Growing up queer is a lesson in being an outsider. Rarely are there role models for queer youth to look up to. The lack of exposure to queer people and folklore, in our youth, effects our queer growth. Straight kids have their fairy tales that dance through their imaginations. Queer kids have to project themselves into those stories as one side or the other. But they are still left being outside, as the story doesn’t really fit.
What if I told you that wasn’t the case?
We know in history that LGBTQ people have been around since the dawn of time, so it would seem obvious that they, too, would have a rich and varied folklore. Why have we never seen it?
Like with a great many things that are queer, they were washed away through the ages.
Would you be surprised to know that this happened as recent as the 1950s?
Why don’t LGBTQ fairy tales exist
We are familiar that most of the world has viewed us, at one time or another, as against the moral imperative. We have been viewed as taboo or sinful. This view has caused many of our stories to be erased or retold over time. The ones we are left with show LGBTQ people as villains, the murderous evil person to lead the innocent astray. In many of those stories they are beaten or killed, well alluded to anyway.
Peter Jordi Wood has spent a great deal of his life in trying to find and catalog these stories. It was his hope to rediscover them for Queer people to help with finding their identity and place in folklore.
“We know that queer characters and stories were prevalent in mythology.” Peter says.
So, why aren’t there examples of Queer fairy tales now?
Prior to the invention of the printing press, most folklore was passed down orally. If you wanted to hear a story, you sat around the fire and told stories to one another. As books became the more popular method for stories, a need to be able to catalog them also came into being. This happened between the 1850s and early 1900s.
About a hundred years ago the Aarne Thompson Uther Tale Type Index was created as a means of cataloging certain folklore by their structure and giving them an AT number. This was a way to create an inventory of all of the published folklore. And so started the filtering of Queer folklore.
The man who erased Queer stories
Stith Thompson was an American scholar and folklorist and was also half of the duo that created the Aarne Thompson Uther Tale Type, used in cataloging folklore. HIs belief of right and wrong is what started the systematic erasing of those stories.
During his cataloging, he listed homosexuality and lesbianism in the section labeled ‘Unnatural Perversions” along with bestiality and incest. This categorizing was due to his belief that they were perverse and unnatural.
While studying for his Master’s degree, Pete noticed something that had apparently missed. A story that seemed very queer.
The Dog and the Sea
After combing through over 600 stories, Peter came across a story that had been translated into Danish, German, and many others but oddly enough not into English. Peter set about translating the story and verifying it against Thompsons synopsis to make sure it was correct. What he found was what appeared to be a “fabulously gay” story.
Ruan is a tailor’s apprentice who wants nothing more than to have adventures on the high seas as a sailor. So he leaves his home on a quest to fulfill his dreams. He meets a beautiful witch who tries to ensnare him, but young Ruan is immune to her charms. He soon meets a prince with whom he falls madly in love with.
This is the kind of fantasy that every young queer youth needs.
Substitutions are for cooking
The sad truth is, there are not many authors today that write fairytales for queer youths or adults. What happens, more of than not, is that an author will take a classic tale like “Sleeping Beauty” and reimagine or retell it from the point of view of a queer person. Typically, this is just replacing one of the characters with a person that represents the other main character.
Simply substituting one character to create a more “universal” fit doesn’t always translate well. Fairy tales were stories that were meant to teach morals in a way those that were listening could remember. This was done through entertainment. In these same stories, they could use someone who was LGBTQ as the evil character that was meant to be over come. These same characters were the ones living in some form of “sin” that the author was warning the listener about.
The reality is that we need queer stories, written by queer authors that showcase struggles that queer people understand. These would be the stories that could offer LGBTQ youth a chance to learn the needed strength and courage they often miss out on.
How do we put fairy into fairytales
There are authors out there that are working to change this dynamic. Because of this, we are starting to see more and more fairy tales being published from and LGBTQ perspective, for children. Check out some of them.
Olly Pike is a YouTube star who’s channel is called Pop’n’Olly. Olly’s channel is set up as a free resource for parents, teachers, and kids educational material. The hope is to change the mind of people before discrimination has a chance to take hold.
Olly takes on topics like “What does LGBTQ Mean?,” and “Pop’n’Olly explains Identity.” With simple and easy to understand terms, bright colors, and animation, Olly tries to take topics that can be complicated and teaches them to people in a way that is fun and entertaining.
Olly also has a website set up where you can download resources and purchase books. Be sure to check out the webpage Pop ‘n’ Olly.
Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris
Adam and Chaz created Promised Land as a first in a series of illustrated LGBTQ themed children’s books. They also work with authors, Jaime Poi Poi and Caitlin Spice to create their full color books that teach equality and acceptance.
“We believe it’s important for LGBTQ youth and their peers to see themselves represented in positive ways, where who they are is never questioned or used as a plot device or a point of conflict.”
Strong ethics and words to live up to in a world that so often still uses us a the bad guys. They push for the idea that if we aren’t seen in the media then we will never feel we truly belong.
Head on over to their page Promised Land and check out what all they have to offer.
Happily ever after
These are only a few of the many talented LGBTQ authors out there. If there are authors you love that feel I need to mention, please leave me a comment below. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres and we always could use a little more fairy tale to lighten the weights we carry.
Remember, if you look around and don’t see yourself represented, you are not alone and it is a calling for you to create the kind of change that you want to see in this world. Start writing, painting, singing, dancing, or however else you feel you need to express yourself. The more visible we are, the LGBTQ youth have someone to look up to. Why not let it be you?