1912 - 1991

Sir Ewan Forbes was born on September 6, 1912 in Scotland, the youngest child of Lord Sempill. His childhood was uncomfortable, filled with gender insecurity. Despite social pressures, Forbes, who was assigned female at birth, self-identified as male from a young age. Forbes studied abroad and was an accomplished public reciter. In 1930, he won the Scots Verse recital contest and recorded a series of poems by Charles Murray. Forbes then led a troupe of Scottish country dancers, dressing and dancing the male part. In 1944, he graduated with Medical degree from the University of Aberdeen. Although Forbes had already begun to publicly look and behave like the man, in 1952 he formalized the change by requesting a warrant for birth re-registration, changing his gender to male and his name to Ewan. He even placed an announcement in the Aberdeen paper saying that henceforth he wished to be known as Dr Ewan Forbes-Sempill. His patients had known of his decision in advance and were reportedly very supportive. A month later he married his housekeeper Isabella Mitchell. The re-registration passed with little to-do until 1965 when his brother died and Ewan stood to inherit the baronetcy and a large estate. A cousin challenged the inheritance, arguing that the re-registration of gender was invalid and Ewan was still legally a female, and thus was unable to inherit. The Scottish Court of Session ruled in Ewan’s favor, and in 1968 the Home Secretary confirmed the decision, granting him the title. Unfortunately, the case was conducted in secrecy, and was unable to be quoted in other judgments on the legal recognition of gender variance (though that has changed since his passing). With the case settled, the baronet returned to the life of a rural landowner. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Aberdeenshire in 1969 and in 1984 published The aul’ Days, a book of early reminiscences, including tales of gender displacement. He died on September 12, 1991 at age 79.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Straight

Gender Identity Intersex Transgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





World History


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Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Allo Kerstein
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell