Irish drag queen Panti might be our most influential and revolutionary crossdresser these days (she’s in Time’s top 100 most influential people) but she was not the first.
One cross dresser actually manned the burning battlements of the Easter Rising. Yes you read that right, no you were not taught this in school.
In fact this is probably the first you have ever heard about it, but it’s no less true.
In a recent interview with The New York Times former sanitation worker turned master's degree student Ed Shevlin (currently studying Irish and Irish-American Studies at New York University) spoke of fellow Far Rockaway man John "The Yank" Kilgallon, who as a young man attended a Dublin boarding school and ended up fighting in the Rising.
His worried father sent Kilgallon, a bit of a Jack the Lad, to St. Enda’s school in Dublin after a lawsuit for joyriding.
The plan was to keep him out of trouble but in fact he ended up with every other St. Enda’s student in the unit that stormed the General Post Office, which became the rebel’s headquarters.
Over the course of the next few days, between the gunfire and the explosions, Kilgallon managed to break into the nearby wax museum and steal a costume of Queen Elizabeth I.
He returned to the battle wearing it. It seems even Irish revolutions are habitually disrespectful.
“Here’s this young soldier mocking the queen during the chaotic battle,” Shevlin told the Times, adding that “this Kilgallon kid” was a bit of a wild man, perhaps because of his Rockaways roots.
“It’s the sea air out here,” he said. “I got it too. I’m out of my bird.”