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Jen Manion on Female Husbands: A Trans History

Sex Out Loud with Tristan Taormino

Release Date: 10/19/2020

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Sex Out Loud with Tristan Taormino

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Historian Jen Manion joins Tristan Taormino to discuss her new book Female Husbands: A Trans History. How did some people assigned female at birth began living their lives as men in the 18th and 19th Centuries? Manion did extensive research on primary source materials including marriage certificates, census records, court documents, local and national and newspapers. In their book, Manion introduces us to the lives of U.K. female husbands Charles Hamilton, Henry Fielding, James Howe, James Gray, Samuel Bunday, William Chandler, Robert Shurtliff, James Allen, and Henry Stoake. We learn about George Wilson, John Smith, Albert Guelph, Joseph Lobdell, Frank Dubois, Samuel Pollard, Leroy Williams, and John A. Whittman in the United States. What did class and wealth have to do with the ability to trans gender? What do we know about the women who married female husbands? What happened when female husbands were discovered to be assigned female at birth? What role did the institution of marriage, medicine, the legal system, and the media play in shaping their lives and the narratives about them? How did their communities make sense of them trans-ing gender? How did attitudes during this time take root and influence ideas about sex, gender, and sexual orientation that persisted? How does this book fit into the study of LGBTQIA+ histories?

Jen Manion is Associate Professor of History at Amherst College. She is a social and cultural historian whose work examines the role of gender and sexuality in American life. Manion is author of Liberty’s Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America which received the inaugural Mary Kelley Best Book Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Their most recent book, Female Husbands: A Trans History was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Manion has published dozens of essays for popular and scholarly audiences and serves on the editorial boards of Amherst College Press, Early American Studies, and The William and Mary Quarterly. She is currently chair of the OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians & Histories.