The Genderless Eighteenth-Century Prophet

In 1776, a 24-year-old Quaker woman named Jemima Wilkinson died of fever, and came back to life as a prophet known as the Publick Universal Friend. By Livia Gershon Understanding gender as a spectrum is a part of life in twenty-first century America. But gender-nonconforming people have always existed. Historian Scott Larson takes a look[…]

Dardanella and Peter: What Does Microhistory Offer to the History of Sexuality?

During the past two decades, historians of twentieth-century Britain have delineated the landscape of a “modern sexual and gender regime.” What does a microhistorical approach, based upon the subjective experiences and writings of individuals, offer the history of sex and love in early twentieth-century Britain? This was the central question guiding research following the discovery,[…]

The Cinaedus: Transgender Soldiers in the Ancient Roman Army

An ancient Roman fable imagines a cinaedus, well-known for his brazen effeminacy, fighting heroically. Introduction On August 25, 2017, Donald Trump signed a directive banning transgender people from joining the U.S. military. This officially reverses the inclusive policies introduced during the Obama regime. Trump’s decision was, he claimed in earlier tweets, based on the burdensome medical costs and disruption that[…]

How the New York Media Covered the Stonewall Riots

With major dailies giving a megaphone to the police, the coverage of Stonewall is a reminder of what’s lost when alternative media outlets wither away. Introduction The Stonewall riots were a six-night series of protests that began in the early morning of June 28, 1969, and centered around the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in[…]

How Early Anthropologists Hid African Same-Sex Relationships

Sex between people of the same gender has existed for millennia. But anthropologists in sub-Saharan Africa often ignored or distorted those relationships. By Livia Gershon Sex between people of the same gender has existed in various forms for millennia. But many people, including academics, often ignored or distorted those relationships. The historian Marc Epprecht looked[…]

“Well Known as Miss Betty Cooper”: Gender Expression in 18th-Century Boston

Miss Betty Cooper may not be “well known” to modern historians, but the ad claims that she was “well known” in Revolutionary-era Boston. In the years before the American Revolution, Boston newspapers routinely advertised the sale and recapture of enslaved people alongside news of Massachusetts’ resistance to British rule. In these ads, enslavers provided descriptions[…]

‘Dinnae Meddle!’: Scotland and the Historiography of Homosexual Law Reform

Scotland has its own independent legal system, education system and religious institutions, and gay men were criminalized there long after England ended their laws. A curious, or perhaps irksome, aspect of ‘British’ approaches to the history of sexuality is that they tend to neglect the variation of experience within the United Kingdom. I’ve lost count[…]

Three Wise Men in a Bed: Bedsharing and Sexuality in Medieval Europe

One of the biggest challenges facing medieval historians is interpreting the actions of individuals at a remove of several centuries. One of the biggest challenges facing medieval historians, and perhaps especially historians of medieval sexuality, is interpreting the actions of individuals at a remove of several centuries. Take, for example, the case of King Richard[…]

Tempests and Teapots: Sexual Politics and Tea-Drinking in the Early Modern World

The Boston Tea Party, a foundational moment of political rebellion, was a protest against tea, and tea itself was freighted with sexual meanings. The American Revolution is impossible to understand without food and sex at its center. The Boston Tea Party, a foundational moment of political rebellion, was a protest against tea, and tea itself was[…]

George Platt Lynes: An Early-20th Century Gay Photographer and His Legacy

Lynes was a highly sought-after commercial and fashion photographer in the 1930s and 1940s. But he had to keep his most important body of work hidden away. From the late 1920s until his death in 1955, George Platt Lynes was one of the world’s most successful commercial and fine art photographers. His work was included[…]