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Cultures in Conflict

Religion, History and Gender in Northern Europe c. 1800–2000

Edited By Alexander Maurits, Johannes Ljungberg and Erik Sidenvall

This book includes studies of main conflict areas in modern Western societies where religion has been a central element, ranging from popular movements and narratives of opposition to challenges of religious satire and anti-clerical critique. Special attention is given to matters of politics and gender. With this theme, it provides a useful guide to conflict areas in modern European religious history.

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Inger Littberger Caisou-Rousseau

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Inger Littberger Caisou-Rousseau

If I Am Not Allowed to Wear Trousers I Cannot Live.’ Therese Andreas Bruce and the Struggle for a Male Identity in Nineteenth-Century Sweden

Abstract This chapter approaches the issue of what it was to be a man in nineteenth-century Sweden by studying the life of the ‘gender-bender’ Therese Andreas Bruce (1808–1885). It is here argued that masculinity was not about finding oneself but creating oneself. More than most other people Bruce created and invented a life of his/her own.

What was it like to be a man in nineteenth-century Sweden? Or rather: what was it like to be a man for someone who was not only born by a woman but also born to be a woman, but who nevertheless from the very beginning considered himself a man and was prepared to draw the consequences of that consideration to the furthest?

The topic of this chapter is a handwritten autobiography by someone who was born in 1808 as Christina Therese Isabelle Jeanette Louise Bruce and who died as Ferdinand Andreas Edvard Bruce in 1885. This entirely unique document was edited by me, together with a collection of letters from the years 1859–1881 and a melodramatic verse narrative ‘Hämnd och försoning’ (‘Revenge and atonement’) from 1868–1869, written by the same person, in a book entitled Therese Andreas Bruce: En sällsam historia från 1800-talet (Therese Andreas Bruce: A Remarkable Story from the Nineteenth Century). The book also contains a long introductory chapter composed by me.1

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By highlighting illustrative examples from the book, I will demonstrate how Bruce, from his very birth declared to be a girl, but from early on feeling like a boy and firmly resolved to live his life as a man, must struggle for a high standard of what he considers a male identity, characterised by entities such as courage, strength, power, and firmness. Certainly, Bruce’s noble birth –his father Adam Bruce was a member of the armed forces and held varying offices at the royal court –initially may well have facilitated his norm-breaking activities, though his father’s opposition was early on rigid and also other members of the family brought forward their objections.

Assuredly, Bruce, often called a ‘disguised young lady’, is a very special man, who later on gives birth to a child and who wants, but is not allowed, to marry a woman. Still he never depicts himself as a woman, not even a masculine or manly woman, but as a heterosexual man who wants to be respected as such by those around him. Therefore, it is the more urgent for Bruce to reject anything with a feminine touch and try to demonstrate that manliness in his case is not a temporary disguise but an integrated part of his personality. At the same time, he constructs his masculinity from the very bottom, and he has a constant readiness to defend it. To that extent Bruce’s text illustrates how the apprehension of manliness in the nineteenth century directly and indirectly is discussed and negotiated and how manliness is a form of performativity; the clothes, but also gestures and one’s conduct make the man!

Bruce wrote his autobiography at the end of his life and there are two overlapping versions, a draft and a fair copy, with small divergences between them. The handwriting of the fair copy is neat and easy to read. Surprisingly it ends in the middle of a page, whereas the draft goes on until an account of a crisis with religious implications when Bruce is about forty years old. It is scarcely probable that the narrative was intended to end in that way. Probably the author fell ill and died before the fair copy was completed, but why does the first version not continue right on to the writing Bruce’s moment in time? Maybe the remaining part of the draft has disappeared or been destroyed. In any case, Bruce manifests his talent for literary writing. He knows how to create a narrative to keep the reader’s attention alive. It is also evident that he envisioned an audience as he opens his narrative with an invocation to an imagined reader; in one passage he even employs a formulation like ‘to confess to the whole world’.2 However, he never mentions in what way he intended to publish the narrative of his life.

