Transfeminist Perspectives on Premodern Trans Lives


Summer Institute for the Study of East Central and Southeastern Europe


Medeival Studies


This project analyzes the social and cultural role of gender-crossing figures in the premodern European Eastern Mediterranean studying transgender narratives and art from the early to post-Byzantine period, from 400 to 1750. Trans saints presented hagiographers and artists with a challenge. How could ‘harlots’, like Pelagia of Antioch and Mary of Egypt, achieve the standards of Christian piety, let alone saintly behavior? In portraying their fictional transmasculine protagonists as exempla of gendered virtues, the authors and iconographers highlight the non-binariness of social identities, unsettling fixed gender categorization. By understanding how the trans figure of an ascetic subverts conventional binaries, this project aims to shed light on the Byzantine foundational gender and religious categories.