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Beverly Greene

October 1997

Transgendered Persons and Passing Men In History

In the June issue of Oasis, you may have read my essay on finding lesbians, bisexual women, and f2m persons throughout history. (If you have not done so, you may wish to do read it before reading this history as it makes important points about this type of history.) So, this month I thought that I would share some of my history studies with you. It is important to know about the women who came before us, because only when we realize their suffering and sacrifices can we truly see where we are in history and where we still need to go.

Unfortunately, finding transgendered persons in history books is next to impossible. The very idea that someone can be transgendered is still very new. So, persons who felt that they had been born into the wrong body probably never spoke of it. We do, however, have many stories of women who passed as men for many years. But, even these stories leave us scratching our head as we have no way of knowing how many were in fact f2m persons, simply liked to cross dress, or felt that they had to pass as a man in order to live out their life as a woman loving woman. Lesbian couples were not accepted in any way. Women had few legal rights, few career opportunities, and few options if they choose not to marry a man. As a result, many lesbian couples pretended to be heterosexual by having one of the partners pass as a man, often working at a man's job, voting as a man, even holding political office as a man.

I encourage you to do your own research to find other transgendered persons and passing men in history. Below is a history of a few of the notable passing men that I have found during my search. I have made a few personal notes on their lives based on my feelings about my research on that particular woman. Also, often, I had to just guess if the women listed here were in fact transgendered as we now know them or if they were lesbians who were forced into heterosexual-like relationships by societal pressures.

(Please note that I have added the year of birth and death, if I have it in my records.)

Babe Bean (c. 1870-1936) was a cross dresser who pissed her share of women off by pretending to be a man. She became rather famous in California for her 'exploits'.

Ellen Coit Brown dressed up in a man's suit and took her sweetheart to a concert in town. When they were found out to both be women, a huge scandal broke out around town and at Cornell University, which they both attended. Her date was expelled over the incident, but Ellen was not. I have not been able to find a reason for the expelling of one of the women and not the other. Ellen earned her B.S. from Cornell in 1882.

Mary East was engaged to a man in 1731 who was hanged for highway robbery. Then she and a friend of hers decided to live as a married couple. She began cross dressing and took the name James How. She did well in the community until she was blackmailed by someone who threatened to reveal her secret. Apparently her secret was never revealed, but the blackmailer never stopped threatening. After 34 years together, her 'wife' died.

Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841-1898) was another cross dresser who was at one time engaged to another woman, who, we assume, thought that she was a man. They never made it to the alter, however. Sarah also joined and served in the army.

'Harry Gorman' lived as a man for more than 20 years and was an employee of the New York Center Railway. She voted in several elections under this male identity. She at one point stated that she knew of 'at least 10 other women' who pretended to be men. She said that a group of these women often meet and discussed their lives. She inferred that at least some of them were lesbians in drag (or f2m), though it is unclear as to her orientation.

'George' Greene, a well known citizen of Eltrick, Va, died at age 75 when she was found out to be a woman. She had been married to another woman for 35 years. I do not think that her wife knew that she was a woman.

Murray Hall lived as a man known for being a 'womanizer' for over a quarter of a century, voted as a man, held political office as a man, and even married two different women under the guise of being a man. Her wives did not know that their 'husband' was in fact a woman prior to their marriages and probably found out only when the rest of the world did, upon Murray's death in 1901. Murray's first wife started complaining to her neighbors that her 'husband' was constantly flirting with all of the women 'he' came into contact with. Shortly there after, she mysteriously disappeared and was never mentioned again. No one knows what happened to her. This discovery, needless to say, caused a large stir and was reported widely in the media. Murray's 'real name' was Mary Anderson. I do not know if she would have considered herself lesbian or f2m.

'William' C. Howard was discovered to be a woman upon her death, after being married to a woman and adopting 2 children with her. It is probably safe to assume that her wife did know that she her 'husband' was in fact a woman.

Lucy Ann Lobdell was married to a man and had children but enjoyed dressing in men's clothes, hunting, and doing other 'male things' for 20 years. Her husband slandered her name after leaving her, but later came crawling back. She refused to take him back. She instead fell in love with a woman, Marina Perry, who's husband had left her. Lucy began living in drag and took the name Joseph (or Joel) Lobdell and they lived together as a married couple for 12 years. Later in her life, she was institutionalized in an asylum for a 'maniacal attack'. She stated that she believed herself to be 'more a man than a woman' and that she could manipulate her genitals to act as a sort of penis. (An important note: it was the common misconception of Lucy's time that lesbians had enlarged or could enlarge their external sexual organs in order to simulate heterosexual intercourse with other women. In fact, this "condition" was written on many of the medical reports of known lesbians. It is unclear, however, whether Lucy said this out of a 'maniacal attack' or because she truly believed this common misconception.) She had not had periods since early womanhood, though the reason for this is unknown. She was twice declared insane because of these transgendered feelings. It has been suggested, and I agree, that she was in fact driven insane by the strict, unbending society in which she lived.

Luisa Matson, better known as Mr. Milton Matson, was a cross dresser who was engaged to another woman who eventually found out that her fiancee was a woman and was NOT amused in the slightest. Milton worked in the San Francisco Public Library.

Anna Mattersteig was reported in about 1908 in a Stevenson's report as saying that she 'felt herself wholly like a man'. She lived under the name Johann Burger. She lived as a married couple with Martha Gammater, who did not know that her 'husband' was in fact a woman. When Anna was found out to be a woman, her wife went insane and had to be hospitalized. Anna was arrested for and charged with impersonation and abduction (of the woman she had married under the assumption that Anna was a man). She said that she was only acting out her nature and that it had been a mistake of nature not to make her a man by birth.

Anna Morris lived as Frank Blunt for 15. She was married to another woman, Gertrude Field. I am not sure if Gertrude knew that her 'husband' was really a woman, but I believe that she probably did.

'Nicholai de Raylan' passed as a man until her death of tuberculosis at age 33. She was a confidential secretary to the Russian Consul. She married twice, both times to women. Her first marriage lasted for 10 years and then ended in divorce because of her infidelity. Both of her wives believed that she was a man and she wore a special made fake penis made of chamois skin to help keep her secret. She even made plans to protect her secret after death, but her untimely death in a hospital made it possible for her to be found out.

Ququrok patke was the given name of a well known Kutenai female berdache (cross dresser or homosexual). She was a courier, a guide, a prophet, a warrior, and a peace mediator. She often dressed as a man and had a wife (who, I am sure, knew that she was a woman). Her story is still passed down through oral story telling among some Kutenai tribes.

Deborah Sampson was a cross dresser who served as a soldier in the American Revolutionary army as a man for one and a half years. She was hospitalized with a fever and was found out to be a woman. She was then HONORABLY discharged by General Henry Knox at West Point in October 25, 1783. She was said to have had many female lovers while posing as a man in the army. Not long after being discharged, she married a farmer in 1785 and later had 3 children with him.


The above history is largely taken from my Women Loving Women In Herstory pages.

The following books were used during my research and may help you in your own search for other lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered persons in history:


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