I will be presenting my paper “‘Calling [Herself] Eleanor’: Translike Gender Presentation in
Medieval Europe” at the Sexual Diversity Studies Student Research Colloquium on Friday, 26 March 2021 at 11:40 am EST.
My paper will look at the discourse around what it means to be transgender has developed dramatically over the past thirty years. Many medieval historians did not even consider transness a possibility for medieval people until relatively recently. Some did not have the language or theoretical background to interpret the cases they uncovered, and many of the sources medieval historians relied on were hostile, and remain so. This includes the document that records a statement taken from a sex worker in fourteenth-century London. Eleanor Rykener was brought in for questioning after being found wearing women’s clothing and having sex with a man. The recording clerk took Rykener for a man. How historians have suppressed, and since understood, interpreted, and reinterpreted the case over the past hundred years reveals contemporary concerns regarding sexual and gender politics and demonstrates how they have changed through encounters with queer theory.