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LHMP #380e 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.

Accusation and Trial

* * *

Mais voici le moment de l'infortune.

But here is the moment of misfortune.

{HRJ: In phrasings such as this, we can envision this text as representing a speech directly to an audience. Given the framing, it doesn’t seem to be purporting to be the actual presentation made to the court, but perhaps a cleaned-up, dramatized version. It would be interesting to know more about this type of publication and how it relates to actual court proceedings.}

La nommée Legrand, que Grandjean avoit connue à Grenoble arriva à Lyon dans le cours de l'année derniere. Elle y aprit qu'il avoit épousé Françoise Lambert, & ayant eu occasion de voir cette femme, elle lui dit qu'elle étoit étonnée de son mariage, parce que Grandjean étoit hermaphrodite.

The [woman] named Legrand, whom Grandjean had known in Grenoble, arrived in Lyon during the course of last year. There she learned that he had married Françoise Lambert, and having had the opportunity to see this woman, she told her that she was astonished by her marriage, because Grandjean was a hermaphrodite.

{HRJ: Here we must pause to consider what Legrand (or the author of the pamphlet) understood by the word “hermaphrodite,” and for this I suggest reviewing the studies cited in my introductory text, from the medieval period up through Grandjean’s lifetime. As you can see from those discussions, the term “hermaphrodite” was not restricted to those with ambiguous anatomy, but could apply generally to anyone who transgressed gender norms, but especially to assigned-female persons who were considered to be intruding on male prerogatives, in dress, in behavior, in intellectual interests, or in sexuality. So when Lambert tells Legrand that Grandjean is a “hermaphrodite” she isn’t necessarily (or even most likely) accusing Grandjean of being intersex, but could just as likely (perhaps more likely) be accusing Grandjean of being a cross-dresser, a lesbian, or transgender. Another possibility would be "someone presenting as female who has male-coded intersts and activities" but within the present context this doesn't seem likely to be the intent. These concepts may not have been clearly distinguished in Legrand’s intention. Nor can we necessarily identify how Lambert would have understood the accusation, except in terms of how her reaction is presented here.}

Ce discours surprit Françoise Lambert, elle sit des réflexions sur la stérilité de son union, elle crut en trouver la cause dans la nouvelle qu'on venoit de lui appredre, sa conscience fut allarmée elle témoigna son inquiétude à son Directeur, & ce dernier lui conseilla de ne plus avoir de familiarités avec son mari.

This speech surprised Françoise Lambert, she thought about the sterility of her union, she believed to find the cause in the news that she had just received, her conscience was alarmed she showed her concern to her Director, & the latter advised her not to have any more familiarity with her husband.

{HRJ: I believe “Director” here is a short form of “directeur de conscience,” another name for religious confessor, which makes sense in context. The superficial interpretation of this passage is that Lambert is not consciously aware that her husband is in any way different from any other man, in person or in actions. The “sterility of her union” is most obviously interpreted as their lack of chidren. But here we can envision a spread of possible situations and interpretations, depending on how naïve we believe Lambert to be about sex and procreation, how honest she is to herself and her confessor, and whether her action is driven by spiritual concern or fear of being accused of complicity in the irregular marriage. Just to pick a few of the possible options: Lambert could be ignorant of male anatomy and the experience of procreative sex, believes that Legrand has her welfare at heart, and is genuinely anxious about whether she is committing a sin. From a very different angle, Lambert could have entered into the marriage well aware that Grandjean was anatomically female and (whether or not they engaged in a sexual relationship) she may have understood an implied threat in Legrand’s communication and (whether or not she consulted with Grandjean first) concluded that her own safety required going on record as being an ignorant and deceived party before Legrand went more public with the information. In between those two are many other possible interpretations. I think it’s reasonable to believe that Legrand’s motivation involved jealousy and revenge, given her prior courtship by Grandjean, regardless of how it was cloaked in moral concern. And, as noted above, I think we need to consider it a strong likelihood that Legrand and Lambert both knew that Grandjean had originally been assigned female and raised as a girl, which rules out a number of the possible scenarios.}

Ainsi, & par un concours de circonstances plus singulieres les unes que les autres, ce fut un Directeur qui obligea Grandjean à prendre les habits d'homme, & ce fut un Directeur qui obligea Françoise Lambert à refuser la qualité d'homme à son mari.

