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  • From The Scarlet Letter to StonewallReading the 1629 Thomas(ine) Hall Case, 1978–2009

The 1629 Thomas(ine) Hall case offers an invaluable account of seventeenth-century gender fluidity, ambiguous body presentation, and non-normative sexual behavior; since 1978 it has inspired quite a range of different readings. The point of consistency across 35 years of scholarship on the case is the fact that Hall and the other parties present before the General Court in Jamestown on March 25th, 1629, have been interpreted in ways that trace shifting models for theorizing gender and sexual identity during the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-centuries. Much of the work on Hall and her/his community is excellent; however, taken as a whole this body of scholarship implies the historical possibility of an originary feminist or queer (or both) early American community, effectively eliding important distinctions among different groups as well as downplaying their significance in our own period. The author argues that while we can and should apply the tools of gender theory and sexuality studies to early American subjects, the diversity in interpretations of the Hall case suggests that we need to be even more rigorous in avoiding descriptions that risk implying that our own notions of identity can be superimposed onto the past.


transgender, intersex, queer, feminist, gender, colonial Virginia, interdisciplinary, historiography

On March 25, 1629, the Council and General Court of colonial Virginia heard the case against Thomas Hall, an indentured servant living in the settlement of Warraskoyack.1 The minutes of the session do not specify Hall’s crime; although a charge of fornication with a female servant called [End Page 500] “greate Besse” seems to have precipitated the trial, the court’s real challenge was to make a decision about Hall’s ambiguous gender. Hall’s self-identification as “both man and woeman” is recorded in the minutes, and she/he alternated between male and female clothing, evidently on the basis at least in part of economic considerations. The transcript of the case provides an invaluable glimpse into everyday articulations of gender and social position in colonial Virginia, as discussed effectively and at length by other scholars. In what follows, I seek not to offer another analysis of Hall’s experiences, or of the possible insights into colonial perceptions of masculinity, femininity, or ambiguous gender presentation that the account offers. Rather, I examine the modern scholarly and political contexts through which the Hall case has been discussed. Ignored until 1978, Hall and the events detailed in the trial have since then inspired quite a range of different readings. The one point of consistency across the thirty-five years of scholarship is the fact that Hall and the other parties present before the General Court in Jamestown on March 25, 1629, have been interpreted in ways that precisely trace shifting models for theorizing gender and sexual identity during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. First interpreted through the lenses of feminist and then gay and lesbian politics in the period from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, Hall’s experience is understood by twenty-first-century scholars as an early example of resistance against what Anne Fausto-Sterling, in 2000, terms “the constraints of our sex/gender system.”2

Taken as a whole, this body of work implies the historical possibility of an originary feminist or queer (or both) American community before the fact, effectively eliding important distinctions among different groups as well as downplaying their significance in our own period. The earlier work, in the 1970s and 1980s, imposes notions specific to that era: Hall’s seventeenth-century experience is presented according to late twentieth-century ideas about gender- and sexuality-based oppression. Later examinations, from the 1990s to today, reflect the turn toward greater theoretical sophistication initiated by “social history” approaches. Each of these later scholars emphasizes historical context. Nevertheless, this recent work is marked by a consistent tendency toward unnecessarily suggestive diction and leading phrasing. In sometimes marked contrast to their emphasis on historicization, these scholars engage in “sentence-level” depictions of [End Page 501] Thomas(ine) Hall’s experience that still too closely evoke our own period’s notions of sexuality and gender identity.

The Thomas(ine) Hall case describes seventeenth-century gender fluidity, ambiguous body presentation, and nonnormative sexual behavior: historians reading the account are quite right to engage with contemporary theories of gender and sexuality. Judith Halberstam, writing in 1998, describes the difficulty of navigating the intellectual Scylla and Charybdis faced by scholars of feminist or queer history, between “untheoretical historical surveys” that effectively erase nonnormative sexualities and genders from history, and “ahistorical theoretical models” that potentially impose anachronism. As Halberstam suggests, “Debates about the history of sexuality and the history of gender deviance have also very often reproduced this split, rendering historical sexual forms as either universal or completely bound by and to their historical moment.” Halberstam offers a “perversely presentist model of historical analysis” that “avoids the trap of simply projecting contemporary understandings back in time, but one that can apply insights from the present to conundrums of the past.”3 Halberstam’s approach offers one means of responding to Joan Scott’s well-known 1991 critique of a problematic scholarly reliance on personal experience by “historians of difference”: in Scott’s view, in emphasizing individual identity, these scholars risk dehistoricizing expressions of nonnormativity.4 As a literary scholar committed to the political and intellectual projects of queer and feminist scholarship, I share with a number of the historians reading the Hall case the certainty that its effective analysis requires the insights of contemporary theories of gender and sexuality. At the same time, I argue that the long history of implication, euphemism, and co-opting simplification in descriptions of those who do not fit into recognized categories means that our work requires perhaps even more stylistic caution than is necessary for scholars studying more normative topics and individuals. In what follows I suggest that Halberstam’s “perversely presentist” approach applies even to our sentence-level depictions; we can and should apply the tools of gender theory and sexuality studies to early American subjects, but as the wide range of disparate recent readings of the Hall case indicates, we need [End Page 502] to be more rigorous in avoiding language that is complicit in “projecting contemporary understandings back in time.”

