The fictional sisterhood

No, this is the opposite of cynicism – my title doesn’t refer to an absence of real sisterhood (though that’s something I aspire to having more of in my life, and am working towards).

It’s been dawning on me just how much fictional women (in literature, and on screen) have been an important part of my life, while I was busy pretending to be a man. So I thought I’d write about some of them, as a way of saying thank you. I’ve mentioned a couple of them in passing before in this blog-thing, but here’s my chance to rejoice in them some more.

Sort of chronologically, sort of:

Princess Ozma – in The Marvellous Land of Oz, by L Frank Baum (the first sequel to The Wizard of Oz), the main character in the story is this boy called Tip, who’s been brought up by a witch. He escapes and goes adventuring with some magical pals, and right at the end of the story, finds out that in fact, he’s not Tip at all. He’s Princess Ozma, who was hidden as a baby by turning her into a boy. She’s afraid to get turned back, but agrees once she’s reassured that she’ll still be herself, and that her friends will still like her (that bit is so bloody poignant). And she’s such a kickass princess. I’m not sure how I knew this at the age of 7 (since it doesn’t say that much in the book) but I always, always imagined her as way more Lara Croft (without the unattractive amorality, of course) and in no way frilly. Wise and powerful. I wanted to be her. My inner kid has now adopted her name, which is really cool. Thanks, Ozma.

Emma Tupper – in Emma Tupper’s Diary, by Peter Dickinson (who has written a load of amazing children’s books), Emma’s a girl who finds herself staying with her Scottish cousins by a loch – and there’s a monster in the loch (but it’s more subtle than it sounds). I loved her for wanting to do the right thing, without ever being that unforgivable thing some fictional English schoolgirls were: priggish. She’s smart, and she stops people fighting each other. Thanks, Emma.

Neptina – the magical mermaid from Marine Boy, a Japanese anime series that was around dubbed into English when I was little. Neptina always seemed to be saving Marine Boy (who I had kind of a crush on). Lovely, brave. Thanks, Neptina.

Sabrina Duncan – played by Kate Jackson, in the original Charlie’s Angels tv series. Okay, she’s less fictional than the others, since she was played by an actual person, but still… she was my first real girl-crush, and my first of many experiences of falling for women who turn out to be lesbians (oh, all right, in her case it’s still just a rumour). Sabrina always seemed like the smartest one, the one with the best (most sardonic) sense of humour – and she was gorgeous, in a feline way. I really, really liked the woman she was. Thanks, Sabrina, and Kate.

Jaime Sommers – played by Lindsay Wagner, in The Bionic Woman tv series. I feel embarrassed to admit this one, for some reason. But there she was, living on her own, being a school teacher, being a kind and kickass woman with the fast running and the super-hearing and that. I just liked her a lot. Thanks, Jaime, and Lindsay.

Celemon – one of the nine women riders who appear in The Moon of Gomrath, by Alan Garner. Almost nothing is said about her. This is a tale of magic, the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisengamen, and in it, Susan’s being is shoved magically out of the normal world, and eventually finds itself on a shore, being met by Celemon, who wears a bracelet like hers (but of a different phase of the moon). She wants to ride with Celemon and her companions – and at the very end of the book, almost gets to, but is left behind, because she is “but green in power”. Something in me loves Celemon dearly, and wants to ride with her and her companions too, one day. At the book’s end, they ride off into the sky together with the nine Horsemen of Donn – “And the old magic was free forever, and the moon was new.” Best book ending ever. thanks, Celemon.

Halo Jones – from The Ballad of Halo Jones, a series in 2000AD magazine (later published in its own book) by Alan Moore. “Where did she go? Out!” She’s kind of my fictional equivalent to Amelia Earhart – something about getting out, getting away, going further and further. Thanks, Halo.

Sir Tristan – yes, Sir Tristan, from Camelot 3000, a comic series that became a graphic novel, by Mike Barr/Brian Bolland. This story tells of the characters from Arthurian legend, reborn on earth in the year 3000. And Sir Tristan is reborn as a woman. She spends the entire story fighting against her love for Isolde (because she believes she should only love her as the man she was) – but at the end, she accepts her womanhood, and they have a steamy reconciliation. She is pretty androgynous, and totally gorgeous, and pissed off most of the time. I loved her. Still do. Thanks, Tristan.

Luciente – from Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. Luciente is a woman from Connie’s future, who it takes Connie a while to realise isn’t a man, because she’s so self-assured and androgynous, and bi. Luciente’s this amazing mixture of boldness, wisdom, care, and vulnerability. And I kind of want her name. Thanks, Luciente.

That’ll do for now, I might add some more later.

This is a big deal for me – as I get more and more at ease with the knowledge that I was always female, I see more and more of this all the way through my life – heroines real and fictional that I had strong responses to, whilst being really careful not to let myself know why. There’s an obvious theme here of strong, bold, brave girls and women who are tomboyish or androgynous, explorers, rescuers, heroines. Oh, and another obvious theme of getting out, getting free.

I knew who I was and wanted to be like, even when I was keeping this quiet from myself – and it involved absolutely no ponies, white dresses, dolls, or shiny shoes.


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