Mythic Gender Exploration
A review of Lily Ash Sakula’s “Tiresias” in We’re Still Here: An All Trans Comics Anthology (Stacked Deck Press, 2018)
By Derek Newman-Stille
The ancient Greek myth of Tiresias is one of my favourite myths, exploring the fluidity of gender and disability (Tiresias is transformed from male to female by the gods and then from female to male), so I was excited to find Lily Ash Sakula’s comic “Tiresias”, exploring this ancient Greek myth in a modern setting. The comic opens with Tiresias visiting a doctor and asking about a testosterone prescription. They doctor reacts with shock, asking Tiresias what they want testosterone for. Like many Trans people, Tiresias is forced to explain their gendered identity to a medical practitioner who acts as the gatekeeper for access to hormones. The doctor tells Tiresias that they have to go to a specialist to determine if they are allowed to transition into male.
Tiresias illustrates that they have been living as a woman for years, but wants to transition to male. Sakula’s comic follows some aspects of the original myth, having Tiresias transform into a woman because they killed snakes and the goddess Hera decided to “punish” them by transforming them into a woman… but Sakula adds on additional elements of the comic by exploring Tiresias’ masterbation in their new body, their experience of sexism, their staring in the mirror, and their sense of gender dysphoria and feeling like their body is falling apart. In order to express a male identity, Tiresias begins taking testosterone, exploring the notion of medicalized transitions rather than the magical transition they originally had.
Sakula’s comic illustrates that Trans identities can be fluid and that Trans people may transition from one identity to another rather than decide to spend their lives as one gender, and this transformative process is cleverly explored in the language of myth, bringing out the Trans narrative of the original Greek myth. Sakula evokes the mythic past to illustrate that Trans identities are not new, but have existed throughout history. In a society that tries to erase that history, Saklua’s mythicomagical narrative reminds us that Trans identities have always existed and that our stories can be recovered (even when they are coded in mythology).
To find out more about We’re Still Here: An All Trans Comics Anthology, visit Stacked Deck Press’ website at https://stackeddeckpress.com/product/were-still-here-an-all-trans-comics-anthology/
To find out more about Lily Ash Sakula, visit http://www.lashesofsakula.com