Bernard Talmey’s major work is Love, a Treatise on the Science of Sex-Attraction: For the Use of Physicians and Students of Medical Jurisprudence published in 1915.
We will start with an overview of the book, and then look closely at each section where examples of gender variant persons are given.
This book recapitulates the three previous books which discussed the evolution of sex, the anatomy of sex, the physiology of sex, the psychology of sex.
Then we get to Part VI, “Pathology of Sexuality”. This contains four chapters based on Krafft-Ebing’s classification:
i) Paradoxia (Sexual desires in the old, in infants, causes of early masturbation);
ii) Anaesthesia (partial or total absence of sexual feeling);
iii) Hyperaesthesia (abnormal intensity of the sexual desire and impulse), 1) Mixoscopy, 2) Erotomania, 3) Satyriasis, 4) Nymphomania 5) Masturbation, 6) Incest;
iv) Paraesthesia. This is subdivided:
A) Heterosexuality divided into Masochism, Sadism, Fetishism, Exhibitionism;
B) Homosexuality divided into
a) Perversity (not congenital) subdivided into 1) out of lust, 2) as a profession, 3) through necessity 4) out of fear;
b) Perversion subdivided into 1) psychical hermaphrodism 2) strict homosexuality 3) effemination or viraginity 4) transvestism;
We will examine the sections where persons, who would today be regarded as trans, appear.
iv) Paraesthesia, B) Homosexuality:
The modern reader may be somewhat confused by Talmey’s depiction:
“The perversion of homosexuality has, as a rule, the force of a congenital phenomen and is characterized by precocity. … The child shows its anomaly in its tastes, sentiments, and occupations. The boy avoids the company of other boys. He shuns their games and plays. He is found playing with dolls, ribbons, miniature housekeeping, etc., in company with girls. He is more particular about his dress, in fact, he loves to be dressed like a girl as long as possible. He likes to occupy himself with girls' work, such as knitting, sewing or crochet-work. The homosexual girl is found in the haunts of boys and competes with them in their games. She neglects her dress and assumes and affects boyish manners. She is in pursuit of boys' sports. She plays with horses, balls and arms. She gives manifestations of courage and bravado, is noisy and loves vagabondage. … The perverted man has a profound longing for female clothes. He takes the greatest pleasure in the sight of female attire. He tries to dress as a woman at every opportunity. He likes to frequent masquerade balls where he can dress up as a woman and dance with women. In short, the patient has all the feelings and longings of a woman. The inverted woman, on the other hand, likes to imitate male fashions in general attire and in dressing her hair. It gives her the greatest satisfaction if she is able to dress herself entirely in men's attire and disguise her identity. She further prefers the occupations of men and loves at every occasion to play a man's role. When at a ball she likes to dance with women, and when in a hotel, she loves to discuss politics with men. In short, she feels herself a man.”
iv) Paraesthesia, B) Homosexuality, 1) psychical hermaphrodism,
Talmey uses this term for persons who can have sex with either men or women, what we would call bisexuality, without any other suggestion of gender variance.
iv) Paraesthesia, B) Homosexuality, 3) Effemination or Viraginity with psychical perversion only.
“In the third degree of homosexuality, the so-called effemination or viraginity, where the entire mental existence is altered, the man of this type resembles in his mental qualities a woman, ‘anima muliebris in corpore virile inclusa’. But his body is still that of a perfect man. The woman, on the other hand, resembles in her mental qualities a man, while her bodily characteristics remain still feminine.”‘anima muliebris in corpore virile inclusa’ is of course Karl Ulrichs’ expression meaning a female soul in a male body.
The first example is:
“very fond of perfumes, likes to powder and paint himself and to pencil his eye-brows. He is very curious, vain, and loves to gossip”.The second:
“In the homosexual acts he always plays the passive role. He is effeminate in his character, sensitive, easily moved to tears, and is greatly embarrassed and silent in men's company; while among women he feels himself perfectly at home. He feels himself a perfect woman.”Talmey’s first FTM example cites Havelock Ellis citing an 1883 paper by PM Wise, and we can identity the person as Joseph Lobdell :
“When she was deserted by her husband, she began to follow her predilection for masculine avocations. She donned male attire and became a trapper and hunter. She considered herself a man in all that the name applies. After many reverses she entered an almshouse and here she became attached to a young woman. When the attachment became mutual, both left the institution for the woods to commence life instar mariti maritaeque. They lived in this relation until the patient had a maniacal attack that resulted in her committal to an asylum.”
iv) Paraesthesia, B) Homosexuality, 3) Effemination or Viraginity with bodily perversion.
