Brotherly Love

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How many places in the world can trace their queer roots back as far as 1394? Oxford can.

For five weeks in the late summer that year, a transvestite prostitute named John Rykener worked in Oxford as an embroideress under the name of Eleanor. Later, Rykener confessed to police interrogators that during his stay here he had often ‘practiced the abominable vice’ with three scholars. Rykener further stated that he had then spent six weeks in Burford working as a tapster and again practicing prostitution. He said his clients included two Franciscan monks (one named Brother Michael, the other Brother John), a Carmelite friar, and six foreign men. From Burford, Rykener moved on to Beaconsfield and then onto London where he was arrested.

Further reading:

David Lorenzo Boyd and Ruth Mazo Karras, “The Interrogation of a Male Transvestite Prostitute in Fourteenth-Century London”, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1 (1995): 459-65.

David Lorenzo Boyd and Ruth Mazo Karras, “Ut cum muliere: A Male Transvestite Prostitute in Fourteenth Century London”. In Premodern Sexualities. Edited by Louise Fradenburg and Carl Freccero. (London: Routledge, 1996), 99-116.

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