in Italy, the eldest of 22 children. The family migrated to New Zealand in 1877 but Eugenia was punished for dressing in boys clothes and being a tomboy.
As a teenager she ran away from home several times. At 19 her father forced her into a marriage with an Italian man named Braseli. When it turned out that Braseli was already married, Eugenia ran away for good.
Signing on as a ship’s cabin boy under the name Eugene Falleni she lived as a man aboard ships for several years until a captain discovered her secret and subjected her to continued rapes. She was forced ashore in Newcastle in 1898 and made her way to Sydney where she gave birth to a daughter she named Josephine.
She left her baby in the care of an Italian woman in Double Bay and took on the identity of Harry Leo Crawford, dressing as a man and working as a manual labourer.
Although some thought him strange and somewhat reserved, none of Crawford’s co-workers suspected his secret. They knew him to be a good worker who, despite his small frame, was not afraid of hard work.
Crawford always spurned the interest of young ladies until in 1912, when he was working as a general hand and cart driver at a company in Wahroonga, he fell for his boss’s housekeeper Annie Birkett, a widowed mother of a teenager son.
Crawford finally allowed himself to get close to a woman, even devising a method of making love that would convince her he was a man. They were married in 1913 and set up a sweets shop in Balmain together.
Crawford maintained the deception until 1917 when Annie discovered his secret from a neighbour. Determined to save the marriage Harry took Annie on a picnic on the banks of the Lane Cove River to convince her to stay
Something terrible happened on that picnic. According to later statements by Crawford Annie slipped and fell, fatally hitting her head on a rock. In a panic he tried to burn her body and obliterate the evidence. Her body was discovered but it would be years before the police were able to identify her remains.
Telling Annie’s son, Harry Birkett, that she had run off with another man Crawford moved house and in 1919 married Elizabeth Allison.
In 1920 the police finally identified Annie’s body with the help of Harry Birkett who recognised her jewellery and Crawford was later arrested.
The first mugshots were taken of Crawford in men’s clothes before he was forced to change into women’s clothes for more humiliating photographs.
There was more humiliation in store. Newspapers reported the Falleni case as the “man-woman” and there was intense interest from a less than understanding public.
Society was outraged by this woman “masquerading as a man” and supposedly defrauding innocent women into marriage.
At the trial Falleni’s defence centred on challenging the identification of the body as that of Annie, but the jury was not convinced. Falleni was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Execution may have been a kinder sentence, because of the agony of being forced to live as a woman in prison. Falleni was released from Long Bay in 1931 because of her failing health, but was dogged by her tragic past.
She died in 1938 from injuries sustained after being hit by a car on Oxford St near her home at Paddington.
Was ‘transgender warrior’ a victim of an Australian miscarriage of justice?
Mark Tedeschi QC’s biography of Eugenia Falleni exposes a potential unjust murder conviction from 1920
f you go into the lord chief justice’s court at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, you may notice a pair of rather shabby red velvet curtains, to the left and right of the presiding judge’s chair. Each curtain is suspended from a horizontal brass rod, which is hinged so that it can sit flat against the panelled wall when not required.
Although court 4 is regularly used for ceremonial occasions, such as the swearing-in of senior legal figures and the extraordinary 800-year-old quit rents ceremony, I have never seen the curtains swung out for use. I had always assumed they were Victorian draught excluders, made redundant by improvements to the central heating system since the courts were opened in 1882.
That was until this week, when I read a chilling account of a woman being sentenced to death. This was not an Indonesian court sentencing someone for drug trafficking but an Australian court sentencing a defendant for murder.
The year was 1920. After hearing the jury’s verdict and inviting the defendant to address the court, the chief justice of New South Wales “gave an almost imperceptible nod to the sheriff’s officer who was waiting in the body of the court”. The official knew exactly what the gesture meant.
He walked to the front of the court, mounted the stairs to the bench, walked around the back of the judge to the two, large, hinged curtain rods that were normally flush on the wall behind the bench, each rod carrying a black velvet curtain, and swung them forward to a position on either side of the judge. By ancient tradition, this signalled that a death sentence was about to be handed down. This quaint practice symbolically isolated the judge from all side distractions and influences and focussed his attention on the prisoner directly in front of him, so as to assist him in discharging the distasteful task at hand.