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What genre does Bruce’s text belong to? I have called it autobiography, the concept Bruce makes use of is ‘description of life’, and it certainly has features of both autobiography and memoir, but could as well be designated a narrative of development or confession (of sin). Even if the author is eager to emphasise the veracity of what he writes his narrative is obviously, like any other autobiographical text, arranged, thereby manifesting fictive features. Moreover, Bruce’s narrative is also a kind of apology. The author does not conceal his own faults and deficiencies, quite the reverse, one of his main aims is to warn the reader not to live such a sinful life as his. At the same time he constructs an image of himself as honest and honourable, a man worth the reader’s sympathy rather than blame. One could also say that Bruce’s narrative of his life functions as a kind of retrospective creation of his masculinity. In constructing a vividly longed for masculinity Bruce creates himself as a historical person and a man.

Research on different kinds of gender transformations is not very extensive so far. Yet Bruce’s case is not unparalleled, and what makes it unique is the fact that he has written the narrative of his life. With the exception of Lars Molin’s (called Lasse-Maja, 1785–1845) autobiography, though written from a different transsexual perspective, Bruce’s is principally the only autobiographical narrative from this time written by a transsexual person hitherto known in Sweden.3 In Maria Lindeberg’s travel book Bref från Paris (Letters from Paris) from 1827 one reads about a working-class woman aged about 50 who makes her living from mason work, always dressed as a man and who has totally adopted a man’s manners and his way of walking. The remarkable thing according to Lindeberg is that no Frenchman makes fun of her, whereas a Swedish woman of the same predicament would be defamed and forbidden to work.4

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An illustration to how Swedish society actually reacted to a woman who like this fictive French woman chose to live and act as a man, about a hundred years before Maria Lindeberg composed her text, is the story of a lieutenant colonel’s daughter, called Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar, from the province of Småland in southern Sweden. In 1713 she abandoned her female dress as it prevented her from succeeding, left for Stockholm and assumed the name of Vilhelm Edstedt. Later on she arrived in Kalmar, in south-eastern Sweden, where she enlisted in the artillery and got married to a young woman. The marriage was a happy one, but as Ulrika Eleonora later on was persuaded by her relatives to once again wear her female dress she was brought to court in 1729 because of her affair with a woman. The sentence was one month in prison. The male dress and the fascination for military life, as well as the love affair with a woman and problems with the authorities, all these are common factors for Stålhammar and Bruce.

Unique of its kind is an autobiography, with an introduction by Michel Foucault, written by the French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin (1838–1868), who like Bruce had been allotted a female identity but chose to live as a man, however with a tragic outcome.5 In my book I compare Barbin’s text with Bruce’s. Suffering is a mutual guiding principle, but also the stoical and supposed masculine attitude to conceal one’s pain at all costs.

Now the Gentleman Was Completed

From Bruce’s autobiography one can conclude that this person from early on clearly saw himself as a boy and therefore also wanted to dress like a boy. Already as a teenager the idea of wearing a pair of trousers and thereby marking a male identity was firmly rooted in Bruce: ‘Now I had been confirmed, and I thought that I was really like a man if I could only dress in trousers, my fantasy was fully occupied by that idea.’6 It is evident from the epithet ‘Little Miss Mr.’ mentioned in the text that those around him apprehended his male features.7 However, that is not to say that anybody was prepared to allow for the putative girl to become a boy quite easily. Bruce narrates of his father’s reaction when it came to his child’s request to dress like a man. Adam Bruce declared that even if Bruce junior were a complete man he himself would never permit that his noble name would be stained. He would rather let his child have a mistress if there were no other options. A remarkable statement! The father apparently does not really care if his child is a ‘complete man’ or a woman, he can even accept the idea of a mistress. What is crucial for him is just the good name of the family, which must be saved at all costs. Therefore his child’s idea to dress like a man revolts him. For him a putative lesbian affair is obviously less disgracing than an exchange of gender identity. The gender a child is assigned at birth may be arbitrary, but once determined nothing is allowed to modify it.8

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Bruce’s father, who will soon take up a post at the Customs in Sandhamn, an island in the province of Uppland, demonstrates his patriarchal authority in lingering over the near future when he will practically make a prisoner of his child on the island. Bruce realises that this is a trap and that his only option is to flee from his family. His exposition of his flight abounds in dramatic ingredients. Dressed like a man with pants, a pair of trousers and high boots, as well as a big knife as a weapon (!) the fugitive leaves home ‘without other roof over his head than heaven, deprived of any earthly friend knowing his whereabouts and without a coin in his pocket’, as Bruce expresses himself.9 His exposure is underlined, but at the same time no reader can doubt the purposefulness to force through his decision to live his life as a man. However, the escape fails and Bruce returns to family not without a certain relief.

