According to research, emperor Elagabalus asked to be called “lady”, and the museum will be referring to the ruler as “she” from now on.
A UK museum has reclassified the ancient Roman emperor Elagabalus as transgender and will subsequently be referring to the ruler as “she” in its displays.
The North Hertfordshire Museum will use the new set of pronouns to refer to Elagabalus, with the institution citing Ancient Roman writings claiming that the ruler, who held power between 218 and 222 CE before being assassinated at the age of 18, wore women’s clothing and preferred to be called “lady.”
The decision follows long-standing academic interest in the third century AD ruler’s gender identity, with the museum consulting the LGBT charity Stonewall and the LGBT wing of the trade union Unison on best practice for its displays.
Information on North Hertfordshire Museum policy states that pronouns used in displays will be those “the individual in question might have used themselves” or whatever pronoun “in retrospect, is appropriate”.
Elagabalus, who was born and lived in Syria before assuming the Roman throne at age 14, is considered one of the most controversial Roman emperors.
“Elagabalus was also known to have married a man, the charioteer and former slave Hierocles, and they loved being referred to as Hierocles’ wife or mistress. The emperor is also reported to have frequently worn wigs and makeup, preferred to be called ‘domina’ (lady) over ‘dominus’ (lord), and even offered vast sums of money to any physician who could give them a vagina,” explains an interview published in 2021 on the University of Birmingham website.
New guidance on trans-inclusive practice in UK museums and heritage sites was recently published by the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG).
The guidance was welcomed by advocates for trans rights but vilified by some commentators in the UK press, revealing once more how the debate over trans rights continues to be a divisive issue.