“Queer Heroes of Myth and Legend” queers the canon of ancient stories

Book cover of
Book cover of "Queer Heroes of Myth and Legend."

Queer Heroes of Myth and Legend author Dan Jones writes with a voice that is lighthearted, and filled with pop culture references that are geared towards older Gen Z and Millennials. Jones utilizes witty jokes and 90s references as a tool to better the analysis of myth by bringing it to a younger audience. 

Though leaps and bounds have been made to give representation to the LGBTQ community in film and literature, it often feels something is lacking when we see these modern characters. The institution of the gender binary may be at play when gender nonconforming or otherwise trans people are on screen or page.

With stories created in the BCE years, there is a far wider gap with the modern concept of gender and the implications that may come with being male or female. Instead of some examples in modern times of gender variance and non-heterosexuality being an evil or pitiful trait, this book highlights stories from myth and legend where these attributes are celebrated.

There are a wide range of legends in this book from all over the world. There are the stories more commonly told in western literature and film such as Ganymede and Zeus, of Achilles and Patroclus, of Sappho, and of Apollo. However, for a major portion of the book Jones queers the canon of non-Eurocentric stories and figures as well — including Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Horus and Set, Budûr and Qamar, Ila and Budha, Ezilí Dantor, and others. Jones even goes as far as contemporary media in cases of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena, and others.

If there is one thing to be said about this book, it is that it introduces those who are unfamiliar to the queer side of myth and legend. It does not attempt to get too much into depth with each story, wanting to give different cultures a space to display themselves.

Because it is an entry point, this book gives the reader the ability to go off on their own and explore in depth the myths that interest them, perhaps finding even more queerness than at first glance. Not only does it teach this, but it also helps one develop the skill of reading critically through a queer lens, seeing through the subtext in varieties of classics all the way up to the present.

Queer Heroes of Myth and Legend: A Celebration of Gay Gods, Sapphic Saints & Queerness Through the Ages by Dan Jones ISBN 9781804190463

Siegfried Schaefer is a senior at Montclair State University. He is a German major with a minor in Myth Studies. He enjoys reading and watching sci-fi and fantasy in his freetime, and loves to analyze the themes of gender, queerness, and neurodivergence in these stories. Out In Jersey is the first publication Siegfried has worked with.