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Friday, November 25, 2022 - 09:00

One of the interesting through-lines in the history of female same-sex desire are the parallel strands of "attraction based on similarity" versus "attraction based on difference." If you will: femme-femme and butch-femme. (It would be interesting to look for historic antecedents for butch-butch attraction, which would also fall under the similarity model, but the primary examples tend to be femme-femme.) But these models of attraction or desire aren't limited to same-sex couples. Indeed, one could see the same-sex versions as being licensed by similar dynamics withn the larger society affecting all romantic attraction. If beauty is viewed as not dimorphic, and if one is expected to be attracted to someone similar to you--not merely because of non-gendered beauty standards, but as a basic principal--then surely same-sex attraction is a natural outcome?

This article looks at the motif of non-gender-specific beauty standards (and their implications for romantic desire) within medieval Arabic literature, but we find a similar phenomenon in medieval European romances, where it also impacts the depiction of gender disguise. (See the "similarity" tag for this motif in general.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Antrim, Zayde. 2020. “Qamarayn: The Erotics of Sameness in the 1001 Nights” in Al-Usur al-Wusta vol. 28. pp.1-44 [Note: journal title has multiple diacritics not included here]

This article looks at how beauty and attractiveness and desirability are framed within the early manuscripts of the 1001 Nights as involving similarity rather than gender difference. While later editions, and especially translations and adaptations into western languages, tended to insert a more binary-gendered aesthetic into the descriptions of characters in the thousand and one nights, this is a conceptual shift from the early versions.

Descriptions of beauty for both male and female characters show striking similarities in the language used and the ideals of appearance attributed to them. Further, romantic couples in the tales are often specifically described as being highly similar in their beauty and attractiveness using the same vocabulary for men and women. This observation does not contradict the importance within the tales of the gender binary within the realms of marriage inheritance and social structures. But it contrasts with the real-life divisions in society between elite adult men who were at the top of the social pyramid and all others including both women and lower status and younger men. This social structure is not idealized within the tales, which leads to interesting speculations about audience and reception.

This emphasis on similarity and a lack of emphasis on binary gender differences has caused problems of interpretation for those either looking to find romantic relationships structured around contrasts of power and gender, or by those looking for concepts analogous to same-sex orientation. If desirability is portrayed in essentially identical terms for both male and female objects of desire then is it relevant to look for a concept equivalent to same-sex desire? This ideal of similarity is particularly celebrated in the context of erotic love within the tales, and when distinct differences between potential romantic partners are emphasized, it is often for the sake of humor or mockery. (There is a section of the article somewhat later that reviews a number of stories in which imperfect or racialized bodies are used to derail expected romance structures.)

The aesthetic ideal depicted in these stories uses the full moon as a symbol of beauty and often describes a romantic couple is being like twin moons. Facial features are idealized as: dark eyes, arching brows, rosy cheeks, and white teeth, framed by black or curly hair. The descriptive language is not gendered even though grammatical gender is unambiguous in Arabic. (That is, there isn't the equivalent of describing women as "beautiful" but men as "handsome" using different words.) And the descriptions of the ideal features of a beautiful body do not focus on gendered aspects such as the genitals or breasts. Beautiful bodies are slender and supple, but curved and fleshy, described as quivering or full to bursting, as well as being idealized as soft and smooth. While one might view the men being described in these terms as being feminized or depicted as youths, the language does not emphasize them as being young or adolescent.

This idealization of similar--though not necessarily androgynous--beauty interacts in interesting ways with the common motif of cross-dressing within the tales. Certainly if a man and woman are depicted as being close to twins in appearance then the audience may be more primed to believe that one could carry off a disguise as the other.

Romantic couples in the 1001 Nights are not simply described using the same language and the same ideals but are often explicitly described as similar or having a resemblance where the similarity in appearance is echoed in the mutuality of their love and an unexpected equality in the power they wield within the story.

The article uses the story of Qamar al-Zaman and the princess Budur, whose names both refer to the moon as an indication of their ideal beauty, to illustrate the importance of similarity in the romantic structure. The two are brought together by two supernatural creatures who are each championing one of the couple as the most beautiful person in the world, in order to determine which is right. The couple fall in love during this comparison and then, after being separated, spend the rest of the story pursuing a reunion. The author argues that the interlude in the story in which Budur disguises herself as her absent lover and finds herself married to a king’s daughter does not so much insert a lesbian Interlude into the story as it points out the immateriality of gender to erotic desire. When Budur gazes on her wife after their marriage, the sight reminds her of the beauty of her husband. This episode, then, is not a transfer of desire from a male object to a female one, but an extension of desire from one beautiful object to another equally beautiful. (In this, the author disagrees with Sahar Amer’s framing of the text.)

The emphasis on similarities is foregrounded in the 15th century texts of Qamar and Budur’s story, but the 19th century Arabic printed editions that have been a significant means of disseminating the story in modern times, and translated editions of a similar date, modify the descriptions and omit or add passages to downplay the similarity theme and attribute more gender distinction to the characters, especially with a focal emphasis on the genitals during erotic scenes.

The narrative consequences of Budur and Qamar’s similarity play out further in a concluding episode to the tale when Qamar is reunited with Budur (still in male disguise) and she teases him by using her new status as “king” to demand that he submit to her sexually. Qamar protests but the descriptions continue to emphasize the impossibility of recognizing Budur’s gender until they get sufficiently intimate that Budur finally lets him in on the joke. In contrast, the 19th century versions frame Qamar’s response more in terms of a “homosexual panic” and emphasizes his rejection of the request.

In conclusion, the author emphasizes the need to interpret texts as the texts present themselves, and not to retroactively apply later assumptions about gender difference and the dynamics of sexual desire.

Time period: 
Monday, November 21, 2022 - 07:00

I've been sorting out the collection of pdfs of journal articles that I haven't blogged yet, so I can get them all taken care of and start some fresh collections. There were three I spotted that were loosely associated with same-sex issues in the medieval Islamic world, so I figured they'd make a good cluster. This one looks at the internal logic of legal texts discussing the appropriate classification and punishment of same-sex acts. The primary focus is on acts between men, but the ways in which women were treated differently is interesting on its own.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Omar, Sara. 2012. “From Semantics to Normative Law: Perceptions of Liwat (Sodomy) and Sihaq (Tribadism) in Islamic Jurisprudence (8th - 15th Century CE)” in Islamic Law and Society 19. pp.222-256

This paper looks at the structure of legal arguments in medieval Islamic law that covers male and female homosexual acts. The author examines how different schools of law structured their analysis regarding categorization and punishment either through analogy to illicit heterosexual sex or with regard to the social roles of those involved in the sex act. This is not an analysis of how same-sex sexuality is treated in literature or poetry but specifically within the genre of legal argumentation. The analysis also looks at why and how jurist came to different conclusions about the appropriate punishments for male and female homosexuality. The historical literature is far more concerned with male activity than that of women, and there has been less scholarly interest in exploring the treatment of female homosexuality.

Legal argumentation focused around several general topics. One is analogy to the concept of zina, the label for illicit sex between a man and a woman. Another is the definition of sexual intercourse as being specifically an act of penetration by a male organ. The third factor is the relevance of the social status of the individuals involved in their relationship to each other. Within the commentary on these legal concepts there are also discussions regarding whether the technical legal terms involved or being used literally in their formal sense or metaphorically in a non-binding sense.

There are relatively few legal judgments and opinions relating to sex between women. The three hadith that appear to touch on the subject include one that refers to sihaq (“rubbing”) between women as being zina. Another indicates that skin to skin contact between two women lying next to each other is forbidden that they must be wearing clothing for fear the contact would excite them. The third hadith is related to cross-dressing and forbids men who dress like women and women who dress like men but that’s not specifically touch on sex.

Another key element of the legal reasoning is the assignment of offenses and therefore of punishments to two different levels of severity, those that are specifically forbidden in the Qur’an which are punished more severely, and those that are not mentioned in the Qur’an where the punishment is at the judge’s discretion.

One key question in determining the appropriate approach to unlawful sex is whether it is categorized as zina, which in its narrowest interpretation refers to the vaginal penetration by a man of a woman he does not have legal rights to. Appropriate punishment for zina also depended on the context of the act with regard to the age, social status, marital status, and mental competence of the participants. as well as a very technical definition of what constituted penetration.

When the participants in an illicit sex act were a man and a woman there were clear definitions of how to apply these rules. Where legal approaches differed was in whether those rules applied by analogy to same-sex acts and if so how they applied. One school of thought argued that because different words existed for zina and liwat, where the latter indicated anal penetration, regardless of the sex of the participants, that they could not be treated the same under law because what is named differently cannot be identical. By this reasoning, because liwat was not forbidden in the Qur’an, any punishment was at the judge’s discretion. Another school of thought viewed liwat as being a subcategory of zina and therefore subject to the more severe punishments. However, both categories were defined in terms of penetration and therefore were viewed as something that only a man could perform. This meant that for both types of acts punishment was determined with regard to the individual status and relationship of the participants, but sexual acts between women were entirely excluded from consideration.

The word sihaq does not appear in the Qur’an. Some have interpreted a word in a Qur’anic passage non-specifically meaning “lewdness” as referring to sex between women, but this interpretation is note generally accepted. Therefore, those who viewed erotic activity between women as criminal needed to use a different rationale. This was available in general prohibitions against immodesty, or improper contact between people who did not have a relationship that licensed such contact. The offense was transgressing against the requirement to protect your genitals. This was categorized as a sin, but not as a crime. And, in essence, the punishment treated both women as having transgressed by being the passive partner in an illicit sex act.

This inability to define sex between women as something that fell within the most forbidden categories of sexual crimes did not mean that sex between women was considered acceptable or meaningless but it did protect those who engaged in it from the most dire consequences, by virtue of the social assumptions that sexual crimes required the illicit use of a penis.

Time period: 
Saturday, November 19, 2022 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 244 – Our F/Favorite Tropes: Kissing Lessons - transcript

(Originally aired 2022/11/19 - listen here)

Introduction

Welcome to another episode of the occasional series “Our F/Favorite Tropes,” in which the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast explores various popular historic romance tropes within the context of lesbian and sapphic history. In the sense used here, a trope is an identifiable, recurring motif that connects our understanding of a story to other stories that use the same trope. It can be a character type, a situation, or even a mini-plot that treads familiar ground and sets up – or subverts – reader expectations. Today we’re looking at the “kissing lessons” trope, in which two characters practice or learn the techniques of romantic kissing, only to find themselves falling in love.

The Structure of the Trope

The “kissing lessons” trope has a certain structural similarity to the “fake relationship” trope, in that it relies on the misalignment and then realignment of the sincere and performative aspects of an act. We may recognize that, historically, there have been many motivations and understandings behind the contract of marriage, but romance novels revolve around the subset in which romantic desire aligns with the legal contract. Even more so, kissing is an activity that exists in a liminal and ambiguous space: an act that can have many meanings and functions, depending not only on the identity of the people involved, but on the social context in which it is performed.

There’s a wonderfully detailed article on this topic discussed in the blog: Helen Berry’s “Lawful Kisses? Sexual Ambiguity and Platonic Friendship in England, c. 1660-1720.” It was published in a collection entitled The Kiss in History, which sounds like an excellent resource for historic romance novelists in general. While the article focuses on a very specific context in time and space, it points out the wide variety of meanings that kissing can have simultaneously. It could act to seal a legal contract, as ritual performance of a hierarchical relationship, as a symbol of communal bonds as in the “kiss of peace” used in Christian ceremonies, as an expression of familial affection (or the illusion thereof), as a ritual act in greeting or leavetaking, and—of course—as a component of intimate erotic activity, whether as a prelude to intercourse or as an accompaniment to it.

Kissing is, inherently, an intimate gesture—far more intimate than clasping hands or other gestures that might be used in similar social situations. And the multiplicity of meanings the activity could carry resulted in complex social rules about the contexts in which kissing was authorized, and those contexts in which it was transgressive. Berry’s article notes that, in the 17th century, the increasingly popular genre of etiquette manuals included guidance on how to navigate those rules, giving us a window into all the various meanings and functions of kissing.

As a romance trope, the idea of “kissing lessons” focuses specifically around one particular function—kissing as an erotic act—and around the idea that one can learn the mechanics of erotic kissing separate from experiencing an erotic response to it. But the “kissing lessons” trope can also rely on all those other licensed contexts for kissing to give cover or to reduce the sense of transgression when a kissing lesson is proposed.

