queer history

Catherina Linck

Catherina Margaretha Linck (c.1687 - 1721) was a Prussian soldier who lived in the early 18th century. Linck spent most of their adult life presenting themselves as a man and it is a subject of discussion as to whether Linck can be best described as a transman, a lesbian woman who impersonated a man, or genderfluid.

An illegitimate child of a widow, Linck was raised in an orphanage in Halle, which they then left aged 14. They spent a number of years with a religious group known as 'Inspirants', likely a form of Quakers. Linck went on to disguise themselves as a man in order to enlist as a soldier in the army of Hanover, using the name 'Anastasius Lagrantinus Rosenstengel'. They served in the army for 3 years until they deserted in 1708. When arrested for desertion Linck declared themself to be a woman in order to avoid being hanged, which was then verified by a medical examination.

Over the next several years Linck served in a number of armed forces across Prussia, including a Polish garrison and the army of of Hesse. However these periods of service repeatedly came to an end either due to Linck deserting or being exposed as a woman. When out of the army Linck worked in the cloth trade, often alternating their dress between male and female. When presenting as a man Linck used a horn to allow them to urinate while standing and wore a strap-on dildo made of stuffed leather when having intercourse with women.

In 1717 an impoverished Linck married an 18-year old woman named Catharina Margaretha Mühlhahn, using the same alias of Anastasius. The marriage was disapproved of by Mühlhahn's mother, who ultimately tore off Linck's clothes in a violent confrontation and reported them to the authorities. Both Linck and Mühlhahn were put on trial for the crime of 'female sodomy', to which Linck pleaded guilty. However Linck also professed that their intentions toward Mühlhahn had been honourable and that Mühlhahn had not fully understood the nature of their sexual intercourse. This was accepted and Mühlhahn was given a lesser sentence of 3 years imprisonment, followed by exile.

The trial caused controversy as officials could not agree if Linck's had committed sodomy under the biblical definition, punishable by death, or a lesser crime. The case was referred to King Frederick William I, who sentenced Linck to death by beheading. This was an unusual decision for it's time and in 1721 Linck became the last person in Europe to be executed for lesbian sexual activity.