Monday, October 27, 2008

Great Butches in History

Missy (Mathilde de Morny, 1862-1944) - in English, it sounds like a femme name, but Missy was about as butch as they come. Colette had a fling with her, between husbands, and they scandalized Paris by performing a sketch in which an Egyptian mummy (Colette) comes to life and seduces an archeologist (Missy).

(Image source: I got these pictures some years ago, probably in 2001, from a French-language site which I can't find again now.)

Bryher (1894-1983) - novelist, film critic, and "patron" (translation: her family had a whole bunch of money, and she spent her share on art and artists.) During the 1930s she lived in Switzerland and helped many people (mostly Jews) to escape from Nazi Germany. Finally she had to flee herself. Most of her novels are historical; one is a work of "Science Fantasy" called Visa for Avalon.

(Image source: Fembio. This photo appears to have been taken about the same time as the film Borderline (1930), which was directed by her second husband and features Bryher in a small part.)

Valentine Ackland (1906-1969), poet and lover. I discovered her because she was the life partner of one of my absolute favorite writers, Sylvia Townsend Warner (and shows up as a character in several of her short stories). Their collected letters, published under the title I'll Stand By You, tell an amazing story. Noteworthy is the bit where Sylvia asks her to explain how this lesbian stuff works, and part of Valentine's answer is "I'm the bisexual one." She was not referring to sexual practice, but to gender identity - for her, bisexual was synonymous with androgynous. (Image source: The Sylvia Townsend Warner Archive)

Leslie Feinberg (1949 - still around) Feinberg's book Transgender Warriors made transgender a reality for me. I thought I bought it to learn about a friend's transgender. Surprise!

Obviously, these are just a few of my personal favorites. There are many more. I used to think that I didn't believe in role models . . . and it's easy to pick out a person's flaws and say, "I don't want to be like that." But if I had role models, these would be them. Thank you all.

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