The minutes of the Thomas(ine) Hall case are confusing, so a brief review may be helpful. Thomas Hall is brought before the general court in Jamestown, on March 25, 1629, after members of the community fail to reach a consensus about the question of his/her gender. The pretrial negotiations among married women, male and female servants, younger men, and older married men with property suggests a Warraskoyack social hierarchy based on gender, age, and occupation that nevertheless recognizes different forms of authority and allows for disagreement. The transcript consists primarily of testimony by these interested community members. First, Francis England, a young man aged twenty “or therabouts,” repeats a claim that Hall committed fornication with the maid “greate Besse”; England also reports that in response to an inquiry about why he was wearing women’s clothing, Hall answered rather opaquely that “I goe in weomans aparell to gett a bitt for my Catt.” With another man, Roger Rodes, England evidently examined Hall’s body; he declares to the court that the subject is “a perfect man.”5 Hall’s two employers during the time of her/his indenture in Virginia, however, have differing views on the matter: John Atkins, aged twenty-nine, in whose home Hall is living and working at the time of the trial, understands her/him to be both a woman and a man. John Tyos, a former master, swears that Hall is a woman. When asked by Captain Nathaniel Bass, the most important male resident of the settlement, “whether hee were man or woeman,” Hall “replied that he was both only hee had not the use of the man’s parte.” The upper-right corner of the original manuscript page that includes Hall’s own description of her/his body has been lost; we can still read that Hall has “a peece of fleshe growing at the [missing section] belly as bigg as the top of his little finger, [an] inch longe.” Later, Hall elaborates that she/he also has “a peece of an hole,” presumably an incomplete vaginal opening.6 Bass orders Hall into women’s clothing on this evidence.7 After Bass’s decision, the women who had previously determined Hall to be male conduct another search, conclude again [End Page 503] that she/he is a man, and ask John Atkins to confirm their findings. Atkins attempts to do so while his servant sleeps, but he departs hastily when Hall (interestingly here for the only time in the text referred to as “shee”) seems to wake up: the use of the feminine pronoun probably was transcribed from Atkins’s testimony.8 Hall’s brief narrative for the court of his/her life further complicates the series of pronoun, name, and clothing shifts recorded in the minutes: born in England and christened “Thomasine,” at age twelve she/he joined an aunt in London, and (as Mary Beth Norton suggests) there presumably learned much of the skilled women’s work that she/he would later use to obtain full or supplementary income.9 At age twenty-two, inspired by a brother’s military service, Thomasine “Cut of his heire and Changed his apparell into the fashion of man and went over as a souldier in the Isle of Ree being in the habit of a man.” Later, she/he traveled to Plymouth and resumed feminine garb in order to earn a living making lace; she/he returned to men’s clothing to ship out to Virginia in 1627. Faced with this complex history, the justices order Hall to wear clothing that proclaims her/his dual-gendered status, even as the court record exclusively uses the male pronoun: “it shall be published in the plantation where the said Hall liveth that he is a man and a woeman, that all the Inhabitants there may take notice thereof and that hee shall goe Clothed in mans apparell, only his head to bee attired in a Coyfe and Crosecloth wth an Apron before him.”10

The original manuscript was one of many early Jamestown documents acquired by Thomas Jefferson and later sold to Congress in 1829 and 1848; the collection has been available at the Library of Congress since, and microfilms were made for general use in the 1950s. It seems unaccountable that the case went unnoticed for so long, but Alden T. Vaughan was indeed the first scholar to recognize its significance. He found the manuscript while conducting research for another project, and published “The Sad Case of Thomas(ine) Hall” in 1978. His study reflects an emerging emphasis on reconstructing the narratives of forgotten lives that marked historiography during that period. As Vaughan relates, “I had no true theory in mind, only a sense that something profoundly disturbing, and presumably rare, had happened to this young person and that his/her story should be told.”11 [End Page 504] Vaughan refers to Hall as “he” when describing Thomas’s biography, and “she” when discussing the periods of her/his life when Hall lived as Thomasine.12 His brief essay begins and ends with an extended comparison to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, thereby rendering Hall comprehensible through a perceived similarity with a (heterosexual) woman persecuted for her failure to conform to community sexual mores. Although Vaughan provides the caveat that “the case of Virginia’s Thomas Hall does not entirely parallel Hester Prynne’s,” the primary divergence between the two figures is not one of history versus fiction, clearly defined woman versus ambiguously sexed and fluidly gendered person, sexual “deviant” versus “hermaphrodite,” or Puritan New England versus more secular Jamestown of the early Virginia Company period. What separates Hawthorne’s character and the historical Hall, for Vaughan, is agency. Hester Prynne “committed a willful infraction; Hall was born with a biological abnormality. Hester had to wear a badge of shame; Thomas was forced to admit his ‘sin’ by wearing special clothing. Hester suffered from the knowledge that she had defied society’s norms; Thomas could only ponder the complexity of sexual identity.” Unlike Hawthorne’s character, Hall is a “natural,” and therefore by implication more perfectly victimized, deviant. “In common they were victims of seventeenth-century America’s belief that the most effective way to keep a community orderly and godly was to make public spectacles of its transgressors.”13 Although Vaughan does not regard his piece as aligned with a particular theoretical approach, it points toward the emergence of feminist approaches to historiography; after alluding to Hester Prynne, he evokes specifically second-wave feminist ideas about heterosexuality and women’s victimization in describing Hall’s “rough-and-tumble neighbors.” Relating the examination by England and Rodes, he suggests that “two youths threw [Hall] to the ground and conducted their own investigation.” Roger Rodes was married, so “youth” seems inaccurate.14 An indentured servant in colonial Virginia would have had little expectation of personal privacy, but Vaughan does not address differences of class in presenting Hall, the servant and former soldier, as holding ladylike views about gendered [End Page 505] propriety. He indicates that Hall “permitted” further examination—and then only “to forestall similar treatment.” Similarly, Vaughan downplays the allegation of a relationship with “greate Besse,” thereby desexualizing Hall and rendering her/him even more perfectly victimized, according to notions of class-specific gender performance. The significance of this essay cannot be underestimated. Vaughan discovered the manuscript; he recognized its importance; and he produced a thoughtful, sympathetic, and admirably progressive analysis of Hall’s experience. As the first to write about Hall, he could not benefit from the many years of scholarship that followed. Nevertheless, he decontextualized the historical Hall and did not note the complex hierarchies of gender, race, occupation, class, and property ownership that influenced the events of the case. More to the point, Vaughan seems to have been in alliance with feminist historiographical understandings of gender, sexuality, and power; later, more specifically feminist readings similarly provided critical insight while at times imposing on Hall static notions of gender and identity that did not reflect her/his experience as described in the testimony.

