Ritið 2/17

Ritið 2/17 - 2017

Soffía Auður Birgisdóttir: The „true sex“ or the reality of the body? Reflections on the story of Guðrún Sveinbjarnardóttir

The article takes as a starting point a short but interesting narration of Guðrún Sveinbjarnardóttir (1831–1916), related by Málfríður Einarsdóttir. According to the narration, Guðrún was assigned the wrong sex at birth, lived as a woman all her life, and possibly got another woman pregnant. Few reliable sources exist on Guðrún’s life, but the article tries to present a dependable picture, drawn from available documents, of the life of a divorced woman in late nineteenth century Iceland. Doubts about a wrong assignment of sex evoke discussion on the demand of true sex, which assumes only two sex categories. The reality of human bodies is more complicated and the article discusses that subject, within the context of different disciplines, i.e. literature, history and medicine. The case of Guðrún gives rise to various interpretations, one of which is the possibility of her having been born int- ersex. Few studies on intersex are available in Icelandic, so a generous part of the article discusses this possibility. Other possibilities are also addressed, e.g. that the stories about Guðrún do simply belong to the category of gossip and slander, due to her ‘masculine’ looks and independence.
Keywords: Gender studies, queer studies, intersex, gossip, history of women
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