This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1200 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing - especially in the year-end summaries (see links in right sidebar.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc.

In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

29 February 2008

Men in kilts 1: Ewan Forbes (1912 - 1991) doctor, dancer, land manager, Baronet

Elizabeth Forbes-Semphil was raised in Scotland, and identified as a male from a early age. In his 20s as Ewan he was very involved in the Scottish country dance revival movement, dressing and dancing the man’s part. He graduated in medicine from the University of Aberdeen in 1944, and became a practicing doctor until 1955 when he retired to manage the family estates of Fintray (map) and Craigievar (map) for his brother the Baron.

In 1952 he applied to enter in the Register of Corrected Entries substitutions of his name and sex. This was granted, based on his oath and medical evidence. A few months later, he married Isabella Mitchell, his housekeeper.

In 1965 his elder brother died, and he was to assume the Baronetcy. His cousin, John Alexander Cumnock Forbes-Semphill, contested the inheritance on the grounds that Ewan was female. A two-year court battle ensued, first in the Scottish Court of Session where Dr Charles Armstrong gave evidence that Ewan was intersex, and then the case went to the Home Secretary (the future Prime Minister), James Callaghan. A letter from Ewan’s sister was produced to the effect that he was female, but Ewan’s wife testified that they had normal intercourse. The Session judge decided that Ewan was “predominately male”, though intersexed. The Right Honourable James Callaghan, after consulting with the Lord Advocate, directed that Sir Ewan Forbes (he had dropped the ‘Semphill’) should be entered in the Roll of Baronets as The 11th Baronet of Craigievar and The 20th Lord Semphill,  Sir Ewan Forbes of Craigievar,

John Forbes-Semphill finally became the 21st Lord Semphill when Ewan died. No public records of either the Court of Session or of the Lord Advocate advice are available. This would appear to be an aristocratic privilege, but resulted in the precedent not being considered in April Ashley’s divorce (Corbett vs Corbett) in 1970.
-------------------

1 comment:

Zagria said...

Stephen Wittle & Lewis Turner ''Sex Changes'? Paradigm Shifts in 'Sex' and 'Gender' Following the Gender Recognition Act?' Sociological Research Online, Volume 12, Issue 1,
www.socresonline.org.uk/12/1/whittle.html

make the following comment:

The ‘real’ and crucial issues in the Sempill case were whether a respectable Scottish country gentleman (Ewan) rather than a dissolute Londoner (John) should look after what is one of the finest and oldest landed estates in Scotland. It is clear from the court transcript that the judge, Lord Hunter, had to find a way of making sure the ‘right’ decision was made, and the transcript is full of fantastic tales and premises.