A few years later, Jonathan Ned Katz included the Hall case in his Gay/Lesbian Almanac.15 Published in 1983, shortly after the Gay Men’s Health Crisis was formed and the disease first known as Gay-Related Immune Deficiency received a name, this work reflects the profound changes that ensued in the aftermath of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and in response to the homophobic backlash of the early AIDS crisis. Katz’s context influenced his reading that Hall was “a biological male who had long dressed and worked as a female and had come to consider him/herself male and female.” Of course, the court minutes make it clear that Hall shifted from male to female apparel with apparent ease and according to occupational circumstances, and her/his genitalia were ambiguous enough to confuse successive groups of male and female inspectors. Katz also was inaccurate in suggesting a Warraskoyack community consensus that Hall was clearly male.16 Like Vaughan, Katz portrayed the first examination by Rodes and England in terms that suggest sexual violence. This event becomes not the sexual assault of a Hester Prynne–like figure, but another sort of hate crime, committed by two straight men against a visibly queer male. In explaining why we do not have Hall’s complete physical self-description, Katz leadingly described the 1629 document as “mutilated,” suggesting deliberate censorship. A small portion at the top right corner of the original parchment page, containing a few words, indeed is [End Page 506] missing, but it seems more likely that the section was lost because of normal wear; surrounding pages, and many others in the volume that contains these minutes, show similar damage (see figure 1).17

A number of scholars have criticized aspects of Katz’s approach.18 Nevertheless, in discovering and documenting “gay” and “lesbian” lives across different historical periods, Katz helped give twentieth-century queer America a legible past. In a twenty-first-century context, we may forget the scholarly environment in which Katz was working. Contemporary to the publication of Katz’s Gay/Lesbian Almanac, the Thomas(ine) Hall case was described in Martin’s Hundred, the archaeologist Ivor Noël Hume’s memoir of his exploration of the site of an early seventeenth-century Virginia plantation.19 Hume recalls a discussion about colonial dress with a colleague, in which he opines that he “found it hard to believe … that any of our Martin’s Hundred men would have been seen mincing through the mud in fancy frills.” His interlocutor then reminds Hume of a case of bestiality in 1630s Accomack, and then mentions Hall, describing her/him as “the lad who couldn’t make up his mind.”20 Hume and his colleague deploy what Gayle Rubin terms the “domino theory of sexual peril”: performances of unacceptable sexualities or gender identities (“fancy frills,” gay male sexuality, bestiality, and Hall’s unreadable gender identity) are somehow all equivalent, one leading inevitably to the next.21 Although those who actually examined her/his body in 1629 were unable to do so, Hume echoes Katz in [End Page 507]

Figure 1. The second page of the three-page manuscript of the court minutes of the 1629 Thomas(ine) Hall case, showing a loss at upper right corner in the section where Hall describes her/his body for the court. We can read some of the first line, which continues from the previous page: “he had not the use of the man’s p …” (McIlwaine deduces “part” from the context.) After the missing corner, the second line reads, “was a peece of fleshe growing at the …”; the third line continues this description: “belly as bigg as the tipp of his little finger.” The fourth and fifth lines are largely intact: “inch longe whereupon Capt. Basse commanded … to be put in woman’s apparell.”<br/><br/>Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Papers.
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Figure 1.

The second page of the three-page manuscript of the court minutes of the 1629 Thomas(ine) Hall case, showing a loss at upper right corner in the section where Hall describes her/his body for the court. We can read some of the first line, which continues from the previous page: “he had not the use of the man’s p …” (McIlwaine deduces “part” from the context.) After the missing corner, the second line reads, “was a peece of fleshe growing at the …”; the third line continues this description: “belly as bigg as the tipp of his little finger.” The fourth and fifth lines are largely intact: “inch longe whereupon Capt. Basse commanded … to be put in woman’s apparell.”

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Papers.

[End Page 508]

neatly resolving the question of Hall’s sex, declaring that “he” is “a lad.” Moreover, he implies that gay sexuality could not have existed in the frontier environment of 1630s Virginia. Men were men in colonial Virginia, at least in public, as by implication they were not in the United States of the 1970s and 1980s.

Later analyses of the Thomas(ine) Hall case reflect profound shifts in approaches to gender and women’s history, as influenced by poststructura-list examinations of power and the gradual move in feminist scholarship toward intersectional analyses that emphasize the inseparability of gender and sexuality from other factors of identity. In 1995, Kathleen Brown provided the first detailed examination of the importance of early seventeenth-century notions of gender and authority to understanding the unsettling challenge Hall presented to her/his neighbors. Jennifer Manion, writing in 2009, cites both Brown and Mary Beth Norton in summarizing the importance of this period, which “transformed our historical vision of women’s lives by revealing how power mediated relationships between individuals and groups of people along lines of race, class, and gender.”22 As Brown argues, the Hall case “presents a … richly detailed glimpse of an early modern community’s responses to gender transgression, exposing to view a multiplicity of popular beliefs about sexual difference and the variety of uses to which they could be put by groups of people with different stakes in the social order.”23 She explores local and wider cultural factors, from the biographies of Hall’s examiners to early modern notions of sex mutability. Brown’s use of the term sexual difference in the subtitle of her article and throughout the text itself further indicates her alignment with period-specific shifts; her relationship to the so-called essentialism debates in 1990s feminist scholarship is further indicated by her deployment of Judith Butler’s notion of “gender performativity.”24 Rather than framing binary sex [End Page 509] categories as natural, Brown deploys Butler’s definition of sex as a “regulatory ideal” that “produces the bodies it governs” through the “ritualized repetition of norms.”25 Despite Brown’s use of Butler’s theoretical model, and even as she simultaneously works to subvert binary notions of gender and power through her analyses of the subtleties of colonial women’s social roles, her specific representations of Hall herself/himself indicate a continued reliance on distinctions between clearly defined “men” and “women.”

Brown uses the Hall case primarily to develop and support her illuminating reading of the complex authority of the women of Warraskoyack; her emphasis on feminine community, however, occasionally leads her to engage in two-dimensional descriptions of both Hall himself/herself and the male inhabitants of the community. She describes the female group that first views Hall’s body and genitalia in neutral terms; later, however, Hall becomes “fair game for the men of Warraskoyack.” “Francis England and Roger Rodes took advantage of a chance meeting with Hall to conduct their own impromptu investigation. … Assisted by England, Rodes threw Hall onto his back.”26 Although each phrase is relatively unremarkable on its own, together these and other stylistic choices depict a familiar notion of sexualized male power over a female body; indeed, her description of Hall’s examination by Rodes and England evokes the gang rape of a woman by two men. This interpretation may be justifiable, but it also relies uncritically on binary notions of gender and power (women have gender, men have power) at the cost of the profound complexity represented by the historical subject called “Thomas Hall” throughout the 1629 court minutes. In making this single encounter somehow remarkable, Brown also simplifies the community’s response. In the court minutes it is clear that England and Rodes constitute the only group of Hall’s physical examiners that is made up solely of men not directly invested in the case—Captain Bass makes his determination exclusively on the basis of testimony, and John Atkins and John Tyos, Hall’s present and former employers, had financial interests in the outcome. Nevertheless, the examination by Rodes and England is one among several others, and the justices do not seem to regard it as particularly distinctive.27 Moreover, although her 1995 study details the series of clothing and name shifts that mark Hall’s movements between an identity as “Thomasine” and one as “Thomas,” the title itself (“Changed … into [End Page 510] the fashion of man”: The Politics of Sexual Difference in a Seventeenth-Century Anglo-American Settlement”) may lead the reader initially to assume that the case describes a traditionally defined “woman” who wears male clothing to pass as a man. This particular shift is one aspect of Hall’s experience, but the title effectively renders it more meaningful than the others; more to the point, it suggests that Brown interprets the ambiguously sexed and fluidly gendered Hall primarily through reference to women’s experiences.

