Printable zine version:
c. 1412 - 1431.
“Interestingly, while Joan was seized by the English for being a warrior and leader of the French forces, this is not why Joan was killed. The Trial and Interrogation of Joan of Arc focuses less on Joan’s military exploits against the English government and more on Joan’s gender. It is heresy, claimed the English, for a woman to wear men’s clothing. They accused Joan of being a witch or a heretic because Joan’s masculine presentation seemed to defy their biased understanding of scripture. In the end, after many exchanges back and forth, and after refusing to eschew men’s clothing once and for all—or to condemn the wearing of men’s clothing—Joan was burned to death."
“It is enough to say for now that Joan may not have had much liberty to speak candidly about gender and identity. The whole focus on the trial was trying to catch Joan making an unorthodox or heretical claim. Whether or not you accept that Joan of Arc might have been trans, it is clear that transphobia was central to Joan’s trial. The argument being made by the English court was, essentially, that a person cannot and should not be transgender. Joan refused to confirm all the English’s transphobic biases. Joan was ultimately killed on these grounds. This suggests that whether or not modern historians call Joan of Arc transgender, it seems as though the medieval court considered Joan transgender enough to die for it.”
Jeanne d’Arc, born in England-occupied France, began having religious visions at age 13. These featured the Archangel Michael, the belly bursting St Margaret of Antioch and martyr-by-wheel Catherine of Alexandria. They relayed Gods’ instruction: she must meet Charles, heir to the French throne and drive England out of France.
At 16, she traveled to the dauphin of Vaucouleurs, then the duke of Lorraine. Her story had travelled and the townsfolk of Lorainne lent her a horse and escort to make the 270-mile journey to Charles’ court. Finally after weeks of scrutiny, she convinced Charles to bestow her a suit of armour, the charge of 5,000 men and the mammoth task of retaking Orleans. Shearing her hair into its iconic crop she gained the awe of soldiers and folk as she traveled on horse back (reportedly followed by a trail of white butterflies.)
Princess Marie Christine d’Orléans (c. 1839) 'Jeanne D'Arc' [Marble] Versailles, France.
Leading the charge, she retook Orleans and Charles was crowned in 1429, Jeanne by his side. Her fortunes would turn a few months later in an assault on Compiegne. She was captured by Burgundian and English soldiers, becoming prisoner of King Henry.
The English levied 70 charges against her, the strangest being stealing horses, dancing with fairies and owning a mandrake. (Linder, n.d) A tenth of them were about her clothes. Eventually they whittled down to 12, the three most pressing charges being her visions, her disobedience to the church and her male dress. She signed an agreement to confess to her 'sins' for life-imprisonment, but within days had returned to wearing men’s clothing, as a result they branded her a ‘relapsed heretic’. On May 30th 1431, aged only 19, Joan was burnt at the stake.
It could be argued that her choice of male dress was to protect her from the very real threat of sexual assault from the prison guard (Burch, 2022):
“While I have been in prison, the English have molested me when I was dressed as a woman….I have done this to defend my modesty.”
These two ideas can coexist. Jeanne spent the last three years largely presenting as male, and not just any man, but as a knight:
“Jeanne, rejecting and abandoning women's clothing, her hair cut en-round like a young coxcomb, took shirt, breeches, doublet, with hose joined together and fastened to the said doublet by twenty points, long leggings laced on the outside, a short mantle [surcoat] to the knees, or thereabouts, close-cut cap, tight-fitting boots or buskins, long spurs, sword, dagger, breastplate, lance and other arms in fashion of a man of war”
Article 12, Linder, n.d.
Her expression of gender was a stout refusal to bend into the strict roles of womanhood, whilst simultaneous navigating them. Her virginity was not preserved for an eventual husband was a directive from her visions. She commanded men, refused to be submissive and rejected ‘women’s work’.
“I was invited to take a woman's dress; then I refused, and I refuse still. As to the women's work of which you speak, there are plenty of other women to do it."
Article 16, Linder, n.d.
We will never know if Jeanne d’Arc was any which identity; lesbian, queer, non-binary, transgender. Jeanne wouldn’t have identified with any of those labels, as they did not, to our modern understanding, exist yet. Revealing the past is the work of interpretation, not assertion, using actions and recorded intentions that reveal the hints of truth.
"Through her transvestism, she abrogated the destiny of womankind. She could thereby transcend her sex. ... At the same time, by never pretending to be other than a woman and a maid, she was usurping a man's function but shaking off the trammels of his sex altogether to occupy a different, third order, neither male nor female".
What we do know is that her story has had important influence on many modern identities. That cannot be taken away, and why should it? It might be unfair to say, as idolatry was amongst her charges, but Jeanne is an icon, an inspiration for a great many people and a great many different identities.
