The Empress Sword

milkboys Books 0 Comments

With a kingdom to save and a dragon to slay, not to mention the loss of a dear friend and the first stirrings of a childhood crush, transitioning into a female is literally the least important problem on Crown Prince Aster’s mind. See, there’s this dragon attacking Caledon, and the only way to defeat it is to find and wield the mythical Empress Sword—a sword that will not bear the touch of any man. So Aster does what any sensible thirteen-year-old crown prince would do: he gets magical gender reassignment surgery.

Actually, it’s more complicated than that, and Aster doesn’t exactly understand what he’s agreeing to when he grasps the sword for the first time. Nonetheless, Aster becomes Astrid and what had the danger of becoming yet another too-straightforward boy’s adventure book on the shelves swiftly takes on new dimensions. We suddenly have a strong, female protagonist where we once had a slightly naive but endearingly noble male—one who has no problems with it beyond the obvious issues of a changed centre of gravity and a vague sense of “this is new and a bit weird!”

The narrative continues to refer to the prince as “him” because for Aster (as he still thinks of himself—though he quickly realizes that introducing himself by the prince’s name would draw confusion), the transition to “femaleness” is at first only a matter of changing some outward behaviors—like when the prince has to convince people that “he’s” become a girl, but maintains a comfortable male wardrobe, manners, and speech with friends. The prince’s own perceptions of “femaleness” are challenged and turned over frequently, but Aster’s assumptions are the fault of a royal upbringing (and a perception of “maleness” that is also quite skewed due to that heritage).

Aster’s transition is a non-issue in the book, with no broad, overarching statement made about transphobia. There is no fear over body image, shame, disgust, or humiliation—these things are entirely absent from Aster’s transition experience. And that’s a statement in and of itself. The fact that Jaxton doesn’t make a big flurry/trauma/statement about the gender change—nobody calls Astrid gross, unnatural, or a freak when they find out she used to be the prince—is a small but important victory.

In Aster’s arrogant and selfish selflessness, we see the ego of a child who has always been treated like an equal and a grown-up, played fantastically against the condescending humiliation of being a “little girl.” More important is Aster’s realization that people were just as condescending when she was a boy, but in a more subtle way because she was a prince. And Aster has no problems with being a girl in love with another girl.

Aster is also rather egalitarian in other relationships. Aster is good friends with a stable boy and doesn’t see why a merchant’s daughter can’t be asked to dinner, and when confronted with a monster who displays intelligence, actually listens to what the dragon has to say and concedes that the dragon’s point of view and concerns are as valid as the humans’ are. In that moment, the book is elevated from mere adventure story to a tale about equality, compassion, and the basic rights of all people—be they dragons, foreigners with unfamiliar features, or boys in dresses.

In the end, the success of The Empress Sword lies in the normalizing of transgender characters and heroes who treat everyone around them equally, and offering a fantastic quest adventure yarn for young people that teaches as well as entertains.

My 13

milkboys Films, Films & Cinema 6 Comments

Jonathan is in love with Julie. Unable to gather the courage to speak to Julie, Jonathan formulates a plan to steal her diary, which he believes would reveal to him the way to impress his crush. The plan includes befriending Julie’s brother Charles who is Jonathan’s classmate. Thanks to Charles, Jonathan gets an invitation to a party at their house.

During the party, Jonathan manages to steal the diary, excuses himself and heads home to read it. On one of the pages of the diary, he finds a drawn heart and the name …Jonathan. He is overjoyed until he realises what’s really going on…

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Raised Without Gender

milkboys News & Opinions 11 Comments

A new documentary heads to Sweden, home to gender neutral kindergartens and gender non-conforming families, to find out what it’s like to grow up beyond the binary.

With recent victories for the trans rights movement, and more young people defining as something other than “male” or “female” than ever before, Amelia Abraham visits Sweden – arguably the world’s most forward-thinking country when it comes to questioning gender – to find out what it’s like to grow up without the gender binary.

In Sweden, the gender neutral pronoun “hen” has been in the national dictionary since 2015 and is now commonly used by most Swedes. Since 1998, the Swedish government’s school plan has forbidden enforcing gender stereotypes, and government-funded gender neutral kindergartens with gender aware teachers has made it possible for families to raise their children without a set gender identity – something that often sparks controversy in the foreign press.

Amelia spends time with one of these gender non-conforming families, made up of mapa (mum and dad) Del LaGrace Volcano, who was born intersex (both male and female); the children, five-year-old Mika and three-year-old Nico, and their grandma, Margareta. She visits Mika and Nico’s gender aware kindergarten to find out what the teachers and the other kids make of Mika’s gender expression. She also meets Lotta Rajalin, the founder of Sweden’s gender-neutral kindergartens, to learn how they go about deleting gender norms from education, as well as psychiatrist Dr Eberhard, who is against Sweden’s attitude to gender in kindergartens.

Greyson’s Gay

milkboys Music & Dance, News 15 Comments

Greyson Chance first made waves in public with an amazingly accomplished cover of “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga, which went viral after he performed it for Ellen DeGeneres at the age of 12.

Today, Greyson has announced on Instagram that he’s gay, and explains why it took him a bit of time to acknowledge his sexuality.

“I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen,” he writes. “I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin.” He also explained his perspective that his sexuality wasn’t necessarily the most interesting topic of conversation: “I always found conversations regarding music, politics, art, books — and the greatness of Nas’ catalog —to be far more interesting than what type of guy I was into. This is still true today.”

He changed his mind after reading an inspirational message from one of his fans, which made him realize the importance of LGBTQ visibility — even if you have to find it on your own terms.

“I encourage anyone who is navigating their sexuality to devote as much time as they need to the process of finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love,” he says. “Hell, for me, it took years to write this message.”

The decision to write this came after I received a message from a brave individual. Such message inspired me to shed light on an aspect of my private life which I have kept distant from my career in music. I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen. I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin. Further, I always found conversations regarding music, politics, art, books – and the greatness of Nas’ catalog – to be far more interesting than what type of guy I was into. This is still true today. While this message is most definitely overdue, I encourage anyone who is navigating their sexuality to devote as much time as they need to the process of finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love. Hell, for me, it took years to write this message. Nevertheless, I figured now was the time to let a few more friends know that I am happy, I am here for you, and I am proud of who I am. Cheers -G

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Gisberta

milkboys Films, Films & Cinema 5 Comments

Again and again Elisha finds himself confronted by Alex, Timo, Sascha, and Mika – all 14-year-olds living in the boys’ orphanage with him. Their worlds ought to be similar and yet they are completely different. While Elisha builds tiny obstacle courses for ants in the woods, the other boys spend their days watching porn, absorbed in their emerging sexual fantasies.

When the attractive 31-year-old Gisberta is newly employed at the orphanage, she quickly becomes the object of their desires and the boys try to approach her with clumsily aggressive adolescent behavior. Elisha, however, actually gets to know Gisberta.

Alex, who has his eyes everywhere, discovers the two laughing in the kitchen. His erupting jealousy drives the group to continuously humiliate Elisha in any way possible, but this just brings Elisha closer to Gisberta, and a tender friendship develops between them.

But one day the sexual fantasies of the other boys take a turn to brutal reality.