Before I explain the remarkable background to this case, I should say that — as far as I know — nobody has ever been sentenced to death in court 4 of the Royal Courts of Justice, although the court of criminal appeal certainly used to hear appeals in capital cases there. Perhaps there is a legal historian who can tell me whether the courtroom curtains in London were ever deployed in the way they were in Sydney.
The woman sentenced to death in New South Wales had been convicted of murdering Annie Birkett, a woman who had believed she was the defendant’s wife. Eugenia Falleni had lived as a man for 22 years and, during that time, had taken part in two ceremonies of marriage with women who each believed that they were marrying a man. The second woman even persuaded herself she had become pregnant by Falleni.
Eugenia, the new biography of Falleni from which I have taken the passage above is, written by Mark Tedeschi QC, senior crown prosecutor for New South Wales. He believes that Falleni was wrongly convicted on the basis of “fallacious scientific evidence, unreliable sighting witnesses, dubious police practice and an avalanche of prejudicial publicity”.
Tedeschi demonstrates all too clearly how a more experienced defence counsel could have secured an acquittal or, at worst, a manslaughter verdict. It is a message that the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, should take to heart. And the authorities in Indonesia might care to note that, as long ago as 1920, Australian politicians were not prepared to see someone they regarded as a woman going to the gallows. No women had been executed in New South Wales for more than 30 years. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and Falleni was released on licence in 1931, only to die in a road accident in 1938.
Born in Italy in 1875 and brought up in New Zealand, Falleni went to sea at the age of 21. The following year, Falleni was raped by a sea captain who discovered that he and his crew had been deceived by the young sailor. Falleni became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, who went on to have a family of her own.
It was in 1913 that Falleni, then known as Harry Crawford, went through a ceremony of marriage with Birkett. What strikes the modern reader as extraordinary was that Birkett, who had been widowed some seven years earlier and left with a young son, took more than four years to realise how she was being deceived by Falleni, despite several tell-tale signs.
Tedeschi explains how Falleni used a dildo and always wore a loose-fitting undershirt during lovemaking. Eventually, Birkett confronted Falleni, but Tedeschi’s account of their falling out makes it clear that Birkett’s death could have been an accident.
In his highly readable biography, Tedeschi concludes that Falleni was a “transgender warrior at a time when there was no understanding of her condition and no support for her cause”. He says “the most acceptable term today for Eugenia Falleni’s condition is ‘gender identity disorder’, which is synonymous with transsexualism”.
But Tedeschi writes as a lawyer, not as a psychologist. His main concern is to expose a miscarriage of justice for which one of his predecessors was largely responsible. An honest prosecutor never regards an unjust conviction as a successful outcome.
Albert D. J. Cashier (December 25, 1843 – October 10, 1915), born Jennie Irene Hodgers, was an Irish-born immigrant who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Cashier adopted the identity of a man before enlisting, and maintained it until death. Cashier became famous as one of a number of women soldiers who served as men during the Civil War, although the consistent and long-term (at least 53 years) commitment to a male identity has prompted some contemporary scholars to suggest that Cashier was a trans man.
Cashier was very elderly and disoriented when interviewed about immigrating to the United States and enlisting in the army, and had always been evasive about early life; therefore, the available narratives are often contradictory. According to later investigation by the administrator of Cashier’s estate, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland on December 25, 1843,:52 to Sallie and Patrick Hodgers. Typically, the youth’s uncle or stepfather was said to have dressed his charge in male clothing in order to find work in an all-male shoe factory in Illinois. Even before the advent of the war, Jenny adopted the identity of Albert Cashier in order to live independently.:52 Sallie Hodgers, Cashier’s mother, was known to have died prior to 1862, by which time her child had traveled as a stowaway to Belvidere, Illinois, and was working as a farmhand to a man named Avery.