Perhaps Brown’s representation of Rodes and England would be less noteworthy if it did not stand in such marked contrast to her depictions of Hall’s female examiners. On little evidence, particularly as England later actually is called before the court to offer his opinion, Brown suggests that he and Rodes “intruded themselves into the process” extralegally.28 Several of the Warraskoyack matrons similarly have no obvious earlier connection to the case, but Brown assumes that each has nuanced and justifiable motives for participating. Unlike Rodes and England, presented as opportunistic bullies or worse, the married women “intervened because Hall’s crossing of gender lines challenged fundamental gender differences on which their authority was based.” Brown helpfully explores why the women’s investigations were considered legitimate and necessary, and she presents their interest in Hall’s body as part of a larger struggle to maintain a limited power within a patriarchal system. A briefer analysis of the Hall case is included in her 1996 book, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs, in which Brown explores forms of female community that functioned in complicated resistance to institutionalized male power systems in early America. Her reading of forms of female authority in Warraskoyack, and the ways that the Hall case may have threatened it, corrects Vaughan’s interpretation of the verdict as evidence of blanket disapproval by those who testified, regardless of gender differences. Nevertheless, the representations of a feminized Hall’s examinations by men and the corresponding attribution of compelling motivations to the women imply that Thomas(ine) Hall—who is referred to generally as “he” but once as “shee,” and self-identifies as “both man and woeman”—somehow has more in common with the “good wives” than the “anxious patriarchs.” A similar blind spot is suggested by the fact that Brown finds it “curious” that the “matrons chose not to involve Great Besse”; she decides that this is probably because the fornication charge had been dismissed.29 Here Brown presents no alternative to a long tradition of refusing the sexuality of nonnormatively gendered [End Page 511] subjects. Moreover, although she considers and then rejects the possibility that Great Besse might have been of Indian or African descent, she does not address the other basic matter of class difference: even if Besse was English, because she was a servant, her opinion still would not have mattered to the Warraskoyack matrons. Brown’s points of incomplete analysis, in an otherwise groundbreaking examination, effectively imply the existence of a more egalitarian women’s community that functioned differently from the heavy-handed patriarchal authority shared, with little real attention to differences of class or social position, by both the court justices and Hall’s male examiners.

The year after Brown published her article, Mary Beth Norton also framed the Hall case according to developments in late twentieth-century feminist scholarship. Oddly, Norton ignores the charge of fornication, which clearly is specified in the court minutes. “If no crime was involved, why was Hall in court?” she asks her readers, implying that Hall’s sole “crime” was a failure to conform to a single gender identity. Moreover, she echoes Katz precisely at one point, describing the manuscript as “mutilated” in the section in which Hall’s body is described in detail.30 Norton grapples with the pronoun and name shifts of the case by at times referring to Hall as “T,” as she does in analyzing one of Hall’s more perplexing statements: “I goe in woemans aparell to gett a bitt for my Catt.” As she argues, “Since Hall had served in the English army on an expedition to France, T could well have learned a contemporary French slang phrase—’pour avoir une bite pour mon chat’—or, crudely put in English, ‘to get a penis for my cunt.’“31 She suggests that the line as she interprets it might offer insight into the [End Page 512] inter-army social and sexual dynamics of common soldiers during the early modern period, but she never does the work involved in supporting that idea, or in fully exploring her hypothesis that “a bitt for my Catt” represents an early American version of campy bilingual double entendre. Like Brown, Norton uses Judith Butler’s notion of “gender performativity” to argue that while Hall’s gender is “primarily female,” in part because of “the female clothing that T appears to have found more comfortable,” T’s sex “seemed to be masculine.”32 Hall indeed was identified as female at birth and subsequently was raised as a girl, and she/he continued in adulthood at least occasionally to live and work as a woman. Yet Hall also served as a male soldier, shipped to Virginia as a man, and is known to her/his Warraskoyack neighbors as Thomas. His/her “peece of a hole,” and the very real possibility that the small missing section of manuscript may have described other feminine bodily characteristics, undermines Norton’s determination of Hall’s sex as clearly male. The case minutes suggest that her/his relationship to gender also was fluid, and certainly not simply “feminine,” as Norton claims. While she recognizes the possibility that Hall’s bodily sex (“masculine”) and social gender (“feminine”) diverge, she still renders both static, and therefore conformant to the very notions of unchanging sexual identity that she seeks to combat.

Norton is the primary source for Anne Fausto-Sterling’s very brief discussion of the Hall case in her 2000 book, Sexing the Body, which represents an attempt to bridge long-standing gaps between and among the life sciences, cultural history, feminist theory, and intersex political activism. Fausto-Sterling criticizes unnecessary medical intervention, including genital surgery on intersex newborns; the book combines extensive analysis of historical and contemporary research by biologists and psychologists with anecdotal accounts by antisurgery activists and even an occasional cartoon. In the fourth chapter, which answers the question of its own title—“Should There Be Only Two Sexes?”—resoundingly in the negative, Fausto-Sterling elaborates on her argument in favor of a “flexible gender system” that would provide greater legal, social, and medical recognition of those who do not conform to either male or female identities as traditionally understood. Thomas(ine) Hall appears rather abruptly in the text just after a discussion of the declaration presented by transgender activists in 1996’s “International [End Page 513] Bill of Gender Rights,” modeled on the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, which includes “the right to define gender identity [and] the right to control and change one’s own body.” As Fausto-Sterling then states, “The legal bases for such rights are being hammered out in the courts as I write, through the establishment of case law regarding sex discrimination and homosexual rights.” She then moves immediately from the present tense of “as I write” to 1629. Retaining the first-person authorial narration, perhaps as a form of continuity, Fausto-Sterling informs the reader that Norton had recently sent her the transcripts of the Hall case. The temporal and authorial ruptures of this section seem to suggest a community of like-minded feminist scholars, represented here by Norton and Fausto-Sterling herself, whose academic work echoes the “real-world” activism of the authors of “An International Bill of Gender Rights.”

