Monday, April 20, 2009

One Step Forward, A Half Step Back

Evaluation is a good thing. Believe me, I have gotten much of it over the past several weeks, and most of it has been positive. Special kudos go to Christopher Graham on a positive post on his Whig Hill blog. It's one thing to read the very kind personal notes. It's another to write positively in a public blog. All the support is very much appreciated.

Self-evaluation is also important. Taking a good look at yourself and deciding on areas of improvement is the one constant of the human race. In my case, improvement must come in many ways. Number one is my overall feminine impression. Number two is my knowledge and period skills. Fortunately I have numerous opportunities to work on the above.

Another question that has been vexing to my transgender friends and me is the idea of kindred spirits in history. Surely, there were those throughout time that found ways to live as their true selves. History records much better the exploits of genetic women taking on traditionally male roles. That is accepted in a far greater manner than the reverse. However there must have been some brave lads who explored and even lived a female life. I have been looking for documentation of such during the Civil War. Thanks to a good friend, that quest has borne some fruit:

They Fought Like Demons by Deanne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, page 147.
Marsena Patrick, provost marshal of the Army of the Potomac, was hoodwinked by a male soldier who wished to go home and therefore presented himself as a woman in disguise at City Point in January 1865. Patrick wrote in his diary, "I had to examine a woman, dressed in our Uniform. Charley (of Charlotte) Anderson, of Cleveland.... She has told me the truth, I think, about herself". There can be no doubt that general knowledge of women discovered while serving in Union regiments contributed to Patrick's decision to take this soldier's story at face value. Patrick read the newspapers, too, and probably listened to gossip that circulated around the army camps. He sent Charlotte Anderson home to Ohio.

Upon arrival in Cleveland, however, Anderson's ruse was finally revealed after an accusation that she was actually a he led to a physical examination. Anderson admitted that he had enlisted in the 38th Pennsylvania Infantry in July 1863 and left it a year later by dressing in woman's clothes and "representing [himself] to Major Wells as a woman". He later enlisted in the 60th Ohio Infantry and left the regiment by the same means. When cornered in Cleveland, he claimed, " I adopted the course I have pursued to get home and was intending to go back to my regiment", adding, " I told him I was a girl; he told me to go home". Charlie Anderson had a famine appearance. He took advantage of that, and of the common knowledge that women were among the men in the ranks, in order to take leave from active duty whenever he wished.

The Diary of General Marsena R. Patrick, Provost Marshal of The Army of the Potomac pg. 18 & 22, Jan. 1865-unpublished transcription, City Point National Historical Site, Petersburg National Battlefield Park, NPS.

A Male Woman, Chicago Evening Journal, Feb. 16, 1865.

Thank you to my friend and confidant, "A Union Reenactor," for the above research.

I truly do get emotional thinking about my TG brothers and sisters who have gone before us. I can go to a historical site, and the worst I get is a few stares and one questioning person. Those ladies fought to be themselves despite severe persecution and ostracizing from society. Much like the TG community today, they knew this was the only way they could be true to themselves. The above gives me hope that many more told and documented their stories.

As Christopher Graham suggested in his blog, I do have the option of portraying a transgender woman. It would be a much different impression. Yet much like today, it might prove more inspirational and educational to do that role. Those who knowingly meet a transgender person today take away a different perspective versus meeting someone who "passes" well. It is something I will strongly consider.

In the meantime, it is time to read and plan. I do love researching history and finding my role in making it come alive in the present and future.

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