"Dynamic, compelling, and wholly original, True Sex is an invaluable addition to LGBTQ studies."
"In True Sex: The Lives of Trans Men at the Turn of the 20th Century, Emily Skidmore describes how manhood in that day was as much a moral status as a sexual category. . . an especially intriguing . . . analysis."
—Inside Higher Education
"Though an influx of bathroom bills would have us believe that disrupting the gender binary is a new phenomenon, trans people have been here—living, assimilating, and creating families that protected them . . . You’ll be engrossed by their lives, and how Skidmore interweaves American history with their decisions."
"True Sex explores the varied histories of American trans men long before that designation even existed. Reviewing newspapers and the literature of the field then known as “sexology,” as well as census data, court records, and trial transcripts, Skidmore weaves a tale of American gender that’s far more complex than many might think, one that reveals that [gender] has never been a fixed reality."
"Skidmore offers a three-fold critique. First, she provides well-drawn—and sympathetic—profiles of the compelling trans men considered; second, she offers a critical assessment of the press of the day and how it helped foster a new morality . . . and third, she engages in an ongoing critique of her field of study, LGBT scholarship."
—New York Journal of Books
"A fascinating, humanizing look into the lives of trans men at the turn of the 20th century."
Tracking revelations of “true sex” in the decades around the turn of the twentieth-century U.S., Emily Skidmore recovers a history full of surprises: one in which people assigned female at birth lived ordinary lives as men, often in small towns and rural outposts. Newspaper revelations about trans men, Skidmore proposes, invited debate about queer embodiment and the porous boundaries of the gender binary. True Sex contains provocations and insights for queer history, for trans history, and for American history.
—Regina Kunzel, author of Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality
True Sex is a truly phenomenal book. Expansive in scope and implication, Emily Skidmore’s meticulously researched study of gender non-conformity in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century United States is all the more impressive for its dogged insistence that local entanglements often mattered more than expert opinion where Americans’ shifting beliefs about gender and sexual difference were concerned. A major contribution to the study of rural and small-town America’s little explored queer history, and an equally significant contribution to our understanding of rural and small-town America’s crucially important place in the history of queer life in the United States.
—Colin R. Johnson, author of Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America
"In this important account of the 'unexceptional queerness' of transmasculine people living, loving, working and dying in non-metropolitian locations throughout the United States around the turn of the last century, Emily Skidmore makes brilliant use of the searchable online databases of historical newspapers that have revolutionized our understanding of the past to tell us a new story about what the world was once like."
—Susan Stryker, founding co-editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly
A lucid, compelling, and counterintuitive exploration of transmen at the turn of the twentieth century. In showing that many transmen were accepted by their communities, both in life and in death, Skidmore complicates a number of the accepted tenets of queer historiography: that queer people were persecuted, that sexology informed that persecution, and that queer people necessarily flocked to places where they might find community with people like themselves.
—Nicholas Syrett, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Kansas
The best sort of history – surprising and delightful. Emily Skidmore’s True Sex reveals ordinary American communities at the turn of the twentieth century to have been much queerer than commonly imagined. By reconstructing the lives of trans men whose stories appeared in newspapers between 1870 and 1930, Skidmore makes a major contribution to our knowledge of queer history.
—Rachel Hope Cleves, University of Victoria
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