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There was no clear-cut contrast between appearance and reality. Rather, the duplicitous appearance lay in the reality itself. The magistrate who dealt with them knew they were men but referred to them in court as women. They were sometimes taken for men when they dragged up as women, but when they dressed as men they could be mistaken for young women in male drag.

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It was as though what they really were was itself a form of disguise. A group of police officers who had had them under surveillance for some time seized their opportunity and pounced. He knew of Fanny and Stella, having read an account of their exploits in a pornographic work from which McKenna quotes with a certain relish.

The arrest was a worrying moment for John Fiske, the American consul in Edinburgh, whose love letters to Boulton were already in the hands of the police and who was no doubt looking into diplomatic immunity. It was also a troubling time for Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton, son of the Duke of Newcastle, who had lived with Boulton for some time, and was also arrested.

Book review: Fanny And Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England

The show trial of the he-she ladies proved an embarrassing anti-climax. Park and Boulton were symbolic representatives of what was feared to be a more pervasive moral degeneracy, and so short of rooting out the whole of English sodomy at a stroke, there was no way the prosecution could have succeeded.

The court, however, was longer on words than on evidence.

Stella's Reaction when she discorvered Fanny's Present

There were also clear indications of spying, bribery, collusion, police corruption and political interference. The treasury solicitor, it emerged, had taken personal charge of the prosecution from the outset, while the home secretary had expressed a strong personal interest. So there was indeed a conspiracy, but not one of sodomites.

The jury was out for a mere 53 minutes before returning a verdict of not guilty. Park died of syphilis ten years later at the age of 34, while Boulton died, probably of the same disease, aged McKenna has made assiduous use of the trial transcripts, as well as of letters and depositions. He is, however, the kind of author who in the absence of hard evidence resorts to the well-tried scholarly technique known as making it up.

Bouquets are the order of the day, advice is sage, disasters are unmitigated, rooms are too small to swing a cat in and events go swimmingly or arrive like a bolt from the blue. Like his young men, McKenna builds an elaborate superstructure on a slim base. There were no more hissing sibilants; no more contemptuous snorts; no more withering looks; no more tossings of actual or imaginary curls; no more flutterings of eyelashes; no more swishings of metaphorical bombazines.

The case of Fanny and Stella was a rare victory for the hounded and harassed, and an agreeable defeat for a benighted Establishment. In this sense, it represents the reverse of the Wilde affair, on which McKenna has written previously. Park and Boulton seem to have behaved astutely in court, as Wilde most certainly did not. It is a pity, then, that such a powerfully symbolic event should be treated so self-indulgently. As for the doctors, their eagerness to poke their fingers into the bottoms of pretty boys in search of evidence of sodomy ought surely to have resulted in the creation of a new category of sexual perversion.

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McKenna tells the whole story, from the shock of arrest, through flashbacks of the glorious careers of our heroines, to the drama of the trial, with remarkable verve and humor. I confess to tearing up when Fanny and Stella were finally pronounced not guilty. It is a thoroughly delightful book. However, as a trans woman myself, I could not help but wonder what these two young women felt about themselves.

If full medical gender transition had been available at the time, would they have taken it?

Fanny and Stella: The Young Men who Shocked Victorian England - Neil McKenna - Google книги

Or, as McKenna and all of the reviews I have seen mostly have it, were they simply two outrageously gay boys who liked to drag up to advertise their predilections? One important piece of evidence is that both Fanny and Stella cross-dressed enthusiastically as children. There was much less gender policing of kids in those days. However, as anyone who has worked with gender-variant children knows, this is by no means a firm indictor of an eventual trans identity.

Interestingly Fanny had a brother, Harry, who was gay, but was perfectly comfortable in his male identity and never felt the need to cross-dress. She would doubtless have rejected him simply because he was boring, but McKenna notes his distaste for her feminine side.

Fanny and Stella: The Young Men who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna: review

Louis was in love with Ernest Boulton, not with Stella, and that counted against him. However, McKenna also notes that Fanny and Stella did not spend their entire lives in drag. He writes:. If Saul is to be believed, Stella was in no way reticent about her anatomy, and indeed relished the use of it. On that evidence, a modern gender psychiatrist would have no hesitation in deeming her unsuitable for transition.

Yet what can we really know? Given that the whole concept of medical gender transition was unknown in Victorian times, how can we tell how Fanny and Stella would have viewed the prospect? We get ourselves into enough trouble trying to reconcile Western ideas of gender with those held by gender-variant people from other cultures, without trying to look into our own past as well. It is impossible to say, therefore, what gender identities Fanny and Stella would have claimed for themselves. Overview 28th April Product Details About the Author.


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He is a former deputy editor of Elle Decoration and worked as an editor for Channel 4. He has also worked extensively in the gay press where he is known for initiating the campaign for gay law reform in the Isle of Man and leading the fight against Clause He is the author of two ground-breaking books about male homosexuality and Aids in the developing world: On the Margins and The Silent Epidemic Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. Childhood and Death in Victorian England. In this fascinating book, the reader is taken on a journey of real life accounts In this fascinating book, the reader is taken on a journey of real life accounts of Victorian children, how they lived, worked, played and ultimately died.

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