One could imagine that order hereby was restored and that the protagonist called Therese by the family after the bold attempt to force ‘her’ way out would adapt to life as an unmarried daughter still living in her parents’ house. However, that was not the case, on the contrary, the transformation now has a quick progress, this time without any opposition from the father. Once again the clothes are in the limelight when the old Bruce tells about his young alter ego’s metamorphosis: ‘My brother bought me a pair of blue trousers; a brown tail coat, red skin braces, a waistcoat striped in yellow, boots made black, and a little neat cap were obtained, by that the gentleman was completed.’10 However, putting on new clothes is not sufficient. A medical expert must be consulted and give his opinion. Therefore Bruce and his father go to Stockholm to visit a director-general, known by Adam Bruce. Bruce tells his future reader about this decisive visit:

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My father then said that he could not know about his daughters’ bodily constitutions, this my daughter declares to be a man, has passions like a man and has now dressed like a man, what is now needed is a certificate stating the true conditions which I hope that you Mr. Director-general my Lord Brother, will truthfully grant us! He [the doctor] escorted me to a separate room, investigated me in every possible way, I described how it was, he said nothing, but I said when he left me that if I am not allowed to wear trousers I cannot live. My father did not say a single word and when the director had written and sealed, we took leave of him. We did not know what he had written until we reached the place where we had left our horse, where my father read it [the text of the certificate] to me. We entered the carriage and drove out of town. There was an inn and we had some food and a glass of wine together. Then my father said: Cheers my new son, see to it that you honour yourself, Andreas shall be your name that is the name of my grand-father.11

The scene at the director-general’s is imbued with silence. The only words that are heard are the father’s explanation for the visit and an appeal to the medical authority, also called ‘my Brother’ –here one glimpses a homo-social network –to issue a certificate stating his child’s gender conditions. As to the rest, the father is as mute as the director-general. Certainly, the narrator tells the reader that during the examination he himself described ‘how it was’, but apart from that the investigation is left uncommented. That an obtrusive inspection of this kind was unpleasant for the one being examined is obvious. Moreover, Bruce was extremely sensitive in this respect. On another occasion he writes that it was a necessity for him not to let anybody get close to him and that he would rather die than not rebuke anyone touching him. In the light of the silence dominating the scene at the doctor’s, Bruce’s cry of distress when it comes to the unconditional claim to be allowed to wear trousers is all the more foregrounded. As to the rest one has the impression that Bruce and his father are infected by the doctor’s muteness. Therefore they also wait to study the vital document until they have left his practice. Only does the father speak up, reading the certificate whose very wording Bruce abstains from citing in his text –another telling silence.

Consequently, Bruce keeps his future reader in suspense as to the actual wording of the document even if the continuation of the text gives the impression that the doctor had written that the person under examination was a man and nothing else. Because from this moment on the father treats his child as a son according to the narrative. Like two male partners they go to an inn and drink to one another and in a combined act of baptism and Holy Communion so to say –birth and growing to manhood in one –the father confirms his new son’s existence and gives him his patrimonial name. Thereby Andreas is incorporated in the male community which is also confirmed when he is allowed to sit at his father’s side next Sunday in the ‘male’ pew at church without anyone’s objection: ‘It was as if nothing had ever happened,’ Bruce concludes.12

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To a Great Extent Hermaphrodite or Bisexual

However, the doctor had not written that Bruce unambiguously was a man. Instead he certifies that he has found the examined person to be ‘to a great extent hermaphrodite or bisexual, not owning complete reproductive organs of either of the sexes, even though the organs were more corresponding with the male sex’.13 The document never cited by Bruce is kept in the archive of the House of Nobility in Stockholm. It is signed by Anders Johan Hagströmer (1753–1830), who was a superior doctor and professor of anatomy and surgery. Accordingly, it was a highly qualified medical expert who was consulted to give his opinion on how Adam Bruce’s child was constituted as regards gender.

