Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls

One thing I’m curious about was whether there were any strong reactions to the boy Tip turning out to be Ozma under an enchantment when The Marvelous Land of Oz first came out. It just seems like there’s a considerable amount of fuss over transsexuals nowadays, with reactionary viewers refusing to watch Dancing with the Stars because Chaz Bono was on it, or Bill O’Reilly claiming that a sex change would be too difficult to explain to kids. Actually, Bill, I think it’s probably easier to explain to kids than to cranky old men like you. And really, if your kid knows the Oz books, isn’t all you have to say that it’s like what happened with Ozma? Apparently nobody thought THAT was too complicated for the children.

Mind you, it might be relevant that, back when L. Frank Baum wrote the book in question, a person changing gender was just as much part of the realm of pure fantasy as a belt that grants wishes. Baum wrote Land with the theater in mind, and Ozma’s gender switch was most likely a joke on how it was typical at the time for women to play boys on the stage. It’s not like this was really anything new, either. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night had a girl disguised as a boy, and that was in a time when men played all the roles. This isn’t exactly a girl being turned into a boy, but it shows that gender-bending is an old theatrical tradition. Now that sex changes are medically possible, it seems that the traditional gender roles crowd has adopted the idea that they’re wrong for some reason, while this prejudice might not have been as pronounced in Baum’s time. Or were there objections to the concept even back in the early nineteenth century? I can’t say I’ve heard of any, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

Picture by Lullades

This entry was posted in Characters, Gender, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls

  1. Ozaline says:

    I think it is important to acknowledge though that just because medical surgery to change the genitals is something new does not mean that transgendered people did not exist.

    Here’s a page which summarizes the history of transexuality in medical research from the late 19th century on:

    Really one thing that needs to be understood is that not every transgendered person wants surgery, for some of them Hormone therapy is enough. (It seems the split is about 50/50 for the women and even less that for the men, since constructing a penis is much harder then constructing a vagina and the “neo-penis” is a lot less sensitive and functional). And while in the modern age hormone therapy only started in 1949, there does seem to be some evidence that tribal cultures as well as possibly ancient romans had discovered forms of hormone therapy much earlier.

    Speaking of the classical period… sex changes occured a few times in Greco-Roman mythology… (Tiresias became a woman to find out which sex enjoyed sexual activity more… Tiresias… Tippetarius… hmmm)

    Anyway as someone who was well educated, well travelled, well read and involved with woman’s rights as Baum was… It’s not totallly inconceivable that he may have encountered Gender variant people or have read up on them… Might it have been something he thought would be funny on stage? Possibly, perhaps even probably… but there’s enough other instances of a GLBT subtext in his work (look at the Carrie Barry song)… that these things can be brought into question.

    I could go into much more detail about gender politics, and Baum’s work but I don’t know that you can boil it down to one answer, that it was written for the stage and leave it at that.

  2. Pingback: Fear of a Trans Planet | VoVatia

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