Male Daughters, and Female Sons
This page addresses transgendered female roles. The understanding of male and female exemplified by Aristotle's definitions did not always distinguish gender variant females and transgendered males as a separate category of women. As Aristotle stated, femaleness was defined as the capacity to reproduce within one's own body.1 gender variant males and females are physically just as able to do this as other men and women. Whether the intercourse is pleasurable, boring, or forced, it can lead to pregnancy.
Still, some women are alleged in ancient cultures to
have a "male" nature. Based on evidence from the Code of Hammurabi,
the Sumerian culture recognized a separate type of woman called a sal-zikrum.
is a compound word meaning "woman-man." A sal-zikrum was entitled to greater rights of inheritance than an
ordinary woman. Like a priestess, she could inherit a full share of her father's
estate to use during her lifetime, after which it reverted to her brothers'
heirs, while an ordinary woman was not entitled to a share in the paternal
estate at all. If the father made a written stipulation to her, a sal-zikrum
could also dispose of her inheritance in any way she wanted. By law, if a sal-zikrum she had any
children that she put up for adoption, she could not reclaim them, and the
children were punished if they sought out their real mother. Thus I believe that
she, like the eunuch, was generally expected to remain childless. Perhaps she
was also a temple servant or priestess like the other priestesses and the
In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Nephthys and her
twin brother Seth, may have been intended as the gay, nonprocreative
counterparts to the straight Isis and Osiris. Nephthys is usually thought of in
the company of Isis, and is generally childless,4 until she eventually has a
child by Osiris. She exposes the child Anubis, but Isis finds him and raises him,
5Plutarch says Nephthys's pregnancy symbolizes the flowering of the dry desert
whenever the Nile exceeds its normal flood limits.6
Found in the Hebrew scriptures, a certain kind of unmarried woman or virgin ['almah] is mentioned which is distinguished from the ordinary virgin with an intact hymen [bethulah].8 Bethulah occurs 50 times in the Bible, and bethulim for virginity occurs 10 more times, while 'almah is used only 7 times. The word exists in modern Hebrew in a masculine gender form 'elem, meaning a youth or a lad, but the feminine form is absent from my Hebrew English dictionary.9The meaning of 'almah could be a "female lad" or what we call a tomboy.
1 Aristotle, Generation of Animals, I 2. "The male is the one that has power to generate in another ... while the female is the one [that has power to generate] in itself." Greek: "tô arren men einai to dunamenon gennan eis heteron ... to de thêlu to eis auto."
2 Code of Hammurabi § 178-180 187 and § 192-3.
3 See end of myth of Atrahasis, Tablet III 7, in Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, tr. by Stephanie Dalley, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 35.
4 Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 38. See translation in Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, edited with translation and commentary by J. Gwyn Griffiths, University of Wales Press, 1970.
5 Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 14.
6 Plutarch, On Isis and