Joan of Arcs unlikely revival as an inspirational transgender
Joan of Arc: Expert explains how saint ‘silenced her screams’
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For centuries the tale of Joan of Arc, the influential French heroine who took on the English in battle throughout the 1420s, has served as an inspiration across the globe. Now, 611 years after she was born on January 6, 1412, her legacy remains strong – but some aspects of her tale remain surprisingly hidden, like the fact that among the charges she faced before her death included wearing men’s clothing.
Born in Domrémy, Duchy of Bar, the youngster believed she was destined to be a “champion of France”, a nation embroiled in the Hundred Years’ War against their neighbours across the Channel.
Aged 16, Joan reportedly believed so strongly in her destiny to help France prevail over England that she demanded a meeting with her monarch King Charles VII, pleading to be allowed to take on the English.
The status of Joan of Arc as one of history’s most enduring figures, earning a spot as a patron saint of France in 1922, has for centuries been poured over, particularly her role in the acceptance of owning sexuality.
Author Leslie Feinberg has discussed this particular, often overlooked aspect of Joan and her impact on the LGBTQ+ community in her book, Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman.
Writing in 1996, she noted that in being burned alive, Joan of Arc “suffered excruciating pain… rather than renounce her identity”. This, Feinberg detailed, made the Frenchwoman an “inspirational role model – a brilliant transgender peasant teenager leading an army of labourers into battle”.
Another take on her legacy came from transgender biologist Joan Roughgarden who analysed the impact of a prominent woman in such a powerful role in the book, Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, describing her as a “male-identified trans person”.
Feinberg argued that “[m]any historians and academicians have seen Joan’s transvestism as inconsequential. In the verbatim proceedings of her interrogation, however, the court records show that Joan’s judges found her transvestism repugnant and demanded that she wear women’s clothing.”
The author added: “Joan of Arc’s testimony in her own defense revealed how deeply her transvestism was rooted in her identity. She vowed, ‘For nothing in the world will I swear not to arm myself and put on a man’s dress.'”
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During her original rise to domination, Joan told King Charles that she had been guided by visions from Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine, who were sent to her in order to save France from domination.
Charles sent Joan of Arc, then aged around 17, to the Orleans Seige and her influence grew, with victories during major battles such as the Lore Campaign.
That win added to the euphoria around Charles, and he was shortly crowned King of France. At his side for the coronation was Joan of Arc, and the mood created by the duo helped France eventually triumph in the Hundred Years’ War.
Yet, Joan of Arc was soon became responsible for a number of military losses, and by early 1430, faith in the youngster was beginning to wane.
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She was captured after supporting Burgundian troops, and despite her best efforts to escape, Joan of Arc was handed to the English in November of that year.
Bishop Pierre Cauchon oversaw the trial, which included accusations of heresy, a claim that saw Joan of Arc blaspheme due to wearing men’s clothes and acting upon visions that were demonic.
Upon the declaration of her guilt, Joan of Arc was burned alive.
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