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15 Women Who Made The Choice To Live As Men

High Life
15 Women Who Made The Choice To Live As Men

From gender bending to cross-dressing, fluidity in orientation has been a common occurrence in society for ages. And now in the twenty-first century, gender constraints are at their most prolific with the topic often discussed thoroughly on television and social media. But sadly no matter how much the world has grown, intolerance and small mindedness can still run rife.

Yep, dressing and identifying as a gender different from what you were assigned to at birth can still shock those who are not comfortable with it. The world today may seem more liberal and accepting than in the past but as it stands 2016 was the deadliest year on record for crimes against transgendered people, as well as discrimination towards those who just wish to dress in clothes that are not deemed appropriate for their gender.

However, despite such hatred, communities all over the globe continue to grow with more and more people speaking out against those who wish to hate. So, to celebrate those who came before us and lived as men for whatever reason they may have had, here are 15 women who lived their lives as men.

15. Frank Thompson

Born Sarah Emma Edmonds during the early 1800s, Edmonds decided that she was going to fight for the Union during the upcoming Civil War. Turned away due to her sex, Edmonds decided to disguise herself as a man in order to fight, eventually serving as a male nurse named Frank Thompson. Bored with her disguise as a male nurse, Edmonds went on to become a spy for the Union army as well as going undercover as a woman, even though she was born one. Things came to an abrupt end when Edmonds contracted malaria; a disease which forced her to leave the military in fear of being found out while in the hospital.

14. James Barry

Although born anatomically female, Dr. James Barry lived out his life as a man. Known as one of the most prolific surgeons of all time, Barry also served as Inspector General of the medical office in the British Army. In fact, Barry was so influential in the wonderful world of medicine that she also performed the world’s first cesarean section in which both the mother and child survived. Fondly regarded as a medical genius, Barry was lauded all around the world without any inclination of who she was underneath her clothes. With Barry’s female body only revealed upon death, a series of letters were exchanged with regards to Barry’s real identity with one suggesting she had even birthed a child.

13. Billy Tipton (Dorothy Lucille Tipton)

Dorothy Lucille Tipton was born in 1914 in Oklahoma, USA. As a young girl, she was a talented musician playing both the piano and the saxophone. Specialising in Jazz, Dorothy auditioned for a role in her high school band but was promptly denied due to being a woman. By 1940 Dorothy had begun living as man publicly and privately feeling that by presenting herself as a man it would give her much better musical opportunities. Going by the name Billy, she eventually became hugely successful as well as embarking on a number of relationships with women. Smitten with one in particular, Billy adopted three sons with girlfriend Kitty Oakes.

12. Dorothy Lawrence

Born in England during the late 1800s, Dorothy Lawrence was an often inquisitive child. Determined to become a journalist in a world where women were taken less seriously, Lawrence struggled to make a proper career. However, after some success publishing a number of articles in The Times, Lawrence decided she wanted more – especially with the outbreak of war in 1915. Desperate to report from the front line, Lawrence was often rejected believing this to be due to her sex. Not letting that deter her, Lawrence decided to go undercover and acquired a soldier’s uniform as well as various other items that made her look like a man. Fooling her comrades for a number of months, Lawrence later revealed her true self and went on to write a book about her experiences on the front line.

11. Sisa Abu Daooh

Having recently been declared Egypt’s “best Mum” the actual facts couldn’t be any further from the truth. Abu Daooh, now 65, has spent the last 40 years living her life as a man in order to feed and look after her daughter. Deciding to dress in male clothes and adopt a male persona when her husband died in the 1970s, Daooh claims that it was the only way in which she could find a job. Although growing to enjoy her life as a man, Daooh admitted that she did miss her female identity, stating, “when a woman lets go of her femininity, it’s hard, but I would do anything for my daughter. It was the only way to make money. What else could I do? I can’t read or write, my family didn’t send me to school, so this was the only way.”

10. Brandon Teena

Probably one of the most devastating stories with regards to transgender men and women, Brandon Teena’s story is also one of the most famous. Initially born Teena Brandon, Teena began living as a man at an early age. Going by the name Brandon, she then began dating local resident Lana Tisdel who invited her into her circle of friends. However, as Brandon’s identity was revealed she was then violently sexually assaulted by two of Lana’s friends who later shot and killed her after the police did nothing to protect her. With her tragic life turned into a movie (Boys Don’t Cry) sometime later, Brandon’s memory lives on as a reminder of how intolerant the world can often be.

9. John Taylor

Mary Anne Talbot was the illegitimate daughter of an earl and therefore was born into high society. At a young age, she was sent to live with an older gentleman named Captain Bowen who sailed the high seas and worked on the ships. One day Bowen announced they were to set sail and she would need to dress accordingly. He then insisted she wear full male attire as well as taking the name John Taylor. From then on Mary became John and assumed that role for a number of years even avoiding suspicion after injuring herself twice. Sadly John’s story didn’t end too happily and she was later sent to the notorious Newgate prison after failing to pay her rent.

