The Clitoris Cult Conspiracy
If you want to know how we got into the mess we're in now on issues around 'gender' a good place to start is an extraordinary court case and its claim that powerful lesbians were subverting Britain.
Part One: The Black Book and the “trial of the century”.
Where and when did it all begin?
When did such a ridiculous notion as a woman being trapped in a man’s body and vice versa first rear its ugly head?
I’d love to say it was with Virginia Prince in the 1960s, or John Money and Robert Stoller’s work in the 50s. But what if I told you it’s been there from the start, from before the word homosexual was coined?
I’ve been immersing myself for the last month or two in the early history of the gay rights movement and the ideas that animated it. Apologies for my absence by the way. This post has taken me a long time to write, but I hope you’ll agree that it and the follow up one (coming soon, I promise) shed useful light on the origins of the “born in the wrong body” narrative and why it’s been so persistent, like some sort of ideological heartburn. It turns out, much as I hate to say it, that the wrong body narrative was baked in at the very beginning of the gay rights movement more than a century ago.
Don’t panic. This isn’t a fail for gender critical people. There were a lot of other terrible assumptions and kooky ideas baked in to the work of the first homosexual liberationists, from the 1860s onwards, including racism, colonialism, class heirarchy, misogyny and more besides. No one argues we should retain them just because they have some gay historical pedigree. We should though be honest about the enduring nature of the born in the wrong body myth. All the better to counter it.
And so here begins the post proper:
Most people on both sides of the ‘gender wars’ tend to agree the unofficial birthplace of the philosophy that sustains ‘gender identity’ is Berlin where Magnus Hirschfeld founded his Institute of Sexology in 1919.
It’s here Hirschfeld codified a spectrum of what he called intermediate sexes, developed so-called ‘sex change’ operations and coined the word “transvestite”. All this begs the question though, where and from whom did Hirschfeld get his ideas? We don’t have to go too far back in time to find answers. Just a year before the Institute opened its doors a libel trial showcased them all.
On the 29th of May 1918, a hearing began in the Old Bailey that was described at the time as “the trial of the century”. It’s a story that is so bizarre it will often stretch credulity.
Over the next five days the jury hears claims of vampirism, soldiers who prostitute themselves in Royal Parks, men with painted nails in nightclubs with names suggestive of Satanic rituals and a Black Book with a list, a very long one, of homosexuals who are said to be traitors. The most remarkable claim involves a conspiracy of powerful lesbians in high places, the Clitoris Cult, who it’s alleged, want to turn Britain into a German vassal.
The jury will also be regaled with a series of strange philosophical and medical ideas which will be dissected in the press for the first time. These are the ideas that inhabit the mind and the work of Magnus Hirschfeld and his colleagues. In time they will go on to become the bedrock of the early gay movement and its troubled doppelganger …the alphabet people of the LGBTQ+.