Thus, and by a combination of circumstances more singular than the others, it was a Director who obliged Grandjean to take on the clothes of a man, and it was a Director who obliged Françoise Lambert to refuse the status of man to her husband.

{HRJ: Here we see confirmation that “Director” should be understood as “confessor” since the latter term was used explicitly in the earlier passage. The phrase “la qualité d’homme” literally means “the quality of a man”, but reviewing the idiomatic meanings of “la qualité d’homme X” and related phrases here, it’s clear there’s an idiomatic meaning to this construction and it should be interpreted as “the status or capacity of a man” or “manhood, masculinity.” Ironically, several cited examples at the link make it clear that “la qualité d’homme” can mean “humanity” in a general sense, but I think we can understand the current use as specifically gendered.}

Grandjean fu averti par son épouse de la démarche qu'elle venoit de faire, de ses inquiétudes & de ses craintes; cette nouveauté fit sur lui une sensation douloureuse. Il aimoit sa femme, il l'avoit épousée de bonne foi; elle l'avoit connu avant son mariage; il avoit cru jusqu'alors avoir rempli les devoirs de mari; aucun nuage, aucun trouble jusqu'à ce moment ne s'étoient élevés dans leur union; mais enfin voyant que sa femme insisoit, il lui proposa d'aller ensemble faire confidence au Grand-Vicaire de leur situation respective, de la maniere dont ils avoient vécu jusqu'alors, & de suivre les conseils qu'il leur donneroit.

Grandjean was informed by zir wife of the step she had just taken, of her worries and fears; this news {lit. “novelty”} had a painful effect on zem. He loved his wife, he had married her in good faith; she had known zem before their marriage; he had believed that until then he had fulfilled the duties of a husband; no clouds, no troubles had arisen in their union until that moment; but finally, seeing that zir wife insisted, he proposed that they go together to confide in the Grand-Vicar their respective situations, the way in which they had lived up to that point, and to follow the advice he would give them.

{HRJ: The narrative consistently frames Grandjean as naïve and innocent of deliberate intent, simply acting based on the gender role assignment from their confessor. But as with the discussion of Lambert’s possible understandings and motivations, this can’t be separated from the possibility that Grandjean is acting from a fear of the legal consequences of being outed. So does this framing reflect Grandjean’s true mental state? Or does it reflect a constructed story that Grandjean presented to the court to try to get the best outcome, once it was clear that their background was going to be made public? Or is it a framing constructed by the lawyer to achieve the desired outcome?}

Une proposition pareille, de la part de Grandjean, annonçoit la pureté de ses intentions & de ses sentimens; mais la nouvelle divulguée par la nommée Legrand, avoit été saisie avec avidité par le Public, & voloit déja de bouche en bouche. On avertit le Substitut de M. le Procureur Général à Lyon, qu'une femme hermaphrodite avoit épousé une nommée Françoise Lambert, & vivoit avec elle depuis plusieurs années.

Such a proposal, on the part of Grandjean, announced the purity of zir intentions and feelings; but the news divulged by the said Legrand, was eagerly seized by the public, and was already flying from mouth to mouth. The deputy of the Attorney General in Lyon was informed that a hermaphrodite woman had married a woman named Françoise Lambert, and had been living with her for several years.

