John Hall (better known by his middle name, “Radclyffe”, which he used as a pen name) earned international fame from The Well of Loneliness and from the resulting obscenity trial that drew testimony from a panoply of British literary and scientific celebrities, making Hall’s novel the best-publicized work on ‘sexual inversion’ of its age despite the judgment banning its publication. Although he penned several other novels none received the exposure of The Well, in part because they did not touch on topics of a lasting controversial nature.
During Hall’s time there was no distinction made between a lesbian and a heterosexual trans man. While the word ‘transvestite’ – which at the time encompassed both crossdressers and trans people – was coined by Magnus Hirschfeld during Hall’s lifetime, the research Hirschfeld was doing was not widely publicized, and was not known outside of certain German circles; Hall’s own term ‘congenital invert‘ was an alternative Anglo term that could encompass what are now known as homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism. This article uses male pronouns for Hall because, despite being ubiquitously referred to as a lesbian author, the historical context and Hall’s own stated preference for the name ‘John’ suggest that he was actually male (with room for the usual caveat that ambiguity does exist and cannot be conclusively addressed due to the death of the subject).