Mythology plays a crucial part in how it shapes us as an individual and on a broader level as a community. While mythological stories might not be factually proven, they have a strong influence on people and how they treat faith and religious traditions. We cannot completely deny the impact of these in our present-day lives, as they are part of our heritage, and eventually one’s identity. Also, does it impact the way we love?
A simple reflection of this is the naming of various sports brands against characters from Greek Mythology. An example is Pandora, having its name after a woman warrior in the Greek Myth. Even the Apollo space program derives its name from an archer from Greek myths, known for his skill to hit the target at all costs. While why they chose to have a certain name for their brand is a creative choice. We can decipher a sense of strong belief in these myths in the present generation too.
This opens up a whole range of new possibilities for research and understanding from the context of mythology. Today, we attempt to understand if there is any influence of these folklores in present-day homophobia. How did these mythologies deal with gender fluidity or love in general?
It was not Man Or Woman
In Hindu mythology, Shiva is often mentioned as Ardhanarishvara. It is an amalgamation of the characteristics of Shiva and Parvati. Aztec goddess of fertility and sexuality, from Egyptian mythology, embodied both male and female qualities. In the Greek myth, the prophet Teiresias spent 7 years of his life as a woman. He even bore children then. You might ask, what do these even mean? They do not explain same-sex relationships.
While these do not arguably support anything explicitly, they make a point. That being, men, and women were never separate. As a human one needs to have all sorts of qualities. A myriad of qualities make a human powerful, brave, creative, and embody the divinity of a mystical character. Society at present has gender roles specified. But, mythologies across the globe do not treat women and men as separate entities but prove how masculine and feminine qualities (according to present-day interpretation) complement each other.
Thus, a complete human has some amounts of both spectra. This hits the basic argument of homophobic people that men and women are different. And, one cannot be more feminine if one is biologically a male.
Also, in the case of Teiresias, it was endowed upon him as a punishment or a penance by a woman. There are two different interpretations to this, making this better or worse. We could interpret this as a humiliation if it were a punishment, taking the man vs woman debate to square one. Or, just realize the message and the intricacy of the situation, and how penance equates to the life of a woman. There might be critiques to this incident, and rightly so.
Love Has Boundaries?
Every mythology has its version of LGBTQ representation. No mythology is behind in addressing such relationships and it was not abnormal in the times the mythology was set. Greek myths include same-sex relationships like that of Apollo and Hyacinthus, Hermes and Krokus, Poseidon and Pelops, and more.
Chinese mythology is rich in stories on homosexuality. These stories have male protagonists who share a romantic and sexual relationship with men. Tu Er Shen is a deity, the god of love and sex between homosexual men. He was a man, who fell in love with a young man. He was physically abused for doing so. Not so strange to us, right? But, people sought after him. As he was scrutinized for just loving and expressing it, people gave him the stature of a God.
In the mythology of the native Americans, that is Inuit shamanism, the first humans on Earth were two men, Aakulujjuusi and Uumarnituq. They were in a romantic relationship, and after their consummation, the latter became pregnant. But, due to his biological inabilities he was not capable to give birth. Thus, he changed into a woman by casting a spell. Thus, ideally, this myth propagates that the necessity for a woman and man to come together is to have children. But, never does it im-moralizes any same-sex relationship, or criminalizes or puts boundaries on love.
While Hindu mythology has many instances of male and female deities interchanging forms to the other gender, to maintain balance in the universe. Also, these relationships were not always to give birth to children. It was just to show the spectrum that a human is. Humans cannot be confined to any sort of norms including gender. The human personality is way more complex to tick certain boxes and fit into a category. These are just a few examples of how we have seen such representations in our mythology.
The Fault of the Interpreters
Now, you must be wondering, then from where did homophobia come about? Why do people have such strong hate for just two people in love? History is proof that it has all been an outcome of the middlemen between the Gods and the public. While a lot of people can read mythological stories and understand them their way, this was not the case with everyone in the past.
Language and literature were just a luxury of the elitist or the rich, as they were the only sections of people who were capable of education and its interpretations. Not surprisingly, they were men and people belonging to the upper strata of the society. Thus, the layman consumed ideas filtered through the elites and the learned. And, obviously, privileged ideas. They always felt the idea of sex to be intimate and taboo to speak about in public, thus not discussing the subject at all.
These concepts when taught in school were highly censored. Over time, like in the Victorian era, priests stayed away from sexual relationships. It was impure to involve in any such action. These notions by people have highly transcended through ages, and the majority did not choose to question the people in power.
What Next? Love!
Gender was never a dichotomy. It was always a spectrum, and our mythologies are proof of it. While the discrimination against the community is not at all acceptable. Also, it is good to realize that human inception does not approve of this idea. Today, we have seen draconian laws criminalizing the act of love, and people have struggled to freely love. Let us be thoughtful, henceforth.
We have been living in misconceptions, and misinterpretations passed over generations. Let us hope to have a world where loving is no longer a crime. And, condemn peddling hate against people who choose to love. Let us make this world a better place for everyone to survive, live and love.