The Trope in Male-Female Romances

In male-female romances, the “kissing lessons” trope often revolves around a contrast in experience levels. The excuse for kissing is either that the less experienced person simply wants to know what kissing is supposed to feel like with someone who knows what they’re doing, or they want to learn to be a better kisser in order to win the heart of some third party. The lessons are “safe” not only because they are specifically framed as non-romantic, but often because there’s some reason that the two participants are considered not suitable as a romantic couple.

And then, of course, mock kissing sparks genuine erotic response in one or both parties, which disrupts the contract and leads to their eventual mutual confession of desire.

But beyond those outlines, the roles don’t tend to be fixed. The student may be a naïve young woman who secures the cooperation of a teacher because she wants a better basis for evaluating suitors. Or she may be less naïve, but awkward and wants to appear more sophisticated. Her teacher may be someone considered a platonic friend that she considers “safe” or she might approach a notorious rake with the confidence that he wouldn’t take the lessons as a serious commitment. But the set-up may also be the reverse: the student as a naïve young man, embarrassed by his lack of experience, or the awkward nerdy sort who thinks he needs to up his game to impress the diamond of the season. And his teacher, once more, might be someone familiar—perhaps the girl next door—that he’s never considered seriously as a romantic partner but who will keep his secrets, or it might be a woman with a daring sexual reputation who would never be considered a suitable marriage partner in ordinary circumstances. And there are many possible variants beyond those scenarios.

But in all cases, the kissing lessons contradict the expected script, that first comes love, then comes kissing, then comes marriage (or sex, depending on the specific flavor of book). Instead of being the main performance on stage, the kissing lessons are a rehearsal of the script with a stand-in. The twist comes when the rehearsal sparks desires that fall outside the original agreement.

The Trope in Female-Female Romances

When discussing ways to play out marriage-related tropes with female couples, there is always an understanding that in the historic settings in question, actual legal marriage is not an option for two female-presenting people. That’s not an issue with the “kissing lessons” trope, because the formal nature of the resulting romantic relationship isn’t an inherent part of the trope. Instead, the basic structure can be closely parallel to that of male-female couples. Two people “practice” kissing to enhance their knowledge or skills in the activity, with the surface understanding that they are not engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship, but when the kisses generate an erotic or romantic response they work their way toward communicating those feelings, resulting in forming a romantic or erotic couple.

There are two primary ways in which the trope operates differently for female couples. The first is the degree to which the society of the story’s setting assumes that women don’t engage in romantic or erotic relationships together. Rather than the lessons being considered “safe” because the teacher is categorized as not being eligible as a partner, due to the past history of the couple or due to the social persona of the teacher, instead the lessons may be “safe” because it is assumed there’s no romantic or erotic potential in the first place due to the gender of the participants.

Keep in mind that this attitude is far from universal. Many historic societies recognized and even embraced the idea of two women enjoying a romantic relationship that included kissing and other physical expressions of affection. Other historic societies defaulted to assuming that kissing between women would only be a matter of formal social interactions.  Some societies openly acknowledged the possibility that women’s romantic relationships might include an erotic component, and might either accept that or discourage it. Other societies might embrace a model in which romantic and erotic relationships were not linked, and that women’s romantic feelings towards each other would never lead to erotic desire (or if they did, it would be unacceptable).

All this comes on top of the question of the variety of acceptable social functions for kissing in your story’s setting. So in order to know how your characters will approach the proposal of kissing lessons, how they will go about engaging in their practice, what their expectations of the outcome will be, and how they will react when their emotions go in a different direction than expected, you’ll want to dig into the normative practices around kissing and expressions of affection. And you’ll want to understand what types of relationships between women were publicly accepted and where the lines were drawn. It’s possible for a sapphic historical romance to employ a kissing lessons trope and never have the characters step outside behaviors that their culture considered openly acceptable and even praiseworthy. Guilt and shame are not obligatory components of a historical sapphic romance.

The Unfortunate History of “Just Practicing” for F/F Couples

The second difference for female couples engaging in a “kissing lessons” trope comes with a bit of cultural baggage. It has been a recurring theme throughout history that erotic activity between women can be overlooked because it’s “just practice” for heterosexual relationships. We see this in discussions of romantic friendships in the 18th and 19th centuries, where the intense expressions of love and devotion that young women were allowed to express toward each other were dismissed as “practice for what she should feel for a husband.” Similarly, the schoolgirl “crushes” popular in boarding schools of the later 19th and early 20th century could be considered acceptable as a rehearsal for married life. Women had license to kiss each other with a fair amount of intensity as long as it could be categorized as “just practicing.”

In erotic literature, this motif goes further, with depictions of one woman initiating another into sexual activity as a prelude to heterosexual relations. Sometimes it’s explicitly framed as training the student so that she will be sexually experienced in her first encounter with a man. This motif shows up in the family of 16th and 17th century novels and plays based on the Spanish work La Celestina, in which an older woman prepares a younger one for work as a prostitute by initially seducing her herself. Similar scenes occur in the 18th century French novel Thérèse the Philosophe, and in John Cleland’s novel Fanny Hill, from a similar era, in which the title character is initiated into sex by her fellow brothel workers but considers the experience nothing more than training.

This backdrop means that a sapphic historical romance may want to tread carefully around having the characters treat kissing lessons between women as “safe” because they’re only practicing for future male suitors. While the attitude may have solid historical roots, it invokes a long tradition of dismissing the importance of erotic interactions between women. And yet, that long tradition can also provide a context for layers of romantic angst if both of our heroines believe the other one is “just practicing.”

Exploring the Possibilities

That said, there are a lot of narrative options for using “kissing lessons” to introduce a character to the erotic possibilities with women. Or to have some self-discovery around how she really feels about that best friend. Let’s look at some of the options, keeping in mind that the specifics will depend on the era and culture.

The naïve, inexperienced ingenue who decides she wants to know what all the fuss is about before entering the world of courtship and matchmaking can turn to another, more experienced, woman to learn the mechanics of erotic kissing and explore her responses to it. This could be a near age-mate who, perhaps due to being slightly older, or due to having mixed in society more, seems a bit more worldly. Perhaps they’ve already established a close friendship. Perhaps they don’t know each other quite as well but are thrown together in proximity for some reason.

Then one or both feels the chemistry between them, but is hesitant to act on it because that wasn’t the deal. Perhaps there was already a potential suitor for one or the other and the hesitation has to do with interfering in those future plans. The lack of societal expectations for female friendships to turn into lifelong partnerships can make it awkward to negotiate expectations and plans. But, oh, that kiss! It’s so hard to forget that kiss.

Or we can look at another variant of the heterosexual trope: the rakish, transgressive instructor who isn’t taken seriously as a potential partner. In a male-female version of the trope, often the daring reputation of the teacher is exactly what makes them “safe” – because they are expected not to be interested in commitment. When the student is an ingenue, there’s the hazard that her reputation will be damaged by contagion, and that same dynamic is available for a female pairing. The “good girl” who approaches a fallen woman for romantic instruction is risking her own reputation in way that doesn’t apply to a young man in the same situation. On the other hand, when an ingenue approaches a fallen woman, the risk is different than if she approached a male rake for the same purpose. The difference between damage and ruin. There’s a literary example of this in the 18th century French novel Dangerous Liaisons, in which the cynical and experienced Marchioness de Merteuil is manipulating the innocent girl Cecile in order to take revenge on her ex-lover. But at one point, the Marchioness suggests taking Cecile on as her “pupil in love,” taking advantage of opportunities to embrace her and expressing jealousy of the man that she’s setting up to seduce Cecile. Cecile, in turn, feels an attraction to the Marchioness that goes beyond innocent friendship. Although nothing comes of this in the original novel, we could easily turn the story into one in which the romance plot takes a sharp turn to the sapphic.

But the student needn’t necessarily fall in the “young and innocent” category. A more mature woman may also be wondering what all the fuss is about if the men courting her never sparked the response she had been led to expect. She might feel less risk in seeking out a woman infamous for her romantic exploits and asking for instruction. Alternately, she might confess her curiosity and frustration to a long-time female friend who seems to have figured things out a bit more and who can be depended on to be discreet. In the early 17th century play The Antipodes by Richard Brome, two women are discussing their experience of marriage while lying in bed together (see the episode about the “only one bed” trope for context on how normal this was). Martha complains that her husband of three years has never done “what a man does in child-getting” and she’s clueless about what it is she’s missing. She suggests to her friend Barbara, “I’ll lie with you and practice, if you please. Pray take me for a night or two.” Martha’s intent is to learn how to make love so that she can teach her husband in turn. But at the same time, Martha does have previous erotic experience. She explains, “I remember a wanton maid once lay with me, and kissed and clipped and clapped me strangely, and then wished that I had been a man to have got her with child.” The entire scene speaks to the idea that women might turn to other women for erotic instruction.

While kissing-lesson tropes in male-female romances typically require some sort of asymmetry of knowledge and experience, there is more scope between female couples for the exploration and practicing of kissing techniques to involve an equal starting point. There needn’t necessarily be teacher and student roles—the historic “just practicing” motif can involve a mutual exploration as often as it involves the transmission of experience. Kissing between women might begin as a routine expression of close friendship and then be expanded to something more intense.

The kissing lessons might occur in the context of role-playing. Amateur theatricals, anyone? One is reminded of the scene in Shakespeare’s As You Like It when Rosalind—disguised as the boy Ganymede—instructs Orlando into how to court a woman by practicing with her (in male disguise) as his object. I’m now imagining the tangled possibilities of an all-female amateur production of As you Like It where the women playing Rosalind and Orlando find excuses to practice their scenes extensively. Kissing might be part of light-hearted games and social frolics, where such activity was acceptable specifically due to a removal of gender expectations. There were any number of “parlor games” in which losing the round might require forfeiting a kiss.

Conversely, not all kissing-lesson plots need be sweet and innocent. The very license given to women to kiss without an implication of eroticism means that the activity offers a back door for seduction. Here we may see a pushing of boundaries or deliberate use of ambiguity. The offer of kissing lessons becomes an opportunity to deliberately evoke an erotic response, rather than the response being an unexpected surprise. This is a technique that Ann Lister details in her diaries when she’s sounding out potential partners. Social kissing slides easily into using “a little more pressure of the lips” and checking to see how this is received.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the popular “kissing lessons” trope has a vast potential for driving the romantic arc in sapphic historical romance, specifically due to the ambiguous nature of kissing as an activity, and because women often had a broad allowance for kissing as an expression of the bonds of friendship, including at times some fairly passionate activity. The specific social understandings of kissing, and the cultural rules around appropriate kissing behavior will vary depending on your setting, but I’d be willing to bet that there’s a historically appropriate way to use this trope no matter where, when, and who you’re writing about.


Show Notes

In this episode we talk about:

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to Heather Online

Major category: 
LHMP
Wednesday, November 9, 2022 - 07:00

This paper is brief and preliminary (though, alas, the author's CV doesn't list any more recent publications that appear to have expanded on it) but offers a glorious survey of classical greek painting on ceramics depicting pairs of women with all the symbolic signifiers of erotic courtship. Given that several authors who specifically discuss this type of evidence in the context of female homoeroticism seem to have overlooked or been unaware of several of the pieces discussed here--and given the examples of how the erotic interpretations of the figures have been dismissed or ignored by previous scholars who examined them--it suggests that there may be many more depictions of female homoeroticism in Greek art that simply haven't come to the attention of anyone who considered them interesting or relevant. I strongly recommend clicking through to download the original article because it's copiously illustrated.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Altman, Meryl. 2009. “Parthenoi to Watch Out For? Looking at Female Couples in Vase-Painting and Lyric” in CAMWS. [Note: this is from a conference proceeding. The word Parthenoi is in the Greek alphabet]

Publication summary: 

A methodological discussion of how to interpret images of paired women in Classical Greek art.

This article is a conference proceeding rather than written for publication, therefore it has a somewhat more informal flavor than usual. It takes a methodological approach to questions of how to interpret images of two women in classical Greek art that would be interpreted as involving courtship motifs if the figures were two men or a man and a woman.

The author leads us on a discovery tour involving one particular kylix, first showing the interior image, which was what the author initially had access to, which shows two young women, one holding the other by the wrist and leading or pulling the other forward. The second holds writing equipment in her other hand. Scholars have generally described it fairly neutrally: either as a school scene, based on the writing equipment, or as a scene of unwilling persuasion. The author admits that she was first attracted to the image due to the potential interpretation of the women as a romantic couple. But she admits that it was wishful speculation at the time the idea occurred to her.

At a later time, the author described the vase to another scholar who immediately responded, “Oh, the one with the courting couples of women on the back!” Returning to the object and viewing the much more extensive scenes on the underside of the bowl, it becomes much more difficult to see the interior figures in isolation as non-erotic. The female figures around the underside are shown in a variety of poses that reflect a recognized vocabulary of courtship in male pederastic art. Each couple involves one woman eagerly persuading and the other being more reticent. The dress and gestures are also recognizable as involving symbols of courtship.

