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Floris et Lyriope (Robert de Blois)

13th century French romance in which a man cross-dresses as a woman to seduce a woman. The work depicts her coming to terms with same-sex desire.

LHMP entry

“Travesty” comes literally from “cross-dress” with the theatrical term later picking up its sense of general transgression. Anyone familiar with theater and opera from Shakespeare onward is aware how popular it was to include gender disguise in its many forms and consequences. The two most common expressions both revolve around anxiety about female-female desire: a woman disguised as a man who attracts female romantic attention, or a man disguised as a woman to gain intimate access to a woman who then worries about the ensuing “wrong” erotic attraction.

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historical