Today, 31 March,Â is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day that is vital to raising awareness of trans struggles and celebrating trans lives. This post will highlight transgender histories it is possible to find in a government archive, in an attempt to increase the visibility of gender identity in the past, as well as the present day.
In this post I will use the term trans as an umbrella term to cover a range of identities including transgender, transsexual and non-binary gender identities. I will particularly be using this terminology as it is impossible to know how people in the past would have chosen to identify their gender. Our collection covers 1000 years, andÂ times before current terminology existed and before the visibility of other people defying the binary.
While the history of gender identity has traditionally been included in LGBT history it has gained less attention. If lesbian, gay and bisexual history is conventionally seen as a â€˜hidden historyâ€™, the history of trans identifying individuals is even more outside of mainstream historical narratives. And yet there have always been people living and experiencing gender variation.
While this is still a growing field of research the state has always been interested in that which was seen to be outside of the â€˜normâ€™, from individuals cross dressing to those seen to be questioning state institutions such as marriage.
Itâ€™s not fair to read contemporary identities into the past, in times before current understandingÂ of gender and current terminology existed. However, it is possible to recognise people who chose to question gender norms, or actively lived their lives as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth. Ideally we would be able to ask people in the past how they identified; what pronouns they would prefer? Continue reading »