Fausto-Sterling’s discussion of Thomas(ine) Hall’s case, and her/his testimony, is limited to one short paragraph, after which we return to the present tense of the writing of Sexing the Body. Relating the decision of the General Court of the Virginia Colony mandating Hall’s dual-gendered attire, Fausto-Sterling then tells the reader that “today the legal status of operated intersexuals remains uncertain.” On the next page she again implies that Hall’s experience is equivalent to that of a present-day intersex person. A paragraph begins with one line about Hall and then, again, jumps back to the present: “The court of the Virginia Colony required Thomas/Thomasine to signal his/her physical genitals by wearing a dual set of cultural genitals. Now, as then, physical genitals form a poor basis for deciding the rights and privileges of citizenship.”33 In support of the critically important political purpose of emphasizing the parallels between the experiences of physically intersex individuals across different periods, Fausto-Sterling ignores the ways that Hall’s testimony might complicate some of the historically specific notions of subjectivity and gender or sex identity on which she relies.34 Interestingly, in this particular chapter on intersex activism, Fausto-Sterling does not deploy traditional scholarship, despite the fact that she does so elsewhere throughout Sexing the Body: for example, she might have mitigated the critique I present here by summarizing Norton’s reading of the Hall case and framing her own argument about its relevance with attention to some analysis of understandings of gender in the colonial [End Page 514] period. Nevertheless, in effacing the very great differences between 1629 Virginia law and modern American cases on “sex discrimination and homosexual rights,” and between Thomas(ine) Hall and the intersex activists she discusses, Fausto-Sterling commits yet another oversimplifying appropriation of Hall.

Elizabeth Reis places Hall in the context of her extended history (1620–1960) of responses to and understandings of intersex people in America. Throughout her study she emphasizes cultural influences on medical ideas, and—following Alice Domurat Dreger—suggests that the figure of the “hermaphrodite” or intersex person functions as a reoccurring preoccupation during periods of anxiety about shifting notions of both the role of medical professionals and larger concepts of gender, race, sexuality, personhood, and citizenship.35 Reis is the only scholar who examines the Hall case in historical context while simultaneously placing it relevantly within a much longer narrative; she avoids overtly imposing a singular gender or sexual “identity” on Hall, and in general she offers the most nuanced examination of the case to date. In this way her exploration of the Hall account reflects the care she demonstrates throughout the rest of her study, in which she emphasizes the ways that individual “hermaphrodites” as well as the doctors who examined them reflect period-specific understandings of sex and gender. It seems worthwhile to quote one summation of her 2009 conclusions about “inter-sex in America” at length:

The trope of the monster employed in early American texts persisted in new guises in the early republic and overlapped with the developing notion of the deliberately deceptive or shady character. In the nineteenth century especially, worries about gender deception and fraud merged with apprehension over racial constancy and the stability of bodies. Whether it was to ensure the legal status of men or women or to show that sex, like race, should be something uncomplicated, permanent, and easy to determine, nineteenth-century doctors insisted on certainty rather than ambiguity in gender designation. Later in the century, the frightening prospect of bodily metamorphosis fused with the worrisome possibility of homosexuality. Finally, throughout we confront the issue of choice; a binary system of sex … was [End Page 515] rigid, and choosing an infrangible sex (despite indefinite and contradictory markers) was mandatory.36

For Reis the Thomas(ine) Hall case both reflects the specific preoccupations surrounding identities and social roles in colonial Virginia and foreshadows negotiations with gender-ambiguous bodies in the nation that developed from those origins over the three hundred years that followed. She deploys reminders of Hall’s experience throughout the analysis, as a recurring theme and explanatory example. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, unlike many of the individuals she discusses, Thomas(ine) Hall not only speaks her/his experience but does so in a manner that, for modern scholars, seems empowered and even resistant. Proclaiming to Captain Bass that she/he is “both man and woeman,” Hall seems to offer an alternative to the long narrative of silenced dehumanization that Reis traces, in which doctors repeatedly make decisions about the genders of their intersex patients, often contrary to those patients’ self-definitions. The case is distinct in that Hall’s sense of herself/himself seems the determining factor in the court’s final decision that she/he should live as a dual-gendered subject. Of course, as Reis suggests, “The court chose such a sanction … not to endorse uncertainty, but to preclude further acts of deception, to mark the offender, and to warn others against similar abomination.” Perhaps Hall’s incomplete agency explains why Reis chooses repeatedly to return to 1629. Hall’s experience is the first, chronologically, in her study, and it functions as an overarching explanatory example. Direct references to this account crop up, more than any single other, throughout Reis’s discussion of the period into the early twentieth century.37 Yet this example in particular seems to function a bit unclearly in Reis’s text; she does not explore the most significant ways that Hall’s account diverges from the otherwise quite convincing narrative she constructs.

Reis emphasizes context, allowing her subjects’ historically different humanity to speak for itself. Indeed, it is only in one version of her analysis [End Page 516] of Hall that her stylistic choices suggest naturalizations of twenty-first-century notions of gender and sexuality; the piece was included in a 2007 edited volume titled Long before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America. In other versions she presents the examination of Hall’s body by Francis England and Roger Rodes as unremarkable; again, this seems an accurate reading of the court minutes. In the essay in Long before Stonewall, just like Katz and Brown before her, however, Reis now sees this specific encounter as a “violation of Hall,” in some way that the others were not. In the 2005 article she argues that the court’s decision meant that “Hall would live publicly as an inconclusively gendered being, at once male and female.” By 2007 that line has become “Hall would have to live the rest of his/her days as a public freak and laughing-stock, an ambiguously gendered being.” Taken as a whole, these and other minor tweaks work to shift the portrait of Thomas(ine) Hall, in this one incarnation of the piece, into significantly closer resemblance to a recognizable depiction of the specific persecution faced in our own period by nonnormatively masculine males, including visibly or performatively gay men.38

