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Butch Heroes
February 26, 2013 7:35 AM   Subscribe


 
This is interesting and cool. Thanks for linking to it.

I especially like that she gives mini biographies of the people depicted on each card on their individual pages, and lists sources. (For example.)
posted by zarq at 7:43 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is really cool and I love the art and stories, but I also feel like there is a strong reluctance to identify any of the men on this list as men. Even in the quote you pulled the artist says "female-to-male transgendered individuals" instead of "transgender men" and in many of the card descriptions the men depicted are referred to with female pronouns and in at least one instance the somewhat baffling "he/she".
posted by capricorn at 7:56 AM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this does rather seem to be treating trans men as 'really' women - putting them in a category with butch women, the pronoun issues, identifying them by their rejected names and mentioning their chosen names simply as something they were also known as...
posted by Dysk at 8:18 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also feel like there is a strong reluctance to identify any of the men on this list as men.

Unless you can do telepathy through time, you don't know if they were transmen, women who preferred wearing men's clothes (just like women do now) or women who dressed as men to avoid the crapload of sexism women had to deal with back then. Putting 21st century concepts on people in the past is problematic. I don't even like calling anyone of them queer.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:23 AM on February 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I think the idea here is- these were people with female (or ambiguous) bodies who chose to live as men. They could have had any number of reasons for that- being FtM, wanting to be in lesbian relationships, or just plain wanting to escape being female in repressive societies- we can't know. I'm sure all three of those reasons are represented. But the fact that there are so many documented examples of this- implying, of course, many times more UNdocumented examples- is fascinating.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ooh, these are great, thanks showbiz_liz!

I think I'm going to start using this line on OKCupid:
Her story was popularized in James Beckwourth’s memoirs, in which she is referred to as Pine Leaf. Beckwourth was an emancipated slave, fur trader and mountain man that had apparently fallen in love with Woman Chief. After refusing his proposals of marriage multiple times, she finally concedes that she will marry him only “when the pine leaves turn yellow.” Later Beckwourth realized that pine leaves do not turn yellow.
posted by fight or flight at 8:32 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putting 21st century concepts on people in the past is problematic.

Agreed. These are fantastic representations of remarkable people, regardless of how they identified in their own lives or how they would identify if they were living today. I love the stories and art. I'll be digging around here all afternoon.
posted by libraritarian at 8:37 AM on February 26, 2013


It is fascinating the way cultures have integrated or rejected those whose gender defies easy definition. These are lovely and enlightening, thanks for posting.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:40 AM on February 26, 2013


I find the holy cards to be visually arresting. It seems pretty respectful to me to identify most of them as "he or she" - it is a reluctance to guess what their motivations or identity were, if anything. Indeed, Jean Bonnet is identified as "he" based on the best evidence available. In other words, I think the artist has thought a lot about this.
posted by muddgirl at 9:06 AM on February 26, 2013


I didn't know that the death penalty was the punishment for homosexuality or lack of conformity to traditional gender norms. I am so glad that my sister can be happily married to a woman, accepted in her church (though not yet by the laws of her state) and experience the loving relationship she dreams of without threat to her acceptance by society, or threat to her very life.

We certainly have a long way to go before we TRULY create a society that addresses inequality, poverty, sexism, ablism, prejudice, hatred of difference....

But there is a lot to celebrate. That now I can go to the mall in a conservative part of town and see not one but TWO unrelated female couples holding hands sweetly as they walk makes my heart warm. May love triumph over all.
posted by xarnop at 9:10 AM on February 26, 2013


Unless you can do telepathy through time, you don't know if they were transmen, women who preferred wearing men's clothes (just like women do now) or women who dressed as men to avoid the crapload of sexism women had to deal with back then. Putting 21st century concepts on people in the past is problematic. I don't even like calling anyone of them queer.

This is ends up being problematic, too, though, both because it insists there were no trans people before the 1920s (or so--I might have the date wrong, I haven't looked it up just now), when there started being movement towards medical transition, and because that insistence requires that trans people must medically transition to be 'really' trans.

There are certainly plenty of trans and/or queer people in history where we'll never really have enough information to authoritatively call them trans or queer, but there are equally historical figures where we can make such a statement with enough certainty that doing so is not irresponsible.
posted by hoyland at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


but there are equally historical figures where we can make such a statement with enough certainty that doing so is not irresponsible

But Brodell DOES identify some of the people by "he," not as "she" or "he/she", so I don't see how they are erasing the existence of trans people any more than history already has.
posted by muddgirl at 9:18 AM on February 26, 2013


Out of curiosity, does anybody have links to images of Catholic holy cards? I'd like to see what this is based on, and cursory Google searches don't show up similar items.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 9:41 AM on February 26, 2013


kurosawa's pal, do these images help?
posted by pointystick at 9:46 AM on February 26, 2013


But Brodell DOES identify some of the people by "he," not as "she" or "he/she", so I don't see how they are erasing the existence of trans people any more than history already has.

