One particular woman’s name crops up in relation to several references to tribades, creating a confusing implication that a specific tribade named Philaenis was part of Roman history. In this section, Boehringer dissects out the origins, traditions, and contexts that connect the name Philaenis to sex between women (as well as other sexual contexts). This is a long, complicated discussion and I will skim over some parts.
Following Seneca’s quote of the use of “tribade,” in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, uses of the term in Latin are closely connected with astrological literature, and appear in very similar formulas (some clearly deriving from each other or from a common original), such that we can derive additional context from similar formulas that use other language, as well as context from Greek astrological literature that uses the Greek form of the word. Boehringer provides a chronology of the exact sources, with their dates and the word forms used in them.
The mention of tribades in Seneca the Elder’s Controversiae, something of a textbook for arguing legal cases, appears to be straightforward. A man comes upon his wife and another woman engaged in sex and kills them both.
While earlier references to f/f relations focused on emotions, with the start of the Common Era, Roman literature introduces different attitudes. The category of “tribade,” although derived from the Greek word “tribas” (from “tribein”, to rub), has its earliest surviving mentions in Latin texts. It was clearly in use previously as it appears in multiple texts at a similar era.
Ovid also composed one of the longest texts dealing with love between women from the Roman period—the story of Iphis, also from the Metamorphoses. In brief, a poor man of Crete tells his wife they can’t afford to raise their expected child if it’s a girl. So a girl child would be killed. The child being a girl, at the recommendation of the goddess Isis, the mother conceals its biological sex and raises it as a boy. The name Iphis is given and noted as being a name that might be borne by either gender.
This chapter looks at the role that marriage (to a woman) played within the lives of trans men. We start with the biography of James William Hathaway (Ethel Kimball), born in 1882, whose life history primarily seems to be one of lawbreaking, with gender a minor note in the tune. While living as a woman in her twenties, she was arrested for forgery and then again for using the excuse of test driving an automobile to go on a joy-ride with a group of female friends. At one point during this general period she married a man.
American imperialism in the early 20th century meant the rise of models of masculinity that were not only racially coded but that expected certain types of performance with regard to militarism. This chapter looks at several trans men who either tried to manipulate those models to support the acceptance, not only of their masculinity, but of their Americanism, or who were doubly targeted due to the conflation of “foreignness” and sexual deviance.
One of the factors that allowed the people discussed in the previous chapter to find acceptance in small rural communities was the fact that they were white. Minor fictions or eccentricities that were dismissed for individuals perceived as normative white men would have had more severe consequences for those who stood outside the norm racially as well as by gender. This chapter looks at the implications that whiteness head for the acceptance of trans men at the turn of the 20th century.
In this chapter Skidmore talks about trans men who live in rural communities and small towns within the period of her study. Of the 65 cases she studies, a third lived in non-metropolitan areas and perhaps another third lived in small towns or small cities rather than major metropolitan areas. While the mythology of queer history often emphasizes urban areas as the safest and most promising location for queer lives, the trans men who lived in small towns often deliberately chose those locations, suggesting another parallel view.
This chapter focuses on an individual who story is relevant to a transitional period in US history with regard to trans identities. In 1883 a man named Samuel Hudson showed up in the small town of Waupun with two children, and claimed that Frank Dubois, who had recently married Gertrude Fuller, was actually his wife and the mother of the children. It’s a tribute to the speed of communications and the extensive network of local newspapers that the story broke simultaneously, not only in the local paper, but throughout the US.