Swedish historian Jonas Liliequist maintains that if a person’s sex and behaviour in early-modern society were not in accordance that was interpreted either as a sign of social deceit or as a reflection of a bisexual body. In both these cases the uttermost truth of gender lay in anatomy.14 Furthermore, during the latter part of the eighteenth century medical experts were more and more interested in ‘hermaphrodites’ and doctors were summoned to settle judicial problems of bisexuality.15 Though Bruce is living in the nineteenth century, anatomy in his case settles the argument as well. Still Hagströmer as well as Doctor Eric Gadelius (1778–1827), author of a medical and legal handbook, seem not to have believed in the existence of a ‘real’, that is to say complete, hermaphrodite.16

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Instead the examined individual is characterised as a hermaphrodite though more male than female, which is reminiscent of Gadelius’ denomination male hermaphrodite.

Consequently, already at the age of fully sixteen (the certificate was issued in July 1825) Bruce was informed of the putative fact that he was not complete either as a woman or a man. To a great extent hermaphrodite, but yet neither one thing nor the other, that is to say neither complete hermaphrodite nor complete man or complete woman. Certainly it is not by pure chance that the word ‘complete’ later on occurs in Bruce’s own text when he concludes that he was not ‘a complete man and yet wanted to prove to the Professor that I in thoughts, words and deeds had the intention of bearing everything that other men could manage’.17 This awareness of not being ‘a complete man’ and the demand despite this to prove to himself and others that he was capable of managing all that ‘a real man’ is expected to achieve is a recurrent theme in Bruce’s narrative.

Even if Hagströmer’s certificate was all but unambiguous it was vital for Bruce. It made it possible for him to live the rest of his life as a man. Bruce’s description of his first official appearance as a man gives the impression that it was all a painless and simple affair. However, the first version of the text testifies that this was not quite the case. Bruce writes that it was said that a distinguished lady, sitting in the same pew as Bruce’s mother and sister, had fainted when she turned her head and caught sight of Bruce in the male pew. A fainting-fit is a strong reaction and a palpable sign of agitation. The noble lady loses her consciousness because young Bruce is sitting in the male pew. The fact that Bruce omits this colourful scene when making his fair copy is remarkable. Generally in his narrative he emphasises his suffering and all the hardships that his transformation of gender implied; here on the contrary he gives proof of a tendency to tone down the difficulties. Yet the lady’s reaction is symptomatic. That those around him were taken aback by Bruce’s gender transformation is obvious. Some people were horrified by what they called a scandal in High Society, whereas others found it quite spicy or actually tragic.

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Later on in the narrative Bruce is living as a man in Stockholm. One day he receives a severe letter from his parents accusing him of having stained the whole family as every newspaper had discussed his metamorphosis and even a song dealing with the transformation had been written which they had to forbid. They declare that they will never forgive him and that all relatives are angry with him. Through the intervention of a clergyman reconciliation is finally achieved. Yet it is not his family that apologises for the hard-hearted words but Bruce himself who writes from the clergyman’s dictation that he has done wrong without the intention of doing so, and without realising the devastating consequences of his conduct for his family. He refers to his certificate as an apology as it is impossible for him to wear a skirt and he also anticipates that everything will be forgotten when he returns home and nobody will be reminded of his person. As appears from Bruce’s wording his self-effacement is total, he could as well apologise for being born and he principally promises to hide so that nobody will be reminded of his existence. Even the words are actually not his own, it is the representative of the church who prompts them.

Wimps, Hens, Cowards, and Other Poor Wretches

Bruce’s idea of what it means to be a man and how to conduct like one is clear. His ideal attaches to a stereotyped conception implying that physical and psychic strength, manifested in courage and self-control, are important components of a man’s armour. In that respect he is the son of his father. Bruce narrates that his father was very fond of any evidence of bravery. He was happy when Andreas and his deaf-mute brother wrestled and he incited them in their fight calling out: ‘My man the winner’.18 The ideal of the man of action is evident. For anyone who like Bruce is physically weak it is the more essential to compensate with agility and perseverance. Furthermore, Bruce declares that already as a youth he could tolerate strong tobacco and that he smoked a clay pipe. Later on in life he often appears with a cigar in his mouth, a typical male attribute at this time, and among other men he willingly drinks a glass of wine or punch.

