The Lyco Lowdown: An Insider's View of Life at Lycoming

Obscure History

Posted by Ali Preston on Nov 15, 2016 4:06:00 PM
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Most historians have an area of focus, usually a specific part of the world or a specific time period or event. They spend their time in graduate school closely studying their specific part of history with professionals and masters of the area of study. I have found myself in an interesting situation in this system.

I want to focus on a new area of study in history that’s partnered with women's and gender studies and sociology. Queer history has nearly no masters and an entire new generation of historians looking to learn more.

Queer history is a new field of study

As historians, we focus on the questions we still have about the past after reading all of the scholarship of other historians and careful study of primary sources like letters, journals, and official documents.

As a queer historian, I would be answering the questions that haven’t been asked about an entire population of people. Right now I’m working on a research paper about female saints who cross-dressed in order to achieve sainthood and what their stories mean to the people who heard them in the medieval period.

I’ve read story after story of female saints who have to "become" men to achieve greatness, leaving me to wonder where the men are that have to dress as women. There are none. My paper focuses around the idea that these stories deepen the gender divide between men and women in the medieval period.

Now, this seems a lot like semantics, so what’s the point? Well, for me, the point is that I’m finding my history. As a transgender person, I’m discovering the story of people like me. I’m learning that being transgender isn’t some newfangled thing, but a part of human history imbedded in every time period.

Thanks to the history degree program here at Lyco, I’ve been free to explore my passons. The professors have all been supportive and find my area of study new and exciting. They’ve all tried their hand at helping me gather sources or listening to my long rants about some amazing bisexual or transgender person.

The sociology program has also been a huge help. Although I am only minoring in sociology, the perspective and way of thinking I’ve gotten from the few classes I’ve taken help me ask new questions about common topics like gender and sexuality.

I’ve always wanted to make a mark in whatever field of study I entered into. Now that I’ve found where I belong, I’m glad that I have the support to do the research I want to do. I know that I’ll be in a good position to enter into graduate school when I leave Lycoming College.


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