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The Social Transition of Anne/Jean-Baptiste Grandjean

Friday, October 7, 2022 - 08:00

Today's passage establishes the context in which Grandjean shifted from living as female to living as male. The reasons and attitudes that are laid out here are a major part of why I have doubts about the author's later arguments that Grandjean was intersex. I think we must assume that the book's author had access to information about these events via the testimony given in Grandjean's first trial in Lyon (which we'll get to in a couple more segments). It would have been useful if we could have direct access to that trial record, but I've never seen any references to it surviving or having been located. The author, of course, also had direct access to Grandjean, but the summary of events reads more like a formal record.

Major category: 
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.

Early Life

Memoire POUR ANNE GRAND JEAN, connu sous le nom de JEAN BAPTISTE GRAND JEAN, Accusé & Appellant.

CONTRE M. le Procureur-Général, Accusateur & Intimé.

Un individu que l'on désigne sous le nom d'un Dieu de la fable, un être participant de l'un & l'autre sexe, qu'on a vu porter successivement les habits de femme & d'homme, qui a été baptisé comme fille, & marié comme garçon, fixe aujourd'hui l'attention des Magistrats, & la curiosité du Public, toujours avide de ces sortes de phénomenes; les premiers Juges croyant trouver dans son mariage la profanation d'un Sacrement auguste, ont prononcé contre lui des condamnations rigoureuses; mais les Juges supérieurs ne verront dans cet assemblage de circonstances singulieres que les erreurs de la Nature & la bonne foi de l'individu que la Nature elle-même a trompé.

Brief FOR ANNE GRAND JEAN, known by the name of JEAN BAPTISTE GRAND JEAN, Accused & Appellant.

AGAINST the Attorney General, Accuser & Respondent.

An individual who is referred to by the name of a God of fable, a being participating in both sexes, who has been seen successively wearing the clothes of a woman and a man, who was baptized as a girl, and married as a boy, is now attracting the attention of the magistrates, and the curiosity of the public, who are always eager to learn about these kinds of phenomena; The first Judges, believing to find in zir marriage the profanation of an august Sacrament, have pronounced rigorous condemnations against him; but the higher Judges will see in this assemblage of singular circumstances only the errors of Nature & the good faith of the individual whom Nature herself has deceived.

{HRJ: The phrase “the name of a God of fable” seems most likely to be a reference to the myth of Hermaphroditus. A more literal translation of “participating in both sexes” would be “participating in the one and the other sex”. Note that, in French, possessive pronouns take their grammatical form from the gender of the thing possessed, so possessive pronouns referring to Grandjean will always be rendered in my translation with a neo-pronoun.}


Un enfant est né à Grenoble au mois de Novembre 1732, de Jean-Baptiste Grandjean, & de Claudine Cordier; il faut croire que le sexe le plus apparent chez lui, au premier instant de son existence, fut le sexe féminin: aussi cet enfant fut-il baptisé sous le nom d'Anne, fille de Jean-Baptiste.


A child was born in Grenoble in the month of November 1732, to Jean-Baptiste Grandjean, & Claudine Cordier; it is to be believed that the most apparent sex in him, at the first moment of zir existence, was the female sex: therefore this child, he was baptized under the name of Anne, daughter of Jean-Baptiste.

{HRJ: The noun “enfant” (child) can be either masculine or feminine. The phrase “un enfant” is grammatically masculine; the feminine would be “une enfant”. But the masculine can also be used for the general case “a child of unspecified gender” so this choice isn’t necessarily taking a stand on the child’s gender, though the rest of the paragraph suggests that the author may have been using specifically as male. Although the “apparent sex” of the infant was female, and the child was baptized as a daughter (“fille”), all the clearly gendered pronoun references to Grandjean in this passage are masculine (“chez lui”, “fut-il baptisé”). So I think we can conclude that the author is establishing the position that Grandjean is masculine and the choice of “un enfant” was deliberate and not just a generic.}

On lui donna les habits propres à ce sexe aussi-tôt qu'il fut en état de les porter; il étoit élevé parmi les jeunes filles de son voisinage, & ne voyoit alors en elles que des compagnes indifférentes.

