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19th Century surgeon deemed "transgender"

(71 Posts)
NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 10:19:38

I've just posted about this in another thread so apologises if this doesn't warrant its own but I'm amazed and enraged in equal measure by this: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/25/secret-transgender-victorian-surgeon-feted-by-heritage-england

A woman who was forced to pretend to be a man as women were barred from education and professions has been deemed "transgender" now. Never mind that were it not for this oppression of women, she'd never have had to in the first place - she was forced into this pretence due to misogyny. How insulting to her.

NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 10:19:46

www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/25/secret-transgender-victorian-surgeon-feted-by-heritage-england

StealthPolarBear Tue 25-Jul-17 10:22:55

Hmm. I do see what you mean and I'd assumed something different but tbese women, however different their reasons might be from no, chose to live completely as men and have everyone refer to them as "he".
It would be good if they could make a bit more of the likely reasons for this though rather than the implication that it would be the same as today. I'm assuming the full reason was these women wanted to do men's jobs.

NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 10:28:09

Maybe I've overreacted to this or misunderstood somewhat, probably shouldn't have started the thread. I thought the only reason she claimed to be a man and was therefore referred to as "he" was because she was passionate about being educated and working as a surgeon which, given it wasn't permitted for women to do so, meant she had to claim to be a man. I didn't think something forced due to the oppression of women made such a person "transgender" but maybe I've got this wrong.

zinniazuri Tue 25-Jul-17 10:33:12

You're right, she isn't transgender.

If I call myself a 'man' tomorrow, that also doesn't make me transgender, because I don't have dysphoria nor ""feel like a man"".

This woman wanted an education and a good career, so she pretended to be a man. Is 'Mulan' transgender? No. Although she'd probably be considered a 'non-binary' woman these days. hmm

RiverTam Tue 25-Jul-17 10:34:06

Nope, not transgender, just getting through life the best she could within the constraints of the times.

VestalVirgin Tue 25-Jul-17 10:36:43

I'm assuming the full reason was these women wanted to do men's jobs.

Well, obviously.

Mary Read and Anne Bonney dressed like men and pretended to be men to become pirates. None of them is reported to have maintained the charade after being caught, when being pregnant meant they'd not be executed only after the baby was weaned.
There's also a legend that one of them used to open her shirt and show her breasts to defeated enemies, to show them they had been bested by a woman. She was proud of being a woman. She just pretended to be male for practical reasons.

Fantasy literature is full of women pretending to be men to be allowed to take a sword and go fighting. Eowyn of Rohan, to name only one (who probably inspired a dozen others)

Women have always been aware that pretending to be male has advantages. Or take that scene in ... The Life of Brian, Ithink it was, where the women all buy fake beards to be allowed to participate in a public stoning.

People used to know, and acknowledge, that men are privileged over women, and women who pretend to be men are most likely to be doing it for the privilege.

The interesting question here is why modern trans choose to claim that historical women were trans.

My guess is that actually, most trans-identified females nowadays, too, just want to identify out of their oppression.

They think that the mere fact of not wanting to be oppressed under patriarchy makes them men - thus, all the women in history who did not happily submit to male oppression must also have been transmen.

NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 10:39:04

I also think to declare her transgender and persist in referring to her as "he" is to demean her achievements somewhat and endorse the idea that to avoid misogyny women should just attempt to 'identify it away' (which actually is what I think could be at the heart of why some girls are "identifying as boys"). She was forced into that position.

NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 10:41:06

Cross-posted with Vestal on the identifying out of oppression point - something which I find quite worrying not least because I think this suggests oppression will inevitably happen to girls and women so to avoid it one should "identify as a male".

AssassinatedBeauty Tue 25-Jul-17 10:56:50

Wtf? How can anyone possibly "claim" her as transgender? This is an achievement by a woman who had to do this to pursue the career and life that she wanted. Even the historic oppression of women is being re-written by trans activists. I find the avoidance of the use of the word "she" in that article to be bizarre.

VestalVirgin Tue 25-Jul-17 10:59:10

Even the historic oppression of women is being re-written by trans activists.

Indeed. Erasing women from history, now, where did we see this before?

Misogyny, by any other name, smells just as foul.

Datun Tue 25-Jul-17 11:19:04

All three Brontë sisters initially published under men's names because they knew they wouldn't taken seriously unless they did.

Are they transgender now?

VestalVirgin Tue 25-Jul-17 11:26:01

Are they transgender now?

Possibly.

Though apparently, it is still okay to call me an evil terf, even though I have published (fanfic) under a male name to evade sexist harrassment.

Not sure whether I am trans or not. Can one be trans and an evil terf at the same time?

StealthPolarBear Tue 25-Jul-17 11:34:54

OK I think I am either misunderstanding, misunderstood or just plain wrong smile
I suppose the 'proper' reason for transgender ism is a medical one - a strong feeling if having been born in the wrong body. That is the medical reason for transgenderism.
If you expand the definitions of transgender to include those who do it purely for social reasons then that would include these women. They didn't dress as men till they'd proved their point and then whip off their fake beard with a gleeful "aha", they chose to live as men until the day they died and have everyone around them refer to them as such.
I assume that we're they born now they would not choose to do this. I may disagree with them doing it at the time and I certainly disagree with the factors that made them feel it necessary. However they did do so, and it was their strong, definite choice.

