Several subcultures exist within our society. Publicized on all sides by film, literature, and Internet media, steampunk has found a mark in conventions and cosplay. In simplest terms, steampunk is a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
“The steampunk community is allowed to be what we want it to be.”
The steampunk community is allowed to be what we want it to be. Steampunk communities come together around a mutual love for the materiality, tactility, and pleasurable sensation of a reimagined past. We can cast aside the harsh realities of discrimination in the Victorian era of the British Empire, the Civil War and Reconstruction period of the United States. We are not bound by race, sexual orientation or gender identity. While the attire, technology, and manners of steampunk are rooted in that time, everything else is permitted to exist beyond that time. It allows us to cultivate a culture of how we want it to be. For those within the transgender community, this is ideal.
There are transgender persons in the steampunk community – author E. Chris Garrison, Bunny Bennett of the musical pantomime band “Steam Powered Giraffe”, Ashley Rogers – better known as Lucretia Dearfour – activist and costumer. Though they may not have mainstream recognition, their place in the steampunk culture has been defined and they paved the way for others.
Since steampunk has its roots in the mid to late 19th century, we are somewhat familiar with this world through our history lessons. We know that Queen Victoria was ruler in Britain and that Presidents Lincoln, Grant and others governed the US. That allows us to connect to this timeline by presenting recognizable keys. Beyond that point we create whatever rules we want.
But this era was not without transgender persons. Albert Cashier was an Irish born transgender man who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. But Cashier may not have been the only transgender male who served as estimates say that nearly 250 women disguised themselves as men to enlist. We’re not entirely sure what lives these people may have held beyond the war, but to suggest the Cashier was alone as the only transgender male would be objectionable. By connecting our visibility to someone who existed within that period, it validates that we are a part of that world and by extension, the world of steampunk.
“By allowing us to have total creative control, we can influence the steampunk world.”
By allowing us to have total creative control, we can influence the steampunk world. The world exists as we see fit. We can alter the rules of this society to fit how we desire. No longer are the confines of sexual or gender identity restricting us on how we present ourselves in this alternate culture. We aren’t restricted to gender roles or clothes. Transgender people are free to express themselves, as they prefer.
Of media expressions that are available to steampunk, fictional novels are the greatest source of creating worlds. It allows us to connect with characters beyond what movies can do. However, there are few steampunk novels with transgender persons. It is with hope that independent authors will take up pen and paper and represent our community in print as we represent ourselves in the steampunk world.
Check out our Steampunk fashion gallery below: