Reclaimed

Was Louisa May Alcott Trans?

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If you’ve read “Little Women” at any point in your life as a queer/trans/gender-expansive person, you were probably able to pick up on the fact that the 1869 novel’s protagonist Jo March goes by a male name, takes up a “masculine” profession (writing) and has zero interest in conforming to the gendered expectations held out for her. 

It’s not just Jo who fucks around with gender, however: her creator Louisa “Lou” May Alcott may also have identified as trans, according to the work of trans scholar Peyton Thomas. 

Now if you’re anything like me, nothing is more exciting to you than news about people who died at least 100 years ago. And to learn that historical figures like Alcott might have identified as trans if they’d been given half a chance to is nothing short of life-giving.

If you read through Thomas’s entire thread, you’ll find a lot of statements that will feel VERY familiar to you, especially if you’re someone of transmasc experience. Let’s look at the facts, as wonderfully outlined by Thomas’s scholarship.

Lou Alcott:

  • Went by the name “Lou.”
  • Longed to be a soldier and join the army
  • Dressed in drag at parties
  • Had their adopted kids refer to them by the Hemingwayesque nickname of “Papa” 
  • Wrote about being in the “wrong body”
  • Believed they “should have been born a boy”

I mean, case closed. Lou was transmasc, period. And if that wasn’t enough cause to jump for joy, Lou was also, according to Thomas’s archival research, not straight. Like, not even a little bit. Which, again, what great writer is? 

Thomas even added screenshots from Greta Gerwig’s beloved 2019 adaptation of Little Women to show that Gerwig knew what was up:

Now if this isn’t the greatest news ever, I don’t know what is. Go forth and celebrate: literally everyone cool in the history of this planet is gay and trans.

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