Father Tony

On the 89th anniversary of the canonization of Joan of Arc

Filed By Father Tony | May 16, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: gay activists, Joan of Arc

She heard voices when she was twelve years old. She was a peasant girl who demanded audience with feuding French royals. She rode into battle in a man's armor. A political casualty, she was imprisoned by the English and continued to wear men's clothing perhaps to avoid rape. At the age of nineteen, she was burned at the stake for heresy, but really, her death was English retribution for her success against them in battle. The Catholic Church sheepishly pardoned her in 1452, and she became a patron saint of France when she was canonized on this day, in 1920, by Pope Benedict XV.

There is a sixteenth Benedict on the throne of Peter today. One who once held the modernized post of Inquisitor in charge of identifying heretics and bending them into either orthodoxy or breakage. I wonder how he will celebrate the anniversary of the canonization of a cross-dressing teenage girl who heard voices in her head and was fearless in her inconvenient convictions. How will Benedict XVI praise a young woman, practically illiterate and forcing powerful men to do the right thing, while making mortal enemies in both church and state along her swift route to the flames?

Almost six hundred years of Christianity have gone by since Joan, and I fear the Catholic Church has not evolved a bit since then. Still in bed with temporal power. Still dominated by old men. Still refusing to accept - God forbid celebrate - diversity. Still condemning the inconveniently audacious differences of those who are inspired singularly.

If Joan were alive today, and if she managed to avoid her parents' dosing her with Ritalin, she would probably be a loud and activist lesbian. Certainly not a woman acceptable to Benedict XVI who will warble kind words about this saint and about the wisdom of his papal predecessor in canonizing her eighty-nine years ago.

Do you know what this teaches me? It reminds me to trust my instincts and to speak from my heart. It tells me that popularity is its own reward and that heroes are lonely and often meet with bad final chapters. It tells me that big institutions cannot tolerate inspiration and enthusiasm and vision until those energies have had their rough edges worn smooth by the passage of centuries.

Like Joan of Arc, we are each a little bit nuts, but collectively we are wise. (There were twelve disciples, not just one.) That is why when an entity like the Catholic Church or our Federal Government silences a section of its membership or relegates some of its members to a lower/restricted class, that entity is weakened, like a brain that is lobotomized and made capable only of simpler tasks and mediocrity.

If I had been alive in fifteenth century France, I doubt I'd have ridden into battle next to Joan, but I also doubt I'd have been a courtier in the palace of the bishop who tried her for heresy. I'd have been someone in the crowd as she rode through our town with her legions. I'd have told my neighbor "That girl's crazy, but she's got spunk. She's got chutzpah! She's got balls." I hope I'd have at least cheered as she passed and I hope to God I have the good sense to spot the heroes and saints among us today and to cheer them on wholeheartedly.


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 16, 2009 10:17 AM

Well said, but I imagine Benedict Arnold XVI is still attending to his jet lag while preaching tolerance, love and commune between religions from Jordan to the Holy Land. Even there he gave a half messages that pleased no one.

Rabbi Jesus must surely be laughing at human folly.

I think that Catholic Bishops, especially the new one in NYC, Timothy Dolan, need to be pressed on their opinions on contraception and heterosexual "living together", especially the papal encyclical ' Humanae Vitae" that banned most birth control for Catholics. The bishops really have not enforced this one against straight couples in more than 30 years. These conservative bishops, when pressed, of course will have to say that they oppose birth control for married couples, such as condoms or the pill. When the public sees that the bishops are against all things sexual, whether hetero or homo, the Catholic Church will loose some influence in their opposition to gay marriage. Our motto should be to get the government and the bishops out of our bedrooms. This needs to be done in New York state, where the public opinion on gay marriage is evenly split. The Catholic Church still holds too much power there. There needs to be some polite public education on the pope's and bishop's "out-of-touchness".

I noticed you quickly down-played her obvious trans man-like life by saying she would be a lesbian today. "Cross-dressing teenager?" Is that the best you can do? Her history says nothing about who she found attractive, but a lot about her male attitudes and actions. Yet, you assume that she would be a lesbian today.

You and I had a private discussion about your obvious lack of understanding and compassion for trans people and this article proves it. Thanks for making my point.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | May 17, 2009 11:50 AM

Monica,

Thanks for standing up for trans men. Your voice of inclusion means a lot to me.

