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UK museum reclassifies Roman Emperor Elagabalus as transgender

The museum said it will follow new research findings and begin referring to the ruler with the pronoun "she" in displays at the institution.
UK museum reclassifies Roman Emperor Elagabalus as transgender
Posted at 8:39 PM, Nov 21, 2023

North Hertfordshire Museum in the UK announced that it will heed historical research and reclassify its displays depicting the Roman Emperor Elagabalus, identifying the ruler using the pronoun "she."

The museum — located in greater London, just about an hour drive north of the English capitol — said part of the process to reclassify and identify the historical figure involved classical texts, including one where the emperor is recorded in written word as saying, "call me not Lord, for I am a Lady."

The BBC reported that a spokesperson for the museum said the institution made the decision to be "polite and respectful" and to be "sensitive to identifying pronouns for people in the past."

Keith Hoskins, an executive at North Herts Council, said a silver denarius coin depicting Elagabalus, and displayed by the museum, is "one of a few LGBTQ+ items" in the museum's collection. 

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Hoskins said, "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."

Elagabalus was assassinated, and some historic accounts claim the emperor's "deviant" behavior was justification, according to theories reported on by the British press

Elagabalus was a controversial figure at the time and was known to have married the charioteer and former slave Hierocles, who according to historical accounts, identified as a male. According to historians, Elagabalus frequently wore wigs, makeup and preferred to be called a "domina," or lady, rather than a "dominus," or lord. 

According to analysis by ancient history graduate Ollie Burns, published by the University of Birmingham, there is historic evidence to support stories telling of how Elagabalus offered "vast sums" of money to "any physician" who could "give them a vagina." In one account told by Cassius Dio, a contemporary of Elagabalus, the ruler is said to have inquired about the "most painful method" for removing male genitalia, and is said to have offered a male praetorian prefect money to perform the procedure. 

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