Jennie June and the Cercle Hermaphroditos
By Mila Madison
Jennie June and the Cercle Hermaphroditos
Though much is not known about her origins, June was born as Earl Lind in 1874. She grew up in the state of Connecticut in a Puritan family of good means. She was the fourth of eleven children. As a child she would think of herself as “Jennie” as it was a name that sounded most feminine to her. She was aware that she was transgender at the age of four. June felt her condition was congenital as she had a first cousin who was born a hermaphrodite. She referred to herself as a “girl-boy” when she was young and most of the male children she knew referred to her that way.
June had an obsession with fellatio, which started at an early age. She would struggle with this obsession throughout most of her life. She socialized with the girls in her school and most of her friends referred to her as Jennie. At the age of nine, her parents sent her to an “all boys” school. Preferring to go to a girl’s school, she would become introverted and did not socialize much with the boys. She would even resist having to use the boys bathroom unless it was absolutely necessary. She would often pray that her physical sex would change. Despite all her transgender feelings as a child she was a model student.
June would attend college in New York City where she would find religion for a while and do missions for her church. She would often think about suicide as she struggled with her identity. She visited doctors who knew nothing of her condition and tried to cure her through radical treatments such as shock therapy. It was in New York where she would ultimately succumb to her true reality and live out her transgender experience in the underground of the city.
“MEMBERS WOULD GO THERE TO GET AWAY FROM THEIR PRETEND MALE IDENTITIES AND DRESS IN THE CLOTHES THAT MATCHED THEIR FEMININE TRUTHS.”
Located around 4th Avenue and 14th street in Manhattan, Jennie June would find Paresis Hall in 1895. It was known as the androgyne headquarters. Transgender was not a word at the time. In her writings, June would often refer to herself as androgyne, introvert or bisexual, though with the latter meaning being of both genders and not what we know of the term today. The common slang word for her type was known as “fairie”. The hall was full of rooms and lockers that people were allowed to rent. Members would go there to get away from their pretend male identities and dress in the clothes that matched their feminine truths. It was the only place where they were able to exist and socialize as themselves. When asked what her real name was, June would give the name Ralph Werther to protect her family’s name.
She would often walk the city streets while presenting female and often would look to pick up men to feed her obsession with fellatio. She looked to be treated as female by the men who sought out the “fairies” on the streets of New York’s underground. She would later go on to have herself castrated to better present female and to subdue her sexual obsessions.
“WE NEED TO UNITE FOR DEFENSE AGAINST THE WORLD’S BITTER PERSECUTION OF BISEXUALS.”
June and some of her friends would go on to form the “Cercle Hermaphroditos”. The group would convene on the top floor of Paresis Hall and work on ways they could “unite for defense against the world’s bitter persecution of bisexuals.” as was stated by member Roland Reeves. They would meet to find ways to advance their cause. They were one of the first organizations in the United States that fought for gender non-conforming rights. At the urging of religious leaders and the community surrounding it, Paresis Hall would be raided by the police and it’s transgender clientele would end up being barred from the location and shunned.
Jennie June would go on to pen two books about her life experiences. She would write the Autobiography of an Androgyne in 1918 and The Female Impersonators in 1922. The books would chronicle her life experiences and the transgender scene at the turn of the century. They are two of the most detailed accounts of transgender life during that era. There are versions printed under her birth name, Earl Lind and her pseudonym Ralph Werther. We refer to her as June because that is the name she preferred when being true to herself.
In 2010, a third undiscovered manuscript written by June (Lind) titled “Riddle of the Underworld” was found by Dr. Randall Sell, a professor at the Drexel University. Written in 1921, the manuscript is not complete and not much is known regarding what happened to Jennie June thereafter. The rest is a mystery.