Brodell's never consistent with pronouns that I could find. Jean Bonnet is 'he' for most of the summary, but 'they' at the very beginning. But it's 'he' and 'Jeanne', presumably (hopefully) because Brodell hasn't realised how 'Jean' and 'Jeanne' are gendered, which is a bit strange.

Setting aside the issue of the inappropriateness of using 'he/she' at all, the issue is lumping trans men in with 'butch and queer women' (precisely why Brodell seems to think there are no straight trans men, I'm not sure, but they also describe the trans men as queer), which, frankly, does both groups a disservice. For a start, trans men aren't, well, women and while a trans man may well have experience living as a butch woman, his experience is likely distinct from that of a female-identified person.

Out of curiosity, does anybody have links to images of Catholic holy cards? I'd like to see what this is based on, and cursory Google searches don't show up similar items.

To my mind, they're not tremendously evocative of the style of prayer cards, but here are some to make up your own mind.
posted by hoyland at 9:52 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


However, this card is pretty fantastic.
posted by hoyland at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is super interesting.

The entry for Charles Mary Hamilton says that we never hear their side of the argument - but that's only because the research used relies on printed sources: newspaper reports and scandal sheets.

But if there's a trial, there's a witness statement. Hamilton's side of the story is now record Q/SR/35/172 and available at the Somerset Record Office.
posted by bebrogued at 9:56 AM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


However, this card is pretty fantastic.

I never thought of jesus growing a playoff beard before, but now I'm never going to forget it.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:59 AM on February 26, 2013


What a clever, touching way to bring an overlooked history to life.

Belonging to a minority and trying to learn about that history is a powerful path to awareness of how distorted and cherry-picked mainstream histories are. The process invariably leads to seeing the present with eyes open to another dimension. Suddenly history becomes a living territory rather than a (snore) map.

Something goes "snap" when you clearly see that the masters only became "historical" because the slaves built the pyramids. Suddenly you get a critical insight into ancient Greece's "democracy" and "leisure time". And that he who frames the argument ... if you let him ... is in a much better position to win it.
posted by Twang at 1:09 PM on February 26, 2013


There are certainly plenty of trans and/or queer people in history where we'll never really have enough information to authoritatively call them trans or queer, but there are equally historical figures where we can make such a statement with enough certainty that doing so is not irresponsible.

I guess the problem is that dressing as a man (while having an apparently female body) was an established way to be lesbian in the past, as well as a way to be trans. I'm not really sure how one answers the question 'were they gay or were they trans?'. Do we ask what they would do if they were given the options people are given now? If I had existed 2-300 years ago, but were otherwise unaltered, I would probably have had to give myself a male name, in order to be happy. I do not identify as trans currently. Does that mean that the person I would have been then would have not been a trans person? I'm not sure. I think we need a broader category here, one that acknowledges firstly that there did not use to be a bright line between lesbians and transmen, and perhaps secondly that for some people living today the line is not particularly bright either. This is not saying that trans people did not exist in the past, or that lesbians did not exist in the past (and god knows, it irritates me when people bring up Foucault but present him either as effectively saying that in the past, everyone was straight, or else as complaining about, like labels, man). It is saying that we need to refine/complicate the model we have where sexuality and gender are completely unconnected, orthogonal axes. For some people they are, but for some people they are not experienced as wholly distinct. We need to be able to talk about this fact that for some people they are more distinct than for others, and that the degree to which they are distinct is a function of many things including but not limited to era and culture. For most of these people the two were not very distinct, and to describe them either as transmen or as lesbians kind of traduces the reality of their lived experience. And maybe recognising the fact that our histories are irretrievably blurred and smooshed together might stop lesbians from being awful to trans people? Maybe?

It bothers me that I honestly do not know how one would go about ascertaining what would be the correct pronouns to use for these people, given that
(a) most of them were never asked, not that way, not even once, and
(b) even if they had been asked, the question would not have meant the same thing to them as it would to someone today. Some of them might not even have experienced it as a meaningful or significant question at all.
I am finding it difficult to reconcile these two things with (c) the fact that I believe that pronouns (even gender-neutral pronouns) should be assigned based on the person's free choice. These people did not have a free choice, and any pronouns used will be a choice that was made for them, not by them. And that seems really rubbish, because it seems like given how shitty most of their lives were, literally the least I could do would be to refer to them in a way that respected who they were.
posted by Acheman at 2:30 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Awesome. Touching. Sad. They aren't happy endings.
posted by Enki at 4:29 PM on February 26, 2013


Sort of on topic: what are prayer cards for? What do you do with them?
posted by deborah at 5:32 PM on February 26, 2013


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