Cashier first enlisted in July 1862 after President Lincoln’s call for soldiers.:52 As time passed, the need for soldiers only increased. On August 6, 1862, the eighteen-year-old enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry for a three-year term using the name “Albert D.J. Cashier” and was assigned to Company G.:52 Cashier was listed in the company catalog as nineteen years old upon enlistment, and small in stature.[note 1]
Many Belvidere boys had been at the Battle of Shiloh as members of the Fifteenth Illinois Volunteers, where the Union had suffered heavy losses. Cashier took the train along with other boys from Belvidere to Rockford in order to enlist, in answer to the call for more soldiers.:380 Along with others from Boone and McHenry counties, Cashier learned how to be a volunteer infantryman of the 95th Regiment at Camp Fuller. After being shipped out by steamer and rail to Confederate strongholds in Columbus, Kentucky and Jackson, Tennessee, the 95th was ordered to Grand Junction where it became part of the Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant.:380–381
The regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in approximately forty battles, including the siege at Vicksburg. :381 During this campaign, Cashier was captured while performing reconnaissance,:55 but managed to escape and return to the regiment. After the Battle of Vicksburg, in June 1863, Cashier contracted chronic diarrhea and entered a military hospital, somehow managing to evade detection.:55–56 In the spring of 1864, the regiment was also present at the Red River Campaign under General Nathaniel Banks, and in June 1864 at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Guntown, Mississippi, where they suffered heavy casualties.:56–57:382–383
Following a period to recuperate and regroup following the debacle at Brice, the 95th, now a seasoned and battle-hardened regiment, saw additional action in the Winter of 1864 in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, at the battles of Spring Hill and Franklin, the defense of Nashville, and the pursuit of General Hood.:383
During the war, the regiment traveled a total of about 9,000 miles.:52[note 2] Other soldiers thought that Cashier was small and preferred to be alone, which were not uncommon characteristics for soldiers. Cashier fought with the regiment through the war until honorably discharged on August 17, 1865, when all the soldiers were mustered out.:57
Cashier was only one of at least 250 soldiers who were assigned female at birth and enlisted as men to fight in the Civil War.
After the war, Cashier returned to Belvidere, Illinois for a time, working for Samuel Pepper and continuing to live as a man.:57 Settling in Saunemin, Illinois in 1869, Cashier worked as a farmhand as well as performing odd jobs around the town.:57 and can be found in the town payroll records.:57 Cashier lived with employer Joshua Chesbro and his family in exchange for work, and had also slept for a time in the Cording Hardware store in exchange for labor. In 1885, the Chesbro family had a small house built for Cashier. For over forty years, Cashier lived in Saunemin and was a church janitor, cemetery worker, and street lamplighter. Living as a man allowed Cashier to vote in elections and to later claim a veteran’s pension under the same name.:58 Pension payments started in 1907.
In later years, Cashier ate with the neighboring Lannon family. The Lannons discovered their friend’s sex when Cashier fell ill, but decided not make their discovery public.:59
In 1911, Cashier, who was working for State Senator Ira Lish, was hit by the Senator’s car, resulting in a broken leg.:59 A physician found out the patient’s secret in the hospital, but did not disclose the information. No longer able to work, Cashier was moved to the Soldiers and Sailors home in Quincy, Illinois on May 5, 1911. Many friends and fellow soldiers from the Ninety-fifth Regiment visited.:59 Cashier lived there until an obvious deterioration of mind began to take place and was moved to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in March 1914.:60 Attendants at the Watertown State Hospital discovered Cashier’s sex, at which point, the patient was made to wear women’s clothes again after what we can assume would be more than fifty years.:60 In 1914, Cashier was investigated for fraud by the veterans’ pension board; former comrades confirmed that Cashier was in fact the person who had fought in the Civil War and the board decided in February 1915 that payments should continue for life.
Albert Cashier died on October 10, 1915 and was buried in uniform. The tombstone was inscribed “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.” Cashier was given an official Grand Army of the Republic funerary service, and was buried with full military honors.:60 It took W.J. Singleton (executor of Cashier’s estate) nine years to track Cashier’s identity back to the birth name of Jennie Hodgers. None of the would-be heirs proved convincing, and the estate of about $282 (after payment of funeral expenses) was deposited in the Adams County, Illinois, treasury. The name on the original tombstone is Albert D. J. Cashier. In the 1970s, a second tombstone, inscribed with both names, was placed near the first one at Sunny Slope cemetery in Saunemin, Illinois.
Cashier is listed on the internal wall of the Illinois memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park.
A musical entitled The Civility of Albert Cashier has been produced based on Cashier’s life; the work was described by the Chicago Tribune as “A timely musical about a trans soldier”.
Also Known As Albert D. J. Cashier: The Jennie Hodgers Story is a biography written by veteran Lon P. Dawson, who lived at the Illinois Veterans Home where Cashier once lived. The novel My Last Skirt, by Lynda Durrant, is based on Cashier’s life. Cashier was mentioned in a collection of essays called Nine Irish Lives, in which Cashier’s biography was written by Jill McDonough. Cashier’s house has been restored in Saunemin.
Authors including Michael Bronski, James Cromwell, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Nicholas Teich have suggested or argued that Cashier was a trans man due to living as a man for at least 53 years.
1 Salt. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
2 ^ a b c Blanton, DeAnne & Cook, Lauren M. (2002). They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780807128060.
3 ^ a b Cromwell, Jason (1999). “Transvestite Opportunists, Passing Women, and Female-Bodied Men”. Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities. University of Illinois Press. pp. 77–78. ISBN 9780252068256.
4 ^ a b Bronski, Michael (2011). “A Democracy of Death and Art”. A Queer History of the United States. Beacon Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9780807044391.
5 ^ a b Teich, Nicholas (2012). “The History of Transgenderism and its Evolution Over Time”. Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue. Columbia University Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 9780231157124.
6 ^ a b Cronn-Mills, Kirstin (2014). Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 9780761390220.
7 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Tsui, Bonnie (2006). She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Globe Pequot. Guilford, Connecticut: TwoDot. ISBN 978-0-7627-4384-1. OCLC 868531116.
8 ^ Benck, Amy. “Albert D. J. Cashier: Woman Warrior, Insane Civil War Veteran, or Transman?”. OutHistory. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
9 ^ Illinois Issues: Little Soldier, Big Mystery, Illinois Public Radio, July 10, 2018
11 ^ a b c Hicks-Bartlett, Alani (February 1994). “When Jennie Comes Marchin’ Home”. Illinois History. Archived from the original on 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
12 ^ a b 1 Blanton, DeAnne (Spring 1993). “Women Soldiers of the Civil War”. Prologue. College Park, MD: National Archives. 25 (1). Archived from the original on 5 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
2 ^ a b c d e f g Clausius, Gerhard P. (Winter 1958). “The Little Soldier of the 95th: Albert D. J. Cashier”. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 51 (4): 380–387. ISSN 2328-3246. JSTOR 40189639.
3 ^ “The Women Who Fought in the Civil War”. Off the Beaten Path. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
4 ^ Steve Hendrix (August 25, 2017). “A history lesson for Trump: Transgender soldiers served in the Civil War”. Washington Post. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
5 ^ “Deposition of J. H. Himes” (January 24, 1915) from Blanton (Spring 1993)
6 ^ “Recollections – Albert D. J. Cashier”. Saunemin, Illinois. Google Sites. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
7 ^ “The Handsome Young Irishman of the 95th IL Infantry”. eHistory, Ohio State University. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
8 ^ McAuliffe, Nora-Ide. “When Jennie Came Marching Home – An Irishwoman’s Diary on Albert Cashier and the US Civil War”. http://www.irishtimes.com. The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
9 ^ a b “Women in the Civil War”. Warfare History. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
10 ^ a b DeAnne Blanton, Lauren Cook Wike (2002-09-01). They Fought Like Demons. LSU Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780807128060. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
11 ^ “The Handsome Young Irishman of the 95th IL Infantry”. eHistory, Ohio State University. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
12 ^ “Albert D. J. Cashier”. Find a Grave.
13 ^ Bonnie Tsui (2006-07-01). She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781461748496. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
14 ^ Jones, Chris (7 September 2017). “‘Civility of Albert Cashier’: A timely musical about a trans soldier”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
15 ^ McDonough, Jill (2018). “The Soldier”. Nine Irish Lives. Algonquin Books. pp. 68–99.
16 ^ “For Love Of Freedom”. Saunemin Historical Society. July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
You’re sitting in your day parlor, sipping a cup of tea and needlepointing a screen with your female relatives. Then, a maid enters the parlor and informs you that you have a visitor waiting for you in the drawing room. You excuse yourself and enter the drawing room where you find Elizabeth Bennett, holding a bouquet of violets that she picked just for you.
JUNE 21, 2012
Welcome to my fantasy. For years I’ve daydreamed about what gift Elizabeth Bennett might bring me to express her true intentions (which ranged from a beautifully-written letter sealed in wax to a corgi puppy in basket), but now I know she would bring me violets. Violets are beautiful and adorable flowers in general, but they’re also one of the more famous symbols of female homosexuality, possibly dating back to a poem in which Sappho describes herself and her lover wearing garlands of violets:
If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared
all the violet tiaras
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck
In the early 20th century, women used to give each other violets as a way of telling each other, “Hey, I LIKE like you,” in times when it wasn’t easy or accepted to say so in a more overt manner. And, though the historic origins of the violet as a symbol of women liking women may have faded, the color purple is still often associated with homosexuality, particularly in the naming of the Lavender Menace and in the use of the term “lavender lads” to describe gay men during the “Lavender Scare” in the 1950s in the U.S.
