The study of queer history is frequently stalled by one debate: is it fair and reasonable to label a historical figure with language that did not exist while they were alive? Our project has long answered yes to this question, and we still do. We acknowledge that there is complexity in that task, and Ljuba Prenner, a Slovenian lawyer and author, is one of the clearest examples. There are layers of societal understanding, cultural differences, and personal experiences that all tie directly into how not only we see queer people but how queer people see themselves. The question we ask now is this: how many layers can be removed before you begin to erase a person’s right to self-identify? (Read full article)
Question: Do you have any articles on genderfluid people? I searched through a couple likely tags and articles on your blog and website, but couldn't really find much, figured I should double check. Also, thank you *so much* for running this project. It means so much to me and a lot of other people to have our history, to know we *have* history, especially without having to track it down ourselves. Thank you.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any articles on genderfluid folks. However, that’s definitely not due to lack of interest! We have covered nonbinary folks like King Kristina.
It’s definitely something on our to-do list along with aromantic folks. There are some really rad genderfluid folks making history right now though! Drag queens like Jinkx Monsoon, Violet Chacki, and Eureka O’Hara, actors like Kelly Mantle, Cara Delevigne, and Nico Tortorella, and folks like Janei Kroczaleski, who was previously a powerlifter!
We love hearing what y’all are interested in seeing from us, so please share if you know any genderfluid folks (or folks who may have considered themselves genderfluid given the language) from the past! Or even better, submit an article proposal.
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I see a lot more gay/bi history than trans history, and i know it can get grey, but do you know any older trans history, with more uplifting than sad tales if you can. Thank you!
Yeah, it can be hard to come by trans history, and it’s super frustrating! Fortunately, there are more and more queer historians and academics working to research and share trans history. We’ve written a few articles about trans folks ourselves! I’ve listed them here from oldest to most recent and noted the ones with happy endings. Enjoy!
Chrystos* (Note: Still Alive)
Katharina T., a resident of Berlin in the early 20th century, had a deep voice and masculine appearance, and preferred to wear men’s clothing
at home and in public. In 1908, they—there’s no record of which pronoun
Katharina preferred—went to visit the sexual reformer and “sexologist”
Magnus Hirschfeld, to apply for official documentation that would allow them to wear men’s clothing in public: a “transvestite pass.”
Perhaps dozens of these passes were
granted by German police between 1909 and 1933, the year Adolf Hitler
became chancellor. The term “transvestitism” at that time encompassed
people of all gender identities, from those who occasionally wore men’s
or women’s clothes on weekends, to those who today might well identify
instead as transgender, a term that was not in common usage at the time.
Cross-dressing individuals were vulnerable to arbitrary decisions of
the police, usually according to how well they “passed.” While it wasn’t
illegal to cross-dress, per se, the practice often led to charges of
being a “public nuisance,” which could mean six weeks’ imprisonment or a
fine of 150 marks—and police were “often keen to exercise their
extensive regulatory powers,” writes historian Kate Caplan in “The Administration of Gender Identity in Nazi Germany,” a 2011 paper in History Workshop Journal.
Hirschfeld examined Katharina, quizzed
them on their life and sexual history, and then wrote a report to the
police supporting the application. In it, he argued that Katharina’s
preference for men’s clothing corresponded to their inner self. If they
couldn’t wear them, their well-being and even survival would be
jeopardized. In time, they did receive a pass, though for unknown
“formal legal reasons,” a further request to adopt a male name was not
granted. This, writes Katie Sutton, a scholar of German history and gender studies at Australian National University, in German Studies Review,
is the first known example of someone seeking such a pass. By 1912,
probably as a result of Hirschfeld’s pressure on the police, the pass
became a specific permit in what would become the Weimar Republic.*
(That they remained hand-written suggests that few were issued.)
Hirschfeld was one of a few doctors in
the city who helped people with minority sexual identities. Meanwhile,
other people became increasingly aware of the issues they faced. A 1906
German newspaper report, quoted in Robert Beachy’s Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity,
tells the story of a person who was assigned female at birth**, but
only appeared “unsuspicious” if allowed to wear men’s clothing. The
paper chastises city officials: “There are men with the faces of women,
and women with the faces of men. If necessary, police officials need to
be schooled by Dr. Hirschfeld. Such mistrust as in this case should not
be based on ignorance.” This was typical of a certain segment of Weimar
society, Beachy says. “You can sort of see that there was, at least in
some quarters, a liberal tolerance that was clearly visible.”
Hirschfeld was stocky and mustachioed, a pacifist, anti-imperialist Jew.
He was also likely gay, with two younger lovers—Tao Li Shiu and Karl
Giese—though he generally wrote about “homosexuals” at a remove. By the
time he saw Katharina, he had been writing about complex sexual
identities for well over a decade. After qualifying as a doctor,
Hirschfeld began to work specifically on minority sexual identities, and
published a selection of books on gender and sexuality, including, in
1910, The Transvestites. In 1919, he started the Institute of Sex Research,
a nonprofit foundation that provided services from marriage counseling
to STI treatment to early attempts at hormone therapy. Backed by
anonymous wealthy benefactors, the Institute treated rich and poor
alike, and sought “advancement of scientific research into all aspects
of sexual life and of sex education.”
hi i was wondering if you had a list of articles specifically about trans men/people we would today consider trans men? i run a blog for trans guys and its unfortunately more difficult to find things on transgender men
Hi there! We have a few articles about trans men and folks who may have been trans men.
Lou Sullivan, an American gay trans author and activist, founder of FTM International, and founding member of the GLBT Historical Society. He was a major proponent for removing heterosexuality from the requirements for SRS.
Billy Tipton, an American Jazz musician born in the early 20th century.
Albert D.J. Cashier, an Irish immigrant who fought for the Union during the American Civil War
Anderson Bigode Herzer, a young Brazilian writer and poet
Sir Ewan Forbes, 11th Baronet, a Scottish nobleman and doctor. Forbes was also intersex. He lived a mostly quiet life with his wife.