jason cromwell

washingtonpost.com
A history lesson for Trump: Transgender soldiers served in the Civil War
Though they wouldn't have recognized the word transgender, hundreds of women dressed as men to fight in the War Between the States. And some lived as men afterwards.

This post has been updated to reflect the military’s reaction to President Trump’s transgender ban.

Albert Cashier served in the army as a man, lived his life as man and was buried at 71 with full military honors in 1915, as a man. But beneath the uniform in which he fought and was buried, he was biologically a woman, one of the many cross-dressers and gender defiers who have served in the U.S. military since the earliest days of its history, according to historians.

President Trump’s proclamation by tweet Wednesday that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military in “any capacity” is the latest twist in a thoroughly modern controversy. Trump’s declaration would overturn a policy only recently put in place by the Obama White House as the armed forces continue to grapple with modern issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. Caught off guard by the sudden shift, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, told military leaders Thursday: “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”

But behind the 21st century contretemps is a history that predates the musket.

“They wouldn’t know what in the world you meant by the world transgender, but there have women serving in men’s dress in armies since the beginning of wars,” said Elizabeth Leonard, a professor of history at Colby College. “It’s a story that we keep losing sight of.”

[Women soldiers fought, bled and died in the Civil War, then were forgotten]

Cross-dressing has roiled the ranks of armies at least as far back as Joan of Arc, the 15th century military genius who was burned at the stake for heresies that included wearing a man’s uniforms. Leonard’s own expertise is the Civil War, a time when the ranks were filled with hundreds of women who cut their hair, put on pants and took up arms on both sides of the War Between the States.

Researchers at the National Archives have found evidence that at least 250 women dressed as men to fight in the 1860s, some motivated by ideology, some by a taste for adventure and some by the need for a job. Most of those who survived presumably returned to their lives as women. But others continued to live as men after the war.

Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Ireland, immigrated to the United States as a stowaway and, at 18, enlisted in the Illinois Infantry Regiment as a man. After the war, in which he fought in some 40 actions, Cashier continued to dress in trousers and, in the modern parlance, identify as a man. He worked as a farmer and handyman for decades and missed out an army pension after refusing to take a required physical exam, according to scholar Jason Cromwell, the author of “Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders and Sexualities.”

Cashier’s anatomical secret only came out after he was injured in a 1911 car wreck and treated by doctors. He was committed to an insane asylum but when his story was reported in newspapers, his former army comrades rallied to ensure he was buried as a soldier and recognized on a monument at Vicksburg as one of the Illinois soldiers who fought there.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman was driven by poverty to work as a male canal boatman and then sign up with a New York unit to fight for the Union Army. The teenage girl passed as a 21-year-old man named Lyon Wakeman and bagged a $154 signing bounty. Recruits were not always closely examined, Leonard said, particularly toward the end of the war when armies on both sides were desperate for “men” of any kind. Among boys barely past puberty, the smooth face of a female impostor could easily have passed without remark.

“If you had teeth to tear open a cartridge and a working thumb and forefinger, that was enough,” Leonard said.

Wakeman died in New Orleans of dysentery after the Red River Campaign and was buried under a stone monument to “Lyon Wakeman.”

In addition to women who concealed their true gender, others created their own. Leonard’s favorite example is Mary Edwards Walker, a New York physician who served as the only woman surgeon for the Union Army.

During a remarkable career (which included being arrested as a spy for treating the wounded behind enemy lines), Walker never claimed to be a man, but she insisted against all custom on dressing as one. She was known as the Little Lady in Pants in her army years, and she adopted more masculine garb as time went on. By the end of her life, she wore a top hat and tails.

That proved even more controversial than the cross-dressers who completely adopted a male/soldier identity, who were often hailed as heroes when their story was uncovered.

“People tended to celebrate the courage of the women who cut their hair and passed as men,” Leonard said. “But they had no idea what to do with Mary Walker. She really was the precursor for the idea of ‘I am just going to be who I am.’”