Joan of Arc has been a long-time historical interest of mine. I've concluded that few people in history have been lied about more, by both Catholic and Protestant officialdom. The real nature of her story, and her real political significance in her time, has been buried under a lot of myth-mongering by both branches of Western European Christian religion.

No wonder the Catholic Church waited so long to canonize her! They had to make sure they buried the truth deep enough, so they could claim her as their own champion -- whereas in her time she (and the king she helped to crown) were regarded as enemies of the See in Rome. It's time for current historical investigators to take a more honest look at this long-misinterpreted yet truly amazing story of "the girl in armor."

I've written about Joan for Gay & Lesbian Review, focusing on her long-ignored relationship with the Angevins, that powerful royal house that put her in political orbit. Without their material help and support, she would never have vauled to such high visibility. Even in the Middle Ages, being "sent by God" didn't help you win if the smart money didn't back you up with soldiers and cannons.

BTW, on her orientation -- I'm with Monica. There's no evidence that Joan was a lesbian, or had relationships with women. If she did, the Inquisitors would have made an issue of it. They had already used charges of homosexuality against the Templars a century before.

However, there is evidence that suggests Joan was a case of complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS). A number of historians agree on this.

Another BTW:

For those who wonder what Joan looked like -- last year I wrote a Bilerico piece on a medieval portrait that may answer that question. Check it out at http://www.bilerico.com/2008/10/solving_a_mystery_what_did_joan_of_arc_l.php

Dear Patricia,
I can't think of anyone better to write the definitive book about her than you. And I hope I'm reading between the lines that you might be considering it. The story has everything: wealth, power, religion crowns and war and a martyrdom. Too bad Jodie Foster will be too old to play the part when someone options your book.

PS: I didn't say Joan was a lesbian. (I don't think she was a person who expressed herself sexually one way or another), I was trying to guess what a modern day version of her might be. There is a difference, albeit thin.

PS, Patricia, I am reasonably certain that Joan's dressing as a man was actually brought up during her inquisition, but I will need to look back for my sources. There is also a Wiki reference to this being the case. The court's accusations were actually an obvious implication that she was a lesbian. They needed to get her on something and that was the easiest route. Nothing the inquisitors said about her was fair.

A modern day version of her would be a trans man. There was a lot more to her male attitudes and actions then just the fact that she liked wearing men's clothes. She is probably one of thee most obvious pre-20th Century trans/intersex people in history.

Many, if not all, trans historians consider her trans. As Patricia pointed out, other historians also say she had androgen insensitivity syndrome, an intersex condition. Leslie Feinberg dedicated a whole chapter on her in the book "Transgender Warriors." Yet, I see over and over that some people who are uncomfortable with trans or intersex issues tend to brush aside this obvious part of her existence because they don't understand or care to understand.

The part of this article about the Church and its antiquated attitudes was right on the money. But, Fr. Tony, when it comes to Joan of Arc's "lifestyle," you may want to leave it to people like Patricia, Leslie and others who have done extensive research on Joan.

Some of our lesbian historians do claim Joan as a lesbian, and this notion is freely circulated in the community. I was addressing the notion generally.

Thanks for your interest in a book -- I appreciate it. I AM working towards doing one. There's much to look at with new eyes. Joan's story has been so overlaid with b.s. that it would take a book to deal with it. And the public's interest is there. Look at all these comments to your post!! How amazing that Joan's life remains so vivid and provocative so many centuries later.

Some of our lesbian historians do claim Joan as a lesbian, so I was addressing that notion in general.

Now for the question of Joan wearing men's clothes. Believe it or not, this was not seen as a sexual orientation issue in Joan's time. It was a GENDER issue -- centuries before, the Church had absolutely forbidden women from wearing men's clothes, or taking up arms and fighting. However, in the Middle Ages, the theologian Thomas Aquinas pointed out that it was sometimes legitimate and necessary for a woman to wear men's clothes, for her own safety. Those were very violent times, and women sometimes had to hide, and travel in disguise, even fight.

When Joan first appeared in soldier's dress at Dauphin Charles' court, a special ecclesiastical commission (including a couple of Inquisition officials) convened in Poitiers to consider this thorny question, along with others that had to be answered to everybody's satisfaction before the Dauphin could endorse her mission. The commission concluded that Joan's case was one of those legitimate exceptions to the Church's rule. So the king and his court could take the public position that Joan was "sent by God," and the king gave her a suit of armor.

