It's Beastly to be Trans

And That's More Than Okay—It's the Human Story


An archetype is what its syllables imply—a type, a category, that arcs over individual instances and fits them into a universally understandable narrative. So the trans story has risen to the fore in Western culture (after centuries of violent suppression) and takes its place among the various archetypes that reveal what it means to be human.


Fairy Tales Resonate

Ever wonder why Disney portrays fairy tales? It's a humongous studio. Its pictures need to make a lot of money to pay for the incredible artistic efforts each one represents. Fairy tales appeal to all of us not merely because we know them from childhood. Rather, they're told to us when we're children because they're elemental, foundational examples of what all of us experience.

The beauty of fairy tales' bridging cultures and centuries is that we see ourselves in them, without ruining their resonance for everyone else who is necessarily the hero of their own stories.

Being human is itself a fairy tale. As Chesterton notes, fairy tales show that the terrors of our world have "a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear."


Because the most terrible terrors happen inside us, we need to know we're not alone with them, lest we live in fear and loathing.

No beast here, people. Nothing to see but sweetness and light. Move along. Please, move along. I can't keep this up much longer. My rose is wilting.

The Beastly Trans Terror

That fear and loathing is the trans experience before we come out. Before we realize that we can come out. We are beastly shadows of ourselves, walking the ramparts of the fortress we've built against the incendiary villagers who glower at us from their safely kept distance.


That's how it feels.


That's how it is, no matter the masks we wear to assure the village that everything's alright with us. "No beast here, people. Nothing to see but sweetness and light. Move along. Please, move along. I can't keep this up much longer. My rose is wilting."


Preeminent Archetypes

The beauty of fairy tales' bridging cultures and centuries is that we see ourselves in them, without ruining their resonance for everyone else who is necessarily the hero of their own stories.


Thus, we bridge chasms of race, sexuality, gender, nationality, and party affiliation.

I'd never seen myself in that fairy tale.

Kissing the Beast

In Kissing the Witch—Old Tales in New Skins (which is also now a play), Emma Donoghue retells fairy tales in a feminist and lesbian light. I happen to be feminist and lesbian, in large part because I'm trans. Her new telling of Beauty and the Beast surprised me. Not because she put a twist on it but because I'd never seen myself in that fairy tale.


Nor realized how badly I needed to.


I'll pick up Donoghue's narrative at the point that Beauty returns to the castle:


I found the beast, a crumpled bundle eaten by frost. I pulled and pulled until the padded mask lay uppermost. I breathed my heat on it, and kissed the spot I had warmed. I pulled off the veils one by one. Surely it couldn't matter what I saw now? I saw hair black as rocks under water. I saw a face white as old linen. I saw lips read as a rose just opening. I saw that the beast was a woman. And that she was breathing, This was a strange story, one I would have to learn a new language to read, a language I could not learn except by trying to read the story. I was a slow learner but a stubborn one. It took me days to learn that there was nothing monstrous about this woman who had lived alone in a castle.


My Story, Your Archetype, Our Resonance

Donoghue wrote those words 20+ years before I realized I am trans.


Yet, they're my words. My story.


Your story.


Our story.


We're living this fairy tale now, for it's as multivalent, organic, and evolving as you and I are.


It's not a trans story. It's the story of the world.


Love,


Bethany




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