Friday, February 28, 2014

The Story Of Thomas Hall

The Story Of Thomas Hall
The story of Thomas Hall helps shine light on how the colonies viewed intersex in the early 1600s.  Some of their views seemed fairly accepting, but at the same time also isolated Hall from everyone else.  Thomasine Hall was born in in Newcastle England and dressed as a woman until she was 22.  Hall first began dressing as a man when she joined the army with her brother in the 1620s.  After Hall left the army, she began dressing as a woman again until he went to Plymouth in America as a man named Thomas [1].

Although Hall was able to live normal lives as a man in a woman while still in Europe, things got a little more complicated in the colonies.  Thomas’s neighbors in Plymouth became curious when he would sometimes leave dressed as a man and sometimes dressed as a woman.  This led to him getting inspected for gender both by Hall’s consent and by force.  Even with these inspections, the colonists couldn't reach a final decision on his gender. There were also rumors that Hall was having sex with a woman named Great Bess.  Finally, Hall was determined a man and brought to court [2].  The court ended up accepting him as both a man as a woman which is what Hall wanted, but it came with some drawbacks.  Thomas had to have her gender published to everyone, had to pay a fine, and was forced to dress in a mix of men and women’s clothes [3].

What surprised me about Thomas’s story is that the colonists were able to accept her gender as both a man and woman even with the numerous gender inspections when today we still have a large amount of people only believing that you can be just male or just female.  Even though they accepted her gender, the colonists were still weary about her and forced her gender to be known to everyone.  His story can also be used to compare how colonists and probably Europe viewed intersex people as opposed to the native Americans.  Hall was accepted, but shunned for being intersex as well as dressing as a man while native Americans had two spirits who were often men dressed as woman that are praised and were known for their caring and ability to work [4].  It sheds light on the fact that although colonists were more advanced in terms of technology, they were behind in terms of sexual acceptance.

[1] Alden Vaughan, The Sad Case of Thomas(ine) Hall, (Virginia Historical Society, 1978), 147.
[2] Alden Vaughan, The Sad Case of Thomas(ine) Hall, (Virginia Historical Society, 1978), 147.
[3] Moore Crystal, "The Role of Sex and Gender in Sexual History." (lecture., UNCC, ).
[4] Williams, Walter. "The 'two-spirit' people of indigenous North Americans." The Guardian, October 11, 2010.

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