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The hidden case of Ewan Forbes : and the unwritten history of the trans experience

by Playdon, Zoe-Jane,

Format: Print Book 2021
Availability: Available at 5 Libraries 5 of 6 copies
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CLP - Allegheny Regional Non-Fiction Collection RC883.P53 2021x
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CLP - Main Library First Floor - LGBTQ RC883.P53 2021x
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Pleasant Hills Public Library Nonfiction 306.768 P72
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Summary
The life story of an aristocratic Scottish trans man and the secret 1968 legal case that provides "a fascinating look into the changing landscape of trans rights" ( Library Journal ) throughout history.

Ewan Forbes was born to a wealthy, landowning family, holders of a baronetcy, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in 1912. Assigned female at birth, his true identity was nevertheless clear even in childhood--and so, with the support of his mother, he was taken to European specialists and eventually treated with early preparations of synthetic testosterone. Raised as a boy at home but socially obliged to present himself as a girl in public until his official coming out to the Queen, Ewan grew up, became a doctor, and got married. (This required him to correct the sex on his birth certificate, which was possible at that time without much fuss.) For decades, he lived a quiet life as a husband, doctor, and a pillar of the local community.

But in 1965, Ewan's older brother died unexpectedly--leaving Ewan, the next oldest man in the family, to inherit the baronetcy. When his cousin John--spurred on by Ewan's sister--contested the inheritance he was forced to defend his male status in Scotland's supreme civil court, where he prevailed.

This hugely important case would have changed the lives of trans people across the world--had it not been hidden. The hearing was conducted privately, the media were gagged, and those involved were sworn to secrecy. The case remained unknown until 1996 and is at last described here, along with the life of Ewan Forbes, for the first time. Enlightening and galvanizing, The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes is a "remarkable...vital historical reference" ( Booklist ) for transgender history and the ongoing struggle for trans rights.
Contents
Childhood
The medical student
Marriage
A death in the family
Margaret's fateful letter
The medical examination
An audacious defense
The judge's dilemma
A perfect storm
Outlawed
Another audacious defense
Ewan's legacy.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "For decades in the UK, transgender people have been unable to correct their birth certificates, which impacts access to housing, employment, and other necessities. It has remained largely unknown why the courts are blocking trans people from accessing affirming documentation, a seemingly invisible legal precedent setting the foundation for one anti-trans decision after another. Playdon, a long-time advocate of LGBTQIA+ rights in the medical community, set out to find that precedent, and uncovered the remarkable story of the Scottish nobleman Ewan Forbes. Playdon's book takes us through the largely unknown life of Forbes, from his childhood of homeschooling with his supportive mother through his attendance of medical school and subsequent medical practice. Readers are engaged in the life of an early-twentieth-century transgender man and the struggles and pitfalls that came with accessing affirming legal documentation and medical care. There are instances of insensitive terminology and coverage here, but these missteps are balanced by the value of reclaiming Forbes' story. Especially since where materials regarding Forbes' life are lacking, Playdon thoroughly contextualizes his story with transgender history throughout the twentieth century, ultimately creating a vital historical reference."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Playdon, an emeritus professor of medical humanities at the University of London, frames this meticulous history of trans rights in Great Britain around the case of Scottish aristocrat Sir Ewan Forbes of Craigievar (1912--1991), who was "assigned as female at birth, christened Elisabeth, and raised as a girl." In 1952, claiming that his sex assignment had been a "ghastly mistake," Forbes had his birth certificate corrected to male, changed his name to Ewan, and married his housekeeper. When his older brother died without male heirs in 1965, Forbes stood to inherit a baronetcy, but his cousin made a counterclaim, alleging that Forbes "is now and has all along been of the female sex." Playdon delves deep into the conflicting medical evidence presented at the private trial, which determined that Forbes was "a true hermaphrodite in whom male sexual characteristics predominate" and upheld his claim to the baronetcy. The ruling was withheld from the public record, however, allowing a subsequent court case to set a legal precedent that severely limited trans rights in the U.K. Playdon marshals a wealth of scientific and legal detail and paints a sympathetic yet evenhanded portrait of Forbes, who likely faked some of the medical evidence he presented at trial. The result is a valuable contribution to trans history. (Nov.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Forbes, Ewan, -- Sir.
Transgender men -- Biography.
Intersex people -- Biography.
Physicians -- Scotland -- Biography.
Biographies.
Publisher New York :2021
Edition First Scribner hardcover edition.
Language English
Description xv, 368 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 299-346) and index.
ISBN 9781982139469
1982139463
Other Classic View