“For many, this is because Joan is often held up as evidence that “women can do a man’s job.” On one hand, Joan regularly self-identifies as a “maid.” But Joan spoke very carefully in the trial; Joan’s actions and carefully chosen words make it debatable whether Joan, if alive today, might identify as trans or perhaps even non-binary.”
Millais, J. E. 1865. 'Joan of Arc' [Oil on canvas]
In order the more openly and better to attain her end, Jeanne asked of Robert de Baudricourt to have made for her a man's dress and armor appropriate. This captain, with great repugnance, ended by acquiescing in her request. These garments and armor made and furnished, Jeanne, rejecting and abandoning women's clothing, her hair cut en-round like a young coxcomb, took shirt, breeches, doublet,
In one word, putting aside the modesty of her sex, she acted not only against all feminine decency, but even against the reserve which men of good morals, wearing ornaments and garments which only profligate men are accustomed to use, and going so far as to carry arms of offense. To attribute all this to the order of God, to the order which had been transmitted to her by the Angels and even by Virgin Saints, is to blaspheme God and His Saints, to destroy the Divine Law and violate the Canonical Rules; it is to libel the sex and its virtue, to overturn all decency, to justify all examples of dissolute living, and to drive others thereto.”
"I have not blasphemed God nor His Saints.”
"But, Jeanne, the Holy Canons and Holy Writ declare that women who take men's dress or men who take women's dress, do a thing abominable to God. How then can you say that you took this dress at God's command?”
"Neither for that nor for anything else will I yet put off my dress. I make no difference between man's dress and woman's dress for receiving my Savior. I ought not to be refused for this question of dress."
If she will renounce entirely the dress of a man and take that of a woman, as her sex; she had refused. In other words, she had chosen rather not to approach the Sacraments nor to assist in Divine Service, than to put aside her habit, pretending that this would displease God. In this appears her obstinacy, her hardness of heart, her lack of charity, her disobedience to the Church, and her contempt of Divine Sacraments.
"What have you to say to this Article?"
"I would rather die than revoke what I have done by the order of Our Lord."
"Will you, to hear Mass, abandon the dress of a man?"
"I will not abandon it yet; the time is not come.
Previous to, and since her capture, at the Castle of Beaurevoir and at Arras, Jeanne had been many times advised with gentleness, by noble persons of both sexes, to give up her man's dress and resume suitable attire. She had absolutely refused, and to this day also she refuses with persistence; she disdains also to give herself up to feminine work, conducting herself in all things rather as a man than as a woman.
"What have you to say on this Article?"
"At Arras and Beaurevoir I was invited to take a woman's dress; then I refused, and I refuse still. As to the women's work of which you speak, there are plenty of other women to do it."
"The dress and the arms that I wear, I wear by the permission of God: I will not leave them off without the permission of God, even if it cost me my head: but, if it should so please Our Lord, I will leave them off: I will not take a woman's dress if I have not permission from Our Savior.”
Jeanne, from the time of her child hood, had said, done, and committed a great number of crimes, sins and evil deeds-shameful, cruel, scandalous, dishonoring, unworthy of her sex
Forgetful of her salvation, impelled by the devil, she is not and had not been ashamed several times and in many and divers places to receive the Body of Christ, having upon her a man's dress of unseemly form, a dress which the Jaws of God and man do forbid her to wear.
Burch, J. 2022. The Sham trial and gruesome death of Joan of arc, All That's Interesting. Available at: <https://allthatsinteresting.com/joan-of-arc-death> (Accessed: September 10, 2022).
Bychowski, G. 2018. Were there Transgender People in the Middle Ages?. [Blog] The Public Medievalist, Available at: <https://www.publicmedievalist.com/transgender-middle-ages/> (Accessed: August 18, 2022).
Linder, D.O. 2017. The trial of Joan of arc: An account, Famous Trials. Available at: <https://www.famous-trials.com/the-trial-of-joan-of-arc-1431/2355-the-trial-of-joan-of-arc-an-account> (Accessed: September 17, 2022).
Linder, D.O. (n.d) Trial transcript: Reading of 70 articles of accusations and Joan's answers to each (March 27-28, 1431), Famous Trials. Available at: <https://www.famous-trials.com/the-trial-of-joan-of-arc-1431/2364-trial-transcript-reading-of-70-articles-of-accusations-and-joan-s-answers-to-each>(Accessed: September 17, 2022).
Sackville-West, V. 2018. Saint Joan of Arc. London: Vintage.
Warner, M. 1981. Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Available at:<https://archive.org/details/joanofarcimageof00warnrich> (Accessed: September 17, 2022).