The Big List of Trans Books

Fictional with an FtM Character  

  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
  • F2M: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy 
  • I Know Very Well How I Got my Name by Elliot Deline
  • Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Man Enough by Beth Burnett 
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (intersex but assigned female)
  • Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
  • Refuse by Elliot DeLine
  • Sacred Country by Rose Tremain
  • Silver by Scott Cairns 
  • Trumpet by Jackie Kay
  • Vintage Toys for Lucky Boys by G.R. Richards 

Fictional with an MtF Character 

  • 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
  • Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy by S. Bear Bergman
  • Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter (intersex b assigned male)
  • Being Emily by Rachel Gold
  • Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe 
  • The Butterfly and the Flame by Dana De Young
  • Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (intersex but assigned male) 
  • Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
  • Gamenight: A Role-Play Novel by Leela Ginelle 
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters
  • Rain by Jocelyn DiDomenick 
  • She’s My Dad by Iolanthe Woulff
  • Transgression by Theo Fenraven
  • Who I Am and What I Want by David Michael O'Quinn 

Non-Fiction General

  • Bisexuality and Transgenderism: Intersexitions of the Others by Fritz Klein Karen
  • Gender Outlaws: Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein 
  • How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Joanne Meyerowitz
  • In A Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives by Judith Halberstam 
  • Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People by Viviane Namaste 
  • My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You or Something Else Entirely by Kate Bornstein 
  • Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity by Matt Bernstein Sycamore 
  • The Riddle of Gender by Deborah Rudacille
  • Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism by Patrick Califia 
  • Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs edited by Jonathan Adams  
  • The Transgender Studies Reader edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle 
  • The Riddle of Gender by Deborah Rudacille 
  • Transgender 101 by Nicholas M. Teich 
  • Transgender Rights edited by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang and Shannon Price Minter 
  • Transition and Beyond, Observations on Gender Identity by Reid Vanderburgh 
  • Transgender Voices: Beyond Women and Men by Lori B. Girshick 

Non-Fiction FtM Specific 

  • A Circus Mirror Day by Corin Ash
  • Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green
  • Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits by Loren Cameron
  • Both Sides Now: One Man’s Journey Through Womanhood by Dhillon Khosla
  • From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FtM and Beyond edited by Morty Diamond
  • FTM: Female to Male Transsexuals in Society by Holly Devor 
  • Hung Jury: Testimonies of Genital Surgery by Transsexual Men and edited by Trystan T. Cotten
  • Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience by Matt Kailey 
  • Letters for my Brothers edited by Megan M. Rohrer and Zander Keig
  • Real Man Adventures by T. Cooper
  • Self-Made Men: Identity and Embodiment among Transsexual Men by Henry Rubin 
  • The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes,One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution by Pagan Kennedy 
  • The Mirror Makes No Sense by Mark A. Cummings
  • The Phallus Palace: Female to Male Transsexuals by Dean Kotula 
  • The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male by Max Wolfe Valerio 
  • Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders and Sexualities by Jason Cromwell 

Non-Fiction MtF Specific 

  • A Sort of A-Z Thing by Lily Savage
  • A Personal Autobiography by Christine Jorgensen
  • Branded T by Rosalyne Blumenstein 
  • Dress Codes of Three Girls: My Mother’s, My Father’s and Mine 
  • Feminizing Hormonal Therapy for the Transgendered by Sheila Kirk, M.D.
  • Four Ways to be a Woman by Sue Reidy 
  • Mom: I Need to be a Girl by Just Evelyn 
  • Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
  • Right Side Out: In Tune Within to be in Harmony with the World by Annah Moore
  • She is my Son: The Adrienne Clark Story by Beverly Holland 
  • The Life 1979-1999: The Diaries of Yasimu Quaife by Yasimu Quaife
  • The Woman I Was Not Born to Be: A Transsexual Journey by Aleshia Brevard 
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano 

For SOFFAS 

  • Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender Nonconforming Children by Diane Ehrensaft 
  • Helping your Transgender Teen: A Guide for Parents by Irwin Krieger 
  • She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband by Helen Boyd 
  • Trans Forming Families: Real Stories about Transgender Loved Ones edited by Mary Boenke 
  • Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children edited by Rachel Pepper 
  • True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism - For Families, Friends, Coworkers and Helping Professionals
  • The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals 

If you know of any books not on this list please let me know and I’ll add them in :)