View Full Calendar

Medieval Trans Pessimism With Tiresias

Event Type
Medieval Studies
Lucy Ellis Lounge, LCLB 1080
Nov 8, 2023   5:00 - 6:30 pm   6:30
Blake Gutt, University of Utah
Originating Calendar
Medieval Studies

In this talk, I explore some medieval interpretations of Tiresias, interrogating the twin roles of oracle and detransitioner. Tiresias’s transgender experiences supposedly offer unique access to types of knowledge that other mortals cannot attain. Comprehension of both sides of the sex difference equation, it is suggested, is just as supernatural as the ability to see the future. However, when viewed through the lens of transgender negativity, Tiresias’s tale is emblematic of the propagandistic instrumentalization of trans lives. Tiresias the detransitioner, we are told, has ventured beyond the limits of what ordinary mortals can or should have to bear, and yet has miraculously returned to tell the tale. Furthermore, as speaker of truth to divine power, Tiresias the oracle is positioned as a uniquely trustworthy source of misogyny and transphobia. Through these exclusionary rhetorics, the seer’s wisdom is weaponized against its own radical potential in order to uphold existing social norms and hierarchies.

Alongside Tiresias, I examine press depictions of twenty-first century detransitioner-activists, considering how, for hundreds of years, detransitioners have been employed as propaganda for audiences assumed to be cis, and to admonish and castigate audiences judged insufficiently cis-presenting.

link for robots only