Monstrous Regiment

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Acknowledging that trans histories exist as a principle is different from being able to know for certain that individuals whose behaviour transgressed the extremely fixed gender structures of early modern England ‘were definitely a woman’ or ‘would be called a trans man today’.
It does not erase historians’ knowledge about soldiers who did live as women to allow for trans possibilities in other lives.
(The ballad tradition is affectionately parodied in Terry Pratchett’s novel Monstrous Regiment , which follows ‘Polly’, in the guise of ‘Oliver’, into a company of soldiers who all turn out not to be men.)
For others, an army filling its ranks was one space where someone who sought to live in society as a man could be what they were.
Charles, we discover, had originally apostilled a 1643 proclamation to include a memorandum ‘that no woman presume to weare mens apparell’.
Stoyle speculates that it might have been dropped because so many ‘women in mens apparell’ were marching with the troops and foraging that it would have been impractical to stamp it out, or because parliamentarian propaganda would have seized on the proclamation as proof that the royalist army was defying God through endemic cross-dressing (even, perhaps, because Queen Henrietta Maria herself had dressed up as an Amazon three years before in a court masque).
Most historical writing, however, has not offered trans people the same space to recognise echoes of their own lives that women have been able to enjoy.
To be repeatedly, wrongly assumed to be the gender that society projects on to you – as CN Lester explains in their acclaimed Trans Like Me – is one of the most painful experiences trans people have to contend with.
Popular and academic history, unwittingly or not, has played its own part in trans ‘erasure’ by foreclosing the very possibility that some of these ‘cross-dressing’ histories might reveal trans lives in the past.
The same sources that show us women who cross-dressed also offer us glimpses of how people who might have distanced themselves from womanhood over a longer period of time got by, how those who felt equally at home in more than one gender role accommodated that fluidity, and how people with intersex conditions coped with a society where their bodies did not belong.
To read the full article click on the link below:
https://www.historytoday.com/catherine-baker/monstrous-regiment

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