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Pierre Bourdieu maintains that virility is a highly relational quality, constructed before other men and against femininity for fear of the female potential inhabiting man himself.19 His thesis is to a great extent applicable to Bruce who points out the importance of inner strength and firmness of character maintaining that it is acceptable for ‘a weak woman’ not to dare contradict anybody, but that a man of such a character is embarrassing to deal with: ‘they are wimps.’20 By bringing forward an integrated masculine identity he fights to demarcate from the effeminacy that he dreads inhabits him. ‘If I wanted to be a man I would certainly not act as a hen,’ he concludes.21 Nothing is more contemptible than a man acting as a weak, stupid, and fearful woman, according to Bruce. However sometimes not even the best of intentions helps: ‘You want to be a man, but you are a true hen of the very worst kind,’ Bruce rebukes himself on one occasion when he has allowed himself to be intimidated by the imagined sight of a ghost.22 Yet he soon overcomes his fear and courageously confronts the danger. It could have been an anti-climax when the feared phantom appears to be the dog of the house, but that is not how Bruce presents the scene. Quite the reverse, the very mention of the dread that he has to overcome in hindsight serves to heighten his standing as a hero. Bruce demonstrates his ability in using literary devices to create himself as a dedicated masculine individual.

Wimp and hen –there are also other designations of this wretched variety of the male species, apparently not all too rare, such as poor wretches and cowards. On one occasion Bruce has a severe problem with his vehicle and according to himself his life is in imminent danger. The scene is watched by two quick young men who run away in fear of witnessing Bruce’s death. Bruce compares their behaviour to his own, in spite of his weak constitution he has dared his life on several occasions for much less than this. His judgement is sharp when he asks if these two were actually men. Even if their bodies were of a male constitution their minds certainly were not. On the contrary, they were worse than many an old bag and from that day on Bruce regards them as cowards.

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In 1829 the young Andreas Bruce went to the Swedish island of Gotland where he was employed by shopkeeper and shipbuilder Jacob Dubbe, owner of an estate called Rosendal in the parish of Follingbo. Not yet arrived at his future place of work the local customs inspector informs Bruce that his new employer is so severe and dreaded that nobody has had the courage to remain in his service. Bruce is not one to be discouraged that easily though. ‘My future employer was so hard that he could have no servant, he even beat them, any other person than me would never had dared to go there, but as I had the intention to be a man I did not want to be afraid,’ he resolutely declares.23 In that way he stresses that for anyone who wants to be a man in a qualified sense of the word it is not enough just to differ from weak women but also from other men who lack his own firm purpose to act as a real man. Such a cowardly man would have withdrawn –not so Bruce! That is Bruce’s way of proving that after his gender transformation he has become even more masculine than most other men who have never been obliged to fight for or defend their male identity.

Made for Military Life

Not only rationality and reason but also aggressiveness, eagerness to fight, virility, and pugnacity have by tradition been considered as constitutive for a masculine way of acting. Even though Norbert Elias among others maintains that the scope for vehemence has been reduced ever since the fifteenth century, martial motifs were present in boys’ physical education throughout the nineteenth century. Swedish historian Jens Ljunggren has demonstrated how gymnastics educator Pehr Henrik Ling’s (1776–1839) exercises were means to recreate a lost masculinity by taking care of man’s best capacities for being a man, though adapted to a modern society, appreciating not just strength and discipline but also spirituality and love of nature. A man should learn warfare, but he was also expected to conduct in a proper and balanced manner.24

Engaged and courageous participation in enlistment and exercise was therefore if anything a way for a gender-ambivalent person like Bruce to prove that he was a real man. He makes a bold start, stating that of course he should drill, as anyone anyone not capable of that was teased and Bruce certainly did not want to expose himself to derision. As a preparation for drill he purposefully trains under a captain and this coaching goes like clockwork, according to Bruce himself. After the successful enlistment, he declares himself to be delighted at being in the army.