This is Talmey’s only MTF example:
“His habitus is entirely feminine. The body is slight and non-muscular. The shoulders are narrow, the pelvis broad, the hands and feet decidedly small. The form is rounded with an abundant development of adipose tissue. He has few hairs on beard and mustache. His complexion is fine. His voice is feminine, he speaks in falsetto voice. His gait is rocking, womanly. He wears his hair quite long. Since childhood he was actuated by the desire to put on female attire. He always wore female undergarments, such as shirts, drawers, corsets, etc. He generally wears bracelets on his arms. Whenever he can, he dresses up like a woman and takes long walks upon the streets in such costumes. Through his love for feminine attire he came in contact with several transvestites who form a kind of club in this city. But the latter who abhor homosexual practices soon discovered his motive for the desire of feminine attire and avoided his company. In his reveries, dreams and acts the patient always plays the pathicus. For some reason or other, unknown to the author, the patient committed suicide.“He then gives FTM examples taken from Krafft-Ebing.
“Her connubial duties were first painful and, later on, loathsome to her. She never experienced sensual pleasure, yet she became the mother of six children. Her husband began at that time to practise onanism (coitus interruptus). At the age of thirty-six she had an apoplectic stroke. From this time on she felt that a great change has taken place in her. She was mortified at being a woman. Her menstruation ceased. Her feminine features assumed a masculine expression. Her breasts disappeared. The pelvis became smaller and narrower, the bones more massive, the skin rougher and harder. Her voice grew deeper and quite masculine. Her feminine gait disappeared. She could not wear a veil. Even the odor emanating from her person changed. She could no longer act the part of a woman, and assumed more and more the character of a man. She complained of having strange feelings in her abdomen. She could no longer feel her muliebria. The vaginal orifice seemed to close and the region of her genitals seemed to be enlarged. She had the sensation of possessing a penis and a scrotum. At the same time she began to show symptoms of the male voluptas.”Talmey finished this section with the well-known cases of Murray Hall, New York politician and Nicholas de Raylan, assistant to the Russian consul in Chicago.
iv) Paraesthesia, B) Homosexuality, 4) Transvestism.
Talmey compares transvestism to homosexuality.
“In the degrees of effemination and viraginity, cross-dressing is a prominent symptom. The homosexual pathicus has naturally the impulsive desire to dress like a woman, and vice versa, the Lesbian woman longs to dress like a man. Still, cross-dressing is a pathological entity by itself. Homosexuality is a morbid sex state of gross somatic experiences. … Transvestism, on the other hand, is a sexo-esthetic inversion of pure artistic imitation. Hence it occurs mostly in artists and in men of letters. … Transvestism is more in harmony with the basal esthetic demands. The patient harbors exalted ideas and is striving to secure artistic enjoyment in the appreciation of the beautiful. The attraction is in the mind and has nothing to do with the sex-organs.” He then discusses the same five examples as in his 1913 paper. Talmay concludes the section with his explanation of transvestism: “The longings for cross-dressing in our cases may be best explained, that the feminine strain, normally found in every male, exists here in a greatly exaggerated form. Every normal woman attributes an exaggerated value to clothes and, Narcissus-like, is more or less enamored with the female body.* The same exaggerated value to female clothes is attributed by the male transvestites. The female transvestite, on the other hand, thinks of clothes more or less as men do. Yet, the male strain in her, being a morbid phenomenon, dressing is of more importance to her than it is to the normal man.”In the associated footnote he gives his explanation of female sexuality:
“The female body has a sexually stimulating effect upon woman. The pride of the female, says Weininger (Sex and Character, p. 201), is something quite peculiar to herself, something foreign even to the most handsome man, an obsession of her own body, a pleasure which displays itself even in the least handsome girl, by admiring herself in the mirror, by stroking herself and by playing with her own hair, but which comes to its full measure only in the effect that her body has on man. Woman desires to feel that she is admired physically. The normal woman regards her body as made for the stimulation of the man's sensations. This complex emotion forms the initial stage of her own pleasure. The female body has hence a greater exciting effect upon women than the male body has upon men. Female nudity produces a greater impression upon her than the male body ever does. … The same emotions are evoked in woman at the sight of female clothes. Woman takes it for granted that her clothes, just as her body, have an erotic effect upon the male. Hence female clothes awaken in women a complex emotion akin to the sight of the female body. Woman becomes sexually excited by her own clothes. For this reason clothes are to woman of the greatest importance. The desire for beautiful clothes is an irradiation of the sex instinct. The purpose of dress is the attraction through covering. For the parts covered are rendered more conspicuous.”
