The Doctor Who Feigned Manhood

/ˈbɑːri meɪnɪak/
person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal for Dr James Barry (1789-1865), a 19th century transgender army surgeon from Cork City, Ireland.


Was Dr James Barry Transgender? (Spoiler: the answer isn't yes or no.)

Was Barry a transgender man or a cis woman in disguise (or was he intersex)? This is something that is difficult to answer as it is something we will never know the answer to. We can theorise and speculate and 'choose a side' but unless Dr Barry rises from the grave and tells us, we shall never know for certain. Because of this people tend to lean towards one narrative and stick to it.
I am of the belief that Dr Barry was a transgender man but I cannot say that with 100% certainty because he is not here to tell us if that’s the modern term he would have chosen. At the time Barry lived there was no term to describe those who were transgender and therefore he would not have considered himself trans. Dr Enrique Favez, who lived at the same time, declared at his trial that he was a male spirit caught in a woman's body. If, like Favez, Barry had been found out in his lifetime it is possible we would have heard something similar from him. But Barry lived the remainder of his life as a man and was buried as one. Therefore, no conclusion can ever be known 'for certain' how Barry felt about his gender.
To avoid ambiguity on this site I will exclusively refer to Barry as he/him unless quoting from another, in which case the pronouns will be left as they were originally stated.
Despite feeling uncomfortable with referring to Barry as a woman, I find myself struggling to use modern descriptions for gender and sexuality to refer to historical figures. I understand that for ease of communication it is generally easier to use terms like 'transgender' or 'gay' to refer to the people of the past, but we mustn't be ignorant of the terms they themselves would have used and also that identity-based LGBT+ terminology is a relatively new concept. For most of history these things were action-based rather than being a single static identity.
Tumblr user genderden has an interesting piece discussing this that can be found on their blog or on the Wayback Machine.