Medieval Transidentities

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Medieval TransidentitiesIn the past few years, definitions of transgender identity have evolved rapidly, due primarily to developments in popular culture. Academics, on the other hand—from clinical psychology to literary studies—have struggled to keep up. Externally-imposed, restrictive categories such as “transsexual” and “drag king” or “drag queen,” have yielded to a more representative, fluid range of subject-determined identities on the spectrum between transmasculine and transfeminine. Transidentities are inherently non-binary as the trans- prefix suggests a crossing through; words such as “transit” and “transform” leave us to consider the process in-between, rather than focus on a beginning or final destination.It is our belief that this advance in the popular understanding of transidentities within contemporary western and global cultures might help us to better understand analogous phenomena across the temporal and social divides, that is, between the current day and the different cultural environments of the medieval world.As part of this endeavor, we seek to distinguish between gender transgression (a topic of great interest in the past) and the outright transition of gender identity. While the latter might be defined as an event or behavior that challenges traditional ideas about gender in a manner that focuses on the powers that impose these categories, it also denies the transcendence of gender on a more fundamental level in a manner that focuses primarily on the subject’s experience of transidentification.This panel seeks papers on any topic, academic field, critical method, or culture that bear on the medieval understanding, representation, and reimagining of transidentities. In addition to studies on particular texts, art, artifacts, or cultures, we also welcome papers that examine methods and methodologies for investigating medieval transidentities. Our hope is to begin new conversations and widen the discussion about transidentities in the medieval world and the field at large.Kristen Carella