Jill C. Richards is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and affiliated faculty in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She/they is the author of The Fury Archives: Female Citizenship, Human Rights, and the International Avant-Gardes (2020) and coauthor of The Ferrante Letters: An Experiment in Collective Criticism (2020).
From the start, I wanted Claude Cahun to be like me, or I saw myself in them, and used the pronoun that would make this misrecognition seem the most true. It would be possible to write a different sort of essay than the one I’m writing now, without any recourse to autobiography. This other, more academic essay would make a strong case for Cahun as a key figure in transgender history. But my argument for why Cahun’s pronouns matter is situated in the drama of more personal misrecognitions, mine and those of others, played out between the queer historical past and the present tense of its archival recovery.