The Age of Enlightenment brought with it a huge fad for the masquerade. Where else could you, for one night, be something you were not? And get totally trashed in the process. Harlequins, dominos, and shepherdesses were some of the most popular costumes to grace the party halls. Another popular costume? The queen. Not the kind with a crown.
Masquerades also allowed those who never felt comfortable in their own bodies to try out the clothes of the opposite sex for a night. In fact, every masquerade could be a chance to enter public in drag and not be ostracized. The masked balls had a reputation for lasciviousness to begin with; some only went to get laid, and this went for those seeking the same sex as well. In fact, to be blunt, they tended to be parties full of horny people. So what was a little cross-dressing?
In France, the Chevalier d'Eon became a famous transgender person who was also a spy. She sported both elegant gowns and her dragoon uniform. You could put money into a betting pool at the London Stock Exchange whether you thought she was a woman or man. She fenced like a man but walked like a woman.
That brings us to Princess Seraphina. Back in these dark ages, gay men were yet to be referred to as "queens," they were merely "princesses." They have apparently moved up in rank. Princess Seraphina is the first recognized English drag queen in history. That means that like the drag queens of today, Seraphina was out and about in public regularly as a female. Even when she wasn't in drag people called her Seraphina. It was her identity. She was a servant for a "molly" (another term for a gay male) and hustled on the side a bit. But drama erupted in 1732 when a Tom Gordon stole Girlfriend's clothes and then threatened that if she charged him he would accuse her of sodomy. Well, that didn't scare Seraphina she sued him (yay!) but lost (boo!). Interesting enough, the clothing was her male garb.
But I do not bring this up because drag queens are funny or "hot tranny messes". Crossdressers, homosexual and gender dysmorphic people have been around forever. But here we see a time and a place in western civilization where it is beginning to be okay for them to be themselves in public. We also see a gay culture developing with "Molly Houses" (gay clubs) being established and sexual relations more easily found. Of course, as with most developments in the 18th century, these advancements in Enlightened thought were dashed in the Victorian age and had to be re-established in the 20th century.
To end this expose, I would like to close with a excerpt from a witness at the trial. Elizabeth Jones' account gives you a little glimpse into how others reacted to Seraphina as a transsexual in the 18th century:
"I saw the Princess Seraphina standing at Mr. Poplet's Door. "What, have you been robb'd, Princess?" says I, "Has Tom Gordon stripp'd your Highness stark naked? An impudent Rogue! And yet, Ma'm, I think, your Highness had better make it up with him, than expose yourself, for some say it was only an Exchange." "Why," says he, "at first I would have made it up, and taken my Cloaths again, but now it's too late, and I must prosecute, for those that were concerned in taking him up, expect their Share in the Reward, and won't let me drop the Prosecution."