Transgender Memoir of 1921 Found: “Riddle of the Underworld” by Earl Lind, Ralph Werther, Jennie June
Transgender Memoir of 1921 Found
“Riddle of the Underworld” by Earl Lind, Ralph Werther, Jennie June
A Revelation for LGBT History Month on Coming Out Day October 11, 2010
Five sections of the lost, third volume of memoirs by the pseudonymous individual who called himself Earl Lind, Ralph Werther, and Jennie June, have been discovered and published on OutHistory.org, the website on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history. The transgender Lind published two autobiographical volumes in 1918 and 1922, and the third volume, advertised but never printed, has remained unknown.
The discovery of the 35 manuscript pages was announced jointly on “National Coming Out Day,” October 11, by Randall Sell, who found the document, and Jonathan Ned Katz, Co-Director of OutHistory.org. The website includes a complete transcription of the find. “On LGBT History Month, OutHistory.org is delighted to publish this major discovery in transgender history,” declared Katz.
In addition to a transcription of the often difficult-to-read pages, OutHistory.org includes this introduction to the manuscript, photographs of Lind/Werther/June, an excerpt from his published Autobiography, a bibliography and timeline about him, and Randall Sell’s thoughts about Lind.
The newly found manuscripts, like Earl Lind’s published memoirs, The Autobiography of an Androgyne (1918) and The Female Impersonators (1922), provide rare, first person testimony about the early-20th-century life and times of a self-described “fairie” or “androgyne,” an individual, Lind says, “with male genitals,” but whose “psychical constitution” and sexual life “approach the female type." In the newly discovered manuscript Lind also calls himself “bisexual,” meaning, in his usage, a person combining male and female personality traits and desires.
The Riddle of the Underworld manuscript includes items of special, current interest, among them:
- the author’s report that, as a young boy and in college, he often considered suicide, and his plea to adults to support young people who display signs of sexual and gender non-conformity, to prevent these youths’ distress and suicides;
- Lind's report of being badly beaten by a male he made the mistake of picking up, so that "I had to avoid my everyday circle for an entire week on account of a face terribly disfigured";
- the author’s explicit, emphatic defense of sexual and gender non-conformists as people born with different natures and desires;
- the author’s report that, at a boys' boarding school he attended, both teenage partners in anal intercourse “were always of the tremendously virile class” (the most masculine males), and that an “adolescent commonly known to be addicted to occasional paedicatio [anal intercourse] was not in the least scorned.”
In his published Autobiography, also excerpted on OutHistory.org, Lind describes “Paresis Hall”, a New York City resort for “androgynes” in the 1890s. Lind's account of the Hall includes a description of a group which is, if not apocryphal, one of the earliest-known U.S. organizations for gender and sexual emancipation, the Cercle Hermaphrodites, formed by "androgynes" (in Lind's account, men who identify as feminine or female and who desire sex with men) to "unite for defense against the world's bitter persecution". No other evidence of the Cercle has been found.
“The discovery of sections of Lind’s lost memoir,” says Katz, “suggests that other missing parts of this work may also be found, and other written works by the author. I’m hoping that someone will eventually discover Lind’s birth name, leading to a fuller understanding of this brave, complex, and conflicted individual and his society.”
The discovery also includes a six-page contract with Dr. Victor Robinson to publish The Riddle of the Underworld in serial form, in a New York medical journal. Randall Sell discovered the manuscript in the papers of Dr. Robinson, in the Archives of the United States National Library of Medicine. Included on OutHistory.org is a personal essay by Sell on “Encountering Earl Lind, Ralph Werther, Jennie June”. Sell is an Associate Professor at Drexel University's School of Public Health, Department of Community Health and Prevention. He created the website GayData.org, which is maintained by the Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health at Drexel.
Lind’s three chapters were transcribed for OutHistory.org by Ted Faigle, Manager, Program for LGBT Health, Drexel University School of Public Health. The transcriptions incorporate the editorial changes hand-written on the manuscripts. The edits appear to be by the author because they often add new content, and do not simply clarify a point or correct grammar or spelling. For example, one hand-written addition says: “It was in another large office where I have been employed that some of the staff expressed their suspicions that I was an androgyne.” Perhaps a handwriting expert will in the future tell us if all the edits are in the same hand.
A version of the above press release, introducing and summing up the discovery of The Riddle of the Underworld Manuscript, was sent out for release on October 11, 2010.