Goddess of Trans Men

[Mild but possibly necessary content notes: Talking about transness as a function of change rather than an "always knew" narrative (which are of course totally valid!), wild and rambling speculation on ancient Greek culture and literature, toxic masculinity and narratives about women as deceivers]

This isn't so much a post as it is an extended advertisement for you all to join my new obsession which is EPIC: THE MUSICAL, a new musical about Odysseus. When this came into my orbit I was a little skeptical because I was afraid that the musical might cover up a lot of the more complicated and difficult parts of the Odyssey but I've listened to the material that's been released so far (it's an ongoing project) and I'm really impressed and love it very much. Note that it does go the route wherein Odysseus kills Hector's infant son (rather than Pyrrhus doing the killing, which is the alternate version we have depending on which Illiad you're reading) so there's a major trigger warning for that in the first song.

"Warrior of the Mind" is a song from Athena's perspective where she's counseling Odysseus not to let down his guard; the war may be over, but they're not home safe yet and he needs to stay on his toes. And the Genius annotations on the lyrics are really helpful, especially if you're like me and haven't read The Odyssey in ten years or so. There's a line about how, with Odysseus' help, "then they'll see" and the annotations talk about how the Greeks (who were far from a cultural monolith) were really culturally torn on the question of what qualities make for the "best" warrior.

This is basically why we have TWO gods of war for them: you have the beefcake one (Ares) who tries to be the best by just... putting in the work. He never skips leg day, he masters all the weapons, he goes to all the battles, and when it's war day (and for him, EVERY day is war day) he stands on the front lines and screams with the best of them and runs into the enemy and he OWNS by virtue of just being badass. And he favors whichever side has the strongest warrior, because that's how war *works*: the strongest guy wins. Right?

Then you have Athena who, sure, is competent in battle because if you want to win a war you DO ultimately need to be able to swing a sword or spear as needed, but she's not the best because she's the best swords-swinger; she's the best because she's the best strategist. She uses her brain and she embraces the concept of battle maneuvers. She considers a good strategy *better* than having the strongest beefcakes on her side, and to a lot of Greeks that's... wrong? even borderline cheating? To a lot of Odysseus' contemporaries *within the context of his own story*, he was considered dishonorable and kind of a cheater because he used "tricks" rather than superior force and "honorable" man-to-man combat. So you have this musical where Athena sings about her hopes that his story will make them see she's right.

I'm telling all this to Kissmate because I'm a big nerd who loves gushing about ancient Greek stuff, and I end up on a tangent that this might well be partly WHY Athena is a woman. Because women were historically considered (by toxic Western men; I can't really speak for other cultures here) to be the "sly" gender, the "clever" class who gets her way not by brute force but by clever manipulation of the brutes around her. You don't complain because at the end of the day she (Athena) gets you home alive, but there's a sense of aloof mystery there: Athena, the virgin woman, is untouchable and unknowable. You can sit down and have a beer with Ares, but you don't become "best friends" with Athena (in the song Odysseus enthuses about this possibility and she coolly and with careful distance pushes him back a step with "We'll see where it ends". Beautiful.)

Because everything always comes back to gender in our house, lol, I started thinking that, oh man, the ancient Greeks might well have *loved* the idea of Athena as a trans men and goddess of trans men. Because you could have this person who "started" life as a woman, collected all of women's sly secrets and clever ways of thinking, but then transitions to a warrior (traditionally male!) and used all that forbidden knowledge to proceed to kick all the ass. And there are, of course, so many stories waiting to be written about Achilles to almost-kind-of did *exactly that* in the sense that he was disguised as a woman and placed among King Lycomedes' daughters in order to protect him because his mother didn't want him to go off to war. At which point Odyssues (Athena's chosen!) showed up to recruit Achilles, who then went off to be one of the best warriors among the Greeks. (Even though he did end up dying in battle, there was a prophesy that the Greeks could ONLY win the war against Troy if Achilles came with!)

And, of course, this isn't necessarily a totally great narrative in the sense that it's still shaped by toxic masculinity and the idea of women as both deceivers and fundamentally different from men! But still I do like imagining how earlier societies might have explained modern trans people, rather than just assuming (as the Evangelicals like to do) that they would've just shunned us completely.


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