Particularly when compared to the heavier-handed stylistic tactics used by earlier scholars, this is a minor quibble. A more significant issue remains in all three of Reis’s published versions of her reading. Despite a consistent use of chronological order throughout her study, Reis oddly does not open her history, “1620–1960,” with the only documented example of “intersex in America” that actually is from the 1620s. In the 2005 article, she begins with an 1840 account, which encapsulates for Reis the determining influence of cultural and moral values on medical judgment of intersex individuals.39 This case opens Reis’s reading perhaps because it is more typical in the narrative that follows: the patient’s gender ambiguity makes her monstrous or criminal (or both), and historically contingent notions of gendered behavior determine a doctor’s “scientific” reading of an individual’s physical body. It is only after this nineteenth-century opening that Reis turns to the colonial examples. Again, however, her analysis of the period commences not with Hall in 1629 but with a “monstrous birth” described by John Winthrop in 1637. This account does not suggest any gender ambiguity. For [End Page 517] Winthrop, the short-lived child born to Mary Dyer, a follower of Anne Hutchinson, is clearly female—and divine punishment for her mother’s heresy.40 Why does Reis begin by explicitly connecting three divergent cases: a nineteenth-century medical account of an intersex adult, a 1637 description by a religious figure of a female baby with severe birth defects, and the minutes of Hall’s 1629 court case?41 Though early modern society indeed understood “hermaphrodites” to be monstrous, and Reis is stuck using the limited historical resources available to her, the rapid-fire combination of quite different incidents, in the course of a few pages, seems unnecessarily to force the evidence to conform to her argument, as stated in 2009: the more active enforcement of binary definitions of sex that Dreger suggests marked English medical practice during the period 1871–1915 began earlier, at least in America.42 Reis’s excellent history of intersex life and experience in America from 1620 to 1960 indeed traces a trajectory in which religious notions of dual-sexed monstrosity were replaced with equally dehumanizing medical descriptions of “hermaphrodites” as impossible, and of intersex individuals as fraudulent criminals. Yet in the isolated instance of the Hall case, Reis avoids addressing the ways that the evidence does not entirely fit this story. This begins with the echo of Vaughan in which she seems to conflate Jamestown with Puritan Massachusetts. Among other obvious distinctions between these two earliest accounts, John Winthrop cited God’s retribution as the cause of the Dyer baby’s deformities; the justices in Jamestown did not speculate at all about possible causes, divine or otherwise, of Hall’s bodily ambiguity. There is no stated, official moral judgment recorded in the minutes of the Hall case, as there is in Winthrop’s description of Mary Dyer’s child. The 1629 court did not involve any religious or medical authority; indeed, Reis might have discussed this issue [End Page 518] when deciding to cite Hall as the first example (again, the date 1620, which can refer only to this case, is included in her title) of a gradual progression from religious discourses to scientific ones.43 Most important, the legal decision did anything but make a hermaphrodite “impossible.” Of course, the justices did not celebrate gender fluidity; it seems clear that Hall’s legally mandated costume was meant as a humiliating punishment. Nevertheless, the court both acknowledged that a “hermaphrodite” was possible and then actually created a dual-gendered social status for Hall, effectively recognizing that she/he indeed was “both man and woeman.”44 Throughout the history she illuminates, Reis finds forms of resistance—individuals refused treatment or voiced objections to medical decisions about their gender identities—but all these are relayed through the interested narratives of often-hostile authority figures. Thomas(ine) Hall had a full name and past, and her/his self-representation was recorded. Unlike some earlier scholars, Reis does not render Hall a voiceless victim, nor does she choose the other extreme of explicitly imposing our own present-day notions of identity-specific political resistance on Hall. She does note that “the first case of ambiguous sex that has been found in early American sources did not engage any concerns about monstrosity, maternal imagination, or the ensoulment of hermaphrodites.”45 This very brief acknowledgment is a start, but further examination is needed here; as I have suggested, there are other, more meaningful ways that Thomas(ine) Hall and her/his community do not conform easily to Reis’s narrative about religious and then medical dehumanization of intersex people. The case belongs in her analysis, but it requires more careful contextualization rather than forced conformity with an explanatory model that works better for the other accounts she describes.

In a 1998 review of shifts in historiographical approaches to gender and race, Kathleen Brown presents some of the unique challenges, particularly for scholars who themselves identify as belonging to a historically marginalized group, of reading the lives of early Americans. “If one joy of the new social history was finding one’s own history in the search for the forgotten people in the past, then early Americanists had fewer reasons to be joyful. Moments of sympathetic and intuitive connection, based on the ability to [End Page 519] imagine the emotional contours of an historical subject’s life, including her or his hopes and frustrations, were simply much more difficult if one could not ‘hear’ that ‘voice’ in firsthand accounts.” Therefore, “colonial historians risked underestimating the political nature of early American identities … or anachronistically reading nineteenth- and twentieth-century political concerns about individual rights and freedoms into the actions of these historical subjects.”46 As I have argued, a more pressing problem for scholars than a lack of firsthand historical testimony may be insufficient critical distance from a “sympathetic or intuitive connection” with “the forgotten people of the past” that is based on “one’s own history.” The scholars I have discussed trace the specificities of the profound, ongoing social changes and wider cultural anxieties surrounding gay, lesbian, queer, intersex, and trans-gender bodies and identities in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century period. The overall trajectory of the scholarship documents and actively helps create a progressively more nuanced approach to gender nonnormativity: for scholars who believe that intellectual work can be a form of activism, this is success. In finding ways to let previously marginalized individuals “speak” through both the tools provided by modern gender theory and our own experiences, however, we cannot selectively choose which aspects of their quite different lives are more important. Each scholar reading the Hall case states, always quite briefly, that her/his particular representation is incomplete. Only a few reading the case then actually make the error of hazarding a singular definition of Hall’s identity according to our contemporary understandings; nevertheless, without exception, all of them, to varying degrees, rely on leading word choices and other stylistic hints that serve to imply an unnecessarily reductive reading of Hall’s body, sexuality, gender, or sex. Each reading has valid elements, but all are selective interpretations of an already limited record. Moreover, although Reis comes closest, none of the work I have discussed entirely resolves another dilemma that Brown suggests: “nineteenth- and twentieth-century political concerns about individual rights and freedoms” seem consistently to be inscribed onto Hall’s account.