Sadly, as we all know, it’s only recently that open displays of homosexuality have begun to be accepted by society, and obviously there are still many places in the world where they are still met with disapproval, violence, and/or legal and social persecution. But! The good thing is that even in unfriendly societies, us homos have always managed to find our way to each other (call it the silver lining in the lavender cloud, if you will). We’ve done so in a variety of ways, though visual symbols are often among the most recognizable. Some of these symbols may be familiar to you, but even if they aren’t, perhaps they’ll give you an idea of how to decorate your messenger bag or expand your tattoo sleeve.
The Greek Symbol “Lambda”
Lambda was selected as a symbol by the Gay Activists Alliance of New York in the 1950s and was declared the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights by the International Gay Rights Congress in 1974. It’s unclear how exactly lambda was adopted by the LGBT community or what it actually means but some popular theories include: the charged energy of the gay and lesbian rights movement (since lambda symbolizes “energy” in chemistry and physics), the Roman interpretation meaning “the light of knowledge shining into the darkness of ignorance,” or “the notion of being on different wavelengths when it comes to sex and sexuality.” There’s also this idea kicking around that lambda appeared on the shields of Spartan and/or Theban warriors in ancient Greece. The Thebes version is more popular because, as legend has it, the city-state organized the Theban Army from groups of idealized lovers, which made them exceptionally fierce and dedicated soldiers–though eventually the army was completely decimated by King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Lending credence to this theory is the fact that the 1962 version of “300” depicted soldiers with lambdas on their shields. I never saw the 2006 version so someone else will have to confirm or deny the perpetuity of lambda in that whole situation.
The Rainbow Flag(s)
In the 1970s, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker recognized the need for a gay symbol that could be used during the Pride Parade each year. Baker drew inspiration for the first version of the iconic rainbow flag from a variety of sources and came up with a flag with eight color stripes, each representing a different aspect of gay and lesbian life: hot pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, blue for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. Baker and 30 volunteers hand-dyed and stitched the original flag, but had to remove the pink stripe for mass production due to a lack of commercially-available pink dye. When Harvey Milk was assassinated later that year, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee selected Baker’s flag as the symbol for the gay community to unite in honor of Milk’s memory.
The Original Rainbow Flag
In the 1979 San Francisco Pride Parade, the color indigo was also removed so the colors could be evenly-distributed along the parade route, leaving us with the flag we know today, with stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Today, there are many, many varieties of the rainbow flag–you can stick a lambda on it, a colored triangle, a star of David, whatever you want! People seem particularly fond of the rainbow flag/rainbows in general because they are all-encompassing: a rainbow flag endorses gay rights without making a statement about the person displaying it. And this, to me, is the most rockin’ thing about rainbow flags. If you chose not to, you don’t have to say anything about yourself, your sexytime partners, your experiences, thoughts or feelings–you’re just rocking a rainbow, and under the rainbow we’re all family. Rainbow flags and stickers are often used to denote gay-friendly businesses, gay-friendly health facilities and really, who doesn’t want to paint their face in rainbow colors and go to a parade filled with like-minded rainbow-philes? No one, that’s who. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a member of the LGBT community or simply a supporter of gay rights, rainbows mean love for everyone and are therefore wonderful.
One of the oldest symbols associated with the LGBT community is the triangle, which originated as one of the symbols used in Hitler’s Nazi concentration camps as a way to label prisoners: male homosexual prisoners were made to wear a pink triangle, while women imprisoned for “arbeitsscheu” (“antisocial behavior”, including feminism, lesbianism and prostitution) were made to wear black triangles. Though there isn’t definitive evidence to prove that the black triangles were worn by lesbians in the same way that pink triangles were worn by gay male prisoners, over time the black triangle has evolved into one of the more prominent symbols of lesbianism, contemporaneously symbolizing defiance against repression and discrimination.