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When the military exercises starts, Bruce expresses his admiration for the masculine image of the officer in charge: ‘We got a quick and capable lieutenant who was bold and daring, exactly what I had wished for.’25 When the manoeuvre has been accomplished the lieutenant praises his soldiers, saying that they look like real men. Bruce depicts himself as one of the foremost soldiers in the field. It is no wonder that the soldiers at the very back of the file are afraid, beginners as they are, but Bruce and ‘a few other quick men’ help them in firing all their shots for them.26 Military life suits him perfectly well and he declares that if circumstances had not been at times all too difficult for him he would have been made for a military career; ‘at least I had the proper disposition, fearless, merry and pleased, punctual and taciturn when that was appropriate, no drunkard but not a total abstainer either, not begrudging anybody what appealed to myself.’27

In an old unidentified newspaper article headlined ‘A Miss of Male Gender’ an unknown writer maintained that Bruce was exempted from military service after county governor Hohenhausen’s announcement in a powerful voice: ‘No old bags in the army!’ It is improbable that Bruce had invented the whole story of his military service, the details being too many and too rich in colour for that. There is also a plausible explanation for the rumour that he was exempted already at his first enlistment. Much later in the narrative Bruce mentions that the doctor of the hospital and regiment arrives at an enlistment wanting to buy a pair of small horses which Bruce does not want him to purchase as they are already sold to someone else. The doctor reacts with anger and influences the county governor so that after the enlistment is completed he declares to Bruce that he is released from bearing arms forever. Bruce maintains that it was the doctor who, as an act of revenge, had arranged this. He concludes that it was no great loss for him though the aim was to bother Bruce. It is remarkable that Bruce, who earlier in the narrative was so engaged in military life, now thinks that it was no great loss to be excused from it. Has growing age made him lose some of the young man’s warlike mentality? Or does he not want to acknowledge his shame even to himself?

Sister and Brother, Father and Mother in One and the Same Person

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Obviously, the doctor had revealed Bruce’s putative female identity to the county governor, and there was a special reason why he knew about Bruce’s anatomical constitution. In autumn 1837, Bruce got pregnant and in July his daughter was born. As he has promised himself to be truthful, Bruce has to coerce himself to mention this unexpected and uncommon event even if it is very painful for him to do so. How did it come about? An inspector named Lars Nyström stubbornly declared his love for Bruce and said that he knew for sure that Andreas was a disguised young lady. Bruce emphasises that he felt very embarrassed at Nyström’s flirtation. Yet at an early stage there is a moment when he wonders whether it is not God’s will that he shall live as a woman in a relationship with Nyström. This thought soon passes off, though, and Bruce declares that he could not be persuaded to change clothes.

Bruce comments on the circumstances when the foetus was conceived in the following way: ‘One night when we had been on the spree together the inspector asked to stay as it was late and he had a long way home. I gave him permission and totally forgot to be careful.’28 There is no evidence in the text that Nyström forced himself on Bruce, even if it is not out of question that this was the case. The wording that Bruce forgot to be careful could be a hint that it was not the first time he went to bed with Nyström; whether or not that was the case is impossible to know. However, any indication that Bruce would play along and recognise a double gender identity is not congruent with the rest of the text. The fact that he was drunk could to some extent explain his action, yet Bruce does not highlight this, presumably because the very revelling is to him morally objectionable.

Bruce portrays the discovery of his pregnancy in terms of a catastrophe. The anxiety and distress are overwhelming, and Bruce finds it impossible to describe all the torments he undergoes at the same time as he has to be on duty. More than once the thought of committing suicide haunts him, but as he has his hope in God he wants to wait after all. When Nyström is informed about the pregnancy he abandons Bruce whose despair at this response is total as he sees himself as hopelessly lost. Even if he trusts in God he cannot bear it any longer when he feels the foetus move. At that moment he takes his gun, loads it and cocks the trigger to fulfil his suicide. Just then he hears an inner voice calling out a doctor’s name whereupon Bruce makes up his mind to see this doctor and explain his situation to him.

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That a pregnancy constituted a severe threat to Bruce’s construction of a male identity is obvious. The conception of the child did indeed prove that Doctor Hagströmer was wrong: at least Bruce’s female genitals must have been intact. But it was not that kind of ‘completeness’ he wanted to have confirmed. In this precarious situation the only thing left to do was to wait for the delivery and demonstrate his masculine bravery when the labour pains finally attacked him. Bruce relates that he had suffered for nine hours without anybody looking after him, apart from the doctor briefly exhorting him to cry out so that the pains would be reduced, but Bruce stubbornly remained silent, not letting out a single sound. Not to cry when one is giving birth is for Bruce the most extreme proof of masculinity. In truth a paradoxical situation! Presumably this is the very first depiction of a man giving birth in Sweden, maybe the first ever written.