8. William Brown 

Not much is known about William Brown with many different and contradicting statements knocking around. However, Brown was one of the first recorded examples of a black cross dressing woman and the first black woman to serve in the Navy. Yep, regarded as an exceptional seaman, Brown went undetected as a male for almost eleven years before it was revealed that she was actually a woman who had run away to sea after an argument with her husband. Described as extremely handsome as well as extremely masculine, Brown was often complimented on her incredible strength and intelligence as well as having a keen eye for the ladies.

7. Jack Williams (Frances Clalin Clayton) 

It was very common to find a number of women serving in the civil war disguised as men with as up to 400 cases reported. One example was that of Frances Clayton who enlisted in the union army so she could be with her husband. Under the name Jack Williams, Frances found the act to be incredibly easy and ended up taking part in over 15 battles. In fact, Frances was so credible that she was taken prisoner by the Confederacy who still believed her to be a man even upon inspection. Unfortunately, her husband was killed in action which prompted Frances into revealing her sex. However, there are a number of different stories with regards to what actually happened and the revelation of Jack’s true identity.

6. Mary Newall 

Mary Newall was a house maid who was said to have robbed her employer while dressed in male attire. Found hundreds of miles away in a lodging house surrounded by women and smoking cigars, Newall was caught and became something of an icon. In fact, Newall became so famous that when she arrived at court after her arrest the building was packed with onlookers desperate to catch a glimpse of the famed cross dresser. The story was so scandalous at the time that a poem was even written about her.

Mary Newall the artful girl of Pimlico

Come all you ladies list to me,

and give me your attention,

It’s all about a servant girl,

that I am going to mention.

Mary Ann Newall is her name,

she possessed herself of riches,

she collar’d all her master’s tin,

And swore she’d wear the breeches.

5. William Seymour 

At the tender age of 14 years old a young girl named Margaret was married off to a much older surgeon going by the name of Mr. Honeywell. The marriage was an unhappy one so seizing her chance Margaret quickly scarpered and went to live the high life in London. Once in London, she assumed the identity of a male cab driver named William Seymour by cutting her hair short and dressing in male clothing. Believing it to be the safer option, Margaret lived as William for a number of years and even embarked on a number of relationships with women. However, after being arrested for stealing meat during one of her shifts, William’s true identity was revealed. Surprisingly the police were rather lenient on finding out Williams’s true character and sentenced her to only 2 months hard labor.

4. Albert 

In fear of her husband and his violent rages, Albert (no last name) masqueraded as a soldier and joined the army in the hope of an escape. Discovered upon her arrival at the barracks after being requested to be seen privately, Albert was told to go back home. Still in fear of her husband, Albert instead decided to live out her life as a man. Going on to marry as well as acquire a job as an aerographer, Albert was held in high regard by friends and colleagues. However, when her true identity was revealed, Albert’s boss barely batted an eye lid and instead stated, “I have heard all her story, and I am satisfied that she is a high-minded woman, she always exercised her authority properly, and I knew that I could leave things with every confidence in her control. As a matter of fact, five of my men have joined up, and I preferred to lose the whole five rather than her.”

3. William Holtom

William Sidney Holtom was 42 years old when she was found injured and bleeding on the side of a road after an altercation with another man. With it advised that she go to the hospital, William was initially reluctant but was later persuaded due to the severity of her injuries. However, upon her arrival, it was quickly revealed that she was actually a woman and was swiftly directed to the female wing of the hospital. Confused by what was happening, William’s wife was said to be none the wiser of her husband’s actual identity and claimed to have had no idea. In fact, the couple was also parents to a son with William registered as the boy’s father. Looks like William was not the only one who had some explaining to do?

2. Jack McDonald 

Born Madeline Dixon in the early 1900s, life was tough for working class women at the time. Constantly trying to make ends meet, Dixon struggled with holding down a job solely due to her sex. Deciding to dress as a young boy in order to get a better paying job, Dixon was immediately employed as a kitchen boy in a local hotel. Changing her name to Jack Mcdonald, Jack managed to fool everybody from an admiral to a doctor and was even invited to join the local ‘man’s club’ that met in the hotel. However, one evening Jack was arrested and charged with theft after it was revealed that she had been stealing from the kitchen. Upon her arrest, her true identity was discovered and she was also charged for posing as a man.

1. Colonel Barker 

The extraordinary tale of Colonel Barker plays out like a Hollywood movie with a tragic and unfortunate unhappy ending. Born Valerie Aarkell-Smith, Valerie decided that life as a woman was not for her and swiftly changed her name to Victor as soon as she could. Joining the army soon after, Victor worked his way up to the rank of Colonel, went to war and even got married. However, things turned sour when the Colonel’s female identity was discovered and she was immediately arrested on the grounds of false pretenses and marriage. Eventually going to trial, Colonel Barker was then forced to wear feminine clothes as well as face her wife who claimed she had had no idea. Given a harsh sentence to deter others from doing the same, the Colonel died alone and penniless.

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