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[Tr]an[s]tiquity: Theorizing Gender Diversity in Ancient Contexts (AFG-2017)

Sponsored by the Lambda Classical Caucus
Organizers: Walter Penrose ( and Tom Sapsford ( 

In recent years, gender diverse persons—persons who do not conform to societal expectations of gender enactment—have become more visible in modern culture. For instance, Time magazine's May 2014 cover featuring trans-woman Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner's widely publicized transition have raised national public awareness to the variance between a person's anatomical sex and their enactment of gender. Furthermore, Transgender Studies has grown into an established field in the academy. Although Greek and Latin literature prescribe clear expectations with regard to the observance of gender, classical sources also abound with people who do not fit such paradigms. Masculine women (Amazons, tribades), feminine men (kinaidoi, molles), and those with ambiguously sexed bodies (galli, spadones, hermaphrodites) appear in material, literary, and medical sources. Scholars such as Page duBois (Sowing the Body), Craig Williams (Roman Homosexuality), Helen King (The One-Sex Body on Trial), and Anthony Corbeill (Sexing the World) have all challenged the notion that masculine/feminine binaries were static in antiquity.

This panel seeks to explore how we can negotiate a balance between our own desire to theorize gender as a social construct and ancient notions of essentialism in gender ideology. How was non-conformance with gender norms perceived by ancient authors? Were ancient notions of gender diversity tied to sexuality and/or other factors (e.g. cowardice, dress, chastity, physiognomy)? Did ethnicity and/or status affect ancient perceptions of gender variance? Did polytheistic and/or monotheistic religious settings of antiquity create “safe spaces" and/or socially-sanctioned roles for gender diverse persons? Can contemporary concepts, such as gender as a spectrum, transgender, passing, gender dysphoria, and drag, be usefully transposed into ancient contexts, or should the classicist historicize solely by using ancient terminology to describe gender variance? Is queer theory as developed to understand gender queerness in modern contexts applicable to the remote past, or do we need to refine and expand queer theory to rethink ancient gender diversity?  

We welcome submissions that explore gender diversity in Greco-Roman contexts using a variety of sources (material, literary, historical, medical, etc.). We also solicit papers which examine the impact of classical gender variance on the "history of sexuality" and classical reception more generally, as well as those which compare gender nonconformity in Greek, Roman, and other ancient contexts.

Please send abstracts that follow the guidelines for individual abstracts by email to Deborah Kamen (, not to the panel organizers, by March 1, 2016.  Please do not identify yourself anywhere in the abstract, as submissions will be blind refereed.

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