April 16, 2015

Chevalier d'Eon: Early Transgender Role Model

Fencing Match between Monsieur de Saint-George et Mademoiselle La
Chevalière d'Éon de Beaumont 
at Carlton House on 9 April 1787.
Engraving by Victor Marie Picot

By Sally

Chevalier d'Éon (Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont) was a French soldier, diplomat and spy who publicly lived as a woman in 18th-century London. 

image
Portrait by Thomas Stewart
D’Eon lived from 1728 to 1810 who appeared publicly as a man for 49 years, although during that time d'Éon successfully infiltrated the court of Empress Elizabeth of Russia by presenting as a woman. For the last 33 years, d'Éon lived as a woman.

The Chevalier d'Éon claimed to be assigned female at birth, and demanded recognition by the government as such.

King Louis XVI complied, but required in turn that d'Éon dress appropriately in women's clothing. When the king's offer included funds for a new wardrobe of women's clothes, d'Éon agreed.


image
Engraving by J.B. Bradel
The pension that Louis XV had granted was ended by the French Revolution, and d'Éon had to sell personal possessions. D'Éon last years were spent in England with a widow, Mrs. Cole.

Praised by feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft, the Chevalier (or Chevalière, referring to a female knight) remained well known long after death.

British sexologist Havelock Ellis coined "Eonism" to refer to transgender behaviour (Ellis lost the lexicographical battle to Magnus Hirschfeld's "transvestism"), and the Beaumont Society for help and support for the transgender community took its name from d’Eon.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Guardian.

Originally published on my tumblr blog.

1 comment:

Jack Molay said...

Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough have included an interesting quote by Eon in their book Crossdressing, Sex, and Gender:

"I am sufficiently mortified at being what nature has made me, and that the coolness of m natural temperament, having never led me into pleasureseeking, should induce my friends to imagine in their innocence, in France as much as in Russia and in England, that I am of the female sex. The malice of my enemies have confirmed all this...If the Great Master of the Universe has not endowed me with all the exterior vigour of manhood, He has amply made amends by giving me head and heart... I am what the hands of God have made me; satisfied with my weakness, I would not change it... even if that was in my power."

The Bolloughs argue that one of the reasons d'Eon was not harassed more for his/her gender variance than s/he was, was the fact that people believe the Chevalier was a female to male crossdresser and not the other way around.

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