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Skidmore seems to be doing the same thing that confused me a little in Manion's book: assigning themes to chapters, and then working hard to shoehorn a set of biographies into the theme. I can see the structural reason for doing so if the book isn't simply to be a biographical dictionary. But it strikes me as odd to have a chapter focusing on the role of whiteness in the acceptability of specific trans-masculine lives without discussing specific non-white trans men in that chapter.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 210 – Sapphists in Austenland - transcript

(Originally aired 2021/09/18 - listen here)

No time to compose an introduction this time; I want to get this up on the blog before going to the office. (I.e., before walking down the hall to the guest bedroom where my home office is set up.) More thoughts next time, I hope.

I continue to see parallels between Jen Manion's book and Emily Skidmore's, especially in how they both use a small set of individual biographies to focus attention on the larger topic. The slight temporal overlap between the two studies means it's unsurprising that Skidmore starts off with a look at two cases that Manion also covered in detail -- just in case you're having a sense of deja vu. (Manion's book came out three years after Skidmore's, but given publishing timelines it's unlikely she had access to the latter while writing, unless they ran in the same academic circles.)

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 209 - On the Shelf for September 2021 – Transcript

(Originally aired 2021/09/04 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for September 2021.

I'm glad I decided to cover Manion and Skidmore back to back (well, with the exception of that little blip I posted last week) because they cover similar material, use similar research sources, and overlap slightly but not significantly in time scope. Reading them together not only provides a broader picture for the topic, but points out significant shifts in experience and reception that occurred around the late 19th century.

After what seems like entirely too long a period of covering a single book, we come to the end. Female Husbands: A Trans History has some interesting strengths and weaknesses as a historic study. The greatest strength (and my favorite aspect, given that I like the puzzle-solving parts of historic research) is Manion's willingness to dig through obscure public records to fill in the details of these people's lives. The original publicity around the story of James Howe/Mary East and their wife never mentioned the wife's name.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 208 – Shakespeare’s Queer-Baiting - transcript

(Originally aired 2021/08/21 - listen here)

Same-Sex Themes in Shakespeare

One thing that can be easy to lose track of when researching gender-crossing histories is that, given the historic context, we rarely know about the people who lived happily-ever-after lives, being accepted as the gender they presented to the world, loved and supported by those close enough to know their histories. We may occasionally get a glimpse of those lives after the fact, if their history comes to light after death.

It's hard enough trying to untangle the interesections of gender identity, sexuality, economic necessity, and sexism without tossing a completely unreliable narrator into the mix. The narrators of gender-crossing stories already have enough motivations to be unreliable, even setting aside the question of the language and concepts they have to work with. They may be motivated by identifying the narrative that will make their audience most sympathetic (which may change with the audience). They may be motivated by trying to protect a spouse, by presenting her as naive and ignorant.


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