Last week, Ariel, Israel and I all dressed as Molly Macguires for the Martyr’s Ball, a benefit for the Anarchist Black Cross where everyone was to dress as anarchist martyr’s throughout history. I hadn’t heard of them before, but Ariel informed me that they were this gang of Irish peasants in the 1760′s that wore dresses and sabotaged the landlord’s fences, reclaimed properties, freed bound apprentices and sent nasty letters. It was successful enough to gain massive popularity and inspire dozens of similar groups though the uprising was brutally crushed by the state’s militia. After reading the timeline of queer anarchist precedents over here and from the little that I’ve been able to uncover about the topic there’s a *rich* history of transwomen in Irish liberation struggles.
A chapter of the Molly Macquires was started in the US as well, in the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania, where they were a militant union who also dressed in drag and was of the first groups to be targeted by the Pinkerton vigilantes, the name for the early FBI. Like the FBI, the Pinkertons used extralegal methods to spy on them, create infighting, organize lynch mobs, then when the Molly’s were caught, they fabricated evidence and had them all hung. Government.
But not everything here is ancient history ending in the state killing a bunch of anarchists, (though it often seems that way!) a lot of the Molly Macguires refused to settle into the indentured servitude that the English wanted them to, and became what we now call Irish Travellers, which are modern day grifters that live out of trailer homes and go from town to town scamming and hoodwinking for a living. There might not be a lot of politics going down in these groups these days but their heart seems to be in the right place. As you’ll note, though all accounts say it’s a pretty rough life, they still manage to keep up their appearances. Fashion!
That last one is a picture taken from Paula Allen, who has traveled around the world capturing all sorts of amazing cultures, here’s an lovely but unrelated picture from when she spent time in the Cuban underground queer scene…
There are Irish Travelers in the US as well, mostly in the South and a lot of them live in South Carolina in a town called Murphy Village, here is an article in Time about them and here is another good one as well. And history comes alive!
Speaking of Irish Travellers, there’s something that’s been on my mind recently. This whole time, I have been crystal clear in my stance on loving melodramatic, gender bending telenovelas based on grifters and con-folk, and yet, AND YET not one of you informed me about a magical little show about Irish travelers called The Riches. Hmph. I had to find it myself, and you know what, thanks to you it’s already cancelled. Thanks a lot for keeping my in the loop. You people…
Anyway, so it’s a great show. I gobbled it up in no time. [speaking of gobble, turkeys are extremely intelligent, magnificent creatures, and not to infantilize them, but rather cute little dinosaurs as well, so don't eat them please.] Eddie Izzard, that hilarious babbling t-girl, is the producer and it is all about a family of southern Irish travelers that steal the identities of these dead yuppies and squat their McMansion in a ridiculous gated community, and in the meanwhile posing as lawyers and what not to keep up the facade.
Sound dramatic? Well, throw in Minni Driver with a meth addiction, a sociopath that bribes them and murders a couple people on the way, an endless slew of almost getting busted, the russian mob, another scary Irish Traveller that’s even scarier than the first, teenage runaways, mobs of angry football fans, and yeah it’s stressful. I don’t know, it raised my blood pressure about a 1000%, but then again I’m a sensitive tv watcher, my claim to fame is the time that I cried while watching a clip from Transformers while walking around a Best Buy when it was playing on their like 50 screens… [btw speaking of Best Buy, isn't this interesting?] But check it out if you get a chance, this is a good site to watch them all on, all it takes is one episode to get hooked. There are so many fantastic parts, Eddie Izzards attempts at being a high powered lawyer, the drag queen disco party, an investment grift that they pull or the constant crazy crazy drama. As far as fashion goes, one of my favorite characters is Sam, the youngest of the family who wants to be a girl but has to be a boy to keep up the grift, though ends up with her own gender bending fashion that offers some great examples of grifter tranny fashion.
But to return to our t-girl theme and to Ireland, I would also recommend one last movie, Breakfast on Pluto if you haven’t seen it already, which is about a transwoman who participates in the IRA in the 70′s and her experiences with being an outcast as being Irish and being transgender. It’s just a really pleasant movie.
So yeah, I’m not really sure if this post has or needs a point but if there was one, it would be that radical Irish history is sparkling with angry grifty T-girls willing to do what it takes to really show ‘em!