Zie was given the clothes proper to this sex as soon as he was able to wear them; he was brought up among the young girls of zir neighborhood, and saw in them only indifferent companions.

A peine parvenu à sa quatorzieme année, il éprouva un changement dont il fut lui-même étonné.

Barely having reached zir fourteenth year, he experienced a change of which he himself was astonished.

{HRJ: The implication here seems to be that Grandjean didn’t experience romantic/sexual attraction to girls when young—that it only developed at puberty. It isn't mentioned what Grandjean's position on male companions was in childhood. The next statement clearly establishes that, at puberty, Grandjean had no romantic interest in boys. It might have strengthed the author's case if he'd been able to assert that Grandjean preferred to play with boys rather than girls, in childhood. But conversely we can't put too much weight on this absence since the question may not have been raised. Or they may not have felt that a child either didn't have a choice of who they associated with or that it wasn't relevant.}

Dans cet âge où les passions commencent à établir leur empire, un instinct de plaisir dont Grandjean ignoroit la cause, le rapprochoit sans cesse de ses compagnes, & développoit en lui une faculté qui n'appartient point au sexe dont on l'avoit cru d'abord.

In this age when passions begin to establish their empire, an instinct of pleasure, the cause of which Grandjean did not know, brought him constantly closer to zir companions, and developed in zem a faculty which did not belong to the sex of which zie was first believed to be.

La présence des hommes au contraire le laissoit froid & tranquille, & la nature sembloit se plaindre du travestissement de son ouvrage.

The presence of men, on the contrary, left him cold and quiet, and nature seemed to complain about the travesty of its work.

{HRJ: “Travesty” here is probably invoking both the original literal sense of “cross-dressing” as well as the metaphorical sense of general transgression. The key thing to note in these last two passages is that the “change” in Grandjean is not framed as gender dysphoria, but as an experience of desire considered inappropriate for their assigned sex. “A faculty which did not belong to the sex zie was believed to be.” At this point in the story, I think it's key not to be distracted by the author's use of male language for Grandjean. The essential story is: a child, assigned female, raised female, and living as female, at puberty began experiencing romantic/sexual desire for girls. It's also important to note that the author (and as we'll see, others) considers this desire to be contrary to nature and inappropriate for "the sex Grandjean was believed to be". It's also important to note that nowhere at this stage of the story is there any reference to Grandjean noticing unexpected anatomical changes or to expressing an identification with male gender. This is a major reason why I'm skeptical about the anatomical description the author introduces during the appeal. If Greandjean had one of the types of intersex conditions where masculine genitals begin developing at puberty, it seems odd that this wouldn't have been raised as part of the "changes" they were experiencing. And if ambiguous genitals had been present from birth, surely even the presence of an under-developed penis would have resulted in Grandjean being assigned male? Though I must confess that I haven't studied early literature on intersex conditions to determine whether I'm correct in this assumption.}

Jean-Baptiste Grandjean ne fut pas long-tems sans s'appercevoir des nouvelles affections de son enfant, il lui fit là-dessus des questions auxquelles ce dernier répondit d'une maniere embarrassante.

Jean-Baptiste Grandjean was not long without noticing his child's new affections, and he asked zem questions about them, to which the latter replied in an embarrassing manner.

Ce pere lui dit de consulter son Confesseur, & de tenir la conduite qu'il lui prescriroit.

This father told zem to consult zir confessor, and to do as he prescribed.

{HRJ: The use of epicene pronouns here is not marked, but is simply the default language in French. This isn’t a case of representing a specific attitude of the father regarding Grandjean’s sex. Once again, note that what's being noticed is Grandjean's "affections" with no mention of other characteristics.}

L'enfant fut docile, le Confesseur fut instruit, il dit à la jeune personne qu'elle ne pouvoit rester plus long-tems sans crime en habit de femme, que cet habillement lui donnoit un accès trop facile vis-à-vis des filles de son âge, & qu'il falloit prendre le vêtement convenable au sexe dominant chez lui.