Immediately after the birth, the girl Carolina is brought to a foster family. Yet Bruce is firmly determined to bring her back as soon as possible to take care of her himself. That is also accomplished when Bruce resigns his appointment at Dubbe’s estate and moves to Öja, another locality on the island of Gotland. Carolina is brought up in a household consisting of Bruce and his partner Maria Lindblad and her illegitimate daughter.29 From Bruce’s preserved letters to Carolina, published in my book, it is evident that he acted as her affectionate father.

The doctor’s revenge did not stop with the participation in the act to prevent Bruce from bearing arms, thereby depriving him of a vital part of his male appearance. When Bruce wants to marry Maria Lindblad the doctor throws a new spanner into the works by telling the clergyman that Bruce is the mother of his child. By extension this results in the vicar’s refusal both to absolve Bruce and according to an old ritual receive Bruce as a member of the clerical and social communion after his giving birth to the child. That implies that Bruce is also forbidden to partake of the Holy Communion for almost a decade; as he was an ardent believer that was a severe punishment. Moreover he had to endure the social disgrace that the prohibition implied.

Even if a personal act of revenge was the primary driving force it is not only the doctor who acted as a brake; a few others of society’s mainstay, namely the county governor and the vicar also actively counteracted Bruce’s ambition to live his life as a complete man.

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Andreas and Maria did never marry. Besides being a man with an ambiguous gender identity he was a mother/father to an illegitimate child, and his stigmatisation was therefore double. It is nevertheless remarkable that what for a reader of today looks like a textbook case of masculine authorities’ discrimination of a human being who violated sexual and gender norms already by lacking a clearly defined sex, is instead interpreted by the ageing Bruce in a Christian light which makes him blame himself as a wicked man who lived a sinful life with the woman he loved and who cursed, revelled, and sang obscene songs.30


Swedish historian David Tjeder, who has investigated the fragile masculinity of nineteenth-century middle-class society, maintains that a key concept in this context was character. The male task was to realise his character from potentiality to actuality. What it was all about was not finding oneself but creating oneself. A man should be transparent with no flaw or discrepancy between his inner and outer self and his acts.31 More than most other men Bruce created and invented himself as a male individual. All his adult life he fought to prove to himself and others that he was a proper man in thoughts, words, and deeds. It is therefore ironic and regrettable that his tombstone was engraved with his female initials C.T. (Christina Therese), rather than his male initials F.A.E. (Ferdinand Andreas Edvard), in an act that was certainly not in compliance with Bruce’s desires.


A Swedish version of this chapter has been published in Tidskrift för litteraturvetenskap 2013:3–4.


Barbin, Abel, Herculine Barbin: Being the recently discovered memoirs of a nineteenth-century French hermaphrodite (introduction by Michel Foucault; translated by Richard McDougall), New York 1980.

Bondestam, Maja, Tvåkönad: studier i den svenska hermafroditens historia, Nora 2010.

Bourdieu, Pierre, Masculine Domination, Cambridge 2001.

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Lasse-Maja, Den beryktade Lasse-Majas äfwentyr: efter nyare upptäckter och anteckningar om denne stortjufs märkwärdiga stölder, äfwensom hans många äfwentyr, såwäl i karlkläder, som förklädd till qwinna, under hwilken förklädnad han utförde många djerfwa puts med både Herrar och Damer, Stockholm 1887.

Liliequist, Jonas, ‘Kvinnor i manskläder och åtrå mellan kvinnor: Kulturella förväntningar och kvinnliga strategier i det tidigmoderna Sverige och Finland’, in Eva Borgström (ed.), Makalösa kvinnor: Könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet, Stockholm 2002, pp. 63–123.

Lindeberg, Maria, Bref från Paris af ett resande svenskt fruntimmer, Stockholm 1827.

Littberger Caisou-Rousseau, Inger, Therese Andreas Bruce: En sällsam historia från 1800-talet, Göteborg/Stockholm 2013.

Ljunggren Jens, Kroppens bildning: Linggymnastikens manlighetsprojekt 1790–1914, Stockholm/Stehag 1999.

Tjeder David, ‘Borgerlighetens sköra manlighet’, in Jørgen Lorentzen & Claes Ekenstam (eds), Män i Norden: Manlighet och modernitet 1840–1940, Möklinta 2006, pp. 48–76.