{HRJ: This is the context in which we need to consider the possible interpretations of Grandjean’s and Lambert’s actions (and reported motivations). The cat was out of the bag. Clearly Legrand had talked to more people than just Lambert. And whether from naïveté or strategy, the couple needed to get ahead of the story. Notice that the accusation against Grandjean isn’t the ambiguous state of being neither man nor woman, but specifically the state of being a woman who is also a “hermaphrodite” with whatever range of meaning was attributed to that word. (Assuming that Legrand's accusation used the word "hermaphrodite" rather than this being the author's interpretation. But it's probably reasonable to think the word "hermaphrodite" was used in this context in the Lyon court record, however Legrand may have phrased it.) Within context, the simple act of being assigned female and being married to a woman could result in being labeled “hermaphrodite”. The simple act of being assigned female and being believed to be engaging in a sexual relationship with a woman (while performing some degree of masculinity) could result in being labeled “hermaphrodite”. But the label “hermaphrodite” could also imply a belief that Grandjean, while assigned female, had some degree of masculinity of anatomy, especially if it allowed for some approximation of penetrative sex. And all these would not necessarily be clearly distinguished in the minds of the accuser or listeners.}

Le Procureur du Roi, pour le maintien des mœurs, crut devoir rendre plainte contre cet individu; cette plainte fut suivie de l'instruction la plus sévere; Grandjean décrété de prise de corps, fut, mis dans un chachot les fers aux pieds, dans un tems où il attestoit le Ciel de son innocence, où l'on ne pouvoit imputer ses torts qu'à la nature.

The King's Prosecutor, in order to maintain morals, believed that he had to file a complaint against this individual; this complaint was followed by the most severe inquiry; Grandjean was ordered to be taken into custody, and was put in a shackle with irons on zir feet, at a time when he was attesting to Heaven of zir innocence, and when zir offences could only be imputed to nature.

{HRJ: I’m fumbling a bit for the best translation of “instruction la plus severe” in a legal context, where “instruction” seems to have some specialized senses. From what I can find, in modern French legal practice, the “juge d’instruction” (judge of inquiry) conducts a pre-trial hearing to determine if there’s sufficient evidence for a charge. Which seems to be more or less what’s going on here. Grandjean is arrested, but the court is still assembling the evidence necessary to determine if there will be a trial. But 18th century practice may differ from the explanations I can find. The narrator is jumping ahead of the arguments in stating that Grandjean’s offences (the word in the text is “tort” but I’m not sure it has the same sense here as that word has in legalese) can be “imputed to nature.” There’s also an ambiguity in whether Grandjean is supposed to be understood to be appealing to Nature, or whether this is purely the narrator’s interpretation.}

Des témoins furent entendus, l'Accusé fut visité; les Chirurgiens dans leur Procès-verbal, après avoir rendu compte de ce qu'ils avoient trouvé chez lui appartenir au sexe masculin, current devoir attester que son sexe prédominant étoit celui de femme.

Witnesses were heard, the accused was visited; the surgeons in their report, after having given an account of what they had found him to have belonging to the male sex, had to attest that his predominant sex was that of a woman.

{HRJ: The phrase “chez lui appartenir au sexe masculine” is hard to translate literally, but I think I have the gist of it here. The surgeons did an anatomical examination of Grandjean (and let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge how invasive and frightening this must have been) and concluded that their anatomy was “predominantly” female. Recall that when Grandjean’s confessor instructed them to present as male, there was no question of anatomy, just as there was no question of gender identity. How, then, did Grandjean interpret the confessor’s instruction? Did they believe they had developed male anatomy? Under some theories of gender at various times, behaving as a different sex could result in physiological changes (this belief may have been influenced by certain types of intersex condition where male secondary sex characteristics developed only in adolescence). But regardless of what Grandjean believed to be the case about their physiology, it was a standard response in the early modern period to suspect masculinized anatomy in any case of apparent female same-sex desire. In many cases, such an examination concluded that the accused had completely normative female anatomy. This motif might be allowed as a mitigating factor if examiners found the anatomy ambiguous. But evidently this was not the case in Grandjean’s examination, according to the conclusions of the examiners.}

L'accusé fut interrogé par le Juge, mais les traits de vérité, de candeur, de bonne foi qui sortirent de sa bouche, & qui justifioient son erreur, ne le toucherent pas. Il déploya contre l'Accusé la sévérité la plus grande, & par sa Sentence il le condamna à être attaché au carcan pendant trois jours avec cet écriteau, Profanateur du Sacrement de mariage, à être fouetté par la main du Boureau, & au bannissement à perpétuité.

