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Reimagining Lysistrata: Gender Expansion, Equity, Representation and Impact

New versions, interpretations, and reimagining of the text are a great way to embrace folks, their identities, experiences, and livelihoods in spaces where they are pushed out.

Four people of color in modern attire. Three are standing, one is kneeling in the foreground.
Art by Queen McKee

Lysistrata is a Greek play about cisgender women who orchestrate a sex strike in order to stop a war and fight for systemic change and equity. But what if Lysistrata’s gender identity and pronouns were different? What if Myrrhine and Calonice experienced gender beyond the binary and Lampito was a trans woman? What if they all were people of color? How would these identities and experiences impact their fight for gender equity and the conversations they shape around it? How would these new interpretations and identities influence representation of these identities and experiences in places where they are anything but welcome, appreciated, and celebrated? Reimaginations, revisions, and reinterpretations of the text are great places to start!

People will see themselves centered accurately and honestly in the text that they read and the world they inhabit.

There’s no limit or constraint on how to imagine or revision how identities can shape a character and how they will relate or react to or influence others with their new experiences. Reimagining characters in this way not only allows for an open discussion about there conversations and interactions with others, but it can inspire deeper discussions in classrooms, social settings, and beyond. These discussions provide a platform for people to see their experiences validated or to create validation and space for others who have been denied that opportunity. There could be representation and visibility, and the encouragement to take the text and figures and story further, where previously there was none. Newer and newer versions of the stories and characters and events can be created, and the stories can grow to where many people will see themselves centered accurately and honestly in the text that they read and the world they inhabit. I know that I would be able to feel much more comfortable, heard, and understood in class or book groups or casual discussions when discussing my race, gender identity, culture, and how that impacts me. I know that there are plenty other folks who would feel that way, too.

She wants to create an environment as far away from that pain as possible.

Lysistrata is a Greek play where people discuss, combat, and fight against gender oppression and inequity. But what if Lysistrata, the person who lead the initiative and had conversations with people about the injustices that they had faced, was black, agender and had they/them pronouns? This would impact not only the discussions that Lys would have with others but shape their entire movement for equity. For instance, in discussing reasons why the strike was necessary, Lys could start by stating how their plan of action should focus on elevating voices that’ve long been left out of conversations of gender equity and justice. Lys could cite that their own experiences of degradation and opposition to their gender identity and their concerns with violence and phobia against them are reasons not only why their feelings and frustrations are valid but also are reasons why the strike is necessary. In order to bring about systemic change and draw attention to the struggles and issues that they — and many others — face, Lys can conclude that they should have a strike and look to Lampito, Myrrhine, and Calonice to hear their perspectives.

In trying to create a movement for change, Lampito would be ready to start the strike but wants to consider how concerned everyone should be for their own safety.

Lampito, Myrrhine, and Calonice would support and listen to Lys, and then could continue the conversation by talking about their own experiences with gender and their lives as people of color. As a black trans woman, Lampito could discuss her experiences with being pushed out of spaces or conversations of gender equity because of her race and gender identity. Many of the women she’s met before in the chorus have been rude to her, made microaggressions, and are transphobic, and she wants to create an environment as far away from that pain as possible. She could also discuss how the threat and reality of violence against herself and many black trans women concern and affect her. In trying to create a movement for change, Lampito would be ready to start the strike but wants to consider how concerned everyone should be for their own safety. Although she wants to make as much change as possible she doesn’t want anyone to be killed for it.

Myrrhine would echo Lampito’s concerns, checking in with her afterwards. Myrrhine would place a hand on Lampito’s shoulder and make sure that she felt okay before the group continued their discussion. Myrrhine would make the point about how the statements that they create, the deliverables they want to make known during their strike, should be firm and vocal about their rights and demands. They won’t be sugar coating their fight to live without oppression or fear or violence, nor will they be trying to make things palatable to the men’s chorus or anyone else they come across in opposition of them or their movement. Myrrhine would then discuss their experiences of gender and the changes they’d like to see in the group’s discussion of gender equity to others. As a North American indigenous and two-spirit person, Myrrhine could discuss how they’ve experienced their own fluidity with gender and how that exists in different ways in their tribe, nation, language, and culture. There are many different words and connotations in indigenous languages to describe what two-spirit means and it’s important not to think of one tribe or nation’s language as pertaining to all indigenous tribes and nations. Two-spirit is a part of indigenous history and culture that was ripped away by European colonizers who imposed strict gender binaries, opposed same gender relationships, and converted indigenous people from their own cultural practices and beliefs to the religions of said colonizers’. Myrrhine could understand Lampito’s concerns of pushback and violence, and in creating a space that embraces their histories and cultures, Myrrhine could state that the group’s deliverables, concerns, and mission statement should embody centering their own cultures and beliefs.

Calonice would go last, asking a lot of questions in order to know more information and clarify points or stances that may’ve been lost or unclear in the group’s discussion. As the youngest member of the team, Calonice wants to make sure to focus, listen, and take everything in. Soon, Calonice would ask the question of ways to fight and recharge against pushback. As a Black and Latinx nonbinary person, Calonice could discuss how both cultures of his family have different ways of recharging and resting when living with racism, microaggressions, and invalidation. Calonice’s family had taught her that if she cannot rest, how will she have energy to do the work she needs to do? In looking up to her new friends, seeing them as mentors, Calonice asks if the group has any idea of things they can do together in order to stay recharged with all of the work they are doing. He wants to learn new ways to deal with stress that also help to affirm his fluidity and understanding with gender. To Calonice, asking questions like these are a great place to start.

New versions, interpretations, and reimagining of the text are a great way to embrace folks, their identities, experiences, and livelihoods in spaces where they are pushed out. The figures from these texts, whether through Lysistrata or Antigone and so on, are not standalone entities. They can be Black and Indigenous. They can be mixed-race. They can be people of color. They can have disabilities. They can be gender non-conforming, transgender, non-binary, intersex, LGBTQ+. They can be on the ace-aro spectrum. They can sign or communicate in other languages. These identities and experiences are interconnected. They all can relate to one another, overlap and intertwine, and there’s no reason for them not to.

Lysistrata — they/them/their pronouns

Lampito — she/her/hers pronouns

Myrrhine — they/them/their pronouns

Calonice — she/her/hers and he/him/his pronouns

References

Trans and Native: Meet The Indigenous Doctor Giving Them Hope | AJ+. YouTube, uploaded by AJ+, May 12, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSnvtj0G3cA.

BESE Explains: Two Spirit. YouTube, uploaded by BESE, April 17, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBH6wVOjolg&ab_channel=BESE.

What Does “Two-Spirit” Mean? | InQueery | them. YouTube, uploaded by them, Dec 11, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4lBibGzUnE&ab_channel=them.

Amazing Race Canada’s Two-Spirit couple on Indigenous representation on TV | XTRA. YouTube, uploaded by XTRA Magazine, Sep 10, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFSbSwA5ECw&t=130s&ab_channel=XtraMagazine.

Two Spirits, Once Voice. YouTube, uploaded by Egale Canada, May 18, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8XUCuuJPCc&t=8s&ab_channel=EgaleCanada.

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Queen McKee

Queen McKee

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Heyo! My name is Queen (they/them). I’m a sophomore at WFU. In my work, I bring characters, situations, and relationships from antiquity into the modern world.