This article was published on September 7th, 2023
When people think about ancient stories and legends, they may forget how “trans-coded” mythology can really be. Being a trans or non-binary person is treated as some new “fad” when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Gender non-comforming behavior can be seen as far back as ancient Greece and the Nordic Vikings. We can find trans-coded mythology that challenges traditional gender roles and explore the complexities of gender identity.
From gods changing genders to heroes’ crossdressing, these stories provide us with a window into ancient perceptions of gender diversity and fluidity.
1. Loki: The Shapeshifting Trickster
In Norse mythology, Loki, the mischievous trickster god, is known for his shapeshifting abilities. One of the most notable examples of his gender fluidity is the tale where Loki changes genders and gives birth to a horse named Sleipnir.
Loki challenges conventional gender roles and highlights the fluid nature of identity in the realm of the divine. Loki’s ability to traverse gender boundaries serves as a reminder of the complexity of identity and the blurring of traditional binaries.
2. Thor’s Unconventional Disguise
Hyper masculine homophobia simply has no place in Norse mythology. The story of Thor crossdressing to save Freya from a forced marriage is a prime example of this. In this narrative from Norse mythology, Thor dons a bridal gown to pose as Freya in order to retrieve his stolen hammer.
This not only showcases Thor’s determination but also disrupts societal norms by portraying a male deity in a traditionally feminine role. Thor may have still identified as a man at the end of the day. However, this tale shows he was secure enough in himself to wear a dress and do what he had to!
3. Hermaphroditus and Androgynous Identities
The myth of Hermaphroditus, a figure from Greek and Roman mythology, reflects the ancient understanding of intersex and androgynous identities. Born of Hermes and Aphrodite, Hermaphroditus possesses both male and female characteristics.
It’s important to note that a person being intersex doesn’t make them trans or non-binary. However, this legend serves as an interesting legend in how intersex people came to be. It’s a testament to the diversity of gender experiences that have existed throughout history!
4. Leucippus of Crete: Challenging Norms
The story of Leucippus comes from the ancient city of Phaestus in Crete. Leucippus was born as a girl to Galatea. Her husband Lamprus said he would accept a boy child. So, Galatea gave her a boy’s name and pretended that Leucippus was a boy. When Leucippus grew older, Galatea prayed to the goddess Leto to make Leucippus a real boy. Leto granted the wish, and Leucippus became a boy.
To remember this miracle, the people of Phaestus started a festival called Ecdysia. During the festival, young boys dressed as girls, then changed into boys’ clothes, just like Leucippus did. This festival celebrated growing up and becoming a man.
5. Gender Fluidity in Hinduism: Shikhandi’s Tale
The story of Shikhandi is interesting, dramatic, and one of vengeance! Born as a woman named Amba, Shikhandi was fated to change the course of history. Abducted by the Kuru prince Bhishma, Amba’s life took a dramatic turn as she sought vengeance against him. Unable to defeat Bhishma in battle, Amba embarked on a spiritual quest. She had received a boon from Shiva to be reborn as a man.
Reborn as Shikhandi, he played a pivotal role in the great Kurukshetra war. His presence perplexed even the mightiest warriors! This unique narrative reflects the multifaceted nature of gender, destiny, and transformation, enriching the tapestry of Hindu mythology.
6. The Philippines and Anitism: Lakapati and Bathala
Lakanpati, the Tagalog transgender deity of fertility and agriculture, emerges from the vibrant tapestry of Philippine mythology. Celebrated for embracing diverse gender identities, Lakanpati embodies a powerful connection to the earth’s bounty and the intricate cycles of life. Revered as a guardian of both crops and the LGBTQ+ community,
Lakanpati’s story weaves a narrative of acceptance and prosperity. In Filipino culture, this deity serves as a potent symbol of the harmonious relationship between nature, gender, and spirituality, illuminating a rich aspect of the archipelago’s cultural heritage.
Trans-coded mythology provides us with a lens to the rich tapestry of human identity across different cultures and times. These stories serve as a reminder that the concept of a rigid gender binary is a relatively recent development in human history.
By examining these narratives, we gain insight into the fluidity and diversity of gender roles and identities that have existed since ancient times. In a world where conversations about gender are ongoing, these myths offer us a chance to learn from our ancestors and embrace the complexity of human experience.