Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Women in Trousers

The Legend of Mu Lan

China has its own androgynous figure with the legend of Hua Mulan.  She is famous for disguising herself as a man and for fighting in many bloody campaigns before returning home and being outed as a woman at her home near Luoyang in Henan.  Maxine Hong Kingston uses the motif in her Woman Warrior of 1975, as does Disney in Mulan, its animated film of 1998.

History has thrown up other fascinating figures of androgynous or downright mysterious gender and one of the most interesting is the 19th century British Army surgeon James Barry, who seems in the end to have actually been a woman.

This is the theatrical poster for Disney's Mulan:


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