Human Variation

The caption to the photo says: Four-legged Myrtle Corbin, who bore two children from her first vagina and three from her second.

The whole article – photos of circus “freaks” by Charles Eisenmann from the 1800s – is fascinating.

And yes, there are people in the collection who have non-normative genders.

Here is what fascinates me & always has: I’ve never read anything written by people who worked as “freaks”. I really want to know how they thought about humanity – it couldn’t have been good, right? – and about their own ability to make a profit off their difference. If anyone out there has resources, I would love to read them.

If you haven’t yet checked out io9, do. They publish some really really great stuff.

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.


  1. freak shows and the like are much-discussed topics in disability studies. Check out Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Eli Claire’s work for starters. Both write about the intersections of disability, gender, and sexuality.

  2. I assign both of those autors, benjaminadam – I was thinking more accounts from when freak shows were still around, turn of the last century, people Barnum hired, etc.

    They were so disempowered and fetishized, exoticized, etc., that I don’t expect many, and maybe not any, but I can hope.

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