This leads to a consideration of how the entire decorative program of Greek vase art must be considered in order to interpret the individual elements. The context provides cues and clues to the meaning of images that may otherwise seem generic. Several examples of pottery with similar programs of heterosexual courting or sexual couples are offered as comparison.

Returning to the original kylix the author discusses both the real difficulties and artificial barriers to interpreting female figures in Greek art. There are circular arguments regarding the nature or profession of women depicted in art, based on assumptions that respectable women would not be so depicted, therefore any woman shown in a scene must fall outside of social respectability. No woman in a vase painting--according to this position--can be interpreted as typical, and therefore the art does not represent women as a class. Alternately ,the author considers the position that some put forth that images of two women together in Greek art always represent a parody or a joke--that the image can never be representative or sincere. This argument is based on assumptions about the user the object (a drinking vessel used at symposia), based on the position that women did not attend symposia or similar types of gatherings, therefore the intended viewership have been men and must be interpreted through a male gaze. [Note: it’s clear that the article’s author is challenging many of the underlying assumptions here.]

The author compares these problems of interpretation with the scholarly reception of poetry describing female couples or female romantic interactions, most notably, of course, Sappho, but also touching specifically on Alcman’s Partheneion. However, the author reserves for a later article a more extensive comparison of the depictions of female couples in these paintings and in poetry. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, that later, more in-depth study has not been written.

The remainder of the article is taken up by additional description of the artwork, including an observation that the pairs of figures around the underside of the bowl could potentially be read as a temporal progression of a single relationship, given the variation in how the couple interacts and the arrangement of their garments. Alternately these variations could simply indicate different possibilities for a courting couple. The article includes many illustrations about half of them in color.

In the final discussions, the author notes that Sandra Boehringer’s study of classical female homoeroticism does not include these specific images and that they contradict some of her claims about how female eroticism is depicted in ancient Greek art. The images also address questions of whether female same-sex relations in classical Greece were less hierarchical than those of male couples, with these artistic depictions suggesting greater similarities to the hierarchy in other courting couples, while poetry suggests a more egalitarian depiction. But a wider study of depictions of female couples or at least pairs of the women in Greek art of a wide variety of styles and eras suggests a range of relationships--some showing asymmetric interactions and others showing a more mirror-like relationship.

In conclusion, the images provide a strong case for the legibility of female romantic or erotic couples in Greek art that is not always apparent in other surveys of the topic.

[Note: the article is available online here and is worth downloading to see the art.]

Time period: 
Place: 
Tuesday, November 8, 2022 - 08:10

As part of the Great Twitter Migration, I'm doing several things.

For one, I'm giving my best shot at restarting my author newsletter. I sent a "not dead yet!" letter out yesterday and hope to return to a monthly schedule. Part of the secret is going to be not setting myself an unsustainable content goal. I'll just mention what's new and if I feel like adding "extras" I will, but I won't require it of myself.  If I keep to this enough to put out a December newsletter, I'm going to run a new subscribers campaign with the bait of a drawing for an audiobook. And because I dislike disincentivizing my current subscribers, I'll also have an opt-in drawing for a second audiobook.

Several months ago, I set up a Mastodon account as @heatherrosejones at the Wandering.Shop instance. Mastodon looks like it's "the new twitter" except without the corporate ownership and wide open gaps for abuse. Relying as it does on volunteer labor and voluntary financial support, it's a different type of thing than twitter, but that means a lot more local control over your experience there, while still being able to connect with people across (most of) the whole of the Mastodon federation. I'm not the person to explain Mastodon to you if you want to know more, but there should be plenty of explainers out there.

I need to explore using my HootSuite account to automate more of the routine content announcements across my social media. Currently I do a lot of manual posts for every blog and podcast and for book publicity. I have some content files set up for automatically posting links to older podcast content and mean to do that for older LHMP blog content, but it takes doing a lot of set-up. But if I'm remembering HootSuite's capabilities correctly, I should be able to create a "hey, here's a new podcast"  post there and set it up to send it to all my social media. Which would make things more efficient.

As always, if people want a more casual interactive social media experience loosely focused around my work, ask me for an invitation to join the Alpennia Discord. It's small, sporadic, and low impact and full of creative friendly people. (And I really do need to draft up a formal "expectations for conduct" document for it, so it'll be there if the Discord ever takes off.

And you know that you can always comment on this blog, right? Right? I know, I know, "Blogging is Dead." But a girl can dream.

What other things do you think it might be fun and/or useful to do in terms of social media? Given that I already have a YouTube channel for the LHMP, I've thought about adding (adapated) video chat versions of the LHMP book blogs. For some reason I don't recall, I set up an Instagram account. I haven't really done anything with it, but yesterday as a test post I put up a video of the otters in the Contra Costa Canal that I stopped to film on my bike ride. What does one do with an Instagram? What would *you* find fun or interesting? Keep in mind that my time and energy is finite, but it's so hard to guess what might hit a niche that I haven't thought of yet.

Major category: 
Promotion
Saturday, November 5, 2022 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 243 - On the Shelf for November 2022 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2022/11/05 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for November 2022.

I’m always tempted to make some sort of seasonal observation after noting the month, but seasons are so very contextual. Here in relatively-coastal California, November means that tomato season is finally winding down to a close and just this week I decided it was time to change out the air filter in the heater and turn on the thermostat for the winter. What was my clue? Probably the layer of cats that I’d find myself buried under every morning. OK, so two cats don’t make much of a layer, but still.

For me, the end of the year is either a chaos of traveling and events, or it’s time to retreat to my introvert-cave and try to recharge. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. This year, it’s the introvert cave. No more traveling until…well, I’m not sure when. The next thing I have on my calendar is in July, but I’m sure something will come up.

The wealth of virtual conferences that I can attend from my home office has changed the dynamic of thinking about book-related events. A few weeks ago, I was able to take part in an online mini-convention around sapphic speculative fiction, organized and hosted by Sheena Ebersohn of The Lesbian Review. Sheena has been doing some amazing things to support the lesbian and sapphic fiction community, and I always know when I’m invited to take part that it will be well-organized, well-run, and a joy to participate in. Even as many events are pivoting back to being in person or hybrid events that combine physical and virtual spaces, I think we’ve all realized the continuing potential for virtual events to expand our connections and to welcome those whose geographic or economic situation has historically restricted their access.

With the end of the year coming around, I’m ramping up the cheerleading for next year’s fiction series. Once again, we’ll be buying stories to air on the podcast. Please help spread the word to authors who might feel inspired to submit something for our consideration. This will be our sixth year airing fiction. Somehow I keep thinking about the fiction series as being a recent addition to the show, but we’ve been doing fiction shows for two thirds of the podcast’s lifetime. I love being able to bring you new stories and to support the authors who are writing them. I hope you’re enjoying them just as much!

Publications on the Blog

For the last month, the Lesbian Historic Motif Project blog has been doing something drastically different from our usual: publishing a translation of a historic document that sheds light on attitudes and beliefs around gender and sexuality in mid-18th century France. The legal appeal of Anne, or Jean-Baptiste, Grandjean against a charge of “profaning the sacrament of marriage” by being a woman married to a woman raises questions about the interaction of legal, social, and internal gender identities, changing understandings of the relationship between gender and desire, and the challenges of interpreting even the most factual of documents when everyone involved has a vested interest in spinning those facts for their own protection and survival.

I’ve presented a couple of shorter texts in translation previously but this is my most ambitious project to date in that field. I won’t claim that the result would meet scholarly standards, but it’s certainly been an enjoyable adventure.

I’d like to return to blogging shorter journal articles for a while—though journal articles can be just as much work as entire books to turn into summaries. As my day-job has shifted to including one day a week in Berkeley at the physical worksite, it will be easy to spend some evenings at the U.C. Berkeley library downloading material from JSTOR. The change in work schedule is adding an enjoyable variety to my schedule, though I’m glad I’ll still be working from home for the most part.

Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction

And now it’s time for the new book listings. I’m already looking forward to my year-end analysis of trends in sapphic historicals, because I’ve been noticing some trends on an anecdotal basis that I’d like to verify. One of those trends is stories set between the two world wars, whether you call it the Roaring 20s, the Jazz Age, or the Lost Generation. I should do a special round-up of titles in that era at some point.

The one October book I’m catching up on is set in that era. The Veronica Nash series by A.J. Matthews follows two British women through a series of mysteries. I hadn’t identified the characters as sapphic previously, due to the lack of any clear signifiers in the cover copy, but the 8th book, Death on the Rocks, from Extasy Books, Inc. specifically mentions the couple being on a honeymoon, so you might want to circle back and start the series at the beginning.

Death drops in. Veronica and Claire’s delayed honeymoon on the French Riviera is interrupted when a man falls onto their beach. Did Hollywood mogul Solly Myers fall—or was he pushed? He’d plenty of enemies, but negotiating the tangle of friendships and betrayals to uncover the truth is no easy task—especially after one fateful night in the casino.

The November books don’t include any particularly early settings—all from the Regency onward through the mid-20th century, and all set either in England or the USA or a fantasy version of one of them.

Her Vixen Actress (Ladylike Inclinations #2) self-published by Violet Cowper, is a working-class Regency romance with a lot of passion.

England, 1782. Grace Dashwood longs to woo London’s theater-goers. But the up-and-coming actress’s glamorous good looks and sexy charm aren’t enough to win her a place on the city’s cutthroat stage. Until she meets an earnest lady playwright who has the connections she covets… and a ravishing beauty she wants to explore. Frances Smythe clings to her prim-and-proper manner. So the quiet writer’s patience stretches to a breaking point with the redheaded whirlwind of a performer, even as she senses the first red- hot sparks of passion. But when she finally yields to the woman’s dramatic pleas for aid, she’s rewarded with a delectable kiss that leaves her aching for more taboo trysts. Shocked to have caught a wealthy man’s eye, Grace can’t bring herself to accept his patronage in the face of her unexplored desires. But Frances’s fear of intimacy plunges the duo into an impossible limbo as she refuses to fully commit her emotions. Will their tangled connection get tied up in knots or weave a tapestry of happily ever after?

There’s something about the Regency era that inspires authors to toss magic into the mix, and Lady Liesl's Seaside Surprise (Teacup Magic #4) self-published by Tansy Rayner Roberts, offers a sapphic romance in a magical Regency series. I’ve been a fan of Tansy’s work for quite some time—especially on the now-retired podcast Galactic Suburbia—and I’m very much looking forward to reading this story.

Lady Liesl, fourth daughter of the Earl of Sandwich, always thought her fate was to marry well, and live a perfect life like her older sisters. Now she's had a taste of rebellion, and she likes it... Hunting a missing diamond in a remote seaside town on behalf of a runaway Countess, Liesl finds herself at the mysterious Aphrodite Villa, with a sinister lack of servants, and no household magic in sight... not to mention a parlour full of wild, bohemian artists, including the devilishly seductive Perdita. This is the Teacup Isles, where nothing is quite as it seems. Lady Liesl is about to uncover some surprising secrets about her family and herself.

Due to the nature of source material on women who loved women in history, even writing something relatively biographical can require a lot of fictionalizing. That Dickinson Girl: A Novel of the Civil War (Forgotten Women #1) by Joan Koster from Tidal Waters Press is loosely based on the life of a forgotten orator, feminist, and lesbian, Anna Dickinson, This is the story of her rise to fame and fortune at the expense of love during the political and social turmoil of the American Civil War.

Eighteen-year-old Anna Dickinson is nothing like the women around her, and she knows it. Gifted with a powerful voice, a razor-sharp wit, and unbounded energy, the diminutive curly head sets out to surpass the men of her day as she rails against slavery and pushes for women’s rights. There are only two things that can bring her downfall—the entangling love she has for her devoted companion, Julia, and an assassin’s bullet. Forced to accompany the fiery young orator on her speaking tour of New England, Julia Pennington fights her growing attraction to ever more impertinent woman. When a traitor sets out to assassinate Anna, will Julia risk her life to save her?

There has long been a close connection between gothic literature and queer-coded female characters. Now we can get stories where we don’t need to rely on ambiguous coding, as in The Secret of Matterdale Hall by Marianne Ratcliffe from Bellows Press.

Susan Mottram lives an idyllic existence until her eighteenth birthday, when her father’s sudden death plunges the family into penury. To support her mother and younger sister, Susan takes employment as a teacher at a remote Yorkshire boarding school, Matterdale Hall, owned by the radical Dr. Claybourn and his penny-pinching wife. Susan soon discovers that all is not as it seems. Why is little Mary so silent? What really happened to Susan’s predecessor? Is anyone safe in the school’s draughty halls? Through a life-changing meeting with the beautiful and mysterious Cassandra, Susan begins to uncover the truth about Matterdale Hall, and discovers the cruelty, and love, that can lie within the human heart.

