Thursday, January 29, 2009

Transformations 'r Us

I was eight years old when I saw Ava Gardner in "One Touch of Venus." I fell in love with her and the song "Speak Low" was burned into my consciousness.

The film inspired in me a love - no, an obsession with Greek mythology, a genre rife with stories of transformation and metamorphosis. Zeus was forever transforming himself into a swan or a golden rain so as to more easily enter into the chambers of some lucky mortal woman, usually somebody's wife, to copulate with and usually impregnate her.

Teiresias stumbled across Athena while she was bathing so she blinded him. In another story, Teiresias came upon a pair of copulating snakes, struck them, dispeasing Hera, who then punished him by transforming him into a woman. Later he's re-transformed back into a man. When asked which has the greater sexual pleasure (he experienced both) he unhesitatingly declared, "women." For his impiety, Hera struck him blind.

And then there's Actaeon. He stumbled across Artemis bathing and she turned him into a stag. His raging hounds, struck with a 'wolf's frenzy,' tore him apart.

What do we learn from this? Well for one, don't piss-off the Goddess. She's inclined to wield her enormous power to emasculate men. Oooo, kinky...

Societies project their deepest desires into their religious mythologies and the Greeks' have come down to us intact.; They permeate our sensibilities (consider all those Freudian complexes) so it's not a stretch that the idea of transsexual and trans-species transformation is woven into our heritage. Judaism gave us angels - human-formed demigods with wings, which Christianity adopted. The Greeks came up with the idea of men fitting themselves with wings and taking flight - the story of Icarus.

So when I hear transphobes suggesting that allowing people to cross-dress will invite people insisting on their right to change themselves into dogs I just have to roll my eyes.

Now I read that a that Massachusetts state Representative Carl Sciortino is on the same page with me. Here's what he's saying to people of faith in support of transgender rights:

"I’ve been thinking about our religion, all of Christianity, and the Old Testament, too, and it’s full of transformations. And God’s usually behind them," said Provost, prompting laughs from the crowd. "In the Old Testament you had sticks turning into snakes and disobedient women turning into pillars of salt, and you had a recalcitrant guy like Jonah turning into a prophet. And then you get to the New Testament and you’ve got water turning into wine and God turning into human form, and it’s so full of transformation. It makes sense to me, thinking about it, that the church ladies and the Sunday school should say, no big deal."

It's a persuasive message, but will it fly?

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