Jennifer Manion opens her own review of shifts in feminist historiography with the statement that “historical narratives—the stories we tell each other about the past—have direct bearing on contemporary political discourse.”47 This is an essential aspect of our scholarly work: Katz, Brown, [End Page 520] Norton, Fausto-Sterling, and Reis are at the leading edge of their era’s shifting ideas about sex and gender identity, and they thereby help forge new intellectual and political spaces for previously marginalized topics and scholars. Yet as Judith Butler argues, recognizing the contingency of contemporary constructions of identity—including our own—is the only means of challenging them. Over and over again, throughout the scholarship on the case, Hall’s experience is rendered according to one historically specific discursive understanding of gender, sex, and sexuality. From Hester Prynne’s stigmatization, in Vaughan’s 1978 essay, to the Stonewall Riots, as the culturally recognized origin of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement, in both Katz’s 1982 and Reis’s 2009 versions, the extraordinary range of identity-based explanatory matrices alerts us to the fact that we keep forcing Thomas(ine) Hall to conform to our own ideas about sex, gender, sexuality, and power even as we dutifully nod toward their incompleteness. Hall’s account, interpreted through Halberstam’s model, offers us priceless access to what we (very carefully) can read as the testimony of an intersex, tactically and fluidly transgender, possibly lesbian, and most certainly queer early American. When we describe her/him through terms readily associated with any single contemporary discursive model of identity, we oversimplify Hall’s experience, suggesting that certain parts of her/his complex life are more meaningful or genuine than the others. To use Butler’s terms, when we make Hall “intelligible,” we simultaneously force other, equally present aspects of her/his body and experience into the “domain of unthinkable, abject, unlivable bodies.”48 However well-intentioned and sympathetic our portraits of Hall are, truly progressive gender politics requires more than a passing acknowledgment of the inadequacy of any historically determined notion of sexual “identity,” including our own. Through Halberstam’s “perverse presentism,” we are challenged to emphasize both the limitations of contemporary understandings of sex and sexuality as well as their necessity to our projects.

The debates that Brown and Manion described in the late 1990s have given way to discussions of possible roles for feminisms and queer theories in formulating understandings of bodies, social roles, and senses of self that do not conform readily to either theoretical model. In her ruminations on situating the emerging field of transfeminism, Gayle Salamon suggests that feminist analysis has an “entrenched belief that identity must be a matter of privileging ‘experience’ as an inevitably gendered cornerstone of feminist [End Page 521] epistemology … [that] offers a description of subjectivity that would seem particularly poorly suited to understanding trans subjects.” Yet queer theory, with its predominant focus on questions of sexuality rather than gender, also offers only incomplete tools for transgender studies.49 Like Halberstam, Salamon relies heavily on Scott’s 1991 analysis of the problems that result from a scholarly focus on individual experience. It is unfair, perhaps, to apply this critique to Vaughan and Katz, who were writing before the disciplinary shifts that Scott and Halberstam helped frame. Later scholars, however, engaging in precisely the sort of social history that Scott suggests as a resolution to the double bind of “identity,” still rely, often implicitly, on naturalizations of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century ideas of gender, sexuality, and power. As we witness the ongoing persecution of intersex and other gender nonnormative people both in the United States and internationally, an emphasis on the humanity of what we can read as an intersex and fluidly transgender colonial American is important—but Hall’s humanity need not conform to the identity-based contours of our own. A number of scholars have argued that historical persecutions against the most marginalized members of the queer community, including intersex and transgender people, are perpetuated by the contemporary mainstream LGBT rights movement, which appropriates their ongoing experiences of oppression in the service of a push for “equality” that disproportionately serves white, middle-class, monogamous gay and lesbian subjects (those most interested in and able to benefit from changes to marriage, adoption, and inheritance laws).50 Moreover, in suggesting and emphasizing victimization, through leading word choices implying sexual violence, several of the scholars who read the Hall case participate in what Salamon indicates is a predominant narrative by which “violence is offered as an essential feature of trans identity.”51 For reasons that bridge contemporary transgender [End Page 522] and intersex activism and the current climate of the gay rights movement in America as well as questions of historiography, we need to be more careful in our descriptions of Thomas(ine) Hall. Brown reminds her readers of “the thrill of discovery, if not of self-discovery, of individuals and groups of people who had been omitted from the history we had previously been taught.”52 The goal of finding ourselves mirrored in a complex figure from the past cannot take precedence over our work as scholars. In seeking to bring in from the margins those whose experiences were suppressed or ignored for so long, we must avoid the temptation to make them seem too familiar. [End Page 523]

Kathryn Wichelns
University of New Mexico


The author wishes to thank Alden T. Vaughan, Library of Congress Manuscript Reference Librarian Bruce Kirby, Rachel Cleves, and the anonymous reviewer whose feedback was so instrumental in refining this piece.

1. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, 2nd ed. (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1974), 194–95.

2. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 78.

3. Judith Halberstam, “Perverse Presentism: The Androgyne, the Tribade, the Female Husband, and Other Pre-Twentieth-Century Genders,” in Halberstam, Female Masculinity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 46, 52–53.

4. Joan Scott, “The Evidence of Experience,” in Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Christina Gilmartin, and Robin Lydenberg, eds., Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 81.

5. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 194.

6. Ibid., 195.

7. Several scholars writing about the case remind us that male sexual impotence could be cause for the annulment of a marriage during this period. Kathleen Brown deduces that in this instance, at least, the possession of non-functioning male genitalia also was a “sufficient condition for the assigning of female gender identity”; Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 77.

8. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 195.

9. Mary Beth Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society (New York: Knopf, 1996), 184.

10. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 195.

11. Alden T. Vaughan, “‘The Sad Case of Thomas(ine) Hall’ inquiry,” e-mail to author, January 14, 2014.

12. Alden T. Vaughan, “The Sad Case of Thomas(ine) Hall,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 86 (1978): 146–48.

13. Ibid., 146.

14. Ibid., 147. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 6; Brown cites another document from this source in tracing Rodes’s background and marital status. Kathleen Brown, “‘Changed … into the fashion of man’: The Politics of Sexual Difference in a Seventeenth-Century Anglo-American Settlement,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 6, no. 2 (1995): 171–93; 179n17.

15. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper and Row, 1983), 71–72.

16. Ibid., 71.

17. Ibid., 72. A scan of this document is among those uploaded at The Hall case minutes are images 497, 496, and 495 (in that order) of Manuscript vol. 15, ser. 8, of the collection.

