Happy Pride Month, everyone!
This post is mostly a joke, but is also inspired by the fact that I’ve heard people talk about being gay, trans, and other such things like they were invented in the 60’s or something?! Sometimes people speak of it like it’s a trend, and that is just weird. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to change anyone’s mind about queer rights, but at least learn your classical history. People talking like that says more about the state of their history classes than anything else.
(I say, like someone who paid attention in history class, which I did not. But at least I paid enough attention to know that everyone was REALLY FREAKING GAY IN ANCIENT GREECE.)
Anyway, this is not a comprehensive list of mythological and folkloric queers. Some characters are undeniably queer and others are queer because I say so. I also include various religious characters because I can! (Also, yes, I mostly included stories I like, so most of these characters get a high rating.)
You should definitely go watch this video as well! It’s much better than anything I could ever do.
Ah, yes, the OG queer. I was forced to read the Iliad at a young age, so I am very bitter and biased, but he kind of spends a…a lot of time whining? I mean, fighting for Agamemnon is a pretty stupid way to go, so I understand being deeply frustrated, but why is the breaking point for him getting his slave girl taken away??? WHY IS THAT, ACHILLES. So, yeah, values dissonance ruined the book for me at age 13 and Briseis deserved better! Also, why on earth would you risk your boyfriend’s life like that, Achilles?
I award Achilles 3/10 points.
Patroclus gets a 10/10 for being a faithful boyfriend, and according to Wikipedia, he apparently tried to help Briseis! What a wonderful boy.
A trans character from a Romanian folktale called ‘The Girl Who Pretended to be a Boy.’ Despite the name of the fairy tale, Fet-Fruners is decidedly not pretending to be a boy. He’s trans. He has a talking horse, he outwits the people who try to out him, he goes on several quests, and he gets the magical equivalent of gender reassignment surgery at the end!
This story is criminally underrated. Just take a look at this quote:
The sound of the flying hoofs aroused the nun, who understood instantly that the precious treasure was stolen, and her shrieks were so loud and piercing that all the rest came flying to see what was the matter. The hermit followed at their heels, but seeing it was impossible to overtake the thief, he fell on his knees and called his most deadly curse down on her head, praying that if the thief was a man, he might become a woman; and if she was a woman, that she might become a man. In either case he thought that the punishment would be severe.
But punishments are things about which people do not always agree, and when the princess suddenly felt she was really the man she had pretended to be, she was delighted, and if the hermit had only been within reach she would have thanked him from her heart.
When you try to curse someone but really you just give them free gender reassignment surgery 🙃
Anyway, 11/10 and this story deserves more retellings.
So, I only found out today, but apparently Inari is genderqueer! From Wikipedia: “Inari, the kami of agriculture and rice, is depicted as various genders, the most common representations being a young female food goddess, an old man carrying rice, and an androgynous bodhisattva.”
Anyway, 10/10 for this wonderful god! They’re associated with foxes, and I LOVE foxes.
St. Sergius and St. Bacchus
St. Sergius and St. Bacchus were described in an early Greek text as being lovers?! According to Wikipedia, at least. I only just now found that out. (I mean, the scholar who talked about that apparently also made a bunch of highly dubious claims as to the early Church’s stance on homosexuality, but if the Greek story really said that, then it said what it said. Tell me in the comments if you know more about this!)
Anyway, as a Christian, I’m legally obligated to give them 10/10 points!
Not gay but he has sexy paintings. We adopted him.
10/10 to the one true ally!
An Australian aboriginal snake god who appears as both male and female and is associated with rainbows and fertility! Ungud is from the Wunambal people. I love the concept of a rainbow snake god!
10/10. I don’t know much about the god, but!!! Rainbows! Snakes! Those are pretty much the two ultimate queer things!
I used to be pretty eh on him because I heard he hurt Cassandra, but I think that might have been a later myth. On the one hand, Cassandra. On the other hand, sunshine. Music. Bisexuality.
I don’t know, for some reason Apollo and I have just never clicked. I feel like I should like him? He’s really cool and all! But I just never really felt that much of a connection with him?
5/10 highly personal points! I know a lot of you out there really love him, though, and I respect that.
(As a side note, Hyacinth gets 10/10 sympathy points for being yet another mortal caught in a deadly love triangle between two gods. Apparently he got resurrected later?? That’s so nice. I always liked Hyacinth.)
I can’t give him anything less than a positive rating. I’m not stupid. I’m not going to get stricken with dolphins and madness.
8/10! Not based on his actions or anything, he’s a Greek god after all, but…I don’t know, I just find him kind of cool.
She’s one of the virgin goddesses, so…aro-ace queen. She’s always been my favorite goddess. She’s relatively unproblematic as far as Greek goddesses go, and I’ve always loved that she’s a goddess of war and strategy. I looked up to her so much when I was little.
He struck a pair of snakes and Hera turned him into a girl. Hera turned her back into a man seven years later. He’s also a blind prophet, and he made cameos in a couple Greek tragedies, including Oedipus Rex. I find Tiresias very cool, so 7/10.
Aztec god of art, dance, flowers, and song. Also a patron of homosexuals. I don’t know all that much about him, but 9/10 just because FLOWERS.
The first historical figure on this list! According to Wikipedia, he wasn’t a very good emperor, but he has this legend where his boyfriend, Dong Xian, fell asleep on his sleeve. Rather than wake Dong Xian up, the emperor told his servant to get him a pair of scissors and he cut off his own sleeve. And that’s beautiful. Also, before he died, he tried to pass the throne on to Dong Xian but no one else let him.
8/10! If you can’t be a good ruler, at least make sure to be a literally legendary boyfriend.
Fox spirits often disguise themselves as women, and stories about foxes tend to portray them as kind of gender-ambiguous, from everything I’ve read. I love fox spirits, they’re just…the best. I spent so much time finding stories about them when I was little. I’d definitely say fox spirits have strong enby vibes.
A trans Arthuriana character! Or at least, Arthurian-adjacent. Merlin shows up in the story. Silence is a character from a story written during the 13th century. I haven’t read the story yet, but from what I’ve heard, Silence is raised as a boy and lives his life as a knight. I think Silence mentions in the poem that he thinks of himself as a boy and feels much more like a boy than a girl? I’m sorry I can’t find the original article with the quotes I read, though. Merlin outs him because Merlin is all kinds of a mess, and poor Silence is forced to live as a girl from then on. Someone needs to retell this story and give it a happy ending.
15/10 to this poor man who deserved better! Even though I haven’t read the story yet…but I’ll get around to it I swear
Everyone’s favorite aro-ace knight! He is living his best life while surrounded by idiots. Considering how his two best friends Lancelot and Tristram ended up, I’d say that not falling in love is pretty much the best thing you can do in Arthuriana?
Dinadan is the comic relief of the story, he doesn’t like fighting, and he’s just overall great. Mordred, in one of the few crimes he committed that make me genuinely angry at him, killed Dinadan during the Grail quest. WHY, Mordred.
I love Dinadan! I stan! 20/10 points.
In Christian tradition, angels are neither male nor female. They’re also very cool. 10/10. (I don’t know how Jewish tradition views them? I assume it’s the same way, but I honestly have no idea. I tried to google it, but I didn’t find anything conclusive. Sorry!)
Also, obligatory quote from Galations 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The creator god in traditional Shona religion! According to Wikipedia, the god is both male and female (or alternatively, neither male nor female? Look, Wiki is not helping me right now). Anyway, reading their Wiki page, they sound very cool! 10/10.
He gives off very strong genderqueer vibes, I think. It’s good enough for me! I loved him so much as a kid. He was my role model! (Heh…whoops.) I love chaotic characters. He doesn’t always act in morally good ways, but he’s just such an entertaining person. 10/10!
You can’t tell me that Celtic fairies aren’t super queer, because you’d be wrong. 20/10 for nostalgia (fairies were literally my childhood).
Mizi Xia is a man who lived during the Zhou dynasty in China (if he even existed at all. We don’t really know). He forged a letter from his lover the duke so he could borrow the duke’s carriage in order to go see his ill mother. Instead of punishing him, the duke praised him for his filial piety. Later, Mizi Xia was eating a peach, and when he found it was especially sweet, he gave it to the duke to eat. But later, when Mizi Xia grew older and his beauty faded, the duke accused him of stealing the carriage and of insulting him by giving him a half-eaten peach. So, the story is a parable about trusting powerful, fickle people.
It’s a sad story, but I still like it. 9/10.
A bi icon!! He had a whole quest where he made out with the Green Knight, the story with him and Ragnelle was the best thing ever, and I’ve heard there are some stories where he and Lancelot have really homoerotic undertones? I love him so much. He’s the actual best. 100/10.
Thank God for Wikipedia, as always. I couldn’t find very many articles about queer fairy tales, but Wikipedia came through! Also, thanks to my younger self for obsessively reading fairy tales and finding some of the obscure stuff.
While researching for this post, I found two articles on false homophobic and transphobic beliefs that get spread around, so if you’re someone who has been exposed that sort of talk, they might be worth a read. If you’re looking for something to read for Pride month, Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation and Heaven Official’s Blessing are both really, really good! The author’s books do have adult content, although Heaven Official’s Blessing doesn’t have any smut. Both the books are so well-written and I love them so much!
If you know of any other queer folktales or religious stories, tell me in the comments! I always enjoy learning more.