The North Hertfordshire Museum in the United Kingdom just announced that, in an attempt to be “sensitive,” Emperor Elagabalus will now be displayed with female pronouns. Yes, the UK is worried about misgendering an emperor who died in the year 222.
The Telegraph reported the news on Monday and indicated that the museum council discovered that classical texts show Elagabalus asking to be called a “lady” and a “wife.” If you don’t have a Telegraph account, the full text can be viewed here.
“The Roman Emperor will be treated as a transgender woman and referred to as ‘she,’” Telegraph reported.
Supposedly, the museum owns a silver coin that was minted when Elagabalus was reigning in Rome from 218AD to 222AD when he was killed at just 18-years-old. The coin has apparently been used in “LGBT-themed displays,” The Telegraph indicated.
Reportedly, the museum “consults” with both “the LGBT charity Stonewall and the LGBT wing of the trade union Unison on best practice for its displays” in an effort to be as “inclusive as possible.”
The Telegraph article also reported that a “Liberal Democrat councillor,” Keith Hoskins, who helps make decisions for the museum claimed the following:
Elagabalus most definitely preferred the ‘she’ pronoun and as such this is something we reflect when discussing her in contemporary times.
North Herts Museum has one coin of Elagabalus, which we periodically put on display as it is one of a few LGBTQ+ items we have in our collection.
We try to be sensitive to identifying pronouns for people in the past, as we are for people in the present, it is only polite and respectful.
We know that Elagabalus identified as a woman and was explicit about which pronouns to use, which shows that pronouns are not a new thing.
Despite Hoskins remarks, history seems to point otherwise about why certain texts claim Elagabalus was not in fact transgender. Essentially, Elagabalus was referred to as a “lady” by a Roman chronicler, Cassius Dio, who served the emperor Serverus Alexander, the same emperor who took the throne after Elagabalus was assassinated.
“Historians have said that feminine behaviour would have been a dishonour to men in Rome, and suggested that accounts of Elagabalus’ life are replete with the worst accusations that could be levelled at a Roman because they are character assassinations,” the Telegraph indicated.
Further, professor Christian Laes, a classicist for the University of Manchester, indicated that accounts of an emperor's life should be taken “with a huge pinch of salt” and that, “As regards trans, this was of course never seen as a category by the Romans, but it remains the case that in times of troubles and crisis, so-called transgressors of the sexual norms were subject to scapegoating.”
All in all, its highly likely Elagabalus was not at all transgender. But leave it to 2023 social justice warriors to assert something of the such to make a museum seem progressive and inclusive.
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