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LHMP #380b Vermeil 1765 Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean

Full citation: 

Vermeil. 1765. Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean. Louis Cellot, Paris.

Publication summary: 

The original text, translation, and commentary on the appeal record of Anne Grandjean against a charge of "profaning the sacrament of marriage" by marrying a woman.

Title and Introduction

* * *

{HRJ: We begin with the title page. Although no author is listed here, some catalog entries list the author as the M. Vermeil whose name appears at the end of the text and I have followed that practice.}

Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean, connu sous le nom de Jean-Baptiste Grandjean, Accusé & Appellant.

Contre Monsieur le Procureur Général, Accusateur & Intimé.


Un HERMAPHRODITE qui a épousé une fille, peut-il être repute profanateur du Sacrement de marriage, quand la nature qui le tromoit, l’appelloit à l’état de mari?

{Only in the expanded edition: Auquel on joint l’HERMAPHRODITE, ou Lettre d’Anne GranJean à Françoise Lambert sa femme.}




Brief for Anne Grandjean, known by the name of Jean-Baptiste Grandjean, Accused & Appellant.

Against the Attorney General, Accuser & Respondent.


A HERMAPHRODITE who has married a girl, can he be reputed to be a profaner of the sacrament of marriage, when Nature deceived him, called zem to the state of a husband?

{To which we join the HERMAPHRODITE, or Letter of Anne Grandjean to Françoise Lambert, zir wife.}

At Paris, from the printing house of Louis Cellot, Rue Dauphine


{HRJ: This next page is present in the more extensive text, i.e., the one that also includes the poem.}


Plusieurs personnes ont sans doute connoissance de l'avanture de Grandjean dont la Cour de Parlement de Paris vient de rompre le mariage dans lequel il vivoit depuis trois ans.


Many people are undoubtedly aware of Grandjean's predicament, whose marriage, in which he had been living for three years, has just been broken off by the Court of Parliament in Paris.

C'est ici un exemple des jeux de la nature, mais des plus frapans, Le rapport des Chirurgiens prouve qu'il étoit capable de sentir & de faire éprouver à une femme ces douces émotions qui accompagnent la jouissance; mais sans pouvoir de sa part achever l'intention de la nature.

This is an example of nature's games, but one of the most frightening. The surgeons' report proves that he was capable of feeling and making a woman experience those sweet emotions which accompany pleasure, but without being able to complete nature's intention.

{HRJ: There are a number of possible interpretations of this rather flowery passage. One implication would be that Grandjean experienced sexual arousal and was able to give sexual pleasure, but was not capable of some further act, whether that was intercourse or impregnation. Descriptions of erotic activity between women in this era often assert that regardless of whatever sexual satisfaction they may enjoy, it isn’t "complete" i.e., PIV sex. But another possible interpretation is that Grandjean felt and inspired romantic love without being able to achieve sexual gratification. See also the later anatomical discussion. The author tends to get flowery and vague in all discussions around sexual activity. So there is intentional vagueness here whether we're talking about emotions, about sexual pleasure, or about procreation.}

C'est après avoir joui long-temps de cette prérogative, quoique incomplette, qu'on le fait revenir d'une erreur qui lui plaisoit. Trahi, persécuté, accusé, condamné par des Juges barbares à une peine déshonorante, absous par d'autres plus justes & plus humains, mais éclairé par eux sur un mystére qu'il ignoroit, il est obligé de renoncer au titre d'époux, & qui plus est, à celui d'homme.

It is after having enjoyed this prerogative for a long time, albeit incompletely, that he is made to return from an error that pleased zem. Betrayed, persecuted, accused, condemned by barbaric judges to a dishonorable punishment, absolved by others who were more just and more humane, but enlightened by them on a mystery of which he was ignorant, he is obliged to renounce the title of husband, and what is more, that of man.

{HRJ: This passage finishes the page that is added in the longer edition. The above passage clearly sets forth the author’s point of view and sympathies on the case. The author takes the position that Grandjean is intersex, with sufficiently functional male anatomy to engage in sex but incapable of ejaculation and impregnation. As we shall see, there seems to be significant reason to question this explanation, if only because the question of anatomy is raised very late in the game and with contradictory evidence, and because it seems to be raised largely due to a complete rejection of the possibility of female same-sex desire. Even if Grandjean were intersex, we repeatedly see authority figures in the narrative rejecting the concept of desire between women, leading to the question of whether they would have acted differently regardless of Grandjean’s anatomy. We also need to consider that the author’s goal is to get Grandjean acquitted. And we must consider that he may have chosen and spun his evidence in the way he felt best supported that goal. Medical knowledge about interesex conditions was still in its infancy, and was emerging from an era when awareness of the range of variation available for "typical" female anatomy was lacking. Furthermore, we are still emerging from an era when female same-sex desire was regularly attributed to masculinized physiology, even in the face of contradictory evidence during examination. So was the author making a cased based on his own direct knowledge of Grandjean's anatomy? Or was he making a case that fit with pre-existing beliefs about the causes of erotic desire? Regardless of the absolute facts of the matter, which are not entirely knowable, there are several noteworthy things going on. In 18th century France, in this particular case, some religious and legal authorities supported the social and legal re-categorization of a person from female to male. Even if this was done in a sort of panic to avoid recognizing female-female desire, it’s still a significant thing to have done. A person who had been raised as female transitioned to being treated as male, changed their name to reflect this as part of a legal record, and married a woman. And the married couple were well on their way to living happily ever after until confronted by a jealous ex. So whether Grandjean understood themselves to be a woman, but changed to presenting as male due to instruction by the authorities (and to have a fulfilling romantic life); or whether Grandjean was intersex and developed masculinized genitals only in puberty at which time they experienced desire for women and re-aligned their gender identity to match heteronormative expectations; or whether Grandjean desired women as part of an internal male gender identity and was happy that the authorities authorized transition; whichever of these—or other possible interpretations—is the real story, this narrative is greatly enlightening regarding 18th century French attitudes toward gender, sex, and social category.}

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