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“You Are Correctly Called a Man, Because You Act Manfully”: A Transgender Studies Approach to Gender-Crossing Saints in Late Antiquity

  • Author(s): Phillips, Kathryn Leigh;
  • Advisor(s): Wilcox, Melissa;
  • DePalma Digeser, Elizabeth
  • et al.
Abstract

In late antiquity, several hagiographies of assigned female saints who presented themselves as men centuries were popular among Christian audiences. Within these hagiographies, the subjects changed their gender presentation and lived as men, often in monasteries intended for those assigned male. However, current historiography explains away these acts of gender variance from the historical record. Historians often view their presentation as a means to negotiate patriarchy, such as safety while traveling or to attain authority reserved for men. There seems to be a compulsion among scholars to impose cisnormativity onto these figures through viewing their gender presentation as solely a pragmatic choice. This dissertation analyzes these examples of gender variance in late antique Christianity through a transgender studies lens. This approach views these saints’ genders as performative constructions within their cultural context. By using a transgender studies approach, this dissertation disrupts the cisnormative view that causes the erasure of gender variance from the historical record.

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