Herculine was a French intersex person who was assigned female at birth and raised in a convent, but was later reclassified as male by a court of law, after an affair and physical examination.
In February 1868, the concierge of Barbin's house in rue de l'École-de-Médecine found her dead in her home. She had died by suicide by inhaling gas from her coal gas stove.
memoirs were found beside her bed,
a poem she wrote;
“You are to be pitied more than I, perhaps.
I soar above all your innumerable miseries, partaking of the nature of the angels; for, as you have said, my place is not in your narrow sphere.
You have the Earth, I have boundless space.
Enchained here below by the thousand bonds of your gross,
material senses, your spirits cannot plunge into that limpid ocean of the infinite, where, lost for a day upon your arid shores, my soul drinks deep.”
According to her account, she had a crush on an aristocratic female friend in school.
She regarded herself as unattractive but sometimes slipped into her friend's room at night and was sometimes punished for that. However, her studies were successful and in 1856, at the age of seventeen she was sent to Le Chateau to study to become a teacher. There she fell in love with one of the teachers.
Although Barbin was in puberty, she had not begun to menstruate and remained flat chested. The hairs on her upper lip and cheeks were noticeable.
In 1857 Barbin received a position as an assistant teacher in a girls' school. She fell in love with another teacher, Sara.
Her ministrations turned into caresses and they became lovers. Eventually rumours about their affair began to circulate.
Barbin, began to suffer excruciating pains. When a doctor examined her, he was shocked and asked that she should be sent away from the school, but she stayed.
Eventually, the devoutly Catholic Barbin confessed to Jean-François-Anne Landriot, the Bishop of La Rochelle. She asked him permission to break the confessional silence in order to send for a doctor to examine her. When Dr. Chesnet did so in 1860, he discovered that even if Barbin had a small vagina, she had a masculine body type, a very small penis, and testicles inside her body. In 20th-century medical terms, she had "male pseudohermaphroditism".
A later legal decision declared officially that Barbin was male. She left her lover and her job, changed her name to Abel Barbin and was briefly mentioned in the press. She moved to Paris where she lived in poverty and wrote her memoirs, reputedly as a part of therapy.