One of the anecdotal patterns I’ve been noticing, though one that probably doesn’t rise to the level of statistical significance, is for a romantic historic fantasy series where the second book features a female couple. This can create a dilemma for those of us with somewhat focused reading tastes: read the series from the beginning to get the full set-up? Or cherry-pick the book with the characters we find intriguing and hope we’ll get the background from context? I tend to do the latter, I’m afraid.

The latest series I’ve seen with this structure is A Restless Truth (The Last Binding #2) by Freya Marske from Tor.com.

The most interesting things in Maud Blyth's life have happened to her brother Robin, but she's ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she's ready for an adventure. What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.

Hot Keys by R.E. Ward from Bold Strokes Books is another Jazz Age romance, adding to my perception that we have a trend going on.

In 1920s New York City, it’s hard on the streets, but Betty May Dewitt and her best friend, Jack Norval, are determined to make their Tin Pan Alley dreams come true. Fate leads them to a speakeasy called the Trespass Inn, where people play fast and loose and criminals run the show. Betty and Jack are whisked into the glamorous and dangerous world of Prohibition rum-running, but fate has more in store for them than adventure. Romance blooms when a psychic medium’s magic dazzles Betty, and a gangster infuriates and fascinates Jack all at the same time. But danger lurks in every alley, and with the Trespass Inn under attack by rival gangsters, Betty and Jack will have to fight—not only for their hearts and dreams, but for their lives.

I’m not entirely sure of the intended era for the historic fantasy Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk from Tor.com. The cover copy calls it a “period piece” and some reviews mention the 1940s, so I guess we’ll go with that.

A magical detective dives into the affairs of Chicago's divine monsters to secure a future with the love of her life. This sapphic period piece will dazzle anyone looking for mystery, intrigue, romance, magic, or all of the above. An exiled augur who sold her soul to save her brother's life is offered one last job before serving an eternity in hell. When she turns it down, her client sweetens the pot by offering up the one payment she can't resist―the chance to have a future where she grows old with the woman she loves. To succeed, she is given three days to track down the White City Vampire, Chicago's most notorious serial killer. If she fails, only hell and heartbreak await.

And we’ll finish up with another story from the 1940s, but purely historical this time: Enigma by Suzie Clarke from Bold Strokes Books.

There is a time for courage, a time for sacrifice, a time for love. In the fall of 1941, the United States Office of American Defense summons agent Polly Silvester to find an elusive spy. Critical information about aircraft designs, production numbers, and flight schedules vital to America’s safety are being stolen from the Portage Aircraft plant in Barberton, Ohio. And the spy is most likely a woman. Polly’s orders are simple. Find the spy—whatever the cost or sacrifice. Polly has taken an oath to protect and serve her country, but the spy she’s hunting may be the love of her life. Desperate times and impossible choices skew the line between what’s right and what matters. Can Polly do what she must when everything is on the line?

What Am I Reading?

So what have I been consuming lately? Audiobooks are dominating my list, though I did read a paper copy of P. Djèlí Clark’s The Haunting of Tram Car 015. It’s a novella set in the same magical alternate early 20th century Egypt as the novelette A Dead Djinn in Cairo, which I also listened to this month, and the novel A Master of Djinn, which I listened to back in May. The latter two feature Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi and her girlfriend who…well, that would be a spoiler. Fatma will ensnare the heart of every reader who likes a dapper butch detective. I missed that aspect when A Master of Djinn came out last year and failed to include it in the new book listings.

I also listened to the audio version of a medieval Arabic tale The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman: The Arabic Epic of Dhat Al-Himma, translated by Melanie Magidow. Despite the focus of the narrative on a supremely competent warrior woman who becomes the leader of her clan, defeating rival families and Byzantine crusaders alike, the story needs a lot of content warnings for misogyny, sexual coercion and rape, and just plain annoying relatives. But embedded within the historic context is a casual acceptance of fictional women warriors and of female same-sex desire, though the latter gets only a brief mention in passing.

I also listened to a couple of short Audible Original historicals. The Audible Originals being free with the account means they don’t have to work quite as hard to catch my attention. K.J. Charles offers her standard fare of gay male historical romance with a Regency-set enemies-to-lovers caper in A Thief in the Night. I was a bit less enchanted by Sarah Page’s Mrs. Wickham which endeavors to redeem the character of the charming and amoral pair from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The writing was ok, but I had a hard time buying Mr. Wickham’s change of personality that was the core of the happy ending.

Fiction

I hope you enjoyed our most recent fiction episode, “The Wolf that Sings on the Mountain” by Miyuki Jane Pinckard. The author is here to join us to talk about the story and her writing.

[A transcription of the interview will be available at a later date.]


Show Notes

Your monthly roundup of history, news, and the field of sapphic historical fiction.

In this episode we talk about:

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to Heather Online

Links to Miyuki Jane Pinckard Online

Major category: 
LHMP
Tuesday, November 1, 2022 - 07:00

I don't think I was aware of the poem as a part of this record until I was processing and proofreading the text in preparation for the translation. The edition I first began working with didn't include it, and it was only when I was proofing certain unclear items against the other edition that I realized this one major difference. As a work of emotional expression and fiction, it fills in some of the gaps in our speculations about how French society of the time might have viewed and understood Grandjean. It also offers evidence on some points I speculated on, such as Legrand's motivations in outing Grandjean. At least one person--the poet--also thinks it was out of jealousy. But in general it would be a mistake to think that the poem offers factual information on the case, rather than reflecting the popular imagination.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Vermeil. 1765. Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean. Louis Cellot, Paris.

Publication summary: 

The original text, translation, and commentary on the appeal record of Anne Grandjean against a charge of "profaning the sacrament of marriage" by marrying a woman.

The Poem

{The following material appears in the longer edition only.}

L'HERMAPHRODITE,

OU

LETTRE

D'ANNE GRANDJEAN

A FRANÇOISE LAMBERT SA FEMME,

Nec duo sunt, sed forma duplex; nec femina dici,

Nec puer ut possit, nec utrumque & utrumque videtur.

Ovid. Metam.

 

THE HERMAPHRODITE,

OR

LETTER

FROM ANNE GRANDJEAN

TO FRANÇOISE LAMBERT ZIR WIFE,

Nec duo sunt, sed forma duplex; nec femina dici,

Nec puer ut possit, nec utrumque & utrumque videtur.

Ovid. Metam.

{HRJ: The quotation from Ovid’s Metamorphoses is from the tale of Hermaphroditus, at the point when he merges with the nymph who loved him: “They are not two, but the form is double, so it can be called neither woman nor boy, it appears like both and neither.” The following verse “letter” must be understood as a complete fiction, created to add pathos and additional interest to sell the publication. And, in fact, the following dedication makes it clear that this is a poet’s attempt to express what they imagine Grandjean’s feelings might have been. I have no clue to the identity of the poet or the woman the poet dedicates this to. It's unclear what meaning to place on Grandjean being identified as "Anne" in the title. While the author of the legal appeal primarily uses masculine language for Grandjean, he mostly avoids refering to Grandjean by given name, normally using the surname as I have done. My instinct is to consider it unlikely that the lawyer is also the author of this poem, but I don't know that the use of "Anne" is evidence in that direction. And as the poem uses a first person voice, we only see the poet's attitude toward Grandjean's gender expressed through Grandjean's only point of view. I have done scarcely any editing of the translation of the poem offered up by Deep-L, neither to turn it into more idioimatic English nor to attempt to turn it into better poetry. The poem is melodramatic, full of classical allusions, torn between fantasies of happiness and the agony of despair. And it's a testament to the longstanding uneasy partnership between factual news and entertainment. Whether the poem was originally circulated independently as a broadside and then bound in with the trial record, or whether it was written specifically to enhance the saleability of the legal document, we can only guess. Someone more expert in French publishing practices of the time could make more educated guesses. In a way, the poem ties this document back even more strongly to the underlying purpose of the Lesbian Historic Motif Project: the imaginative use of historical fact to envision fictionalized lives of queer people in the past.}


A MADEMOISELLE G. ***

C'EST l'amour qui le premier m'a dicté des Verse c'est vous qui en avez eu le premier hommage: daignez y joindre celui que je vous offre aujourd'ui, une Piece que je confie à la Presse; c'est un tribut que je dois à l'aprobation que vous avez déja eu la bonté d’y donner. Si je suis parvenu à paindre l'Amour, c'est à vous : que j'en ai l'obligation; je l'ai peint comme vous me le faites sentir.

J’ai l’honneur d’être,

Votre très-humble Serviteur,

S***

TO MADEMOISELLE G. ***

It is love which first dictated Poetry to me, it is you who had the first homage of it: deign to join to it that which I offer you today, a Piece which I entrust to the Press; it is a tribute which I owe to the approval which you have already had the goodness to give to it. If I have succeeded in painting Love, it is to you that I owe it; I have painted it as you make me feel it.

I have the honor to be,

Your most humble servant,

S***

{HRJ: I will not comment extensively on the poem itself. Unlike the legal text, which I have edited and smoothed out for sense, I haven’t attempted to do much editing of the poetry. So this is an extremely literal translation, all courtesy of Deep-L. Within the scope of poetic imagery, it generally makes sense. The speaker recounts the events of the trial, bemoans their fate, briefly fantasizes about running away to the wilderness to live happily with their wife, then abandons that dream and descends into despair. I like that the poet imagined the possibility of scorning the verdict of the court and keeping the couple together. That’s my private head-cannon.}

L'HERMAPHRODITE,

OU

LETTRE DE GRANDEJEAN

A FRANCOISE LAMBERT, SA FEMME:

THE HERMAPHRODITE,

OR

LETTER OF GRANDEJEAN

TO FRANCOISE LAMBERT, ZIR WIFE:

QUEL jour affreux me luit ? Quelle horrible lumiere,
D'un rayon accablant vient frapper ma paupierre?
Dans quel triste neant mon Etre est il plongé?
Comme en un seul instant, pour moi tout a changé!
Proscrit, défavoué, rebut de la Nature;
Mon Etre est un opprobre & mon nom une injure.

WHAT dreadful day is shining on me? What horrible light,
Of a damning ray comes to strike my eyelid?
In what sad nothingness is my Being plunged?
How in a single instant, for me all has changed!
Outcast, disowned, Nature's reject;
My Being is a disgrace and my name an insult.

O toi, funeste objet d'un amour malheureux
Toi, dont l'attachement avoit combié mes vœux,
Du plus cruel destin Compagne infortunée,
Au malheur de mes jours, par l'Amour enchaînée,
Ma famme.... j'ose encor t'appeller de ce nom...
Viens calmer les transports qui troublent ma raison,
Tu peux, en partagent l'horreur qui me comsume {sic},
Des pleurs que je répands adoucir l'amertume.
Lis ces traits incertains qu'a tracé ma douleur:
Connais le trouble affreux qui déchire mon coeur.

O you, fatal object of an unhappy love
You, whose attachment had combined my vows,
Of the most cruel destiny Unfortunate companion,
To the misfortune of my days, by Love chained,
My family.... I still dare to call you by this name...
Come to calm the transports which disturb my reason,
You can, by sharing the horror which consumes me,
You can soften the bitterness of the tears I shed.
Read these uncertain lines that my pain has traced:
Know the terrible trouble that tears my heart.

Objet infortuné de la fureur céleste,
Je partage à regret le jour que je déteste.
Tout ce qui m'environne est ligué contre moi:
L'homme, en m’appercevant, recule avec effroi:
La femme me méprise, & malgré mon hommage,
La Nature à mes yeux rougit de son ouvrage.
Chacun de me haïr s'est imposé la Loi,
Ah ! dans mon désepoir, je n'ai récours qu'à toi.
Je sens que ton nom seul appaise mes allarmes.
Revole dans mes bras; viens essuyer mes larmes.
Aime moi .... Souviens-toi que je fus ton époux;
Que j'ai porté long-tems ce nom si saint, si doux …
J'en jouirais encor sans la lueur fatale
Qu'a porté sur nos feux une indigne Rivale.
Hélas ! quand de ses bras je volai dans les tiens,
Quand l'Amour nous unit des plus tendres liens,
Aurais-je présumé qu'elle se fut vengée
En publiant l'excès de sa flamme outragée;
Que, d'un sexe timide oubliant la pudeur,
N'écoutant que la voix d'une indiscrette ardeur;
Elle aurait déchiré, par un rapport coupable,
Des secrets de l'Hymen, le voile respectable;
Et que sur mon état plus instruite que moi,
Elle m'aurait fait voir indigne de ta foi.