Later, when Joan was captured and turned over to French inquisitors who were unfriendly to King Charles, these particular inquisitors revived the issue about Joan's dress. Joan considered that she had been given permission to wear men's clothing by the Poitiers commission, so she resisted fiercely on this front and kept insisting that her prosecutors look at the Poitiers records. But these inquisitors took the view that the Poitiers commission were toadies to Charles. Since they had Joan in custody, they were able to make it stick, and the men's clothes sent her to the stake.

The point is, Joan's conviction was entirely political in nature. The French churchmen who had her executed did so in order to discredit King Charles, because they were supporting the English claim to the French throne. The men's clothing became a convenient pretext.

After Joan's execution in 1430, the rigged nature of her trial, and the prosecutorial corruption that surrounded the church men who convicted her, stirred up a huge scandal all over Europe. The clothing issue was one of those that the Church was compelled to revisit. It took a quarter of a century, and a new Pope in Rome, but her case was finally re-opened.

After two years of hearings, and testimony by hundreds of witnesses, the Church had to admit that some of its officials had done wrong, and Joan's conviction was actually voided. (She was not pardoned, as you say. A "pardon" would have implied that she was actually guilty.)

The records of Joan's trial and rehabilitation hearings are available in English online, and they make fascinating reading.

I also think it's interesting to look at Joan in comparison to the other female mystics of her day, esp. Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. They each approach spiritual authority and power in different ways; Julian and Margery being much more contemplative--but Julian doing so as an anchoress and Margery as a pan-European pilgrim (and the mother of 14 children). (I know Saints and Society, by Donald Weinstein and Rudolph Bell talks about this, but only scratches the surface of the ton of stuff on 14C women's mysticism. Tangentially, in a later period (16C), I'll suggest Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith Brown, which also addresses deviance, sexuality, and power. My erstwhile focus as a medievalist was in the 12C, so I'm stretching my limits here, but I'm guessing the above may be of interest to a few readers.)

Probably because I know little about Joan of Arc, the point that stood out to me was that she spoke from the heart. While corporate effort makes the going smooth, it is slow and frequently misguided. It takes someone standing up above the shoulders of the crowd and shouting to steer the crowd in a new direction. It won't happen unless it makes the crowd initially uncomfortable, because there is no growth or change in comfort.

One thing I really like about Bilerico is the diversity of points of view with a common goal: positive change. It is peopled by those heroes of which Tony speaks, exhibiting "inspiration and enthusiasm and vision." I find them respectful in their differences, as witnessed even in the comments above; and I cheer you all on wholeheartedly.

Dana invokes the power of the woman mystic of centuries long gone.

But where are the AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC women who should be standing up to the doddering old men who run their church, who should be cleansing the house and setting things right? If there are no women alive today who can ride into battle for their own Roman Catholic Church then I may be forced to conclude that it is not God's plan that this church should continue to live.
Is it possible that we live in a time of no mystics? No heroes?

You know, for many years, the human race lost the recipe for concrete. Can you imagine? We are quite capable of serious regression. It's just that I didn't want to be alive in a time like that.

Birdie, if only you were Catholic, I'd buy you the armor.

Father Tony, you may consider reading a bit of the English writer Thomas Carlyle regarding heroes -- I suggest Past and Present, notably.

In the time I've been reading Bilerico, you have offered a consistent and laudable awareness of the relationship between the Catholic faith and the gay and lesbian peoples within it.

You have been equally consistent in one of the most doggedly rude of the church views, wherein the lives of transfolk are ignored, and tend to apparently keep to what is an older ideal predating the present pope that transfolk are to be celibate.

Where are the catholic women? In these days, they are busy following the advice of the titular head of their order. Or leaving the faith.

I'm nominally Episcopalian when it comes to christian ideology, so I suspect that you will ignore me with the same precision with which you ignored Monica.

That's ok.

I'll note that you and I share at least seminary in common, so I'm outside the bounds of laity in commentary enforced by the church, and note that I find your particular interpretation of what a modern day Joan would be like to be cissexist and culturally insensitive.

Especially since you confuse cross dressing with sexual orientation, indicating you lack a particular awareness of what it is indicative of and leap directly towards something you can understand and grasp --you tread a tricky spot where your interpretation is damned no matter how you base it.

But that's not uncommon, nor is it news to transfolk, since such claiming of our selves for the purposes others seems to be a trend that many queer fathers have engaged in for centuries.

