The Shared Criminality of Joan of Arc and Marlene Dietrich

Joan of Arc dazzles us still, but what do we really know about her? Well, we know one thing for sure: she was a confirmed crossdresser. When her English captors ordered her to stop dressing as a man and to dress as a woman, she adamantly refused. Her refusal gave the English the excuse they needed to murder her.

Crossdressing was witchcraft, and witchcraft was punishable by death, specifically by burning at the stake. 

Imagine that! Wearing men’s clothes made Joan of Arc a criminal! 

Joan was killed in 1431. Now, let’s jump forward to 1933, five hundred years later. That’s when actress Marlene Dietrich dared to wear trousers in Paris in public. For a woman to do so was against French law, and Dietrich, defying the authorities, created a worldwide sensation.

Imagine that! Wearing trousers made Marlene Dietrich a criminal! 

(NOTE: The French law forbidding women to wear trousers stayed on the books until 2013 when it was finally repealed.)

Read more about these two trailblazers and others in my new book QUEERS & CIVILIZATION: How Sexual Diversity Enlivens, Enriches and Elevates Society, available now on, as a paperback, eBook or special Pride all-color version of the book. Read the synopsis and early reviews of the book so far. Please let me know what you think of it. Thanks.

— Byron

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