Unfortunate object of the celestial fury,
I regretfully share the day I hate.
All that surrounds me is united against me:
The man, by apperceiving me, recoils with fear:
The woman despises me, and in spite of my homage,
Nature in my eyes blushes at her work.
Each one to hate me has imposed the Law on himself,
Ah! in my despair, I have recourse only to you.
I feel that your name alone appeals to my alarms.
Come back into my arms; come to wipe my tears.
Love me .... Remember that I was your husband;
That I have long borne this name so holy, so sweet...
I would still enjoy it without the fatal glow
That an unworthy rival has cast on our fires.
Alas! when from her arms I flew in yours,
When love united us with the most tender bonds,
Would I have presumed that she was avenged
By publishing the excess of her outraged flame;
That, of a timid sex forgetting the modesty,
Listening only to the voice of an indiscreet ardour;
She would have torn, by a guilty report,
Of the secrets of the Hymen, the respectable veil;
And that on my state more informed than me,
She would have made me see unworthy of your faith.

Nous vivions tous les deux, sans nulle defiance,
Dans cette douce paix que donne l'Innocence.
L'Amour & la Vertu dirigeaint notre cœur
Dans les sentiers étroits qui menent au bonheur,
Jamais nous n'avions vû la Discorde indocile
Par son flambeau cruel, allarmer notre asile.

We both lived, without any defiance,
In that sweet peace which Innocence gives.
Love and virtue directed our hearts
In the narrow paths that lead to happiness,
Never had we seen the indocile Discord
With its cruel torch, to light our asylum.

Aussi-tôt que l'Aurore avait doré les Cieux,
Que ses premiers rayons venaient frapper nos yeux,
À la Divinité dont nous sommes l'image,
Nous portions à genous un légitime hommage,
Et d'un travail honnête employant le secours,
Nous bénissions la main qui veillait sur nos jours;
Et dès que la Nuit sombre, amenant les ténèbres,
Déployait les ressorts de ses voiles funèbres,
Un modeste repas, apprêté par ta main,
Servait, moins à flatter, qu'à calmer notre faim :
Mais bien-tôt le sommeil fermant notre paupiere,
Nous forçait à chercher un repos salutaire
Qui pût nous délaffer des fatigues du jour :
Nous cherchions le repos .... & nous trouvions l'amour
Unis étroitement, les plus vives caresses
Signalaient chaque jours nos égales tendresses.
O Ciel! aurais-je crû dans des momens si doux,
Que je n'étais pas fait pour être ton époux ?
Aurais-je pû penser que l'aveugle Nature
Ne m'offrait du bonheur que la vaine imposture…
Je croyais des humains être le plus heureux;
Hélas ! & mon destin était le plus affreux.

As soon as the dawn had gilded the skies,
That its first rays came to strike our eyes,
To the Divinity whose image we are,
We kneel down to pay a legitimate homage,
And from honest work employing the help,
We blessed the hand that watched over our days;
And as soon as the dark Night, bringing darkness,
Unfurled the springs of its dark veils,
A modest meal, prepared by your hand,
Served, less to flatter, than to calm our hunger:
But soon sleep closed our eyelids,
Forced us to seek a salutary rest
Which could relieve us of the day's labors:
We sought rest .... And we found love
United closely, the most vivid caresses
Signaled each day our equal tenderness.
O Heavens! would I have believed in such sweet moments,
That I was not made to be your husband?
Could I have thought that blind Nature
Offered me only the vain imposture of happiness...
I thought I was the happiest of humans;
Alas! & my destiny was the most dreadful.

Le Ciel, dont j'implorais la faveur tutélere,
Ne m'avoit point encore accordé d'ètre pere.
C'était le seul objet qui manquait à mes yeux;
J'a cru qu'il différait ce moment précieux.

Heaven, whose tutelary favor I implored,
Had not yet granted me to be a father.
It was the only object which missed in my eyes;
I believed that it postponed this precious moment.

Mais quel spectable horrible à mes yeux se présente ?
Que veulent ces Archers ?... Cette troupe sanglante?
Sur qui va donc tomber leur courroux menaçant ?
Ils poursuivent le crime, & je suis innocent.
Quoi ! je suis dans leurs fers !.. C'est moi... moment terrible!
Pourquoi ? Qu'ai-ję donc fait? O Ciel! Est-il possible?
Eh quoi ! vous me privez de la clarté des Cieux....
Quel est donc cet asyle ? Un cachot ténébreux.
Arrêtez & craignez la céleste vengeance,
Barbares: Est-ce ainsi qu'on traite l'Innocence ?
Mais je revois le jour, & c'est pour êttre admis
Dans cet auguste Temple oú préside Thémis.
Ah ! je sens dans mon cœur renaître l'espéranse...
Quelle troupe nouvelle en ce moment s'avance ?
Ils proménent sur moi leurs regads curieux.
Quel honteux examen ! Rien n'est sacré pour eux.
Cruels.! Quoi ! Vous osez, outrageant la Nature
Sur ses secrets trahis mettre une main impure.
Quel mystère odieux, votre œil veut-il percer?
Qu'entends-je ? Quel Arrêt osent-ils prononcer !
Je ne suis plus qu'un monstre, un composé bizare,
Des jeux de la Nature exemple affreux & rare,
Un mortel anonime, un être infortuné,
Qui ne doit qu'éprouver le malheur d'être né!

But what a horrible spectacle to my eyes is presented?
What do these Archers want?... This bloody troop?
On whom will their threatening wrath fall?
They pursue crime, and I am innocent.
What! I am in their irons!... It's me... terrible moment!
Why? What have I done? Oh Heaven! Is it possible?
What! you deprive me of the brightness of the Heavens ....
What is this asylum? A dark dungeon.
Stop & fear the celestial vengeance,
Barbarians: is this how they treat Innocence?
But I see the day again, and it is to be admitted
In this august Temple where Themis presides.
Ah! I feel in my heart the revival of hope...
What new troop at this moment advances?
They walk on me their curious regards.
What a shameful examination! Nothing is sacred for them.
Cruel! What! You dare, outraging Nature
On her betrayed secrets to put an impure hand.
What odious mystery does your eye want to pierce?
What do I hear? What stop do they dare to pronounce!
I am no more than a monster, a bizarre compound,
Of Nature's games, an awful and rare example,
An unloved mortal, an unfortunate being,
Who must only experience the misfortune of being born!

Mais ce n'est point assez, & le Sort qui m'opprime
Aux plus sanglans affronts veut joindre encor le crime:
J'ai profané, dit-on, les fermens les plus saints,
Et l'on doit m'en punir. Des Juges inhumains,
A l'opprobre, au supplice ont condamné ma vie,
Arrêtez, rendez-moi ma liberté ravie;
Suis-je donc criminel ? ... Vous dédaignez ma voix,
Et vous m'assassinez avec le fer de Loix:
Eh bien, il est un Temple augufte, respectable;
L'innocence у rencontre un appui sécourable;
Le coupable y frémit; Sur le trône des Lys,
Sous les traits d'un mortel, on reconnoit Thémis.
On n'y voit point la Brigue emporter la balance,
Et sous le poids de l'or, écraser l'innocence:
Et, suivant de ses feux les transport indiscrets,

But it is not enough, & the Fate which oppresses me
To the most bloody affronts wants to join again the crime:
I profaned, they say, the most holy close,(?)
And I must be punished for it. Inhuman judges,
To opprobrium and torment have condemned my life,
Stop, give me back my freedom;
Am I a criminal? ... You despise my voice,
And you murder me with the iron of the law:
Well, there is an august, respectable Temple;
Innocence meets a securitized support;
The guilty one shudders there; On the throne of the Lilies,
Under the features of a mortal, one recognizes Themis.
One does not see there the Brig to carry away the balance,
And under the weight of gold, crush innocence:
And, following the indiscreet transports with her fires,

Jamais la passion n'y dicta des Arrêts.
Le fanatisme obscur, l'infâme calomnie,
Y sentent s'émousser les traits de leur furie.
C'est là que je remets mon déplorable sort :
J'y trouverai sans doute, ou ma grace, ou ma mort.

Passion never dictated any judgments.
Obscure fanaticism, infamous slander,
Feel the bluntness of their fury.
It is there that I hand over my deplorable fate:
I will undoubtedly find there, or my grace, or my death.

Mon espoir est fondé, j'y trouve la justice,
Et j'échappe en tramblant aux horreurs du supplice,
Je n'irai point, Public, méchamment curieux,
D'un spectacle infâmant rassasier tes yeux,

My hope is founded, I find justice,
And I escape the horrors of torment,
I will not, Public, wickedly curious,
To satiate your eyes with an infamous spectacle,

Mais quel nouveau revers vient m'accabler encore!.
Il faut me séparer de celle que j'adore.
Un Arrêt tout puissant m'en impose la Loi,
Et l'amour d'un Epoux est un affront pour toi.
Nos liens sont rompus ... ils sont illégitimes.
Eh quoi ! sans le sçavoir on commet donc des crimes ?

But what a new setback comes to overwhelm me again!
I must separate myself from the one I adore.
An all powerful Decree imposes me the Law,
And the love of a spouse is an affront to you.
Our bonds are broken ... they are illegitimate.
What! without knowing it, one thus commits crimes?

Pourras-tu bien souscrire à cet Arrêt cruel
Hélas ! rappelle-toi ce ferment solemnel
Qui nous unit tous deux aux pieds du Sanctuaire....
Ce qu'a fait l'Eternel l'homme ose le défaire !
Eh bien, suis-moi : Fuyons ces Etres dangereux,
Puisqu'on est criminel en vivant avec eux,
Vils esclaves des Loix, qu'a fait leur barbarie,
La Nature elle-même éprouve leur furię.
Laissons-les s'accabler sous leurs vains préjugés,
Et porter lâchement les fers qu'ils ont forgés.
Fuyons dans ces déserts où la Nature expire :
Ils sont inhabités, mais l'air qu'on y respire
N'est point empoisonné par le soufflé odieux
De ces Humains cruels qui condamnet nos nœuds.
Le Ciel qui nous forma, qui porta dans notre ame,
Ces élans mutuels du feu qui nous enflamme,
Veillera sur nos jours : nos liens sont sacrés;
Pourquoi, s'il l'offensaient, les aurait-il ferrés ?
Viens; ces autres obscurs, ces mouts inaccessibles,
Ces rochers a nos yeux deviendront moins terribles;
Nos soins & notre amour sçauront les embellir.
Tu verras l'Aquilon chassé par le zéphir,
Les neiges, en torrens, s'écouler dans les plaines,
La chaleur du midi réchauffer nos halaines,
E la Nature enfin, sensible à nos revers,
Créer à nos désirs un nouvel Univers.
Nous en jouirons seuls : Ces mortels sanguinaires
Qui jugent la Nature & percent ses mystères,
Ne viendront plus troubler l'union de nos cours :
Dieu seul éclairera nos fidelles ardeurs;
Sa main dirigera nos ames bien heureuses
Loin du joug accablant des ces Loix orgueilleuses
Que l'Homme impofe à l'homme, & qui, par le trépas
Etonnent l'Univers & ne le changent pas.
Nos jours s'écouleront au sein de la Tendresse;
Chaque jour, chaque instant, l'Amour & son ivresse
Porteront dans nos cœurs leurs charmes bienfaisans.
Le plafir unira deux Epoux, deux Amans,
Nos baisers .... Qu'as-tu dit? Ah, malheureux arrête !
Vois le Ciel courroucé qui menace ta tête ...
Quels souhaits formes-tu?... Dan ton état affreux,
Oses-tu te livrer à de coupables vœux ?
Tu prétends que le Ciel devenu plus propice,
Répandu sur les feux sa faveur protectrice
Rentre dans ton néant : Connois-toi … Tu frémis?
Un espoir si flatteur peut-il t'être permis !
Avant de voir sur toi la Vérité paroître,
Si tu fus innocent, tu vas cesser de l'être;
Et ces lâches desirs que tu viens de former
Sont autant de forfaits que tu dois expier:

