Two pieces I’ve published elsewhere recently:
This essay for the History Today website on the ‘cross-dressing soldier problem’, or how to talk about people in the past who dressed as men and went to war, while making space for the possibilities of trans lives:
Whether the stories come via a 17th-century ballad, a 19th-century newspaper or a 21st-century tablet, the public has been fascinated for centuries by tales of women who put on men’s clothes, take a male name and run away to join the army – or to go to sea…
Cis historians and journalists usually start from the assumption all these figures can only have been women, so the first paragraph puts it the same way as the headlines – but the rest goes on to show that:
The same sources that show us women who cross-dressed also offer us glimpses of how people who might have distanced themselves from womanhood over a longer period of time got by, how those who felt equally at home in more than one gender role accommodated that fluidity, and how people with intersex conditions coped with a society where their bodies did not belong.
Well done to the editor who gave this article (after the wonderful Discworld novel) the headline ‘Monstrous Regiment’. Good work.
Most women already know how it feels to be made monstrous. If we can tell what most frightens a society from what form its monsters take and what they threaten, the very ideas governing what societies and people will be frightened of have stemmed from ideologies of gender in connection with race, age, sexuality, disability and the body. Folklore, myth and horror around the world provide bestiaries of monstrous women. Yet so, according to cultural imagination, does everyday life…
Yes, there’s a bit of a monsters theme here this month.