Today’s weird piece of trivia

Paracelsus may have been intersex.

The evidence for it is circumstantial, and depends in part on Oporinus’ description of the man, which is hardly objective. But here, in summary, are the details:

1) Oporinus says Paracelsus had no interest in women, and was probably still a virgin.

2) There were contemporary rumours that he’d been castrated as a boy; certainly people other than Oporinus agreed he had no interest in sex.

3) The skeleton supposedly belonging to him (which matches well enough cranially not to be ruled out) has an “extraordinarily wide” pelvis — which, for those who didn’t teach intro archaeology four semesters running, is one of the major, though not perfectly reliable, methods of sexing skeletons.

4) That skeleton also doesn’t show the characteristics associated with prepubescent castration.

5) Ergo, it’s at least possible that Paracelsus was a genetic male with pseudohermaphroditism, or a genetic female with adrenogenital syndrome.

Like I said, circumstantial. The skeleton might not be Paracelsus’. He might have just been a really wide-hipped man. Etc. But it’s enough that forensic specialists think it’s a possibility.

Our culture so firmly categorizes everybody into male and female that it’s fascinating to come across even circumstantial evidence for a major historical figure being intersex. And it sure adds an extra layer of unusual-ness to an already massively weird man*.

*Or whichever term you’d rather use.

0 Responses to “Today’s weird piece of trivia”

  1. Marie Brennan

    You’re welcome! I figured various people reading this journal would dig that.

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