In Zine Figures:
1. Roche, P. 1918. 'Joan of Arc' [Bronze uniface medal]
2. Princess Marie Christine d’Orléans (c. 1839) 'Jeanne D'Arc' [Marble] Versailles, France.
3. 'Knightly Sword' (c. early 15th century) [Steel, silver, gold, enamel, wood, leather]
4. 'Early Sword' (c. 1500) [Steel sword]
5. From Left to Right: Rossetti (1864), Stilke (1836), Ingres (1854), Joan of Arc (1946), Joan of Arc (1999), Princess Marie Christine d’Orléans (c. 1839), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Lynch (1903), Millais (1865), The Messenger The Story of Joan of Arc (1999), Les fetes de 500c Anniversaire de Jeanne d’Arc (1929), Joan of Arc (1946), Kohn (n.d.), Joan of Arc (1946), Abelé (1901), The Messenger The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
6. Fragment of stone from Jeanne D'Arc's dungeon. (c. 1412–31) [Linestone fragment]
Marinos the Monk.
c. 5th century
As with many ancient stories, there is never just one version. But from consensus, in 5th century Lebanon a child was born and named Marina. When she was young her mother died and her father raised her, until deciding to join a monastery. Some versions say the father intended to marry her off, others that he was going to leave her an inheritance. Either way Marina didn’t like the idea of her father leaving her:
“You wish to save your own soul and leave mine to be lost? …He who saves a soul shall be as the one who created it”?
Tsames, 1990, p.314.
And so Marina became Marinos and joined a monastery alongside her father.
“Monastic life in the fifth century was much more a cenobitic life, which is a communal ascetic life, than anchoretic, which is a solitary ascetic one. The Cenobetic monasteries had small but separate cells where the monks lived, this made it possible for Marina to conceal her identity.“
Marinos excelled in the spiritual life, becoming ‘Abba Marinos’(Father Marinos)
After a night attending the community, Marinos and three other brothers lodged with an innkeeper. Several months later the Innkeeper arrived at the monastery with a baby, claiming that Marinos had impregnated his daughter. Rather than reveal the impossibility, Marinos replied: “Forgive me, Father, for the Lord’s sake; for I have erred, being human.” (Tsames, 1990, p.317) and was ejected from the monastery. He lived and raised the boy outside the gate (or a nearby grotto) in penitence. Years later he was allowed to return if he took on the hard labour. Marinos continued to raise the boy in the monastery until his death.
When the monks prepared his body for burial they discovered the circumstances of his birth and the false accusal.
“Entering the cell, the Abbot dropped down with his head on the ground, weeping and saying: “I will remain here, at his holy feet, until I die, if I do not receive forgiveness.”
Tsames, 1990, p.319.
“Because Marinos lived before the word transgender came into the English language in 1974, we really cannot say for certain whether or not he would call himself such. That being said, in multiple hagiographies he does show quite a few traits that trans people today can sympathize with. So while he may not have called himself trans, I think more than a few trans people can relate to how he felt.
Because I am writing about historical figures, it’s impossible to say what labels they would give themselves. So instead of giving them a solid label (like gay, bisexual, asexual, trans, etc.) I am arguing that these saints can be read as queer. In that they behave in similar ways that people today who use those labels do.
de Voragin, J. (c. 14th century) ‘Sainte Marine présentée au monastère‘ in Legenda aurea. [Manuscript] Fol. 139v
Athelstan, V. 2020. “Queer Saints: Marinos the Monk, A Transgender Saint,” The Mediaeval Monk, 6 September. Available at: <https://themediaevalmonk.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/queer-saints-an-important-preface/> (Accessed: October 1, 2022).
Athelstan, V. 2020. “Queer Saints: An Important Preface,” The Mediaeval Monk, 12 September. Available at: <https://themediaevalmonk.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/queer-saints-marinos-the-monk-a-transgender-saint/> (Accessed: October 1, 2022).
Hourani, G.G. 2000. “Saint Marina the Monk. Part I,” The Journal of Maronite Studies, 4(1).
Tsames, D.G. 1990. Meterikon [Lives of the Holy Mothers]. Thessalonica: Ekdoseis “He Hagia Makrina,” pp. 314–319.
In Zine Figures:
8. de Laval. (c.1400-1500) ‘Horae ad usum Romanum, dites Heures de Louis de Laval‘ [Manuscript] At: Bibliothèque nationale de France. 190r.
Madre Juana de la Cruz.
c. 16th century.
Not to be confused with Sor Juana de la Cruz, Madre Juana, was a 16th-century abbess born in Azaña, Spain. She spoke of how God originally shaped her as male, but through the intervention of the Blessed Virgin, she was born female. To avoid marriage, she dressed in male clothing and escaped to a convent of Franciscan nuns.
“Juana claimed that she experienced a sex change before birth. Although Juana identified publicly as a nun and therefore as female, such rubrics as trans or intersex can help parse the nuances of the distinctive narratives on which Juana rested her authority.”
“Juana’s expansive understanding of gender extended beyond herself. For her, Christ was both male and female as well. The blood and sweat of the Crucified Christ are evidence to Juana that at the cross, Jesus gave birth to us as our Mother.”
