Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Elena de Cespedes - A Hemaphrodite persecuted for lesbianism

One woman's fight for her sexual identity and freedom!  


In 16th century Spain, Elena de Cespedes was the child of a Moor slave. She was sixteen when she got married, but the marriage did not last very long and her spouse soon abandoned her, leaving her pregnant and alone. Somehow, she fended for herself long enough to give birth to a son. To support herself and her son, she left him in the care of her mother, and went to Granada to seek work to support them all. As a woman, however, Elena would find it very difficult to survive, and that worried her. But Elena had an explosive secret! Beneath her skirts, in a addition to her female organs, she was hiding a penis. So she decided to become a man. 

Chaning her name to Eleno, she dressed as a man, and set off for Granada where she aquired some modest lodgings. The landlord's wife took an interest in Eleno, and before long, things got heated and they began an affair. As luck would have it however, their affair was discovered and in the heat of a scandal surrounding his gender, Elena was forced to flee. 

Proud of her manly prowess and strength, she joined the army and fought successfully for several years. She even got wounded in battle. Tired of war, still dressed as a man, she travelled to Madrid, hoping to learn how to be a tailor. She found lodgings in the home of a surgeon. Instead of cutting and sewing cloth, the surgeon took her under his wing and she was taught to trim hair, amputate limbs, and let blood. She earned great respect as a healer.  

Elena fell deeply in love with a young woman and proposed marriage to her. But the affair with his landlord's wife continued to haunt him and Elena was forced to succumb to a gender examination, and then another. In both, she passed the test and was confirmed a man. Elena and his bride were married by a Catholic priest. 

The rumors about her gender would not die, and Elena was forced to endure yet another gender examination. This time, the results were vastly different and it was determined she was indeed a woman. Now she became truly an object of curiosity and earned great celebrity not only because she was a hemaphrodite, but also because she was a miraculous healer. Elena and wife were charged with lesbianism. Elena was further charged with fraud and sent to face the dreadful Spanish Inquisitors. Her marriage was immediately annulled and Elena was brutally whipped with 200 lashes. She was convicted of devilry and was sentenced to death by burning, but her sentence was commutted to 10 years in a hospital working as a nurse.     


2 comments:

Tara said...

This would make a great historical novel. Hopefully someone pens it.

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer said...

Her story has been written by a Spanish author and apparently, it's quite well written. However, to my knowledge, the story has yet to be written by an author in English. I too think it would make a fabulous story!