#QueerHeroes Day 3 – Jennie June

#QueerHeroes Day three.
Jennie June.

Jennie was one of the first transgender people to publish her autobiography. She was trans before the word existed, often referring to herself as a “Fairie” or an “Androgyne.” She was a sex worker at Paresis Hall (Now the headquarters of the Village Voice) in the 1890’s. The real name of Paresis Hall was “Columbia Hall,” but the public gave it the name “Paresis” (the medical term for insanity), because they perceived its patrons to be mentally ill. With her sisters, Jennie founded the “Cercle Hermaphroditos” “to unite for defense against the world’s bitter persecution of bisexuals [which meant ‘of two sexes’ at the time].”

Jennie would write two books– “Autobiography of an Androgyne” and “The Female-Impersonators” –under the pseudonym Ralph Werther. The autobiographies, due to their content, were at first only published in medical journals. I came upon them when researching for my book last year and Jennie June ended up inspiring the entire first chapter.

Trans women at the time usually lived under multiple aliases: Their given names, fake male names that they used in the “underground” when not presenting as women, and their chosen names. One woman remembers signing seven different names in one day and having to keep up with whom she was supposed to be at any given time. They could only present as their true gender under the safety of “degenerate” bars.

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