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Margery Kempe seems to be a popular historic figure for "queering", that is, for identifying ways in which her actions and writings (and even her person) disrupted gender and sexual norms of medieval society. I'm not entirely a fan of this sort of approach.

This is a very theory-intensive book -- historiography rather than history, and not well suited for the casual reader. But there are some great discussions that made it worth tackling. The writing is very dense and my summary only touches on the outlines of the discussion rather than its specifics. Although theories about how we study and interpret history might seem rather removed from the process of writing lesbian historical fiction, from another angle, the two fields have a great deal of overlap.

One of the contradictory features of reasoning about same-sex relationships in the past is the circular logic that same-sex romantic relationships could not have been socially approved, therefore evidence showing social approval for conjunctions of two people of the same sex must not represent romantic relationships.

But Heather (you say), you don't write horror! You don't write supernatural fiction! What do you mean you want to feature Halloween content today?

I've been playing around with ideas for how to use the occasional "fifth week" in the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast schedule, and the idea that keeps coming back to me with the tenacity of an affectionate cat at feeding time is to publish audio short stories that fit the theme of the Project. I bounced the idea off a few people and other than the occasional reaction of, "You know...this means you have to read a slushpile," no one tried to dissuade me.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 16a - On the Shelf for November 2017 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2017/11/04 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for November 2017.

One of the fascinating and frustrating things about the genre of "transvestite saints," i.e., women (mostly in the early Christian era) who disguised themselves as men in order to participate in monastic devotion, is how thoroughly the stories center and elevate masculinity. One of the repeated motifs is that these gender-disguised women are approved because of the Biblical injunction to "become a man for Christ". That is, they became a more perfect type of Christian by "becoming male".

This article only scratches the surface of the peculiar fascination that emerged in the Renaissance around physiological ambiguity and gender identity. If one picks through the dubious concepts of anatomy and the strong binarist and heteronormative positions of both medicine and the law, there are some interesting developments in attitudes toward subjective gender identity.

This description of a group of flamboyantly-dressed women "crashing" a medieval tournament and setting tongues wagging can't help but send my imagination racing. Think of what a great opening for a movie it would make! It's the sort of image that feels anachronistically modern...except that it was recorded as an actual event in a historical chronicle. And though there may have been some interpretation and exaggeration in the telling, there's no reason to doubt that the essential facts are true. Who were these women? Why did they show up at the tournament in masculine dress?


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