So I understand how you are just following what you know, but I cannot excuse you for your insensitive and fixed position, and instead shall simply note that Joan was celibate, cross dressed, identified as a woman, never a man, and was a Protestant long before Luther, given she felt the need to interpret for herself what she heard -- who was God (a rather protestant concept).

So I find it fitting that a catholic father speaks of someone who was canonized despite being catholic only by default and applies an ideal to her that wasn't present for even further a time.

She was trans, father. Gifted by God with Grace directly.

Dear Dyssonance,

Thanks for your comment.

Please know that I have very rarely stopped conversing with anyone. It only happens when I realize that I am listening to a person's mental illness rather than the individual, or, when I am being personally abused (and being abused by a stranger is really the same as being entangled by mental illness).

In reference to your calling me rude by dint of my "church view" about transfolk, I disagree, and offer as proof the high probability that the "church" would be quick to assure you that "His view is not our view. He ain't one of us. He doesn't sit with us." In other words, if you lump me in with your idea of the "church", I'll go there with a smile, but I'd be shown the door before it's my turn at the buffet.

I have over many months become modestly interested in observing the heated battles within the blogging trans community about identity and semantics. I think it's a no-win situation in which some parties seem quick to bare their own wounds and to claim that all others are not real battle scars but either cosmetic simulations or self-inflictions. I am not part of this particular war and I do believe it is fruitless. It is often self-pitiful, mean-spirited and far from heroic.

In my speculations about Joan of Arc, I keep clear of any revisionist or self-serving insistences. I only guess at what a modern version of her might look like (and that guess in that post was but a quick sketch on a napkin). I am not wedded to the idea that Joan herself was lesbian or trans or a cross-dresser, etc. I would have to read more deeply into her life and into those times (as have Patricia and Dana whose opinions I value highly.)

I am deeply interested in the future of Roman Catholicism which is on me like barnacles acquired by a pirated galleon listing in a foreign port. There is no spiritual turpentine for what has been written on me.

I am on steady ground when I write about my search for real heroes.

IT may strike you as odd, but i too am deeply iterested in Roman Catholicism -- in religion in general, really -- and very much favorable towards the survival of all of it.

Like you, it was writ in me deeply as a youth in two different religions and three different cultures and often was horribly painful and usually negative.

And, rather than many of what we have as kith around us, I take a stance of understanding that they are all critical to our being people (no doubt informed by my actual faith, regardless of the nominal aspect).

You are indeed on steady ground in your search for real heroes. Among them, for example, you can count yourself -- truly, I believe that, and my commentary, however pointed, is not meant to take away from that part of what you write.

as for transfolk and our obsession with semantics and identity -- note that my final assertion about her being trans is *equally* shaky as yours of her being lesbian -- such things are a matter of the time and tides of the day, and in those days, like so much of history, culturally, they were not separate, but one.

Identity is forged in semantics, and our identity is consistently compromised and taken over, and the semantics, Father, count. It was semantics that established the aforementioned separation creating protestantism, a many hundred year protest by men and women over the various abuses by various Popes such as the one in seated now.

But it is beyond semantics, Father -- this is deep seated and emotional, and semantics are critical -- for the emotion i am speaking of is nt on our side, but on the side of those who step into unity with hand wringing and waffling and uncertainty.

Which is you, father. And you can indeed rise above that teaching just as I rose above the teaching I had (however unintentional) and embrace it, rather than ignore it.

Past and Present contains a statement by which I choose to do things:

We demand arrestment of the knaves and
dastards, and begin by arresting our own poor selves out of that fraternity.

There is no other reform conceivable. Thou and I,
my friend, can, in the most flunkey world, make, each of us,_one_ non-flunkey, one hero, if we like: that will be two heroesto begin with:

--Courage! even that is a whole world of heroes to
end with, or what we poor Two can do in furtherance thereof!

And you are part of this particular war, for this is not a war of self chosen sides, Father, but one of those who see us as all of a kind and those who do not, and while you draw breath and abandon in your efforts those who are trans, you will find that you are also drawing breath and abandoning those who are gay and lesbian and bisexual.

For we are all of one kind, one sort, and only semantics separates us.


And that, Dyssonance, is the higher ground, that may win your day, and will in fact keep me engaged in what you say is my battle as well as yours.

I have to disagree with you about one thing in your response. I have never, not for five minutes, been a man of "hand wringing and waffling and uncertainty". It would have been more accurate to describe me as a "bull in a china shop" regarding trans issues. To which, I would respond "Yes, but I always clean up what I break."

Ah, Father Tony, lol...

