Once upon a time someone attempted to shout me down by telling me that being trans is a ‘fad’ right now, it’s another modern malady ‘like being gay or having autism’. Right, so you know the kind of person who was arguing against me; a total jerk. Well I want some evidence to batter about the heads of jerks, so I looked some stuff up.
NB: This isn’t a paper for university, or a history lesson, this actually comes from a Facebook status I wrote. Quoting this in your paper may not be the best idea you have ever had. It’s pretty accurate I believe, though it misses a lot out – like the Egyptian ruler who refused to become a queen and instead wore a false beard and ruled as a king. Enjoy!
In ancient history we have evidence of transgender people being the tribal wise person, often called the ‘Great Mother”. We have relics from Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylonia and Akkad that show this. This is corroborated again in documents from early Roman times when they described the great mother as ‘two-genders’. It is thought, but cannot be proven due to the lost societal history, that trans priestesses go all the way back to the Palaeolithic era (David F Greenberg).
A lot of the documented proof of transgender people throughout human history comes from surviving religious evidence. In the middle east and India transgender people are documented in important religious roles. Early Muslim texts document criminal transgender activity and separates it out from the blameless transgender population called ‘mukhannathun’, these people had committed no crimes and were welcome in Islam.
Brazil and the Amazon both have religious traditions and relics that show transgender people existed in their societies. Recalling his Greek history in 1576 Pedro de Magalhaes named the Amazon river after the men living as women in the Tupinamba tribe – yes the Amazon got it’s name from trans women. In Africa the oral tradition of at least thirty-one tribes gives transgender people specific titles, in some cases denoting trans woman and trans man differently. Some of the traditions are still present in some Brazilian, Haitian and Heviosso customs and ceremonies.
In Europe transgender priestesses served Artemis, Hecate and Diana. A number of Greek myths subvert earlier tales of transgender stories, such as with Cupid (Aphrodite) and Ceaneus. 1st century BC Greek medical texts, the Hippocratic Corpus collection, try and provide an explanation for transgender people. In the USA aboriginal tribes has transgender people, and still had accepted ‘two-spirit’ community leaders into the 1930’s, Klamath in the Pacific-Northwest has proof of this.
The tradition was stamped out along with thousands of others when Native American population and culture was nearly destroyed by first European settlers then the United States. ‘Two-spirit’ is modern catch-all term, most tribes had nuanced language to describe peoples differing genders, they were considered advisor’s and it is documented by early European visitors that in the Illinois and Nadouessi tribes ‘nothing is decided without their advice’ (Jaques Marquette).
A lot of this is partial evidence and open to interpretation, history is recorded by the victors and (almost exclusively) by straight cis people. A lot of old culture gets destroyed or twisted by the new occupying culture and conservative Europe took over a lot of the world and destroyed many other cultures, this included vandalism and document burning. So yes, some or this is open to interpretation but the same can be said for all of history that we know of.
Point is, trans people have been around through all of documented human history.