Tjeder, David, The Power of Character: Middle-Class Masculinities, 1800–1900, Stockholm 2003.

1Inger Littberger Caisou-Rousseau, Therese Andreas Bruce: En sällsam historia från 1800-talet, Göteborg/Stockholm 2013. All translations from this book that occurs in this chapter are mine. I am grateful to Yvonne Maria Werner who has not only inspired me in my research but also wrote a letter of recommendation when I applied for a printing grant.

2Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 228.

3For example, Lasse-Maja, Den beryktade Lasse-Majas äfwentyr: efter nyare upptäckter och anteckningar om denne stortjufs märkwärdiga stölder, äfwensom hans många äfwentyr, såwäl i karlkläder, som förklädd till qwinna, under hwilken förklädnad han utförde många djerfwa puts med både Herrar och Damer, Stockholm 1887.

4Maria Lindeberg, Bref från Paris af ett resande svenskt fruntimmer, Stockholm 1827.

5Abel Barbin, Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-century French Hermaphrodite (introduction by Michel Foucault; translated by Richard McDougall) New York 1980.

6Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 122.

7Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, pp. 112, 127.

8‘Do we truly need a true sex?’ Michel Foucault asks in his introduction to Herculine Barbin’s autobiography, adding that modern societies definitely have answered in the affirmative. See Abel Barbin 1980, p. vii.

9Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 126.

10Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 131.

11Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, pp. 131−132.

12Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 132.

13Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 34.

14Jonas Liliequist, ‘Kvinnor i manskläder och åtrå mellan kvinnor. Kulturella förväntningar och kvinnliga strategier i det tidigmoderna Sverige och Finland’, in Eva Borgström (ed.), Makalösa kvinnor: Könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet, Stockholm 2002, pp. 63–123.

15According to Swedish historian of ideas Maja Bondestam, the hermaphrodite is a variable and nuanced figure whose significance has been shaped in relation to various social and cultural contexts. Therefore human beings who today would be designated for instance homosexuals or transvestites were earlier on in history called hermaphrodites. Maja Bondestam, Tvåkönad: Studier i den svenska hermafroditens historia, Nora 2010.

16Before the middle of the nineteenth century, a system of different hermaphrodite categories was established. In the above-mentioned handbook from 1804, Doctor Eric Gadelius divided the hermaphrodites in four categories: real hermaphrodites, male and female hermaphrodites –who can be of different kinds –and human beings without a sex. However, he was dubious as to the first category and maintained that those individuals who in medical literature had been described as hermaphrodites probably had had a true but imperfect bisexuality, for instance, having testicles inside the ovaries or a female bodily constitution and breasts excreting milk combined with growth of beard and male genitals.

17Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 151.

18Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 149.

19Pierre Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, Cambridge 2001.

20Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 187.

21Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 164.

22Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 195.

23Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 164.

24Jens Ljunggren, Kroppens bildning: Linggymnastikens manlighetsprojekt 1790–1914, Stockholm/Stehag 1999.

25Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 174.

26Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 176.

27Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 175. In his study The Power of Character: Middle-Class Masculinities, 1800–1900 (Stockholm 2003), Swedish historian David Tjeder demonstrates that there was a discrepancy between especially many young men’s apprehension that drinking and gambling were masculine activities and moralists maintaining that drinkers and gamblers were fallen, middle-class men and that gambling and drinking were pernicious passions. By emphasising that he is no drunkard but not a total abstainer either Bruce wants to prove that he is a proper man, not governed by his passions in an unmanly way, nor a fearful (and in that respect unmanly) total abstainer.

28Littberger Caisou-Rousseau 2013, p. 228.

29Sexuality outside of marriage was a penalised act in Sweden until 1864 when it was permitted for unmarried persons. At this time, it was not socially acceptable to live as cohabitants.

30What is at stake here is no longer a happy medium between a drunkard and a total abstainer, rather it is an excess in masculine, and paradoxically enough therefore unmanly, behaviour that is portrayed.

31David Tjeder, ‘Borgerlighetens sköra manlighet’, in Jørgen Lorentzen & Claes Ekenstam (eds), Män i Norden: Manlighet och modernitet 1840–1940, Möklinta 2006, pp. 48−76.