Transgender in Late Imperial China
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Matthew Sommer (History, Stanford University)
This talk presents three case studies from the Qing dynasty of people assigned male at birth who lived as women, while carefully concealing their assigned sex from others. One presented themself as a widow and had a successful career as a midwife for thirty years. Two others practiced faith-healing, and enjoyed relationships with male partners whom they served as wives. All three were eventually exposed and prosecuted for the crime of “masquerading in women’s attire.” What were the circumstances of these individuals’ lives, and how did Qing officials interpret their violation of normative gender boundaries?
Sommer is a social and legal historian of China in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). His research focuses on gender, sexuality, and family, and the main source for his work is original legal case records from local and central archives in China.