I know you all totally know what a labrys is already, but juuuust in case you don’t: a labrys is a double-headed axe. The labrys was first associated with the Greek goddesses Artemis (goddess of the hunt) and Demeter (goddess of the harvest) and used in battle by Scythian Amazon warriors. The Amazons ruled with a dual-queen system and were known for being ferocious in battle. Though the labrys originally stood for independence/strength/chopping prowess, it has also been appropriated as a symbol of lesbianism.
Note from commenter Nancy: The labrys is actually even older than Artemis as goddess of the hunt, it goes all the way back to the Minoan civilization on crete around the 15th century BCE, although we are not really sure what it meant then because it is sooo long ago! And while there were definitely women warriors in Scythia and nearby regions, it’s super speculative that they had the whole two-queen system and everything…that comes out of some quasi-history written by guys like Herodotus.
The double Venus symbol takes the scientific symbol for “female” (or “Venus”) and doubles it–two females = girl and girl; Bette and Tina; Ellen and Portia, etc.
In 1998, the official Bisexuality Flag was designed by Michael Page to represent the bisexual community. The magenta stripe represents same-sex attraction and the blue stripe at the bottom represents opposite-sex attraction, while the smaller deep lavender (lavender!) stripe in the middle represents attraction to both genders. Overlapping pink and blue triangle are also used to symbolize bisexuality.
In 2000, Monica Helms designed the first Transgender Pride flag, which debuted at the Phoenix Pride Parade in Arizona. Helms planned the flag to represent the spectrum of trans* experience. “The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersex. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives.” Another popular symbol used to identify members of the the transgender community comes from the same roots as the double Venus: a circle with an arrow projecting from the top-right, as per the male symbol, and a cross projecting from the bottom, as per the female symbol, with an additional striked arrow (combining the female cross and male arrow) projecting from the top-left.
The Other Stuff
Purple Rhinoceros: In the 1970s gay activists in Boston chose the rhinoceros as their symbol because, like the gay rights movement, while the rhino is often misunderstood it is actually a docile and intelligent animal until it is attacked–at which point it’s probably going to steamroll your car. And guess what? It’s purple. Bam. Purple rhino.
Hare, Hyena and Weasel: These three animals were mentioned in an apocryphal text of the Bible, Barnabus, in which God warns against eating the flesh of the hare (associating it with anal sex), the hyena, which was at the time was believed to change gender once a year, and the weasel, which was associated with lesbian sex. Why? Who knows. Look how cute, though!
Thumb Rings: Popular culture seems to believe that if a woman wears a silver thumb ring, she’s telling the world she’s a big ole lesbian–though there seems to be some confusion over whether to wear it on the left or right thumb and what that signifies.
Purple String: In some places, wearing a piece of purple string or hemp around your wrist is a sign of liking other girls: wear it on your left wrist if you are single, right if you are in a relationship. But then sometimes girls from the UK say that this is reversed in Europe, adding to the dilemma of what to do when you go to London on vacay.
Sign Language for “Lesbian”: On one forum I read, a girl said that she and her friends signal “lesbian” by the American Sign Language sign,” which involves making your thumb and forefinger into an ‘L’ and sticking your chin between the two. I find this amusing and wonderful and will use it all the time.
Nautical Star Tattoo: In the 1940s, many lesbians got a nautical star tattooed on their inner wrist to advertise their sexuality. But then so did sailors and punk rockers. Not that the groups are mutually exclusive by any means (if you are lesbian sailor punk rocker, I want to meet you). What does seem to be a defining feature of tattoos indicating lesbianism is that they were often on the inner wrist, so ladies could cover them up with a watch during the day and expose them at night when they were out.
Also, dolphins: In almost every online discussion I read, some sad-sounding girl would chime in to ask, “I thought dolphins were symbols of lesbianism. What about dolphins?” Um, PREACH. Lack of historic precedent be damned, I say if we want dolphins, we can have dolphins. DOLPHINS!
LGBT symbols are ever-evolving as time, culture and civil rights allow. While it’s crucial to give a nod to the historic significance of using LGBT symbols during times and in places where one had to be covert, the use of symbols, raised some interesting questions that maybe you have thoughts about. How effective is an LGBT symbol if members of the community may not recognize what it means? At what point do “symbols” merge into the larger topic of gaydar?
It really depends on what you want, whether it be acknowledging the struggle of the past, your personal feelings about your own present, or pride in and of itself. In the end symbolism and the use of symbols is just that–it’s the user of the symbol who gives it meaning and significance. Ultimately it’s a pretty wonderful thing that in many places, we don’t have to use symbols to say what we mean and feel. But I’m just sayin’–if I see a girl with an Autostraddle ‘A’ sticker on her laptop, I’m going over to say hi.
