In honor of Gay Pride Month
Born Margaret Ann Buckley around 1789 in County Cork, Ireland, at a time when women were barred from most formal education, and were certainly not allowed to practice medicine. She was the second child of Jeremiah (a grocer) and Mary-Ann Bulky. While still a teenager, it is believed that Margaret was raped by an uncle. While preparing the body for burial, a woman attendant noticed stretch marks across the abdomen, indicating she had been pregnant.
A third child appeared in the Buckley family and was named Juliana. Although presented as being Barry’s sister, it is likely that she was Barry’s daughter as a result of childhood sexual assault, as after Barry’s death the charwoman who discovered Barry’s sex when laying out the body stated that pregnancy stretch marks were present.
After the matter was made public, many people claimed to have “known it all along”. The British Army, seeking to suppress the story, sealed all records of Barry for the next 100 years. The historian Isobel Rae gained access to the army records in the 1950s, and concluded that the painter James Barry was indeed Barry’s uncle. Barry was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, with a Portland stone headstone inscribed Dr James Barry Inspector General of Hospitals. It was claimed by several sources that the manservant who always attended Barry returned to Jamaica, but his actual fate is unknown.
Historians, biographers, feminists, and LGBT theorists have voiced the opinion that the intersex theory is an attempt to undermine that someone born female could have achieved as much as Barry did, with one biographer writing, “Dr. Barry couldn’t have been a woman, for women and medicine were contradictory terms …it was still too much to imagine that any female could perform as brilliantly as Dr. Barry had done.”
There was no indication that Dr. Barry was transgender or hermaphrodite, just a sloppy explanation by men of her time, (must have been part male), of how she was able to persist. By becoming “male” she assured herself she would not be violated again.
When there is a will there is a way. How many times I have written about women hiding beneath men’s clothing. As much as the work that they did has improved women’s “stations in life,” we must stay the course and stay persistent. And because the “dialogs” have changed, thanks to activism like the LGBT communities, no longer is it a “male/female” world. In recognition of “Gay Pride month” this is to keep the dialogs Real and our Acceptance of other’s paths pertinent.
And remember to just stay kind…..none of us has all the answers.