But you have. On October 5th, 2007. The waffling part wasn't direct quoted, and the uncertainty was interpreted, but...

But that's water under the bridge.

And really, its not higher ground, Father -- its even, level, and equitable ground. it not even a subtle rise in the terrain -- its being willing to take us all to sea level -- instead of our own raising of hills so we can look down on others.

IT was a long way down for me when I looked, but in he end, it was only a step.

The one thing I can say about the two of you together is "This should get interesting." You're both so earnest and well intentioned that I'd love to put the two of you in a room and record the conversation.

Bil, what a great idea. Don't we have the technology to host a live video dialogue on this blog? That would really make for break through blogging. Ask Jerame to arrange it.
The only other way to do it would be for me to run the video camera on myself while having a phone dialogue with Dyss who would do the same thing wherever he or she may be. We get both videos (posting them first as private on Bilerico's Youtube site, and then I could edit them together into one video conversation and voila - not live, but certainly lively. Live would be better. Make it so, Number One. I'm game, and I talk better than i type.

Its the name, Bil. He's the boy version and I'm the girl version and Toni just seems to have that sorta sense to it, lol.

And, as you may recall, I'm not adverse to such, lol.

To a point -- careful reading of what I wrote earlier will indicate that the more accurate perspective is described in following comments.

TO take what we think of as queer identities today and apply them to pretty much anytime prior to about 1850 is, well, an error, and such conjecture is going to cause issues.

On the other hand, the good father may not realize that a significant number of queer folk (including yourself, Bil) would be diagnosed with Gender Identity In Youth, and that would, in the end, not be a good thing.

This is, however, something important to note, as everyday, gay boys, lesbian girls, and bisexual kids are subjected to a form of reparative treatment that is considered ethical.

My complaint with the Father is based in my noticing that he's very shy of trans issus, and that rather than seeking to educate himself he prefers to withdraw (I don't blame him for times when we get into pissing matches within the tans community, but those aren't the only things that count).


I will say that "earnest and well intentioned" is decidedly one of the nicest things I've heard said about my manner of discourse, lol.

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As for the Joan reference - trans vs lesbian: I always thought of Joan as a lesbian too. She did crossdress - she wore pants. Lots of lesbians "crossdress" now too by wearing pants - it's just that the standards for that tiny bit of tearing down a gender wall has changed.

Joan had many manly qualities of the day - leadership, willingness to speak her mind, wore pants, fought in battle, etc. But I know many strong lesbians who would be willing to do the same - many modern day soldiers, for example - but that doesn't make them trans.

I do find it interesting that we (as LGBT and feminist activists) claim to want to blur the strong definitions between gender binaries, but in this instance the discussion has mostly focused on which identity to classify her as. Why can't she have been both trans and a lesbian? Or why not neither option and simply a strong willed heterosexual woman? Does it really matter?

Or would be better off summing up Joan of Arc's life Tony's line: "popularity is its own reward and that heroes are lonely and often meet with bad final chapters"

Does it matter?

well, when one is going to claim heroism, then yes, yes it does.

Heroism exists to honor people we would like to see more of, in their various qualities.

She fought for her nation at a time when women were legally and socially property. She changed the course of the war that was being fought. She was martyred for it via betrayal.

Blah blah blah.

She absolutely can be all those things -- but there needs to be some sort of basis in claiming it.

Chevalier D'Eon -- trans or not? In many books written by LGB authors, they are ignored or declared gay.

Crazy Horse -- one of my ancestors -- is called gay and trans and neither term is even close.

She's a hero not because she might have been gay or lesbian or trans, but because she sacrificed herself to an idea, a principle, a cause, and did so willingly, without coercion, in great courage and with incredible bravery and a deep understanding of the people she fought for.

There was no gay, no lesbian, no bisexual, no trans then. These are all identities, fabrications of the modern age.

that age had its own cultural ways and means.

o we really need to fight over who gets to call Joan their own?

Joan did turn down the possibility of marrying a man, a guy chosen for her by her parents. That could make her a feminist, or a lesbian, or a het trans guy.

She wore pants, it's said, because she slept near soldiers. So she could have been a het woman keeping herself a virgin, a crossdresser, a trans guy, or a butch-spectrum lesbian.

But the thing is, at the time she lived, none of these identities existed, so forcing her to carry one freak flag over another seems kind of useless, imho.