- Bernard Simon Talmey. Woman; A Treatise on the Normal and Pathological Emotions of Feminine Love. New York: The Stanley Press Corporation, 1906.
- Bernard Simon Talmey. Genesis; A Manual for the Instruction of Children in Matters Sexual, for the Use of Parents, Teachers, Physicians and Ministers. New York: The Practitioners' Pub. Co, 1910.
- Bernard Simon Talmey. Neurasthenia Sexualis; a Treatise on Sexual Impotence in Men and in Women; For Physicians and Students of Medicine. New York: The Practitioners ́publishing co, 1912.
- B.S. Talmey. “Transvestism: A Contribution to the study of the Psychology of Sex”. New York Medical Journal, 99, 1914: 362-8. Partially reprinted in Jonathan Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac. Harper & Row. 1983: 344-8.
- Bernard Simon Talmey. Love, a Treatise on the Science of Sex-Attraction: For the Use of Physicians and Students of Medical Jurisprudence. New York: Practitioners' Pub. Co, 1915. Online at: http://archive.org/details/lovetreatiseonsc00talm.
- C. J. Bulliet. Venus Castina: Famous Female Impersonators Celestial and Human. New York: Covici 308 pp 1928. New York: Bonanza Books. 1956: 8-11.
- Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. Warner Books Edition 1977/PDF: 51/23,29.
- Bram Dijkstra. Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siècle Culture. Oxford University Press, 1986: 69, 77, 101, 116, 153, 224, 249, 261, 297. 304, 356.
- Bram Dijkstra. Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Culture. OWL Book, 1998: 201-2, 210-11.
- Peter Boag. Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011: 59-63, 73.
Note Talmey’s distinction between Perversity and Perversion. The latter is congenital and imperative. The former is situational and can be terminated: e.g. prison homosexuality or ‘gay for pay’.
Talmey cites and quotes the sexologists, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Albert Moll, Havelock Ellis but never Magnus Hirschfeld.
In turn, Talmey is never cited or quoted by George Henry, also of New York, who wrote on gay and trans persons in the 1940s. Talmey and Henry are certainly the major US writers on the topic in the first half of the 20th century. There is only a one-line mention of Talmey, and none at all of Henry, in Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon. Later sexologists ignore both Talmey and Henry. Of the three best known histories of transgender in the US, each of which has time to discuss German antecedents, Joanne Meyerowitz ignores Talmey completely and has two lines about Henry, and Susan Stryker and Genny Beemyn ignore them both.
Note that 47 years before Virginia Prince founded the Hose and Heel Club in 1960, there was a club for heterosexual transvestites in New York where androphilic transvestites were not welcome. Talmey seems to anticipate Prince etc by discussing gay transvestites separately in the Homosexuality section – although Prof M does appear in the Tranvestite section.
Note that 30 years before Louise Lawrence’s pioneering networking in the 1940s, Otto Spengler was doing something similar.
The story of the person, who gave birth to six children and then at 36 had an apoplectic stroke and started changing into a man, sounds odd and we would want to know more (but neither chromosomal nor hormonal analysis was available in Krafft-Ebing’s time), but see also Peter Stirling who gave birth and then changed spontaneously.
When Talmey was writing the concept of ‘Invert’ was strong. Thus he assumes that all gay men and lesbians are to some degree transvestic. Similarly in Germany, Hirschfeld regarded both gays and transvestites as ‘sexual intermediaries’. Hirschfeld however was strongly opposed by masculine gay men who were in no way effeminate.
Bulliet, published in 1928, writes: “Dr. Bernard S. Talmey, of New York, … names the impulse ‘transvestism’”. Successful words have many parents.
“Transvestism, on the other hand, is a sexo-esthetic inversion of pure artistic imitation. Hence it occurs mostly in artists and in men of letters.” -- yeah, right. This is an opinion much harder to hold in the 21st century.
As I said, Talmey’s work on gender variance is almost universally ignored. If you google his name you will find a lot of books etc that take quotes, often out of context, from his first book, Woman; A Treatise on the Normal and Pathological Emotions of Feminine Love. I have included Bram Dijkstra’s books in the bibliography as probably the best of such books.