Did you know the pope in the 1400s legalized gay sex during the summer months? Discover more here
1 Some of the world’s oldest rock paintings which were discovered in Sicily, made about 10,000 years ago, showed two male phallic figures having sex.
2 Ancient Roman historian Plutarch wrote about The Great Mother, an intersex deity depicted with both sets of genitals. Her sacred priestesses, as found in the earliest civilizations in Babylonia and Akkad, were eunuchs and trans women.
3 In ancient Assyrian society, if a man were to have sex with another man of equal status, it was thought that trouble would leave him and he would have good fortune.
4 A Hindu medical text dating back to at least 600 BC made several explicit references to gay people; kumbhika – men who bottom during anal sex; asekya – men who swallow semen; and sandha – men who speak and act like women. The text also claimed it was possible for two women to create a child together but said it would end up being ‘boneless’.
The Hindu god Shiva is often represented as Ardhanarisvara, a unified entity of him with his consort Parvati. This sculpture is from the Elephanta Caves near Mumbai.
5 In Egypt 1503 BC, Hatshepsut became the second woman to rule and chose to take the title of king. She donned male clothing and wore a false beard.
Statue of Hatshepsut on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
6 Julius Caesar and Claudius were considered ‘abnormal’ for refusing to take male lovers. Julius had, at least, an affair with Nicomedes, the king of Bithymia, as a youth.
7 Ancient Celtic men openly preferred male lovers. According to Diodorus in the 1st century BC, he wrote ‘young men will offer themselves to strangers and are insulted if the offer is refused’. Sex between men was very likely an important ‘bonding ritual’.
8 One of the first Roman emperors, Elagabalus, could have been transgender. Before dying at the age of 18, it was reported the emperor had married a male athlete and would go out disguised as a prostitute.
9 Wales had a gay king. King Maelgwn of Gwynedd of the sixth century was described as ‘addicted very much to the detestable vice of sodomy’.
10 St Thomas Aquinas, a priest from the 1200s, is considered the father of homophobia. At a time when homosexuality was often treated as an ‘open secret’, he preached widely that it was ‘unnatural’, similar to bestiality, and argued sodomy is second only to murder in the ranking of sins.
11 Pope Sixtus IV, of the 1400s, was reported to have legalized sodomy during the summer months.
Posthumous portrait of Pope Sixtus IV by Titian
12 In the Klementi tribe of Albania, first observed in the 1400s, if a virgin swore before 12 witnesses that she would not marry, she was then recognized as male, carried weapons and herded flocks.
13 The French called homosexuality the ‘Italian vice’ in the 16th and 17th centuries, the ‘English vice’ in the 18th century, the ‘Oriental vice’ in the 19th century, and the ‘German vice’ starting from 1870 and into the 20th century.
14 Most people know the origins of the word ‘gay’, but the word ‘lesbian’ was first used from around 1590 to mean a tool – a stick made of lead (from the isle of Lesbos) used by stonemasons. It was flexible so it could be used to measure or mold objects to irregular shapes. A ‘lesbian rule’ was also used to mean being flexible with the law.
15 Julie D’Aubigny was a 17th century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who fought and won at least 10 life-or-death duels, performed nightly shows on the biggest opera stage in the world and once took the Holy Orders just so she could sneak into a convent and have sex with a nun.
16 An 18th century English term for sex between women was the ‘Game of Flats’.
17 A molly house was an 18th century English term for a room or bar where gay men would meet. Patrons of the molly house would enact mock weddings and children being born.
Molly-houses were often considered as brothels in legal proceedings. A male brothel, illustration by Léon Choubrac (known also as Hope), included in Léo Taxil’s book La prostitution contemporaine, 1884, pg. 384, Plate VII
18 Trans man Albert Cashier fought for the Union in the American Civil War. At one point, he was captured by the Confederates but managed to escape by overpowering a prison guard.
19 A Boston marriage, in the 19th century, referred to two women living together financially independent of a man.
Sarah Ponsoby and Lady Eleanor Butler, also known as the Ladies of Llangollen, lived together in a Boston marriage.
20 The word ‘homosexual’ (coined in 1869) is older than the word ‘heterosexual’ (1892).
21 Edward White Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 to 1896, was thought to have been repressing his homosexuality. His wife, brother-in-law and five of his six children were also gay.
