Christophe-Paulin de La Poix, Chevalier de Fréminville (1787-1848), Transgender Naval Commander, Naturalist, and Archeologist.

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The Chevalier de Fréminville (1787-1848) was a highly respected naval commander, archeologist, naturist, artist, travel writer and expert in Breton traditions and history, and published numerous scholarly books and articles. He was also transgender and was the only person in France in the 19th century to have written about his love of cross-dressing, and to have defended it in his Essai sur l’influence physique et morale du costume féminin (Essay on the Physical and Moral Influence of Female Dress) published in 1831, a work described by Gustave Fréjaville as “un document psychologique du premier ordre” (a psychological document of the first order). In spite of the importance of the Essay and Fréminville’s immense courage in living openly as a transgender person at a time of repressive laws and high social stigma, he is virtually unknown in the English speaking world, and none of his books or works and articles about him have been translated into English. His most well known work Mémoires du chevalier de Fréminville, first published in 1913 and reissued as a paperback on October 16, 2006, contains a detailed account of his travels with the French Navy to northern Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. It is also the source of an urban myth which ascribes his cross-dressing to a tragic love affair on the tiny Iles des Saintes, south of Guadeloupe. The episode is shrouded in mystery and Fréminville may have written two different accounts of his three month stay on the islands, one describing the love affair in great detail and reproduced in his Mémoires and the other very much shorter referred to by Prosper Levot in 1868, in which no mention is made of any love affair, a fact that oddly has not attracted any attention. The manuscripts of either of the accounts have not been made available to researchers. In addition to an examination of the Essay and the episode on Les Saintes, the mixed reactions of his contemporaries and the Church to his crossdressing are described, and reference is made to the legal, medical, social and literary background of the times.