John Haywood

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John Haywood (around 1755 – unknown) was a (generally) masculine-presenting, possibly genderfluid, assigned female at birth person who was sued in the Birmingham Court of Requests in 1787. Haywood is described as having dressed and spoken in masculine ways for many years, also having regularly partaken in activities with male friends of theirs.

Being accused of illegal female-female romantic relations, Haywood was sued in 1787. During the four day trial, there was an initial focus to "prove" that they were both female, and that they had been romantically involved with a woman. However, with Haywood claiming that they were, in fact, a woman, and that they were still married to their husband, some began to suspect that Haywood was actually a man in disguise instead.

Due to a lack of evidence to support anyone's claims, Haywood ended up only being served with a fine. However, they were unable to pay this, and were sent to prison for the debt. After two days in prison, a man from Shropshire stepped forward, claiming to be Haywood's husband. This claim was accepted by the authorities and Haywood was released shortly thereafter.

It is known for certain that Haywood was a woman at some point(s) earlier in their life, and a man at some point(s) later. Because of the possible fluidity of their gender identity and expression, Haywood may have been genderfluid, sometimes presenting themself as male, and at other times female. This is not a certainty however, since Haywood presenting themself in court as female may have been to support that they were in fact still married, and hence could not have had a female mistress. Also, social expectations may have limited their willingness to present themself in a masculine way in court when trying to defend that they were female at birth.

Background[edit | edit source]

Little is known about Haywood aside from that which is described in the context of their trial. Even then however, we still do get some insight as to how Haywood wanted to present themself. Haywood seems to have lived a considerable portion of their life as a woman when not living as a man, with both having been described as being for "many years".[1] Although Haywood did have a more feminine name given to them at birth, it is reported that they answered to John.[1]

Haywood was described as appearing before the court as "rather elegant, of a moderate size, tolerably handsome, about thirty-two, [with] a firm countenance and manly step, no beard, eyes susceptible of love, a voice tending to the masculine, with manners engaging, and [as] rather sensible."[2]

According to the narrative which has been documented, it seems as though Haywood was married to a man from Shropshire while they were a woman, but, despite the marriage, they later became involved with a woman while they were a man. During the period of Haywood's life when they were a man, they are described as taking part in activities considered generally male:
When the defendant carried a male dress, [they] spent [their] evenings at the public with [their] male companions, and could, like them, swear with a tolerable grace, get drunk, smoak [sic] tobacco, kiss the girls, and now and then kick a bully.[3]
During Haywood's trial there seems to have been overall confusion regarding their gender, especially since they previously presented themself both as a man and as a woman. It is not known what ever became of Haywood after the trial, although it seems that they may have been pressured to be a woman when "returned" to their (alleged) husband after their release from prison.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

Little seems to have been written about Haywood ever since the initial documentation of their trial in 1787. In 1883 the Montreal legal magazine The Legal News republished Haywood's story, creating a slight resurgence in interest.[4] Publications with syndication agreements around the world republished Haywood's story as well (these being the same as what The Legal News wrote, however).

Haywood's story, mostly treated as a curiosity, has not been written about extensively. The original account of Haywood however, may present an early, documented example of a nonbinary person living around the same time as the Public Universal Friend.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hutton, William (1787). Courts of Requests, with a Variety of Cases Determined in that of Birmingham. Birmingham: Pearson and Rollason. p. 425.
  2. Hutton, William (1787). Courts of Requests, with a Variety of Cases Determined in that of Birmingham. Birmingham: Pearson and Rollason. p. 426.
  3. Hutton, William (1787). Courts of Requests, with a Variety of Cases Determined in that of Birmingham. Birmingham: Pearson and Rollason. p. 427.
  4. Kirby, James (1883). The Legal News. 6. Montreal: The Gazette Printing Company. p. 352.