22 Dude used to be a homophobic slur.
23 UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, when he was 21, was accused of ‘gross immorality of the Oscar Wilde type’.
24 Doctors in the early 1900s thought bicycles would turn women gay.
25 Wings, the first Oscar-winning film in 1920, featured a man-on-man kiss.
Richard Arlen in Wings
26 In the 1930s, a Disney comic strip showed Mickey Mouse as a violent homophobic thug. In the strip, he beats up an effeminate cat and called him a ‘cream puff inhaler’.
27 The British secret intelligence service tried to spike Hitler’s carrots with female hormones to ‘turn’ him into a woman.
28 Sister Rosetta Thorpe, a bisexual black woman, is credited with inventing rock n roll.
29 World War 2 genius and cryptographer Alan Turing said he had lost a mystery box of treasure in Bletchley Park but could no longer find it as he couldn’t crack his own code.
30 The 1948-53 Kinsey study found a third of men had a homosexual experience.
31 A drag queen was the first openly gay candidate to run for US public office. José Sarria won 6,000 votes in his 1961 campaign for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Jose Sarria dines in Kenmore Square during 2010 visit to Boston
32 The death and funeral of Judy Garland is credited with inspiring the Stonewall Riots.
33 Pride in New York City was never really ‘Gay Pride’. The first was mainly organized by bisexual woman Brenda Howard.
34 The original name for Pride was ‘Gay Power’. Other suggested names included ‘Gay Freedom’, ‘Gay Liberation’ and ‘Christopher Street Liberation Day’.
The Stonewall Inn located in Greenwich Village was the site of the June 1969 Stonewall riots. That event in New York City’s queer history has served as a touchstone for various social movements, as well as the catalyst for Pride parades around the world.
35 Dracula author Bram Stoker married Oscar Wilde’s first girlfriend.
36 One of the first openly gay athletes was Dodgers outfielder Glenn Burke in the late 1970s. He told his teammates, who apparently didn’t care, and was officially outed in 1982. He is also credited with creating the high-five.
37 A man who saved President Ford from assassination had his life ruined when the media outed him as gay.
38 L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had a son Quintin who was tasked to take over from the Church of Scientology. When Quintin came out as gay, he died of an ‘apparent suicide’ in 1976.
Geoffrey Quentin McCaully Hubbard
39 Mel Boozer, the African American human rights activist, became the first openly gay person ever nominated for the office of Vice President of the United States in 1980.
Melvin “Mel” Boozer
40 Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space. She was also the first LGBTI astronaut and remains the youngest American to have traveled to space at the age of 32.
41 In the 1980s, religious groups tried to ban Dungeons and Dragons for being satanic as it ‘promoted homosexuality’.
42 In 1987, Delta Airlines apologized for arguing in plane crash litigation that it should pay less in compensation for the life of a gay passenger than for a heterosexual one because he may have had AIDS.
43 Princess Diana went to a London gay bar, accompanied by Freddie Mercury, disguised as a man.
44 The Etoro tribe in Papua New Guinea is where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuals are excluded. They believe young men only become adults if they have a daily intake of semen to ‘properly mature’.
45 Queen’s The Show Must Go On was recorded as Freddie Mercury was dying due to complications from AIDS. According to Brian May, Mercury said: ‘I’ll fucking do it, darling’ – vodka down – and went in and delivered the incredible vocal.
46 When Ellen DeGeneres came out on her sitcom, Birmingham in Alabama refused to show it. A local LGBTI group sold out a 5,000-seat theatre so people could watch it via satellite.
Ellen DeGeneres, an Emmy winner, came out, as well as her fictional counterpart.
47 Stephen Hillenburg, one of the creators of Spongebob Squarepants, revealed in 2002 that Spongebob is asexual.
48 The couple in Lawrence vs Texas, the case that stopped sodomy being punishable in the US in 2003, didn’t actually have sex. They weren’t even a couple.
49 The country that watches the most gay porn is Kenya, a 2013 study found. In a recent poll, 92% of Kenyans claimed they thought homosexuality should be illegal.
50 Fun Home, the award-winning, lesbian musical, is the first in the history of the Tonys to be written entirely by women.
51 In 2015, it was announced a crater on Pluto’s moon will be named after George Takei’s Star Trek character, Sulu.