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Starry, Starry Night: The Short Life of Herculine Barbin.

By Leslie Jaye

First published on the website IntersexDay. org,  on October 20th, 2015
November 8: Intersex Day of Solidarity (IDS), or Intersex Day of Remembrance, marks the birthday of Herculine Barbin, a now famous French intersex person.

What little we know of Herculine Barbin has all but obscured the person, writes Leslie Jaye. Her birthday is now marked as Intersex Day of Solidarity.

What little we know of Herculine Barbin is now refracted through so many layers of interpretation that it has all but obscured the person known variously as Herculine, Alexina and Abel, during her short life.

A life contingent on what others decided about who, and what they were, Herculine’s life became a fictionalised template for everyone born intersex.

Herculine Adélaîde Barbin was born in Saint-Jean-d’Angély in France in 1838. Her family was a poor one, and as was common of an age when people without means ordinarily had no access to education, she gained a scholarship to study at a Ursuline convent school, solely for girls.

Herculine proved a good scholar, and moved to Le Chateau to study to be a teacher. And in doing so she discovered that her difference, the very quality of her diversity, became the subject of disquiet to herself and others.

Herculine Barbin loved women in an age when such a thing was absolutely forbidden. As she grew into adulthood it became clear she was a woman like no other: flat chested, tall, and requiring to shave. Herculine was different.

Herculine was intersex.Read the whole article...