One of the hardest decisions to make while writing about the figures I discuss here centered around what language I should use for them! Should I stick to the pronouns of their assigned gender? Should I avoid calling them trans?

It is impossible to know how any of the following historical figures would identify if they lived today in regions that use the language of the LGBTQIA+ community. I do not argue that any of these persons were absolutely transgender / nonbinary; in fact, to try to put those contemporary and culturally-specific labels on them would be wrong in many ways. Rather, I argue that something in their stories resonates with trans and nonbinary persons today, and with all persons who do not fit neatly into the Western binary gender construct, however they describe themselves based on cultural context and personal choice. 


These figures were often targeted by those wielding the most power in their societies - in often cases, by the Church - for being gender nonconforming, just as many trans persons experience in our own day. Nevertheless, they lived vibrant and powerful lives, which also rings true for many contemporary trans persons.

Because I try to avoid flat-out calling any of these historical figures trans / nonbinary, or (for the most part) applying pronouns to them other than the ones that they used (despite what they may have used if more options had been open to them), I sometimes use language that I would not use for modern trans people unless I knew that a specific individual wanted those terms used for them: such terms include "cross-dressing," "lived as male," "sex-shifting," and "gender variant."

I welcome conversation around this complicated topic of what language to use for historical figures!