In my misspent youth, Princess Diana epitomized fairy-tale feminine perfection. I still have my Charles and Di royal wedding paper dolls. Now, watching Season 5 of “The Crown,” I see the people’s princess as a role model of a different kind, the family member who breaks the code of silence about emotional abuse and neglect. The rules of the system let you get away with almost anything as long as you agree to maintain the façade. Honestly, the Windsors are just the Sopranos with posh accents.
Elizabeth Debicki is doing a great job as 1990s Diana, though the tall actress towers over her co-stars in a way that I don’t remember the real Diana doing. She has the mannerisms spot-on and she can show the princess’s immaturity and self-involvement without making us lose sympathy for her untenable position in the royal family. I wondered why they recast the role, since Emma Corrin was also perfect in Season 4.
Many factors go into casting decisions, of course, but something clicked when I discovered that Corrin recently came out as nonbinary. Maybe the ultra-feminine Diana was too dysphoric a role for them after that. I mean, this Mary Sue article from August 2021 shows them wearing a chest binder! This summer, they became Vogue’s first nonbinary cover model. This BBC article from November quotes them as advocating for an end to gendered categories at film and TV awards shows, following the lead of the Grammys: “It’s difficult for me at the moment trying to justify in my head being non-binary and being nominated in female categories.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be Googling “Emma Corrin top surgery” all through 2023.
On a more sobering note, Politico released a report last month about families fleeing conservative states like Texas and Florida because of bans on transgender health care. The piece profiles a family whose nonbinary teen became suicidal after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed child protective services to investigate all parents of medically transitioning kids.
Over the last few years, multiple GOP-controlled state legislatures have advanced bills that would strip access for children and teens to undergo a gender transition. These pieces of legislation have largely been framed by their sponsors as efforts to protect children from “groomers,” pedophiles and doctors intent on doing irreversible harm to their bodies. Though the bills are focused on minors, they have also created fear and uncertainty among trans adults about whether their care, too, could soon be threatened, since many of the sponsors have rejected the idea that people’s gender identity can be anything other than the sex assigned at birth.
Arkansas, Arizona and Alabama have passed laws limiting or outright banning gender-affirming care for minors, while states including Texas and Florida are using executive actions to pursue similar goals. The Arkansas, Texas and Alabama measures have been blocked or partly blocked in court while legal battles continue. Advocates have also vowed to challenge Arizona’s less sweeping law.
Tennessee has a much narrower state law, enacted in 2021, which bars hormonal treatment for “prepubertal minors.” But since young children generally don’t receive that care, experts said, it doesn’t actually have an impact — although some lawmakers have pushed for more comprehensive legislation blocking gender-affirming care…
At least 15 other state legislatures are considering proposals for similar restrictions. At the federal level, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has introduced the “Protect Children’s Innocence Act” which would ban federal funding for health plans that cover gender-affirming treatment, prohibit U.S. academia from training doctors in how to provide such care and make it a felony for a doctor to give such care to a minor. It has 49 co-sponsors. It has not yet been heard in the House, but that could change as Republicans take control in that chamber next year.
Scaremongering in mainstream media (I’m looking at you, New York Times and The Atlantic) gives the public an inaccurate and overblown idea of the interventions most trans youth actually receive. Doctors interviewed by Politico noted that any kind of gender-affirming surgery is rare for patients under 18, and the most common treatment, puberty blockers, is reversible.
This haunting piece at the flash prose journal fractured lit depicts a different kind of gendered silencing. Tonally reminiscent of Carmen Maria Machado’s feminist horror tales, Grace Elliot’s “In the Closet” is told from the point of view of a mother seeking a private place to scream.
At Narrative Magazine, Emma Brankin’s hard-hitting story “The Red Dress” limns the thought processes of the daughter of a fictionalized Harvey Weinstein figure, as she goes from defending him to recognizing the truth. It’s an excellent dramatization of the selectiveness of memory, not to mention the interpretations we put on it. (You have to create a free account to read this story.)
Perhaps the cephalopods have a creative solution to our domestic woes? CB Anderson’s whimsical essay “On Octopus Sex and the Moon” captures the surreal feeling of late-night web surfing during COVID quarantine.
You link to a science site that confirms one of the male’s arms is like a penis. Called a hectocotylus, it’s capable of erections. Reddit was on the level here.
You learn the hectocotylus can deliver sperm from a distance, which evolved because females tend to kill and eat their partners. One octopus species even has a hectocotylus that functions as a detachable penis, swimming to the female on its own.
Ruminate, a journal of spirituality and literature, sadly closed up shop this autumn. On their website, the speaker in Sarah Damoff’s gorgeous flash fiction “The Naming” juxtaposes thoughts on Adam naming the beasts in Genesis with fragmented memories of a violation that she can’t bring herself to name until the perpetrator is long dead.
Another innovative and darkly funny fiction piece comes to us from DIAGRAM issue 22.5. Channeling the corporate dystopias of George Saunders, James Braun’s “Let Us Have This” depicts absurd and disturbing events at a superstore. The deadpan second-person plural voice, like a Greek chorus, describes a place where workers’ identities become subsumed into (or consumed by) the heart of the Hart-Mart: “we will always be here, even when we are not.”
I was stunned by this graphic memoir in Split Lip Mag by Coyote Shook. “The Young Harris Psalter” reconstructs memories and legends of a forbidding, fascinating great-grandmother who was a rural faith-healer in the Blue Ridge Mountains and died of “brain problems”. After public health clinics came to the region in the 1980s, Shook writes, “She retired unceremoniously and turned her attention to the autoharp, collecting terrifying oddities, and bemoaning the bitterness of her life to anyone who would sit still for it.” A plot worthy of Edward Gorey.
You’re read this far, you can have a little gabagool, as a treat: Saturday Night Live’s “Don Pauly” sketch imagines what would happen if the Jersey mob got “woke”. It’s a scream.