Trans Theory in Assyriology

Some of the talks from the conference I attended in Barcelona in February have been put online. The full playlist is here (including one on Nefertiti, Egypt fans), but I just want to highlight one here because it demonstrates that trans and intersex issues are being taken seriously by academia. It is one of the keynote talks by Ann Guinan who, delightfully, studies Sex and Gender, Magic and Divination in the Ancient World at the University of Pennsylvania. The first half of the talk is basically a history of Western sexology and how it has impacted our view of Mesopotamia. Ann then brings in knowledge of trans and intersex people, and asks how their existence might affect how we interpret the ancient world.

My apologies to intersex readers for the focus on genitalia, but in the ancient world intersex conditions were generally only noticed when they caused a distinct physical change. Everyone else may remember the 2015 BBC program that featured the guevedoce community in the Dominican Republic.

I remember this talk with some pride because I was able to introduce Ann to a friend of mine, Alan Greaves, who studies Classics at Liverpool University. Alan has written about evidence for the existence of intersex people in Rome, of which there is quite a lot (some of which found its way into my LGBT History Month talks this year).

Anyway, here’s the video. It’s about half an hour.

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2 Responses to Trans Theory in Assyriology

  1. Neil Rest says:

    Fwiw, there’s a chapter in Talmud about “hermaphrodites”. It doesn’t tell us much more than that the situation confused the sages.

    Bikkurim Chapter 4
    Mishnah 1. The hermaphrodite1 is in some things like to men, and in other things like to women. In other things again he is like to women. In other things again he is like to men and to Women, and in others he is like neither men nor women. . . .

    • Cheryl says:

      There’s loads of interesting stuff in the Babylonian Talmud. Six different genders, as I recall. Even the suggestion that Abraham and Sarah were both tumtum, which I guess explains why they could not have children for ages. There’s a good paper on it here.

      I leave most of this to my Jewish friends, though, because so much depends on translation and I have zero knowledge of Hebrew.

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