|Concept art for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, by Gustav Tenggren|
THIS is a very important picture.
Somewhere in the distant dim, earliest years of my childhood in 1967, my parents took me to see Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I grew up on the vinyl record of the music, and the story intrinsically embedded in my mind. Disney of course has long had a process of "Disney-fying" fairy tales, of dumbing down the ancient power of the myths and stories of legend and time...but it was still my first taste of magic and myth.
I am sure my parents, who thought they had a little girl on their hands - and who was already showing signs of being an inherent "tomboy" and if only any of us had known! - surely thought even then still, that I would be enchanted by the Princess, would want a dress like that, and a fairy tale castle, and to be swept of my feet by a prince into happily ever after.
Snow White was followed by Sleeping Beauty which I saw at age 9, with its even more compelling music based on Tchaikovsky, and a princess and a prince and a dragon. Of course, by 1967 and Snow White, I was already bound in the leg brace and wheel chair which I wore for 5 years, until I was ten. I have often wondered how much that ordeal masked the transgenderism? How much the differences created by not being able to walk and run and play kept any of us from realizing that there were deeper even more fundamental differences in play underneath the over lay of those years?
Time rolled on, as it always does. More movies came and went. I grew up. Childhood memories get stored in the back attic of the mind, some of them forever lost, some tucked into trunks and wardrobes to be stumbled over in moments of recall and introspection, at just the right moment....only four years ago did I finally put together all these tangled pieces to realize and understand that I am a transgender. And that created a great deal of heavy thought - still does, but thats another path - when I realized it. How, I wondered, did I make it to my late forties without realizing this about myself!? How long, how deep, how far back did this go? Having always been a "tomboy", I can see back into my childhood, but had it really been there all along. Really?
And then, browsing through one of my large books on Disney concept art, I came upon THIS picture, by Disney artist, Gustaf Tenggren, one of the animators of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. And the dusty, musty trunk of memory creaked open and a treasure fell out. I remembered clearly, back then, while in the leg brace, setting up the once and only doll I ever played with. It was a "life size" doll, created to be the same height as the little girls it was designed for. It had blonde hair, and blue eyes - eyes that closed when the doll was laid flat and opened, when the doll was raised to a sitting position. With the leg brace on, I was actually a little taller than the doll.
And I remembered...remembered placing the doll on the white sofa in the music room (so named for the giant record player cabinet and my mothers piano), putting on the Snow White record, and with the music playing behind me acting out being - NOT the Princess - but the PRINCE, and bending to wake the Princess doll with a kiss, to take her off into the sunset. I would have been about 7 or 8 years old. And from a myth and tale of the past rose the answer I needed...yes. This truly is real. I have always been the Prince. Then man who longs to marry the Princess, to slay the dragon, and ride the great horse.
Being Transgender is not a horrible flaw, not a fault or something that is "wrong" with me. It means that in admitting that I am, in being so, in living congruently with that inner man, I am living out the truth of myself - of who and what I am and have always been. In the great myths and legends out of time, the Prince faces challenges, danger, transformation...the Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. The Prince does more than just ride up and kiss the slumbering form of the Princess, the Prince pays a price for his journey - he is singed around the edges with the dragon fire, his sword is notched and battered, his body bears scars of thorns and pain. The Prince does not remain a painted one dimensional cell of art work, given movement only by illusion. The Prince becomes a flesh and blood man, individuated and mature in the fires of faery and myth. Perhaps the dragon that transgenders face - any of us, MTFs or FTM's, for after all, Disney didn't get the Princess' journey right either! - is the roaring rage and fire of a culture that will not accept us, damns us, rejects us, denies us.
In Sleeping Beauty, the Prince is given gifts by the Fairy Godmothers to face the dragon with - one of which is a sword, labeled somewhat predictably the Sword of Truth. But there is power in that, trite though it may seem - because for a transgender the Truth about ourselves becomes our greatest gift, our strongest defense, our weapon against the Dragon. So.... From my distant childhood comes the truth that gave me back myself, gave me my journey, gave me MY truth. And if it is a little romantic perhaps to see oneself in a fairy tale myth, so be it. I may be tattered and battered and still smoking around the edges from the dragon fires...but I remember that little boy of long ago...and that is MY truth!