Will you be able to subscribe to this cruel ruling
Alas! remember this solemn ferment
That unites us both at the feet of the Sanctuary ....
What the Eternal has done, man dares to undo!
Well, follow me: let us flee these dangerous Beings,
Since one is criminal by living with them,
Vile slaves of the Laws, that their barbarity has made,
Nature herself feels their fury.
Let them weigh themselves down under their vain prejudices,
And cowardly wear the irons they have forged.
Let us flee to these deserts where Nature expires:
They are uninhabited, but the air we breathe
Is not poisoned by the odious breath
Of these cruel Humans who condemn our knots.
The Heaven that formed us, that carried in our soul
These mutual impulses of the fire that ignites us,
Will watch over our days: our bonds are sacred;
Why, if they offended Him, would He have shod them?
Come; these other dark, inaccessible moors,
These rocks to our eyes will become less terrible;
Our care and our love will be able to embellish them.
You will see Aquilon chased by the zephyr,
The snows, in torrents, will flow in the plains,
The heat of the south warm our breaths,
And Nature at last, sensitive to our setbacks,
To create a new universe for our desires.
We shall enjoy it alone: These bloodthirsty mortals
Who judge Nature and pierce her mysteries,
Will no longer disturb the union of our courses:
God alone will enlighten our faithful ardor;
His hand will direct our happy souls
Far from the oppressive yoke of these proud laws
That man imposes on man, and which, by death
Surprise the universe and do not change it.
Our days will pass in the bosom of Tenderness;
Every day, every moment, Love and its intoxication
Will carry in our hearts their beneficial charms.
The Heavens will unite two Spouses, two Lovers,
Our kisses .... What did you say? Ah, unhappy stop!
See the wrathful Heaven that threatens your head...
What wishes do you form?... In your terrible state,
Dare you indulge in guilty wishes?
You pretend that Heaven has become more propitious,
Spreading its protective favor over the fires
Goes back to your nothingness: Know thyself... Do you shudder?
Can such a flattering hope be allowed to you!
Before seeing the Truth appear on you,
If you were innocent, you will cease to be so;
And these cowardly desires that you have just formed
Are so many crimes that you must expiate:

Quoi ! lorsque dans mes sens que le desir consume,
La flamme la plus forte, à chaque instant s'allume;
Quand je sens tous les feux du plus ardent amour
Brûler & déchirer mon ame tour-à-tour;
Quand mon cœur entraîné par la Loi la plus douce,
Suit l'instinct séducteur qui l'agite & le pousse;
Et que par la Nature au plaisir animé;
Il cherche avec transport l'objet qui l'a charmé;
Ce cœur est criminel! ...O Nature barbare !
Ton instinct nous unit & ta Loi nous séparé...
Ah ! lorsque tu formas les fragiles ressorts
Dont ta main créatrice a composé mon corps,
Devais-tu, négligeant ta rare prévoyence,
Si loin de mes desirs attacher ma puissance,
Et me donner un cœur & des sens superflus,
Pour me faire chercher un bonheur qui n'est plus.

What! when in my senses that the desire consumes,
The strongest flame, at every moment, ignites;
When I feel all the fires of the most ardent love
Burn and tear my soul in turn;
When my heart, driven by the sweetest law,
Follows the seductive instinct that stirs it and pushes it;
And that by Nature to pleasure animated;
It seeks with transport the object which charmed it;
This heart is criminal! ...O barbaric Nature!
Your instinct unites us & your Law separates us...
Ah! when you formed the fragile springs
Of which your creative hand composed my body,
Should you, neglecting your rare foresight,
So far from my desires to attach my power,
And give me a superfluous heart and senses,
To make me seek a happiness that is no more.

Reprends ces dons cruels que ma fait ta colere;
Ces dons qui m'ont rendu l'opprobre de la Terre.
Termine d'un seul mot mon déplorable sort.
Tu le peux.... Comme un bien je recevrai la mort
Hélas ! de tes faveurs ce fera la plus grande.
Tu soihaites la mort? Ta bouche la demande,
Malheureux, l'oses-tu ? le Ciel est ton appui.
Quoi tu peux l'accuser quand tu dépens de lui?
Sçais-tu qu'il doit punir ta criminelle audace?
Obéis en silence, & mérite ta grace.
S'il a frappé ton cœur par des coups trop cruels;
Adore ses décretes.... c'est le sort des mortels.

Take back these cruel gifts that your anger gave me;
These gifts which made me the disgrace of the Earth.
End with a single word my deplorable fate.
You can.... As a good I will receive death
Alas! of your favours it will be the greatest.
You wish death? Your mouth asks it,
Unhappy, do you dare? Heaven is your support.
What you can accuse him when you spend of him?
Do you know that He must punish your criminal audacity?
Obey in silence, and deserve your grace.
If he struck your heart with too cruel blows;
Adore his decrees.... it is the fate of the mortals.

J'obéis. Toi qui lis ces tristes caracteres,
Du trouble de mes sens affreux dépositeres;
Toi qui fis mon bonheur.... Que je n'ose nommer;
Que mon malheureux sort m'a défendu d'aimer;
Pour qui .. c'en est assez... fuis :.. Mon ardeur t'outrage.
L'Amour est fait pour toi, la honte est mon partage.
Va, fuis... je vais traîner le reste de mes jours
Loin de l'œil des mortels.... Le Ciel est mon recours.
Puissent-ils oublier ma déplorable Histoire :
Toi seule, souviens-toi que j'avois mis ma gloire
A chérir tes Vertus, à t'aimer... O douleurs !
Adieu !... Sur cet Ecrit verse au moins quelques pleurs,

I obey. You who read these sad characters,
Of the trouble of my terrible senses;
You who made my happiness.... Whom I dare not name;
That my unhappy fate forbade me to love;
For whom... it is enough... flee: My ardour outrages you.
Love is made for you, shame is my share.
Go, flee... I will drag the rest of my days
Far from the eye of the mortals .... Heaven is my recourse.
May they forget my deplorable History:
You alone, remember that I had put my glory
To cherish your virtues, to love you... O pains!
Farewell!... On this writing pours at least some tears,

FIN

End

Time period: 
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Monday, October 31, 2022 - 07:00

This installment concludes the legal document, with a verdict that is surprising in some ways and that opens as many questions as it answers. The theme throughout this whole series has been to recognize how very different historic attitudes toward non-normative gender and sexuality could  be from what we might imagine. The primary sources for history sometimes have a way of upending our expectations  in that way. (Although the effect can be a bit less ambiguous when considering material culture than when considering social history.) Yet it's important to remember that while the details of history may surprise us in unexpected ways, that doesn't mean that we should imagine that "anything goes." In this historic context, it might be plausible that the court would accept and reinforce the categorization of an intersex person as male and validate Grandjean's marriage to Lambert. It might be plausible that the court would accept the lawyer's arguments for recategorization regardless of Grandjean's actual physiology and validate the marriage. (We don't actually know whether the court ruled "intersex, but not male enough" or "the evidence does not support an intersex diagnosis.") But it is implausible that the court would conclude that Grandjean should be categorized as female but that the marriage should be allowed to stand. On the other hand, if the court held that same-sex desire was an unimaginable possibility, then it could be plausible that they could have directed Grandjean to return to living as female but with no restrictions on continued association with Lambert, much less with other women. Within these plausibilities and implausibilities, we can imagine the possible paths to a happy and fulfilling life that a person with non-normative sex, gender, or sexuality might have been able to find in 18th century France. Especially if they were lucky enough not to come to the scrutiny of the law.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Vermeil. 1765. Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean. Louis Cellot, Paris.

Publication summary: 

The original text, translation, and commentary on the appeal record of Anne Grandjean against a charge of "profaning the sacrament of marriage" by marrying a woman.

The Judgment

NOTA. Par Arrêt rendu en la Chambre de la Tournelle du Parlement de Paris, le 10 Janvier 1765, Monsieur le Procureur Général a été reçu appellant comme d'abus de la célébration du mariage d'Anne Grandjean, & ce mariage à été déclaré abusif; la Sentence de la Sénéchaussée de Lyon, sur l'accusation en profanation de Sacrement, a été infirmée, & l’Accusé a été mis hors de Cour; il lui a néanmoins été enjoint de prendre les habits de femme; avec défenses de hanter Françoise Lambert, & autres personnes du même sexe.

NOTE. By judgment rendered in the Chamber of the Tournelle of the Parliament of Paris, on January 10, 1765, Monsieur le Procureur Général was received as an appellant for abuse of the celebration of the marriage of Anne Grandjean, & this marriage was declared abusive; the Sentence of the Sénéchaussée of Lyon, on the accusation of profanation of the Sacrament, was overturned, & the Accused was put out of Court; he was nevertheless enjoined to take on the clothes of a woman; with prohibitions to frequent Françoise Lambert, & other persons of the same sex.

{HRJ: This is a mixed judgment. The appeals court accepted that Grandjean did not willfully profane the sacrament of marriage and overturned that verdict. Grandjean was free of prison and evidently not subject to further punishment. If I understand the legal system correctly, the appeal took place prior to the corporal punishment, so that was voided, not simply rendered a legal error. The court is not willing to sustain Grandjean’s categorization as male. The text says "he was enjoined totake on the clothes of a woman"  but we must allow for this being the lawyer's paraphrase, in which the lawyer continues to refer to Grandjean with male language. Several questions remain open. Was the physiological evidence a factor here? And, if so, in which direction. If we posit that Grandjean was intersex—was the physiological evidence insufficient in their minds for male status? Compare with the case of Thomas/ina Hall a century earlier in Virginia. The physical evidence for Hall’s being intersex is much more solid, and the various legal authorities were perplexed by what standard to apply for binary categorization—compounded by Hall embracing a non-binary identity. Alternately, did the court reject the lawyer's argument that Grandjean was intersex and supported the appeal purely on the basis that Grandjean sincerely believed they had been officially re-categorized as male? But while Grandjean was enjoined to return to a female social identity, there’s also the stipulation that they are not to continue associating with their wife, Françoise Lambert, or “other persons of the same sex.” And it’s this last that really throws a wrench into the works, both in terms of what the judges believed and in terms of Grandjean's future. Requiring a separation from Lambert might simply be enforcing the dissolution of the marriage. But what does it mean that Grandjean may not associate with others of the “same sex?” For a person living socially as a woman to be forbidden to associate with women is drastic. Even if Grandjean were then to marry a man, the vast majority of their everyday life would involve socializing with women. And Grandjean can’t live as a man-among-men if required to present socially as female. Further, the general prohibition (as opposed to the specific ban on associating with Lambert) strongly suggests that this court did recognize the potential for female same-sex desire, and that was the motivation for the prohibition. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t know what Grandjean’s fate was, but the court is setting them up for a very unhappy and unsuccessful life, despite the conviction being overturned. Some of these questions are explored imaginatively in the poem--written from Grandjean's point of view--appended to some editions of the legal text.}

Time period: 
Place: 
Event / person: 
Saturday, October 29, 2022 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode Episode 242 - The Wolf that Sings on the Mountain by Miyuki Jane Pinckard - transcript

(Originally aired 2022/10/29 - listen here)

When I sit down to schedule the fiction episodes for the year, sometimes the order has to do with how difficult I think it’s going to be to find the best narrator for the work. But sometimes I’m able to schedule a story for the right seasonal context. Twice I’ve had a perfect spooky story to schedule right around Halloween. And this time there was no question about finding the right narrator, because the author, Miyuki Jane Pinckard is, herself, an experienced fiction narrator.

Miyuki’s story, “The Wolf that Sings on the Mountain” is a tale of shape-shifters and women trapped—not in a particular shape—but in a life controlled and directed by someone else. But even in 10th century Japan—in the Heian era—there are ways for a woman to take agency over her life, and to make common cause with one who might seem destined to be a rival or enemy. Even to find love.

Author photo of Miyuki Jane Pinckard

Miyuki Jane Pinckard is a writer, game designer, educator, and the co-founder of Story Kitchen Studio, a community for exploring writing techniques. Her fiction can be found in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, the anthology, If There's Anyone Left, Vol. 1, and other venues. She was born in Tokyo, Japan and now lives in Venice, California, with her partner and a little dog. She likes wine and mystery novels and karaoke. Follow her @miyukijane (for Twitter and Instagram) and at her website, www.miyukijane.com.

This recording is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License. You may share it in the full original form but you may not sell it, you may not transcribe it, and you may not adapt it.


The Wolf that Sings on the Mountain

by Miyuki Jane Pinckard

 

My lord husband’s new concubine arrived at the beginning of my thirtieth winter.

It rained heavily that afternoon. I watched from behind a reed blind as the porters set the shabby palanquin in the center of the courtyard. She climbed out and glanced at the iron-bound gates as they creaked shut behind her. She shivered in her plain hemp robe.

I had arranged for my maids to be cleaning and repacking my spring wardrobe, so no one was there to greet her. I lifted the blind and called out to her. “Are you lost?”

She started, and then, heedless of the wet gravel, fell to her knees to bow. Her black hair spilled like ink over her shoulders. “I’m called Shirayuki, my lady.”