I tend to think of her as FTM-spectrum. She never partnered. She "excused" the prostitutes who often accompanied armies at the time because she felt their presence encouraged immorality in the troops *and* distracted them from their job. She could have been asexual, a tomboy, butch.

Honestly, we really don't know, and applying our modern labels to her identity strikes me as (at best) inaccurate. The whole point is that Joan was extraordinary for her time.

Her only peer who spoke FOR her at the time was another woman, btw: Christine de Pizan, author of *The Book of the City of Ladies*. The man later known as Bluebeard, Gilles de Rais, was profoundly committed to her & turned to evil when she was executed. They tried to de-flower her because only a virgin could hear God, & the reports are that it "didn't work." To me that probably means she had something more like IS genitalia, but again, we don't really know.

& Yes, I was raised Catholic.

o we really need to fight over who gets to call Joan their own?

Joan did turn down the possibility of marrying a man, a guy chosen for her by her parents. That could make her a feminist, or a lesbian, or a het trans guy.

Helen, thank you for saying this. St Joan was an amazing person and truly is a saint for this age. She appeals to everyone, and everyone wants to claim her as their own.

It may surprise some readers here to know that even conservative Catholics embrace St. Joan. Some of them have sharply criticized a Catholic church in Minneapolis, named after her, because it has been supportive of gays and lesbians. These Catholics say they are defending her name as well as embracing her fighting spirit.

Part of this "conversation" (one one way, as far as I'm concerned) has not been resolved to my satisfaction. And, as it's been pointed out many times before, my concerns don't count in some people's eyes. Of course, I don't see it ever getting resolved. So, it will be for another time and another subject. Have fun.

Here's the way I see it, Monica.

1) You said you thought Joan was trans. As of this writing there have been 28 comments discussing the possibility. That's hardly a one-way conversation. Some people have agreed, some disagreed. That's a discussion - and happens all the time in life. You don't "win" by being the first to make a statement and getting no one to disagree with you.

2) You attacked Father Tony as being poor on trans issues. No attack was needed and it doesn't further a discussion. Your "proof" to your argument that Joan was trans doesn't have any history, sociology or science to back it up - only an ad hominem attack on Tony.

Put together with this comment that "part of the conversation" hasn't been resolved, one can only assume you mean the attack on Tony since - as previously pointed out - there have been 28 comments discussing the post topic. Add in the comment that has been TOS'd for being a direct attack on Tony and it's the only logical conclusion.

To mutilate a well-known saying and turn it appropriate for this thread, "Get off the cross. We need the wood to burn a heretic." The topic of the thread is Joan of Arc. Not Monica. Not Tony. Joan.

Andrew Rodgers | May 18, 2009 9:43 AM

I am an intersexed individual, I have a mosaic of sex chromosomes, four different pairs within a sampling of 50 cells, proven twice through karotyping tests. Yet, I didn't know this until I was 41 years old, because I was identified as female upon my birth and all other information was hidden from me by my parents. My gender identity has been male for as long as I can remember. At age 38 I began transition. So...Am I intersexed or am I a FTM? Here is the kicker...I lived in the lesbian community for most of my adult life before I began transition.

Each of the titles that some of you have applied to Joan of Arc have applied to me in my life time. Could they all have applied to her? The simple answer is...maybe but in fact we don't know. Even I struggle to sort out my own history with these labels, sorting out hers is even more difficult given several historical facts. She was illiterate, her history was written by the victors of the day, then rewritten upon her canonization. So any written word we have of her is suspect because it is not of her hand. What we know of Joan is a mix of facts, myths and even lies.

Whether Joan is intersexed, FTM, lesbian or just a woman is not that relevant to her story. We are the ones who want to make it relevant. That means we are injecting our views, prejudices, and agendas into her history. For her, the most relevant thing appeared to be following God's instructions and to lead her people. Do we lose that if we cannot label her gender or sexual orientation? I don't think so. Trans people have a long history whether Joan of Arc was trans or not. The same can be said for all the other groups mentioned. Unless there is solid evidence that can be found people of today need to leave the gender and orientation of those long dead alone.

Andrew, thanks. I feel similarly: I've had so many people apply labels to me that I can't stand seeing it done to others (& especially to someone who can't object).

Maybe we can all agree that Joan was a hero(ine) for gender transgression. Surely that's something we could all get behind.

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The page below contains some pictures from Joan of Arc's canonization ceremony as well as the words of Pope Benedict XV
http://www.maidofheaven.com/joanofarc_canonization.asp
Very inspiring to read what he said.