Her work was considered controversial in her time, quashing her beautification. In 2015, Pope Francis restored her Venerable status on the path to sainthood:
“In addition she saw Jesus in queer ways, saying that Christ becomes whatever the seeker needs: father, mother, husband, wife, or friend. She blended sexuality and spirituality by envisioning the streets of heaven lined with marriage beds, each with God and a male or female saint.”
“Each year pilgrims in Spain recreate the journey of young Juana leaving her family and traveling to the safety of the Franciscan convent. Every April, they contemplate a young girl dressed as a man, traveling to a refuge where she could remove those clothes and put on the clothing of yet another man, spending the rest of her life dressed in the habit of St. Francis."
Boon, J. 2018. At the Limits of (Trans) Gender. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 48(2), p.261-300.
Cherry, K. 2022. Madre Juana de la Cruz: Queer saint of 16th-century Spain. [online] Qspirit. Available at: <https://qspirit.net/madre-juana-de-la-cruz-queer-saint/> (Accessed: September 3, 2022).
In Zine Figures:
6. ‘Prayer Book’ (c.1450-1475) [Parchment codex] At: British Library. Harley 2850 f. 47v.
7. de Laval. (c.1400-1500) ‘Horae ad usum Romanum, dites Heures de Louis de Laval‘ [Manuscript] At: Bibliothèque nationale de France. 281r
Anonymous letter between two twelfth-century nuns
TRANSLATED BY PETER DRONKE, Medieval Latin and the Rise of the European Love-Lyric, II. p.479.
“To C, sweeter than honey or honeycomb, B sends all the love there is to her love. You who are unique and special, why do you make delay so long, so far away? Why do you want your only one to die, who as you know, loves you with soul and body, who sighs for you at every hour, at every moment, like a hungry little bird. Since I've had to be without your sweetest presence, I have not wished to hear or see any other human being, but as the turtle-dove, having lost its mate, perches forever on its little dried up branch, so I lament endlessly till I shall enjoy your trust again. I look about and do not find my lover-she does not comfort me even with a single word. Indeed when I reflect on the loveliness of your most joyful speech and aspect, I am utterly depressed, for I find nothing now that I could compare with your love, sweet beyond honey and honeycomb, compared with which the brightness of gold and silver is tarnished. What more? In you is all gentleness, all perfection, so my spirit languishes perpetually by your absence. You are devoid of the gall of any faithlessness, you are sweeter than milk and honey, you are peerless among thousands, I love you more than any. You alone are my love and longing, you the sweet cooling of my mind, no joy for me anywhere without you. All that was delightful with you is wearisome and heavy without you. So I truly want to tell you, if I could buy your life for the price of mine, [I'd do it] instantly, for you are the only woman I have chosen according to my heart. Therefore I always beseech God that bitter death may not come to me before I enjoy the dearly desired sight of you again. Farewell. Have of me all the faith and love there is. Accept the writing I send, and with it my constant mind.”
TRANSLATED BY PETER DRONKE, Medieval Latin and the Rise of the European Love-Lyric, II. p.481.
G. unice sue rose
To G—, her one-and-only rose, from A— the bond of precious love. What strength I have, that I may bear it, that I may have patience while you are gone? Is my strength that of stones that I should wait for your return, I who do not cease to ache night and day, like one who lacks both hand and foot? Without you all that’s joyous and delightful becomes like mud trodden underfoot, instead of rejoicing I shed tears, my spirit never becomes joyful. When I remember the kisses you gave, and with what words of joy you caressed my little breasts, I want to die as I am not allowed to see you. What shall I, unhappiest, do? where shall I, the poorest, turn? Oh if my body had been consigned to the earth till your longed-for return, or if Habakkuk’s trance-journey were granted me, that i might once come to see my lover’s face—then I’d not care if in that hour I should die! For in the world there is no woman born so lovable, so dear, one who loves me without feigning, with such deep love. So I shall not cease to feel the endless pain till I win the sight of you again. Indeed, as a certain wise man says, it is a great misery for a man not to be with that which he cannot be. While the world lasts you’ll never be effaced from the centre of my heart. Why say more? Return, sweet love! Do not delay your journey longer, know that I cannot bear your absence longer. Farewell, remember me.
“Some of the strongest evidence for the women’s sexual relationships appears in their religious writings, where they struggled with the burden of secret sins that left both women feeling uncertain about their redemption. Romantic letters and poems hint at more positive aspects of the women’s physical relationship. In both these sources, references to sexuality take the form of allusions, not direct statements. Respectable nineteenth-century women rarely wrote directly about sex of any sort, but this silence is especially characteristic of the history of same-sex intimacy. For many centuries, sex between women or between men was referred to as “the mute sin” or the “crime not fit to be named.”
Cleaves, 2014, XVII.