White-as-snow. A silly, sentimental name. “A new scullery maid, I presume? The kitchens are to the east.”

She lifted her head and I suddenly saw a glimpse of why my lord had chosen her. “I have been sent here as my lord’s wife.”

I am his wife,” I said sweetly. “I don’t know who you are.” I withdrew to my chambers, leaving her alone in the rain.

 

That night, long after I’d sent my women to bed, I lit my brazier and gazed into my bronze hand mirror. My eyes were clear, my cheeks and forehead carried no trace of a wrinkle or spot. My lips were small and well-formed. I was still Lady Akemi, at the height of my power. I burned sacred herbs in the brazier and let the smoke pass over my skin.

My lord had been married before me, to a woman who’d died shortly after I arrived. I never met her. The maids never spoke of her. I’d never wondered about her fate until now. Her memory had made no more impression on the household than a dream.

Was I expected to fade away like a ghost, ceding my place to a newcomer?

Something had to be done.

 

When my lord left on a hunting trip, I proceeded to the east wing to meet the interloper. It is best to confront the problem directly, in my experience, and understand it fully before one takes action.

She welcomed me with cautious warmth. She was so changed from the forlorn figure of a few weeks before that I found much to admire. Her hair shone with perfumed oil, cascading like a waterfall down her back, exposing her lovely face with its rosebud lips. Her beauty flowed through every line of her form — the sweet bend of her neck, her fluid spine. But her beauty was not simply physical. Her spirit lit her presence with a subtle glimmer, like sunlight glancing off a frosted lake.

I gave her a bolt of silk that had been gathering dust in storage. “Let’s talk privately, you and I.” I leaned in closer to her. She smelled of peonies.

She seemed surprised, but she was polite.  “I’m so glad. I was afraid you hated me.”

“Nonsense! What could be more natural than love between us? We serve the same lord.”

A flash of fury crossed her countenance. “You’ve nothing to be jealous of,” she said. “I despise him.”

Jealous? Of her? I wanted to laugh but I hid my contempt behind my sleeve. “Poor girl. You were a virgin when you arrived, then?”

She flushed and looked down at her hands, twisting the cloth of her silk robe.

I could hardly believe it. “You are still?”

She lifted her chin with a hint of defiance. “I fight him when he comes to me.” She scrubbed at her cheeks like a peasant. “What should I do?”

What did you expect? I wanted to say. You expected love? It was a duty, a price to pay to live in luxury as the mistress of a grand estate. But my words lodged in my throat as her eyes, ablaze, fixed on mine, as if demanding something from me.

She grasped my hands. “Help me. How do you bear it?”

For the first time since I was a child, I had no notion of what to say. I pulled away. “I’m sorry… I cannot advise you.”

“Visit me again, please,” she said, her voice rough. “I’m so alone.”

I returned to my room in great consternation. My heart beat rapidly, though I could not pinpoint the cause.

 

Since my visit with her, I could think of little else. She invaded my dreams. My thoughts turned to her at unexpected moments during the day. I was so distracted that I nearly forgot to begin preparations for my lord’s winter poetry party, which I’d hosted flawlessly for the last decade.

She was the stone in the stream, interrupting its tranquil flow. I had to be ruthless and expel her.

That evening I told my ladies that I’d be in seclusion for purification.

I took off my silks and put on a simple white robe. I lit my brazier and three sticks of holy incense. I wrote the sigil for “wolf” on paper and passed it through the fragrant smoke of the incense. I closed my eyes and prayed. Then I placed the paper in the brazier, where it flared blue-bright.

With my hand-mirror, I reflected the light from the flame onto the wall, creating a pattern of light and shadow that my incantations shaped into a wolf’s form. I stepped into the shadow and pulled the wolf-form over my own. It scorched my skin as I stretched it laboriously over my limbs and back, across my belly and breasts. I fell to my hands and knees, gritting my teeth against the pain. The wolf-skin scraped hot embers over every inch of my skin, searing itself into place.

At last the agony subsided and I lurched to my feet. Against the wall I saw my shadow — a hulking, long-legged beast. I grinned and my tongue roved over sharp teeth.

On four feet I slipped into the garden and into the darkness. I was free, wild. The moon called to me, but I resisted the urge to howl at it. The snow had piled high in a corner of the garden and I could climb it and jump over the wall. I could disappear forever into the woods, leaving Shirayuki, my lord, the villa, my entire life behind.

I caught her scent. Her perfume was distinct — tantalizing and light, a touch of orange peel, of peonies, and something richer, muskier, that sang to my animal nature. I loped across the villa complex to her wing. I jumped onto the veranda and nosed open the sliding door of her chambers. She lay in her bedclothes, highlighted by a spill of moonlight. She turned over, sighed.

The wolf in me found it difficult to focus. I’d planned to frighten her into hysterics, to chase her, to cause her so much anguish that my lord would deem her unfit to wear the mantle of mistress, and put her aside.

Instead, I felt the overpowering urge to lie next to her and lick away her tears with my tongue.

She stirred with a sigh. “Is someone there?”

I lowered my head and growled. My body tensed, waiting for her scream. Her fear would reawaken the predator in me, and my wolf-self would lunge and chase her.

But she did not scream. She sat up.

I bared my teeth. My growl reverberated through the room. I could smell her anxiety, an acrid spiky smell, and her hands trembled as she drew her bedclothes over her chest.

Her voice was gentle, though unsteady. “Are you hungry?”

Confused, I cocked my head.

“You should run before the guards find you. Such a magnificent animal like you shouldn’t be killed.”

She felt pity—for me! Outrageous! I growled, pulling my lips fully back from my teeth.

“Are you going to kill me?” she said softly. To my shock, she reached a hand to the neck of her robe and pulled it open, exposing her throat. “Go ahead. It might be better than living here as a prisoner.”

I imagined ripping into her inviting flesh, burying my muzzle in her fragrant blood, crunching her elegant bones. Saliva dripped from my jaws.

“Are you lonely?” She reached her hand out towards me.

I staggered back. I scrambled out of her room, through the snow-covered courtyard and back to my own chambers. Ice bit my flesh as I ripped the wolf-form off my skin, leaving me panting and shivering with exhaustion. With the last of my strength, I wiped away the snowy paw prints on my veranda with my robes. I went to bed seething with frustration mingled with wonder.

She had cast a spell on me. I had to break it.

 

After several days I came to my decision: it would be poison.

The suspicion would fall on me, of course, but I could weather that. It needn’t be death. Illness would be enough. My lord had a horror of disease. He would shut her up in a little house far away from here, to live out the rest of her days in seclusion. I would not have to see her or think of her. I could learn, in time, to forget her.

My chance came one morning when I heard she’d missed a recent shrine visit. I went to her chambers with an offering of medicine: a small vial of plum wine into which I’d mixed dried and powdered organs of the lethal blowfish, along with other components to simulate the symptoms of a plague. Not enough to kill, I judged, but enough to alarm her maids and my lord.

Shirayuki was still in her bedclothes, her eyes red. I slid the door shut behind me so we were alone. “What’s the matter?” I asked.

Then I saw the knife in her hands.

I sat next to her. “You’re planning to turn that blade into your heart?”

Her head drooped and she sobbed. I should have simply walked away and let her complete her plan. I should have left it up to fate to solve the problem of Shirayuki. But when I imagined blood staining her pearlescent skin, the injustice of it, the sheer waste of a life, twisted inside me.

I took the knife from her gently. “You’re still young and strong. Learn to survive, Shirayuki.”

“I used to be angry with you,” she said, in her husky voice. “But now I realize that you’re just as much a prisoner as I am.”

I was too surprised to laugh out loud. A prisoner? I was the queen of the west wing. An army of servants obeyed me, and I feted leading poets and politicians of the city. The emperor himself had admired my beauty. When I spoke, ministers listened. “Don’t waste your pity on me.”

She took my hand. “Pity? No, I admire your strength.” Her voice was both sweet and bitter. She bent over my hand and pressed it to her cheek. Her tears left a damp spot on my knuckles. “But I’m not like you. I’ll die if I stay here.”

I almost told her about my plan then, but I was suddenly afraid. What if the poison was too strong? What if it hurt her? “You could feign illness,” I said. “My lord would send you away.”

“But I’d still be captive,” she said with a fierceness that struck my soul. She was as wild as the wolf inside me.

“Where could you be free? Is there such a place?”

“I’d go to Ise,” she said quickly, as if she’d thought about this. “I’d ask the priestesses for sanctuary.” She paused. Her eyes held mine. “You could come with me.”

“And then what? Spend our days muttering prayers, in seclusion from the world, among coarse nuns with missing teeth? Begging for our supper?” I reached out a tentative hand to stroke her hair. “Is that freedom?”

She said nothing. She turned her face into my shoulder and her tears flowed. It felt oddly as if her head belonged there, nestled against my neck. I closed my eyes and breathed in her scent which was now as familiar to me as my own. The vial of poison I’d prepared remained in my sleeve.

I could not think of what to do. I felt lost.

 

The next night, a soft tapping at my door roused me.

Shirayuki stepped in, her eyes wild, marked by deep hollows. She clutched her knife in her hand. Around her pale wrist circled a raw red mark, a bracelet of pain.

“My lord grows impatient,” she whispered. “When he comes to me again, I’ll stab him in the heart.”

“The guards will kill you.”

“I don’t care.” Her voice was muffled against my shoulder. “At least I’ll be free.”

My heart ached. She was not like me. My rage bolstered me; hers would destroy her. “Death isn’t freedom.”

She looked up at me. “Then teach me, Akemi.”

She’d never said my name before. It set my skin alight with new awareness. “Teach you what?”

“To transform.”

I froze. “You knew?”

“I wasn’t sure. But there was something about your wolf-eyes… My grandmother knew something of the shaman’s arts, too.”

I put my fingers to her chin and raised her lovely face to mine. “I’ve been trained to the practice; you haven’t. You wouldn’t be able to turn back. Once you take on the form of the beast, it’s yours forever.”

“I’d rather be a wolf than his slave.”

“Do you understand what you’re saying? You’ll live by your wits, scavenging food, in constant danger from starvation, traps, and hunters. Sleeping in the dirt every night.” I stroked her cheek. “And all your beauty erased.”

“What has beauty ever brought me but misery?” she said, and I almost recoiled at the raw pain in her tone.

“My lord will hunt you.”

She laughed mirthlessly. “Then let me die with my jaws around his throat.”

I could try to kill him myself. The vial of poison lay quietly in my bureau among my inks and brushes. But then where would we be? We’d be two widows, alone, to be sold off to another lord. I stroked her hair. “Let me think. Return to your rooms and rest.”

“I don’t want to be alone tonight. Let me stay here with you.”

I moved over to make room for her and she crawled in against my body and put her head on my arm. The scent of her hair enveloped me and I closed my eyes.

She shifted and her arm tightened around my waist. “Come with me, Akemi.” Her whisper caressed my ear and I shivered.

And give up what I have? My silk robes, my warm bed, the maids who scurry to do my bidding, my seat at the head of the table? The power I’d built out of nothing, the influence I’d cultivated? I’d fought too bitterly and sacrificed too much. “No.”

“Are you sure?” Her fingertips stroked the bare flesh of my arm. “I’d miss you.”

And I, you. “On the next new moon,” I said. “Come back to me then.”

 

On the tenth night of the New Year, a moonless night, I lit my brazier.

Shirayuki came to my chamber. Her face was pale and drawn but she did not waver. I took her hand and led her in. I kissed her forehead and cheeks and spoke the spells of transformation. My mirror cast the shadow of her wolf on the wall. I showed her how to step into the animal form.

“It’ll hurt,” I said. “Make no sound.”

“I’m ready.” Her face was etched with resolve.

“When it’s done, your mind will be confused with the wolf-mind. You must run from here, understand? Join the pack on the mountain, and go north with them. Go away as far as you can.”

She embraced me. “I’ll come back for you every winter, when the pack moves south.”

“No. Never come back. Forget me, forget this place.”

She seemed about to argue but only pressed her lips together.

I began the ritual.

It nearly broke me to see her in such torment. Her body writhed under the burning heat of the magic, her beautiful face grimaced with pain. I pulled the wolf-skin over her damp body as quickly as I could, tears painting my cheeks as I worked. “Shirayuki, my brave girl,” I murmured. She panted and groaned softly but didn’t cry out.

At last it was done and she lay on the floor, a white wolf with golden eyes. Her flanks heaved with exhaustion, but she was alive. It had worked. I rubbed her ears and kissed her muzzle. I lifted a bowl of water to her lips and her long red tongue lapped it up. Slowly her strength returned.

“Get up,” I said. “Get away from here, quickly.”