The accused was questioned by the Judge, but the lines of truth, candor, and good faith which came out of zir mouth, and which justified zir error, did not touch him {note: “him” being the judge}. He used the greatest severity against the accused, and by his sentence he {the judge} condemned him {Grandjean} to be tied in the stocks for three days with this sign, Profaner of the Sacrament of Marriage, to be whipped by the hand of the executioner, and to be banished for life.

{HRJ: The narrator is, perhaps, being hyperbolic in calling this “the greatest severity.” While the sentence is certainly inhumane, it is relatively lenient within the historic context of how women engaging in marriage in male guise were treated. While there don't seem to be any 18th century French cases of execution of "female husbands," that penalty was enacted occasionally in eralier centuries. There’s a question of how to interpret “banishment” here. In other legal judgements involving banishment, it’s often “from the city of residence” rather than something more global. So was Grandjean being banished from Lyon, the city in which the original charge was made? The “Conciergerie du Palais” mentioned in the next paragraph, appears to be the name for a specific prison in Paris. It doesn't appear that the initial trial held in Paris, so was Grandjean sentenced in Lyon, banished, and as part of that banishment transferred to Paris? Recall that the case was first brought to the attention of “the deputy of the Attorney General in Lyon” but then was brought to “the king’s prosecutor” presumably also in Lyon. Both titles appear to be general ranks in the 18th century French court system, and not unique offices.}

Grandjean a interjetté appel de ce Jugement; il a été transféré dans les prisons de la Conciergerie du Palais, & est de tous les prisonniers le plus malheureux peut-être. Son état a páru exiger des précautions que l'on ne prend pas contre les autres. Les hommes & femmes qui ne sont pas destinés à des peines capitales ont successivement la liberté du préau; mais comme Grandjean, dans l'opinion publique, n'est ni homme ni femme, ou qu'il est tous les deux à la fois, on ne lui permet d'aller ni avec les hommes ni avec les femmes. C'est dans le secret de la prison la plus étroite, & réduit à la plus affreuse solitude, qu'il dévore sa douleur.

Grandjean appealed this judgment; he was transferred to the prisons of the Conciergerie du Palais, and is—of all the prisoners—perhaps the most unfortunate. Zir condition may have required precautions that are not taken against others. The men and women who are not destined for capital punishment are successively allowed freedom of the yard; but as Grandjean, in the public opinion, is neither man nor woman, or both at the same time, zie is not allowed to go either with the men or with the women. It is in the secrecy of the narrowest prison, and reduced to the most dreadful loneliness, that he devours his pain.

{HRJ: While writing this commentary, I found a brief post by blogger Rodama1789 providing outlines of judicial practice in 18th century France, which I have drawn on for certain points of understanding. Evidently an appeal was automatic for sentences involving execution, corporal punishment, or banishment, and thus the transfer to Paris. There’s also a comment that defendants were only allowed counsel in cases that did not involve crimes against persons. One wonders whether the sensational aspects of Grandjean’s trial attracted a more energetic defense counsel than might otherwise have been available. The larger part of this paragraph sets out the universal problem encountered by legal systems dealing with non-gender-conforming individuals. How do you handle them in a system that not only assumes a gender binary, but that demands gender segregation? We see a similar quandary two centuries earlier in Spain in the case of Elen@ de Céspedes, whose trial similarly involved questions of anatomical sex. The answer, as seen in some other historic cases, is solitary confinement, which the narrator squeezes for all the pathos that can be obtained. The French phrase “dévore sa douleur” clearly has some idiomatic or poetic meaning—I can find other examples of this phrase in literature of a similar era—but I haven’t be able to find additional context.}

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