For the past several decades, scholars have examined the queer identities and sexual practices in eighteenth-century materials. However, queer and non-normative gender has been less frequently researched, even within the body of scholarship devoted to queer eighteenth-century studies. Scholars often take at face value the period’s gender norms, thereby suppressing the fact of a transgender eighteenth century. In this essay, I offer examples, from the Chevalier d’Eon to Lord Byron, that foreground the transgender qualities present in many materials of that time. I call on scholars to recognize the ways our field has inherited the period’s own normative views on queer gender expressions.
By Julia Ftacek, 2021