Shakespeare's Globe: 'Elizabeth I non-binary' after Joan Of Arc row

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre academic says Elizabeth I may have been non-binary in essay calling Virgin Queen ‘them’ after row over transgender Joan Of Arc play

  • Dr Kit Heyam said Elizabeth I described ‘themself’ as ‘king’, ‘queen’ and ‘prince’
  • Globe Theatre were criticised for portraying Joan of Arc as non-binary in I, Joan
  • Elizabeth I famously said she was ‘weak and feeble woman’ with ‘heart of a king’
  • Feminists have criticised the claim, calling it a ‘regressive message’ to publish 

An academic writing for the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has argued Queen Elizabeth I may have been non-binary in an essay.

In an essay on the Globe’s website, trans-awareness trainer Dr Kit Heyam referred to the Virgin Queen with ‘they/them’ pronouns, saying: ‘Elizabeth I… described themself regularly in speeches as “king”, “queen” and “prince”.’

This comes after the Globe Theatre were ridiculed by Harry Potter author JK Rowling for portraying Joan of Arc as non-binary in their play I, Joan, which was branded ‘insulting and damaging’ by campaigners.

The essay was published on Monday, August 8, was published in defence of the portrayal said the the common portrayal of the story as ‘pragmatic gender nonconformity’ in a ‘patriarchal world’ denies ‘historical existence of trans experience’.

‘Elizabeth I… described themself regularly in speeches as “king”, “queen” and “prince”,’ Trans-awareness trainer Dr Kit Heyam argued. Pictured: Queen Elizabeth I as portrayed by Cate Blanchett in a scene from the film Golden Age directed by Shekhar Kapur

Joan of Arc is one of the most famous and inspirational women in French history and a saint. New play a The Globe I, Joan (publicity picture left) has prompted some controversy

Dr Heyam said the subtext ‘is that Joan shouldn’t be seen as part of trans history’.

Elizabeth I famously rallied her troops against the Spanish Armada with the speech: ‘I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.’

Leeds-based Dr Heyam, whose pronouns are they/them or he/him, compared Queen Elizabeth I to 10th-century English ruler Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, who ruled Mercia (what is now approximately the West Midlands) after the death of her husband.

Trans awareness trainer Dr Heyam referred to the virgin queen with ‘they/them’ pronouns

Dr Heyam said Æthelflæd was ‘later described as “conducting…Armies, as if she had changed her sex”: to take on a male-coded military role was, in some sense, for Æthelflæd to become male.’

The writer and academic Elizabeth I chose to ‘strategically to emphasise their female identity or their male monarchical role at different points’.

They said that Joan, like Elizabeth I, lived in a world where military leaders were almost always male and clothing was gendered and that dressing in armour and ‘inhabiting that social role… while living and working among men, may not just have felt like gendered defiance: it may have had a profound impact on their sense of self’.

Feminists have criticised the claim, calling it a ‘regressive message’ to publish.

Philosopher Dr Jane Clare told the Telegraph, said it showed ‘inherent gender conservatism in gender identity ideology,’ that those who do ‘ “manly” things must be a man, and anyone who does “womanly” things must be a woman’.

Dr Clare added this is why historical women in ‘masculine’ roles are being categorised as trans-men, non-binary or ‘not-women’.

‘This is a really regressive message to be sending out, especially to young women,’ she concluded.

Author of feminist book Misogynies said that women and girls can ‘reject stereotypes without losing our sex’ and that ‘regressive ideology’ is taking away female role models.

Dr Heyam runs trans awareness training which are  ‘conversational, interactive sessions where “stupid questions” are welcome, tailored to the practical realities of your workplace’.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre said Dr Heyam’s essay was a ‘blog from a guest academic on our website and not representative of current work on our stages’.

Joan is to be played in the new I,Joan show by Isobel Thom and directed by Ilinca Radulian

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