The child was docile, the Confessor was instructed, he told the young person {fem.} that she could not remain any longer without crime in woman's clothing, that this clothing gave zem too easy access to girls of zir age, and that it was necessary for him to take the clothing suitable for zir dominant sex.

{HRJ: In contrast, this passage starts out treating Grandjean as female and ends shifting to male. While “la jeune personne” may simply reflect the grammatical gender of “personne” (feminine)—though one might expect a different noun to be used if the intent were to emphasize masculinity—“qu’elle” is clearly feminine. But then “qu’il” uses a masculine form. Here we may be seeing a representation of the confessor’s shift in how he perceives Grandjean’s gender. From a philosophical point of view, the confessor seems to be saying, "If you are living as a woman, then you have intimate access to women and can easily act on your sexual desires whic would be "criminal," therefore in order to prevent sexual crime, you must present as male in order to create a social barrier from the objects of your desire so that your desires can be subject to social control." This desire is what determines Grandjean's "dominant sex" in the confessor's view. Once again I emphasize that there is no mention of a medical examination--though such a thing would be consistent with how communities reacted to open displays of f/f desire, see for example the case two centuries earlier of Greta von Mösskirch. Did the priest question Grandjean regarding their anatomy? Or was he solely focused on behavior? It may be that he was not entirely familiar with intersex possibilities, though the theory of f/f desire being due to masculinized anatomy had been circulating in popular culture for centuries. But if we take the priest's position as reported, it's yet another reason to be skeptical of later anatomical arguments.}

Le conseil du Confesseur fut exécuté, &-ce fut une nouveauté singuliere dans la ville de Grenoble, de voir un individu que jusqu'alors on n'avoit connu que comme fille, paroître tout-à-coup avec les attributs de la masculinité.

The Confessor's advice was carried out, and it was a singular novelty in the city of Grenoble to see an individual who until then had been known only as a girl, suddenly appear with the attributes of masculinity.

Grandjean, sous l'habit d'homme, parut ce qu'il étoit ou ce qu'il croyoit être, & les jeunes filles de son voisinage le virent avec un nouvel intérêt.

Grandjean, in the clothing of a man, appeared what he was or what he thought he was, and the young girls in zir neighborhood saw him with a new interest.

{HRJ: “Or what he thought he was” is an interesting inclusion, as it hints at the author’s later reframing that Grandjean’s performed gender was a matter of belief rather than essence. Aside from any of the underlying "truths" of Grandjean's case, I'd like to call attention to a clear example of an adolescent changing social gender, with the approval and knowledge of their community, in 18th century France.}

Une d'entr'e elles, nommée Legrand, mérita ses premiers soins, mais cette fréquentation n'eut pas de suite.

One of them {fem.}, named Legrand, earned zir first attentions, but this association did not continue.

{HRJ: This will be the woman who will later betray Grandjean.}

Françoise Lambert succéda à cette derniere. La passion qu'il sentit pour elle fut beaucoup plus forte.

Françoise Lambert succeeded this previous one. The passion he felt for her was much stronger.

Cette passion (car il ne faut rien dissimuler) introduisit des familiarités. Françoise Lambert connut tout ce que Grandjean pouvoit être, & Grandjean lui paroissoit être tout ce qu'il falloit.

This passion (because it is necessary not to hide anything) introduced familiarities. Françoise Lambert knew all that Grandjean could be, and Grandjean seemed to her to be all that was necessary.

{HRJ: Once again, the author gets vague and flowery when it comes to discussing how the couple expressed their desire. One gets the impression that the message is that Lambert was fully aware of Grandjean’s physicality, and had no problems with the nature of their physical relationship. That conclusion is reading a certain amount into the ambiguous language, but it will be relevant later when we consider the hypothesis that the two were naive and ignorant about the nature of their relationship.}

Ces familiarités ne servirent qu'à rendre leur union plus intime; ils desirerent de la sceller du sceau de la Religion.

These familiarities only served to make their union more intimate; they wished to seal it with the seal of religion.

{HRJ: This is somewhat less ambiguous. Whatever their “familiarities” were, evidently it was something that required marriage to fully authorize. The strong implication is that the couple were engaged in what they categorized as sexual relations. To be continued.}

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