She pulled herself up to her feet. Her golden eyes stared into mine. She licked my hand and whined.

“I can’t go with you,” I said. “I belong here.” But my voice broke on that last word and to my astonishment, fresh tears flowed from me. I remembered my first day here at the villa, when I was the awkward girl in the palanquin, just eighteen years old. I’d quailed at the forbidding walls looming above me. The maids treated me brusquely and without pity. I’d cried myself to sleep every night for months.

Shirayuki nuzzled my shoulder. My arms wrapped her neck tightly and my tears dampened her rough fur.

She pulled out of my embrace to regard me again with her golden gaze, as bright as sunlight on water. She pushed her head against my torso, trying to comfort me. I stood and pulled open the doors to my private courtyard. The wind whipped through my chamber and the flames in the brazier guttered. “Go,” I said, “before they find you.”

She hesitated. She was a wolf, and I was all the pack she’d known. She tried to nose at my hand again, as if asking for a caress. I broke off a branch from my plum tree and struck her flank with it. “Go!”

She shied away, then lowered her head. She sat on her haunches on the veranda and watched me.

“You stubborn fool.” Crystals of ice clung to my eyelashes and cheeks. “I don’t want you here!”

She whined, then lay down on her belly, her eyes fixed on me.

“The maids will wake and call the guards.” Then they will put me to bed with anxious fluttering hands. I thought. They will report to my lord that I was found in my shift on the veranda, snow in my hair. And in the spring I will dress in my spring robes and host moon-viewing parties and tea ceremonies, and the summer will come on the backs of singing cicadas and I will wear the fresh colors of summer and host poetry parties, and then autumn will come with its harvest festivals, a harbinger of the winter, when the wolves will sing again on the mountain.

And at some point in the turning of the seasons, this year or the next, my lord will bring a new woman to the villa.

The white wolf hadn’t moved. She waited for me.

“You wretched, disobedient, thing. I see I have no choice.” I pulled out my mirror and paper and brush. I wrote the spell. The flame trembled and danced like a wild thing. I grit my teeth against a howl of agony as I pulled the wolf-skin over me. Scorching pain painted my bones with heat until my vision clouded. I fell in a heap of bone and fur on the reed mat.

I came to as she licked my muzzle tenderly. I stretched my powerful body. She sat back with a wolf-grin. She waited until I had lapped some water and staggered to my feet. Then she bounded out into the courtyard, checking to make sure I followed. She was so strong and graceful. We leaped over the garden wall and onto the road.

A light snow had started. It would settle over our paw prints, erasing the traces of our passage. She blended into the snowy mist as she strode ahead with long-legged confidence. I followed her.

By dawn, we would be high on the mountain, where the wolves sang together.


Show Notes

This quarter’s fiction episode presents “The Wolf that Sings on the Mountain” by Miyuki Jane Pinckard, narrated by the author.

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to Heather Online

Links to Miyuki Jane Pinckard Online

Major category: 
LHMP
Saturday, October 29, 2022 - 07:00

In his summing up, the lawyer switches tactics somewhat, bringing a new argument: that the acceptance, validation, and certification of Grandjean as a man by the church and state authorities in Grenoble absolves Grandjean of guilt when they act in that capacity. This may have been a strategic add-on by the lawyer, fearful that the judge might not be sympathetic to an argument based on the problem of categorizing intersex persons. But there is also a ring of truth to it. Regardless of the basis for Grandjean's original appeal to their confessor for advice, if all the authority figures in your life are telling you to trans gender, and supporting you when you have done so, there will be pressure to comply. Whether that compliance was eager and enthusiastic or reluctant and bewildered, one can't really accuse Grandjean of being "transgressive" in this context. Rather the opposite. As an appeal for pardon and leniency, it ought by rights to carry a lot of weight.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Vermeil. 1765. Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean. Louis Cellot, Paris.

Publication summary: 

The original text, translation, and commentary on the appeal record of Anne Grandjean against a charge of "profaning the sacrament of marriage" by marrying a woman.

Evidence of Another Kind

Mais nous avons annoncé des preuves d'un autre genre.

But we have announced evidence of another kind.

A quatorze ans Anne Grandjean a pris des habits d'homme, & quitté ceux de fille qu'il avoit portés jusqu'alors. Cette métamorphose s'est faite sous les yeux même de son pere, dans sa maison, & d'après l'avis du Confesseur. Le pere d'Anne Grandjean croyoit donc que le véritable sexe de son enfant étoit le sexe masculine: toute la ville de Grenoble le croyoit aussi. Telle étoit l'opinion des Magistrats de Police de cette Ville, qui n'auroient pas souffert ce changement d'habits, s'ils eussent pensé qu'il y eût eu travestissement. Anne Grandjean regardé comme garçon par tout le monde, n'étoit plus employé qu'aux ouvrages qui appartiennent au sexe mafculin, & la force de son tempérament les lui rendoit faciles.

At the age of fourteen, Anne Grandjean took on the clothes of a man, and left those of a girl that he had worn until then. This metamorphosis took place under the eyes of zir father, in his house, and according to the advice of the Confessor. Anne Grandjean's father therefore believed that the true sex of his child was male: the whole city of Grenoble believed it too. Such was the opinion of the Magistrates of Police of this City, who would not have suffered this change of clothes, if they had thought that there had been transvestism. Anne Grandjean, regarded as a boy by everyone, was no longer employed in anything but the works that belong to the male sex, and the strength of zir temperament made them easy for zem.

{HRJ: This is rather circular reasoning. Clearly Grandjean underwent social transition to a man, but the rest of this is argument by authority. “People wouldn’t have gone along with it if they hadn’t believed Grandjean was male, therefore Grandjean must have been male.” But even throughout this passage, the emphasis is on belief: “believed…opinion…regarded as.” And we circle back to the details given for that social transition, which nowhere mention physiology as being brought in evidence. Everything hinges on the priest requiring and allowing Grandjean to become a man. And everyone else in Grenoble seems to have taken the priest’s authority for it. If Grandjean is viewed as a trans man, this is a rather amazingly positive experience, and the potential for such recognition to happen is significant for the time. This is why I believe that Grandjean's story is, in many ways, a trans story, regardless of Grandjean's own internal motivation and gender identity. But I keep coming back to the point that Grandjean’s communication to the priest was “I desire women” not “I am a man.” There’s another significant contradiction here. If Grandjean’s original social transition had involved a physiological examination, then there would have been no reason for Grandjean and Lambert’s later confusion and concern over the question of their sex. If there had been a physiological examination, then either Grandjean’s anatomy would have been identified as female (per the initial conclusion in Lyon) and the transition rejected, or Grandjean’s anatomy would have been identified as ambiguous (per the narrator’s later claim) and either accepted as male (in which case no reason for later concern) or recognized as intersex with that becoming a topic in the record and likely a reason to prohibit the marriage. So it seems reasonable to conclude that there was no examination in Grenoble and therefore the acceptance of Grandjean as male by the people of Grenoble was based entirely on the priest’s opinion regarding Grandjean’s appropriate categorization.}

Il y a plus: Anne Grandjean, peu de tems après son mariage, prie son pere de vouloir bien le mettre hors de sa puissance, ce pere y consent; dans l'acte fait devant le Magistrat, il le nomme son fils; il lui donne le nom de Jean-Baptiste, comme pour rectifier l'erreur qui s'étoit glissée dans l'acte bapistaire. Anne Grandjean reçoit la plénitude des droits du citoyen, en qualité d'homme & de mari; le Juge ratifie tous ses pouvoirs du sceau de son autorité.

There is more: Anne Grandjean, shortly after zir marriage, asked zir father to put him out of his power, this father consented; in the act made before the Magistrate, he named him his son; he gave zem the name of Jean-Baptiste, as if to rectify the error which had crept into the baptismal act. Anne Grandjean received the full rights of a citizen, as a man and as a husband; the Judge ratified all his powers with the seal of his authority.

{HRJ: As above, this is an astounding (for the time) recognition of social transition. And the implication is that it would be unthinkable for a magistrate to have participated in this re-naming and re-classification if it weren’t “true”. But that unthinkableness doesn’t make it evidence of Grandjean’s sex or gender. In some ways, this argument doesn't even need to imply that the lawyer considered it implausible that all the authorities in Grenoble must have been certain of Grandjean's physiological sex. The argument is equally useful if it is urging the appeal court not to contradict and undermine the structures of official authority (both church and state) in Grenoble, regardless of the factual correctness of their belief. That is, an argument that it's more important to preserve the illusion of governmental competence than to discern "truth." But I may be stretching things in this interpretation.}

Ainsi l'erreur de Grandjean étoit une erreur commune à tout le monde; si elle est criminelle, il faudroit donc s'en prendre à tous: car c'est cette erreur publique qui a affermi la consiance de l'Accusé. Disons mieux, c'est elle-aujourd'hui qui le justifie; la nature seule est en défaut dans cette affaire, & comment pouvoir rendre l'Accusé garant des torts de la nature ?

Thus, Grandjean's error was a mistake common to everyone; if it is criminal, it should therefore be blamed on everyone: for it is this public error that has strengthened the defendant's confidence. Better said, it is this error which today justifies him; nature alone is at fault in this matter, and how can the accused be made guarantor of the wrongs of nature?

{HRJ: Here the narrator weakens the legal argument while strengthening my point that this section is about Grandjean’s social categorization. The re-categorization by Grandjean’s parents, the priest, and the people and magistrates of Grenoble is not factual evidence of Grandjean’s sex/gender, but is an argument that Grandjean cannot be held at fault if they believed that they had genuinely been legally and socially re-categorized as male and authorized to marry a woman.}

Aujourd'hui que ses yeux sont ouverts sur son sort, n'est-il pas assez malheureux de se connoître sans que le bras de la Justice s'appesantisse encore sur lui? Individu jetté comme au hasard sur la terre, condamné à vivre dans la solitude au milieu même de la société; étranger en quelque sorte à l'un & l'autre sexe, puisqu'il est imparfait dans tous les deux; ne pouvant désormais avoir ni compagnon ni compagne de son sort; chargé seul du poids de la vie & de son infortune, comment le premier Juge à-t-il pu le traiter avec autant de rigueur; le mettre au rang des infames, lui dont les mœurs ont toujours été pures & la conduite honnête; l'exposer au mépris du Public, attaché à un pilori avec l'indice de la profanation; lui dont la bonne foi & l’innocence se trouvent ici juftifiées à chaque pas; le bannir enfin de son pays comme un citoyen dangereux, lui dont personne ne s'est jamais plaint, & qui n'a démérité vis-à-vis de qui que ce soit?

Now that zir eyes are open to zir fate, is he not unfortunate enough to know zemself without the arm of Justice still being brought to bear on zem? An individual thrown as if at random on the earth, condemned to live in solitude in the very midst of society; a stranger, as it were, to both sexes, since he is imperfect in both; henceforth able to have neither male-companion nor female-companion of zir fate; burdened alone with the weight of life and of zir misfortune, how could the first Judge have treated him with such rigor; to put him in the rank of infamous people, he whose morals have always been pure and whose conduct honest; to expose zem to the contempt of the public, tied to a pillory with the index of profanation; he whose good faith and innocence are here justified at every step; to banish him from his country as a dangerous citizen, he of whom no one has ever complained, and who has never been demerited by anyone?

{HRJ: The narrator is once again ramping up the sympathetic rhetoric. And here the basis of the argument is specifically that Grandjean is intersex, “a stranger to both sexes.” While we should keep open the possibility that this is a correct diagnosis, we also need to remember that this is the very narrow path by which Grandjean may be pardoned: i.e., that there was both a physical and psychological basis for acting within a male social and legal role. Would the justices have been open to the argument that Grandjean naively accepted the priest’s re-categorization in the absence of ambiguous physiology? Hard to guess.}

Ce Jugement rapproché du tems où les Romains, encore barbares, jettoient les hermaphrodites dans la mer, eût été plus facile à justifier; mais nous sommes gouvernés par des Loix fondées sur l'humanité & la justice. L'Accusé, réclame leur secours, dans un Tribunal souverain qui en est le dépositaire; il attend avec impatience l'Arrêt qui le déchargera de l'opprobre, & qui lui rendra la liberté.

This judgment, brought closer to the time when the Romans, still barbarians, threw hermaphrodites into the sea, would have been easier to justify; but we are governed by laws founded on humanity and justice. The accused claims their help, in a sovereign Court which is the depository of them; he waits impatiently for the Ruling which will relieve him of opprobrium, and which will give him back his freedom.

Monsieur DE GLATIGNY, Rapporteur.

Me. VERMEIL, Avocat.

Mr. DE GLATIGNY, Rapporteur.

Mr. VERMEIL, Lawyer.

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