I will be presenting my paper, “Becoming Gendered: Two Approaches to Intersex Sex Designation in the Middle Ages,” on Monday, 19 March 2018. The first annual Prandium Conference takes place from 10 am to 5 pm at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
Legal and social sex designation could take place at various stages in the lifecycle depending on what physical attributes were present, or which “opposite” sex one preferred. Medieval scholars relied on theological and philosophical texts, as well as drawing on Roman law where appropriate. Within a Christian context it was possible that the initial determinations were incorrect, and the intersex person could assume a new gender role with minimal fuss. Whereas in a Muslim context, once assigned, a person’s gender was considered fixed and unchangeable. The methods for determining gender differ, and a comparison between the two reveals the varied ways that gender was constructed and the functions it served. In assigning someone a binary gender, both Christian and Muslim intersex people became recognizable members of society that could be securely placed within a cultural hierarchy and thus they took on a social identity that was readily understood by their contemporaries.