The amazing Life of Brigadier General Trans Man Dr. James Barry

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Dr. James Barry

James Barry, a transgender man who was born in In Cork, Ireland in 1792, was never called a nice guy.

But he was called Doctor and rose to the rank of Inspector General (equivalent to Brigadier General) in charge of military hospitals, the second-highest medical office in the British Army.

Dr. James Barry was a distinguished surgeon who served first in Cape Town, South Africa, and subsequently in many parts of the British Empire.

During the Crimean War (1854–1856), Barry got into an argument with Florence Nightingale. After Barry’s death Nightingale wrote that:

I never had such a blackguard rating in all my life – I who have had more than any woman – than from this Barry sitting on his horse, while I was crossing the Hospital Square with only my cap on in the sun. “He” kept me standing in the midst of quite a crowd of soldiers, Commissariat, servants, camp followers, etc., etc., every one of whom behaved like a gentleman during the scolding I received while “he” behaved like a brute . . . After “he” was dead, I was told that (Barry) was a woman . . . I should say that (Barry) was the most hardened creature I ever met.

Barry lived as a man in both public and private life, Wikipedia reveals, at least in part in order to be accepted as a university student and pursue a career as a surgeon, with Barry’s birth sex only becoming known to the public and to military colleagues after death through autopsy.

But history written through the Cisgender lens, despite admittedly knowing nothing about his personal life, tells a story of a woman who wantonly deceived the Army so that ‘she’ could get a medical degree.

Sad. And tragically this goes on today.

This Transgender man who accomplished so much was regulated to ‘Weird History’ by the admins of the Facebook group “Fairy Butch Dynasty Den of Iniquity.”

When first I objected to this person’s life equated to a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not piece of ‘weird history‘, the Admins cisplained that the poster didn’t know better and that they were leaving his post intact.

I really did attempt to qualify my objection to their deadnaming and misgendering Dr. James Barry by sharing articles I wrote about a Siberian Warrior Princess and a trans-Viking woman warrior. They both have suffered a similar fate under the cisgender historical patriarchal gaze.

Those two articles that I shared were deleted a moment later as were my other attempts to communicate and educate.

Hey gays and lesbians at the Fairy Butch Dynasty Den of Iniquity, time to wise up!.

If you called him weird or deceptive to his face he probably would have called you out onto the street for a Gentleman’s duel. Someone had been ignorant enough to do that before and he shot him right in the head.

I lived a life similar to Dr. Barry in many ways, except he was much braver. I rose to the rank of Staff Seargent in the infantry despite my feminine ways. I was a defender of my subordinates’ and officers’ right to humanity and bounced between the ranks a number of times. Unable to fully transition I got my honorable discharge and in a few years I started to become who I am today.

Dr. James Barry
Dr. James Barry was regulated to ‘Weird History’ by the admins of the Facebook group “Fairy Butch Dynasty Den of Iniquity.”
DR James Barry
James Barry / Title page Doctorate thesis – Public Domain, Link
Dr. James Barry
Barry (left) with John, a servant, and Barry’s dog Psyche, c. 1862, Jamaica
Dr. James Barry
Dr. James Barry’s headstone, Inspector General of Army Hospitals, Kensal Green Cemetery, London. Dr. James Barry was buried as he lived, as a man. Source Wikipedia

It takes a lot of evidence before I write about a person’s gender expression without knowing them first. It is presumptuous and quite often wrong to assume you know someone gender identity sight unseen. But in this case, Dr. James Barry has exceeded that bar. I am humble in the knowledge that I have in some small way followed this distinguished Transgender gentleman in history.

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender