There were no trans Anglo-Saxons

Gender-identity fanatics are relentlessly rewriting history.

Lauren Smith

Topics Identity Politics UK

Trans ideologues are rewriting history. Activist historians are continually ‘discovering’ new examples of long-dead people who supposedly identified as trans. The aim of this exercise is to pretend that trans identities are as old as the hills – and that modern, batty ideas about gender have, somehow, withstood the test of time.

The Anglo-Saxons are the latest target. Last week, new research made the bizarre claim that some ancient Saxon warriors might actually have been ‘transgender men’ – that is, women who identified as men.

This is according to James Davison, a PhD candidate and tutor at the University of Liverpool. Davison’s study found that some 7th-century graves in Dover on England’s south coast contained artefacts that don’t seem to match the sex of the people buried there. One possibly female skeleton was found buried with a sword, a spearhead and fragments of a shield, among other typically masculine items. Davison concludes that, because these artefacts would generally be found in the graves of male warriors, this woman might have been a trans-identifying female.

It should go without saying that this is nonsense. There were no transgender Anglo-Saxons. Applying 21st-century ideas about gender identity to people who lived almost 1,500 years ago is absurd on the face of it.

There are a million more likely reasons why an Anglo-Saxon woman might have been buried with weapons. These could have been family heirlooms. Or perhaps she was one of those rare women in history who fought as a warrior. Or perhaps she wasn’t a female at all – these remains were so damaged they might not have been sexed accurately.

Davison at least acknowledges that his ‘trans Anglo-Saxons’ theory is purely speculative. But his study is nonetheless part of a wider trend of historians claiming to find trans identities in the distant past – including among Ancient Romans and even Ancient Egyptians.

Most of these cases arise from simple misreadings of history. Take the North Hertfordshire Museum, which has labelled Emperor Elagabalus, a 3rd-century Roman emperor, as transgender. This is because he is described in some classical texts as wanting to be called a ‘lady’. He also asked for female genitalia to be fashioned for him. Museum curators took this to mean that, against all odds, Elagabalus was actually a trans pioneer. And so it started to refer to him in exhibits with female pronouns.

More likely is that the surviving accounts of Elagabalus’s supposedly feminine behaviours were probably an attempt at character assassination – to portray him as some kind of sexual deviant. This was not proof of a lost ‘trans-inclusive’ Roman Empire.

Similarly, last year, the Tower of London announced that it would be running a special ‘Queer Lives’ tour, teaching visitors about various LGBT figures involved in the Tower’s history. One of the characters highlighted was Frederick Wright, a criminal on the run in 1916. He dressed in female clothes and insisted that he was actually a woman named Kathleen Woodhouse. Astonishingly, curators decided that Wright must therefore have been a transwoman. The tour made no mention of the far more plausible explanation – that he was simply in disguise, trying to evade punishment.

Even far more famous historical figures have been ‘trans-washed’ in this way. A Cambridge academic once made the extraordinary claim that Jesus Christ himself could be described as having a ‘trans body’.

Mostly, it tends to be historical women who are posthumously declared to be trans. Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, has been hailed as ‘the first documented transgender figure in history’. The only evidence for this is that she defied the traditional gender norms of her time. Trans-activist historians, apparently unable to comprehend the notion of a strong female ruler, have decided that she simply must have been a man – at least in her head.

It’s a similar story with Joan of Arc. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre recently ‘reimagined’ La Pucelle as nonbinary for the play, I, Joan. Dr Kit Heyam, a historian writing for the Globe, argued that portraying Joan as a woman would be to ‘deny the historical existence of trans experience’. In the same essay, Heyam also claimed that Queen Elizabeth I might have been trans or nonbinary because, like Joan, she wore men’s armour and took on a leadership role. Clearly, we can’t expect a woman to be a leader, right?

This trend for trans-washing the past shows just how sexist and reactionary gender ideology can be. Instead of acknowledging and celebrating historical figures who defied the gender norms of their time, trans-obsessed historians reinforce repressive stereotypes. According to their twisted logic, a woman was not a woman unless she sat at home doing needlework and tending to the hearth. Apparently, a woman buried with a sword must have at least secretly identified as a man. It is a sad, narrow view of both history and gender.

This regressive rewriting of history has got to stop.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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