18. Wayne Dynes, “Queer Studies: In Search of a Discipline,” Academic Questions 8, no. 4 (1995): 47–48. David M. Halperin objects to transhistorical approaches more generally in “Is There a History of Sexuality?” History and Theory 28, no. 3 (1989): 257–74. As an alternative to what she regards as a problematic choice between “alterity” and “continuism” in lesbian history studies, Valerie Traub offers the concept of “cycles of salience—that is … forms of intelligibility whose meanings recur, intermittently and with a difference, across time”; Traub, “The Present Future of Lesbian Historiography,” in George E. Haggerty and Molly McGarry, eds., A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Studies (Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), 124, 126; emphasis in original.

19. Ivor Noël Hume, Martin’s Hundred (New York: Knopf, 1982), 133–34.

20. Ibid.

21. Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality,” in Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, eds., The Gay and Lesbian Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1993), 14.

22. Jennifer Manion, “Historic Heteroessentialism and Other Orderings in Early America,” Signs 34, no. 4 (2009): 983. For an overview of the developments in interdisciplinary feminisms that Manion describes, see Michele Tracy Berger and Kathleen Guidroz, eds., The Intersectional Approach: Transforming the Academy through Race, Class, and Gender (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), and the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” first published in 1989 and reprinted in Joy James and Tracey Denean Sharpley-Whiting, eds., The Black Feminist Reader (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000), 208–38.

23. Brown, “‘Changed … into the fashion of man,’” 172, 173.

24. Ibid., 173n4. Butler summarizes this discussion in “Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism,’” in Judith Butler and Joan W. Scott, eds., Feminists Theorize the Political (New York: Routledge, 1992), 3–21.

25. Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), x–xi.

26. Brown, “‘Changed … into the fashion of man,’” 176, 184; emphases added.

27. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 194–95.

28. Brown, “‘Changed … into the fashion of man,’” 185, 184.

29. Ibid., 186.

30. Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers, 186. In a later version of this piece Norton retains the same general argument, as well as the use of the term mutilated to describe the manuscript itself. Norton, “Communal Definitions of Gendered Identity in Seventeenth Century English America,” in Ronald Hoffman, Mechal Sobel, and Fredrika J. Teute, eds., Through the Glass Darkly (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 45.

31. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 194. Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers, 193. Katz proposes a similar interpretation of the line, but he acknowledges that it is a hypothesis. In an early reading Brown suggests that the phrase means simply that Hall was trying to feed a pet cat. Elizabeth Reis uses Norton’s reading and other evidence to suggest that income from sex work could have been one of Hall’s possible motives for dressing as a woman. Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac, 72. Brown, “Gender and the Genesis of a Race and Class System in Virginia, 1630–1750” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1990), 88. Elizabeth Reis, Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 16.

32. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 1–34. Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers, 185, 196, 194.

33. Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body, 111–13.

34. Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us (New York: Routledge, 1994); Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins, eds., GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary (Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2002).

35. Elizabeth Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, 1620–1960,” Journal of American History 92, no. 2 (September 2005): 411–41; Reis, “Hermaphrodites and ‘Same-Sex’ Sex in Early America,” in Thomas A. Foster, ed., Long before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 144–63; Alice Domurat Dreger, Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998).

36. Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites,” 412–13.

37. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 194; Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites,” 419. Additional references to the case occur on 420, 422, 426, 427, and 431. On 440, an allusion to “motifs” in the early twentieth century that “endured from the colonial period” seems to refer both to the Thomas(ine) Hall case and to John Winthrop’s account of a “monstrous” (non-intersex) baby girl with severe birth defects born to Anne Hutchinson’s follower Mary Dyer in 1637.

38. Reis, “Hermaphrodites and ‘Same-Sex’ Sex,” 148, 149; Reis, Bodies in Doubt, 11, 12–13; Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites,” 418, 419.

39. In 2009 she addresses this issue, although only in part, by opening with a 1744 account before turning to John Winthrop’s 1637 description of Mary Dyer’s baby (Reis, Bodies in Doubt, 1).

40. Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites,” 415; Reis, Bodies in Doubt, 5. Reis connects the description of the Dyer baby girl with earlier European cases of hermaphroditic “monsters”; certainly, John Winthrop’s 1637 account was of a piece with early modern ideas about hermaphrodites.

41. By 2009 she had also included divorce petitions from 1662 and 1686 involving allegations of impotence, as well as a similar French case from 1742, suggesting that one party in each of these cases “may have had intersex conditions that prevented sexual relations for one or both partners, but the term ‘hermaphrodite’ was not raised or implied in court, perhaps because the litigants lived their lives uncomplicatedly as either men or women” (Bodies in Doubt, 10). In fact, there seems little evidence to support the idea that these may have been cases of intersexualism. The 1662 testimony suggests persistent male erectile dysfunction.

42. Ibid., 54.

43. John Pott was a doctor as well as the governor of Jamestown and a court justice when he heard the case, but he never examined Hall and was not serving in a medical capacity at the time; Reis does not note his medical training.

44. Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites,” 419; Reis, “Hermaphrodites and ‘Same-Sex’ Sexuality,” 150; Reis, Bodies in Doubt, 13.

45. Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites,” 418.

46. Kathleen Brown, “Beyond the Gender Debates: Gender and Race in Early America,” Reviews in American History 26, no. 1 (March 1998): 98, 99.

47. Manion, “Historic Heteroessentialism,” 981.

48. Butler, Bodies That Matter, xi; Butler, Undoing Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004), 3–16.

49. Gayle Salamon, “Transfeminism and the Future of Gender,” in Joan Wallach Scott, ed., Women’s Studies on the Edge (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 119, 120.

50. Salamon cites Dean Spade’s alternative acronym: “LGB-Fake-T” (ibid., 122). See also Michael Warner, “Beyond Gay Marriage,” in Warner, The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 81–148. An anthology of essays by members of the Against Equality collective is Ryan Conrad, ed., Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion (Oakland, Calif.: AK Press, 2014).

51. Salamon argues that the widespread misconception that the murder of Brandon Teena in 1994 represents the founding moment of transgender activism itself perpetuates violence: “The origin story of the transgender movement is crafted as a reverse Stonewall, where the founding moment of violence does not rally the community and the public against discrimination and harassment, but instead marks the first instance in a chain of endlessly repeating stagings of that death” (“Transfeminism and the Future of Gender,” 125–26).

52. Brown, “Beyond the Gender Debates,” 98.

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