11 Remarkable Transgender People from History
11 Remarkable Transgender People from History

11 Remarkable Transgender People from History

Natasha sheldon - October 8, 2017

11 Remarkable Transgender People from History
The Presentation after wedding Nov 14th, 1952 Alford Public Hall. Wm McDonald, Sir Ewan and Lady Forbes (Dr Sempill and wife), Mrs Mc Ewan (minister’s wife, Kildrummy). Sir Ewan is the centre, in a kilt. Google Images.

Sir Ewan Forbes

Sir Ewan Forbes of Craigievar, the 11th Baronet, was born Elizabeth Forbes-Sempill on September 6, 1912. At birth, Forbes’s sex was hard to determine with certainty because he was intersex. His parents decided to designate him as a girl because it seemed the best option for him. However, as Forbes grew up, it was clear this was a mistake.

Forbes preferred to play with his male cousins rather than his sister and dressed in boy’s clothes. He later recorded how he hated being made to dress up for social occasions in grand dresses. He even refused to be sent away to a girl’s school, so his parents had to educate him at home until he was old enough to attend a co-educational institute in Dresden.

After traveling Europe for a time, Forbes underwent one final humiliation- his ‘coming out’ as a society debutante in the late 1920’s. Then, after more travel, he decided to study medicine-which he self-funded as his father refused to pay for his further education, declaring there was more than enough for him to do on the family estate. In 1945, Forbes qualified- and finally began to live as a man.

By 1952, he had re-registered as a man and changing his name. A press release revealed that this strange change of gender was all due to “…a ghastly mistake. I was carelessly registered as a girl in the first place, but of course, that was forty years ago… the doctors in those days were mistaken, too … I have been sacrificed to prudery and the horror which our parents had about sex.

A month after his formal change of name and gender, Forbes married his housekeeper of five years Isabella Mitchell. However, in 1965, his elder brother died- meaning Forbes was now heir to the Baronetcy and a large estate. One of his male cousins challenged the inheritance, on the grounds of Forbes’ original gender. The case was held in closed court to save the family embarrassment but eventually found in Forbes’ favor because the initial determination of his sex was faulty. Ironically, as Forbes never had any children himself, his troublesome cousin eventually inherited his title and lands on his death in 1991.


Sources For Further Reading:

History Collection – 16 Remarkable Historical Figures who were Transgender

Chicago Tribune – The Speedy Evolution of The Term Transgender

History UK – Chevalier D’eon And Gender Non-Conformity in the 18th Century

Them – How This 18th Century French Spy Came Out as Trans

BBC News – Christine Jorgensen: 60 Years of Sex Change Ops

Jalopnik – Fighter Pilot, Racing Driver, Prisoner of War, Transgender Pioneer: The Incredible Story of Roberta Cowell

The Independent – ‘It’s Easier to Change A Body Than To Change A Mind’: The Extraordinary Life And Lonely Death Of Roberta Cowell