LGBTQI fairy tales
Fairy tales often focus a lot on gender. Women in fairy tales aren't simply pretty they are "fairest of them all", men aren't simple brave or handsome they are "the bravest in all the land" and "Prince Charming".
Most of the fairy tales we are exposed to as children reinforce binary gender roles and hetrosexuality. But fairy tales are so much more, they are about transformation, the true self uncovered, the valueless becoming valued, and love, there is lots of love.
I feel fairy tales are meant to be re-told and re-interpreted to reflect our experiences. That as readers and storytellers we are free to pull out the threads of the myths that speak to us, discard the bits that don't and make them our own.
So here are seven traditional tales that I feel can be read as tales for non hetero and non cis gendered people. Re-tell them your way.
1. The Twelve Huntsmen
The Twelve Huntsmen tells of a Princess who wins her prince back by dressing up as a huntsman and getting employed at his court. But for some wonderful reason she also finds eleven other girls who look like her and dresses them up also. So there are twelve androgenous babes hiding out in the forest hunting together, that is a magical kingdom I would visit.
The best part of this Brothers Grimm story is there is no mention of her dressing as a woman again, they win the prince alright but she appears to maintain her identity as a male or non-binary huntsperson. No mention is made of what happens to the other elven huntspeople but I imagine their gender blurred band of merry people living happily in the forest forever.
2. The Fairy Dance.
There are lots of stories about the beautiful and dangerous fairy people. The Sidhe, the fey, the fair folk they have many names, they throw killer parties, and they always seem to be gender fluid or androgynous in appearance.
I picked this tale from Jane Wilde because in particular this fairy king is described in such a way that I feel enhances the non-binary elements of the fair folk. Granted they are normally described as bad guys, luring away pretty men and women to join their fairy kingdoms and give up their souls. Which sounds a lot like many modern day homophobes.
Personally I'd rather be with the fairies. Who wants to be a peasant when you can be a partner to a fairy king or queen?
3. The Girl Who Became a Boy
There are many different versions of this story, like the legend of Hua Mulan or the story of Fantaghirò, stories of girls dressing up as men are very common. Often at the end of the tale they give up their male clothes and get married. Many of these stories are more about female empowerment rather than gender identity.
This awesome Albanian version however is not like that. The hero in this maintains his gender identity and marries a princess. He then has to face several tasks to prove his manhood to the king after the princess reports no action in the wedding bed.
The ending is too good to give away but involves magic, sex, and transformation. A romantic transitioning story for the ages.
Read it HERE
4. Marquise/Marquis de Banneville
Not one, but two trans lovers feature in this tale. This story is of a young boy raised as a girl who falls in love with a man who happens to be female.
The tale is probably inspired by the real author François-Timoléon de Choisy who some believe wrote the story. Others attribute it to Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier who was Charles Perrault's niece, and some say it was a collaboration between that family of fairy tale tellers. Either way, the tale was recorded anonymously.
Harder to find a copy of than some of these tales, it is worth it for this romantic story of acceptance and love.
Order a copy HERE
5. The Wood Maiden
Another story about fairies, this fairy however is certainly female. She is a woodland spirit who meets a young girl and dances with her in the woods each day.
The girl tells her mother to is surprised and scared. She tells the girl that wood maidens normally only dance with boys and men, but that she should stay away because she is sure to be kidnapped by the magical being.
The wood maiden doesn't come back but the girl waits every day. This one is sad, and less of a happy ending, but I still find it romantic and beautiful.
Read it HERE
6. The Good Friend
There are several forms of this story that are known as "The Good Servant". The Grimm's have it as Good Johannes, or Good John. In all versions of the story the Prince has a close relationship with a friend or servant, who sacrifices his life to save the Prince. The princes misses him so badly he kills his first born to bring the Good Friend back from the dead.
Coupled with a disinterest in marrying princess, I feel the Prince and his companion are more than good friends. You don't sacrifice babies unless it's true love.
Read it HERE
To me Cinderella is the ultimate story of gender identity. It is about the true self being revealed at the ball, for all the world to see. You can leave the romance out if it doesn't fit with your story, it's not about the Prince Charming, it's about a cinder-girl being revealed to be so much more.
When you read variants of the story such as Catskin, Tattercoats, or Donkeyskin, you can read that transformation as even more powerful. In these versions there are no fairy godmothers or dead mother ghosts with magic powers, rather the women transform themselves. They are in disguised in ugly skins made of fur and hide, they are rendered genderless, sexless, and ugly. But when they put on their gowns that shine like the stars, the moon, and the sun, they are their true selves. Feminine, beautiful, and the bell of the ball.
Here is a tale called All Kinds of Fur that is one of my favourites.