Joan or John?

Joan of Arc- maiden or manly?

Joan of Arc was born in France in 1412. She was about 14 years old when she started to have visions that she believed came from God. In these visions, Joan believed that she was being instructed to help the French army overcome the English at the battle of Orleans. She indeed commanded the French victory at Orleans and helped crown a new king of France, King Charles VII.

Joan was eventually captured in battle by the English and tried as a heretic. The trial was apolitically motivated farce and she was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. This life sentence was transformed into the death penalty when she would not recant her story that she received messages from God. She was burned at the stake in May 1431.

In an attempt to investigate the truth of Joan’s trial and conviction, the Pope ordered a second trial in 1455. The new trial included testimony from over 100 witnesses who all knew Joan. These proceedings were well documented and preserved for future generations. It was while pouring over these records, that a man named R.B. Greenblatt found stunning evidence that points to the strong possibility that Joan of Arc was really a man!

Mr. Greenblatt pointed out that according to the witness accounts, Joan had well developed breasts, but no pubic hair and that she never menstruated. These are strong indicators of a chromosomal abnormality known as testicular feminization. A person suffering from this disease is chromosomally male, they have one X and one Y chromosome, but outwardly appears to be female. This gender confusion is due to a mutation in the X chromosome, which causes the wrong hormones to be produced and results in the genitalia to appear to be female. The main symptoms of this disease are well developed breasts, little to no pubic hair, as well as the absence of menstruation (due the absence of internal female organs). All of these symptoms correspond to the testimony that was given back in 1431.

We will probably never know for sure if Joan of Arc had this condition, but it does pose an interesting historical question: Should Joan of Arc really have been called John of Arc?