EBearhug Tue 25-Jul-17 11:49:15

It's just misogyny trying to remove women from pretty much everything, including history.

I think i

VestalVirgin Tue 25-Jul-17 11:54:29

I suppose the 'proper' reason for transgender ism is a medical one - a strong feeling if having been born in the wrong body. That is the medical reason for transgenderism.

No, that used to be the medical definition of transsexuality.

Transgenderism is all about what genderfeelz you have. Biological bodies don't come into it.

That's why we now have headlines like "man gives birth" ... someone feeling strongly that they should not have been born in a body that is capable of giving birth would not have a planned pregnancy and then talk ot the press about it, even.

Now, most transmen (i.e. females with male genderfeelz) do bind their breasts and take testosterone, which does not surprise me in the least because hating your own body has a long tradition for women, and women have always bound and restricted their bodies; see corsets. (Nuns also bound their breasts in the past, not sure it is still done)

But it is quite obvious in most transmen that hate of their own body was not the beginning, it was an effect of internalized misogyny. Read the LGBT teen forums here on mumsnet; women report their daughters suddenly identify as trans - girls who never mentioned any discomfort about their genitals before puberty.

Also, all the middle-aged lesbians (it seems to mostly be lesbians at that age) who suddenly trans themselves, with surgery and testosterone - were they dysphoric about their bodies? I don't know whether they had happy sex lives, but considering that many were out and proud lesbians, I would assume they did engage in sexual activity with their female genitals.

Also, ALL transmen who belong to the transwacktivist lobby group (which I would wager is almost all of them) agree with the notion that penis can be female, and support the male trans who complain about the "cotton ceiling", i.e. not getting their dicks into lesbian panties. As male trans are much less likely to have surgery than female trans.

All of those transmen also think that a woman becomes a man by declaring herself so. They see their body modifications as individual choice, not as something that must be done. Dysphoria about one's body is not required to be trans.

I think that is because subconsciously they know their body dysphoria stems from internalized misogyny, and they were not born with it.
They can see that those women in history are just like them - but as they cannot acknowledge themselves to be women, they instead redefine those women in history to transmen.

EBearhug Tue 25-Jul-17 11:54:46

Damn phone.

I think it's fine to ask the question, were these women actually transgender? But in most cases, the answer is, no - if they'don't been able to fight in the army, be a surgeon, get books published, whatever else, as a woman, they would have done. They pretended to be men because they were prevented from doing the things they wanted to do as a woman. In most, if not all, cases, they did not feel they were born in the wrong body, except for the fact it meant it stopped them from doing what they wanted, because of society and law outside of themselves, and that's what they wanted to change, not themselves. Being a man was just a convenience to get round misogyny.

StealthPolarBear Tue 25-Jul-17 12:12:07

Bloody hell
So transgender and transsexualism aren't two lines along the spectrum of the same thing?
I'm stuck in the 90s

NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 12:17:16

To me it's complete misogyny and the erosion of women. This woman was forced to hide her sex due to the oppression of women yet is now being written or as "trans" and referred to as "he" as if she was really a man (I suppose her passions and interests would qualify as such these days confused).

StealthPolarBear Tue 25-Jul-17 12:20:19

Yes good point.

PerspicaciaTick Tue 25-Jul-17 12:24:48

It feels like cultural appropriation. If a woman succeeds by playing men at their own game then she is transgender and not a woman at all. With the implication that an actual biological woman would never have dreamed of taking off her pretty frock and getting herself a career and and education.

poorbuthappy Tue 25-Jul-17 12:24:48

Yes and if we pretend the patriarchy doesn't exist then we will never have to deal with it.

I can't believe I live in a society which prefers to tell itself that these women were trans rather than dealing with the actual problem.

NoLoveofMine Tue 25-Jul-17 12:27:48

Absolutely Perspicacia. It's so regressive and can be seen now with all the nonsense about children with certain traits or interests being labelled "trans" if they don't conform to the gender society has ascribed to their sex. In the instance in the article it's incredibly insulting and demeaning to women and the woman in particular who achieved so much.

cuirderussie Tue 25-Jul-17 12:30:46

There's strong evidence to suggest James Barry had relationships with men and bore a child so she doesn't even fit into the LGB box, let alone the T.

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 25-Jul-17 12:50:30

You beat me to it. I just saw red over this and was coming over here to post on it. I'd read about this woman before when women were allowed to have their own herstories and the clear consensus was that she was a woman who found a way to overcome the constraints on women at the time. Now she is being claimed as 'transgender'. FUCK THAT SHIT. Here is a Guardian article that tells the older story where she was a courageous woman.

www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/10/dr-james-barry-a-woman-ahead-of-her-time-review

Why is this important? Because if we erase who James Barry was we shift the narrative from the historical constraints on women (that still happen today) and on women's bravery and opposition to this, to talk about the braveness of 'transgender' people and we give this a longer history than what it has.

James Barry was a pissed off woman masquerading as a man to get some of the power and privilege that men had. She was not transgender.

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