Transgender Reporter Covers Spanish-American War Revolts Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Elvira Mugarrieta, a female-to-male transgender reporter better known as Babe Bean, traveled to the Philippines in 1899 as a freelance news correspondent to report on the Filipino revolts against U.S. occupation of the country after the Spanish-American War.

Summary of Event

In the late nineteenth century, Americans, much like their European counterparts, had acquired an appetite for colonial possessions. Cuba and the Philippines, both in the middle of revolts against Spanish colonial rule, acquired American aid after the United States declared war against Spain in 1898. [kw]Transgender Reporter Covers Spanish-American War Revolts (c. 1899) [kw]Reporter Covers Spanish-American War Revolts, Transgender (c. 1899) [kw]Spanish-American War Revolts, Transgender Reporter Covers (c. 1899) [kw]War Revolts, Transgender Reporter Covers Spanish-American (c. 1899) Transgender men Cross-dressing[cross dressing];early twentieth century [c]Transgender/transsexuality;c. 1899: Transgender Reporter Covers Spanish-American War Revolts[0150] [c]Military;c. 1899: Transgender Reporter Covers Spanish-American War Revolts[0150] Bean, Babe

The fighting in the Spanish-American War lasted a few months only. In the Treaty of Paris (1898), which ended the conflict, the United States obtained Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and all of the Philippines. Filipinos, however, not wanting to exchange Spanish masters for American ones, revolted in 1899. A freelance reporter named Babe Bean, born Elvira Mugarrieta, was determined to cover the Filipino revolt as a male reporter, sure to get a different perspective on the war because of his gender. Bean dressed as a man and then traveled to the Philippines. The Filipino insurrection had continued for seven years, until Filipino insurgents were overwhelmed by U.S. forces. It is not known, however, how long Bean had stayed in the region.

Born in the Russian Hill section of San Francisco, Muggarieta came from an upper-class family. At some point in her childhood, Mugarrieta frightened her parents with her rebellious ways, including being a “tomboy,” and was sent to a convent. To escape the Roman Catholic Church and the nunnery, at the age of fifteen, she married her brother’s best friend, possibly named “Bean.” Within a few months, the couple divorced, and Mugarrieta adopted a man’s name to match her masculine attire. Now known as Babe Bean, she passed for a man in hobo camps, in the mountains, and on city streets. Male attire protected Bean from sexual assault and allowed Bean entry into all-male enclaves, including the realm of war.

In the years before he began war reporting (during the summer of 1897), Bean was arrested by police in Stockton, California, after police had received reports of a young woman “posing” as a man. Officers spent two weeks trying to track down the “wrongdoer” and finally apprehended Bean in August. His clothing—a large hat, a boy’s long suit-jacket with padded shoulders, long vest, tie, and oversized shoes—disguised the curves and build of a woman about 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing a mere 104 pounds. His high-pitched voice could give him away, so he claimed to be unable to speak after being injured in an accident. Bean would “speak” to police and newspaper reporters by means of writing. The Stockton police released him. Bean remained in Stockton but never hid, never stopped wearing male clothing, and never again faced arrest.

Bean would become a local celebrity as a transgender person, with contemporary newspaper accounts showing that he received affectionate treatment from the people of Stockton, including the local bachelor club, which made him an honorary member; this is all the more interesting because Bean presented himself as a gay man. Later, the Stockton Evening Mail hired him as a reporter. Called “Jack” by his neighbors, Bean lived on a houseboat on McLeod’s Lake until the start of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Determined to see the conflict from the point of view of one treated as a man, he wrangled passage in 1899 on the troop transport City of Para to Manila in the Philippines. In addition to working as a news correspondent, Bean worked as a field hospital aide before returning to the port of San Francisco (the date is uncertain).

Bean took up residence in San Francisco and briefly resumed wearing women’s clothing, but discovered, not surprisingly, that the attire still limited his freedom; he once again donned a man’s suit. In 1903, San Francisco had passed an ordinance banning the wearing of opposite-gender apparel. Fearing arrest, Bean adopted his mother’s family name to become Jack Bee Garland.

Garland died on September 18, 1936, in San Francisco, of generalized peritonitis following the perforation of a peptic ulcer. He had been suffering from abdominal pains for some time, but, like many transgender men, feared that a physician would expose him as a “cross-dresser.” Garland collapsed on a sidewalk and soon died in a hospital. Predictably, the autopsy surgeon discovered Garland’s birth gender and publicized his findings.

Significance

Appearing in public in dress contrary to one’s birth gender was long illegal in many countries, including the United States. Masculine gender roles have historically been valued over female gender roles, and masculinity is typically associated with authority, assertiveness, and the warranting of respect. Females, such as Babe Bean, who dress in masculine attire sometimes enjoy privileges not afforded to women and girls. Accessing privileges traditionally reserved for one gender and not the other has led to the condemnation of transgender individuals by religion, the state, the medical profession, and society in general.

To many people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, transgenderism was considered a sexual perversion. Sexual perversion;transgenderism and By 1952, the American Psychiatric Association listed male, but not female, transvestism as an illness in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Only in the late twentieth century did this label come under heavy attack by transgender activists. As part of the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960’s, transvestites and cross-dressers began to organize. Women who dressed as men or dressed in masculine attire—usually “butch” lesbians—found support within the emerging transgender/transsexual communities. A general relaxation in clothing standards in the late twentieth century has made it somewhat acceptable for women to dress in masculine attire, to a point. For the person wearing “opposite-gender” attire—especially if that person’s gender expression is ambiguous to begin with—and for society at large, transgender expression remains an issue of curiosity, derision, misunderstanding, and, at its worst, verbal taunting, physical violence, or both. Transgender men Cross-dressing[cross dressing];early twentieth century

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bullough, Vern L., and Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rupp, Leila J. A Desired Past: A Short History of Same-Sex Love in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project. “’She Even Chewed Tobacco’: A Pictorial Narrative of Passing Women in America.” In Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, edited by Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr. New York: Penguin, 1989.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sullivan, Louis. From Female to Male: The Life of Jack Bee Garland. Boston: Alyson, 1990.

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May 17, 2004: Transsexual Athletes Allowed to Compete in Olympic Games

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