The 18th Dynasty pharaoh Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for two decades (from 1479 to 1458 BC), which makes her the first major female head of state - the first one we know about, anyway. While women could be leaders in ancient Egypt, a pharaoh was by definition male. So Hatshepsut had to invent a hybrid gender, presenting a challenge to the sculptors charged with translating her flesh into stone.
Known as the next worst emperor after Caligula, the Roman Emperor Elagabalus (222BC) regularly cross-dressed. He organised a competition to find the man with the largest penis in Rome - he then married the winner.
1577 King Henry III of France frequently crossdressed and while dressed as a woman was referred to as her majesty by his courtiers. Even his male clothes were considered outrageous despite the flamboyant standards of 16th-century France.
1654 Queen Christina of Sweden (often considered bisexual) abdicated the throne, dressed in men's clothing and renamed herself Count Dohna.
1673 French explorers Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette come into contact with the Illini Indians in 1673, and are astonished to discover a subset of Illini men who dressed and acted out the social role of women. The Illini termed these men “Ikoneta” while the French referred to them as the “berdache.”
1676 MTF transsexual Abbe Francois Timoleon de Choisy attended Papal inaugural ball in female dress. His memoirs, published postmortem, offer the first written testimony of cross-dressing.
1700s "Molly houses" provided a space for the English gay community to meet, carouse and relate to one another. "Mollies" were men who often crossdressed and developed their own queer culture.
1728 Chevalier D'Eon, born Charles d'Eon, was a famous French spy/ambassador who was born male but lived a significant part of his/her life as a woman. Chevalier's birth sex was a hotly debated question.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries there are many recorded instances of women who lived their lives dressed as men. Often this was to allow them entry to jobs, situations and professions from which women were excluded.
1750 Female to male transvestites join Nelson's Navy as did hundreds of others and were only discovered when they were flogged. They were never punished when they were discovered and often went on stage and became celebrities wowing audiences backed by an all singing and all dancing group of crossed dressed transvestite tars. Mary Lacy known as William Chandler who served on the Sandwich as a carpenter is one of the most famous as 'she' wrote a biography others include William Brown who served on the Queen Charlotte until being outed by a newspaper in 1815, and Hannah Snell AKA James Gray served as a navy marine until 1750.
To read the story of a local figure, Jockey John, click HERE
To read the story of Hannah Snell, click HERE
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