Can We Talk About Dinsey’s Transgender Princess?

There has been as lot of fan discussion about Frozen over the past several months, a movie that has (justifiably) stirred strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum. It’s a movie that deserves to be talked about, balanced as it is between being Disney’s first major animated feature directed by a woman and containing some progressive notions of sisterhood and staggeringly obvious allegories to growing up queer, and the blatantly racist white-washing of history and the problematic comments of its head of animation complaining that women are hard to animate because emotions. I’m glad it’s stirring debate and that the debate raising awareness, and will hopefully lead us to a future with better, more inclusive animated features for everyone.

But why does no one ever talk about the fact that Jasmine is trans?

Disney’s Aladdin came out 22 years ago. It is old enough to drink. And it gave us the first transgender Disney princess, but no one ever talks about her being trans. Why not?

Jasmine is a princess with no ladies in waiting, no handmaidens, no female servants of any kind. In fact, the only servants she has are guards. Male guards. Male guards who are very clearly not intended to be eunuchs. That’s… a bit odd, especially considering her father is obsessed with keeping her isolated and hidden in the palace, and with strictly obeying marriage laws which, we can assume (since three men stand around arguing over who gets to deflower marry her) depend heavily on her remaining a virgin.

But we see later in the movie that the Sultan can change the marriage laws on a whim. This speaks to a man trying to teach his child a lesson about how hard it is being a woman. It speaks to a man trying to convince his daughter not to be a woman.

Jasmine’s only companion besides her creepy male guards and out-of-touch father is her pet tiger, Raja. The princess’s tiger is literally named “Prince.” And her “prince,” which seems large and scary at first glance despite being loveable and fun, keeps driving away male suitors. And what’s one of the first things Jafar decides he needs to do when he wants to sexualize Jasmine? He shrinks her tiger.

And let’s talk about that red outfit Jafar puts her in. Jasmine is one of the few Disney princess to be overtly sexualized. And if there’s one things cis people love to do, it’s sexualize trans women. After all, changing your gender presentation can’t be about seeing the world through more genuine eyes or being a more fulfilled person, like Jasmine talks about wanting in her introduction; it must be about sex. It’s not exactly a trope in Disney movies that the heroine needs to be vamped up when captured; The Horned King doesn’t sexualize Eilonwy, Beast doesn’t put Belle in something more revealing, Malificent doesn’t sexualize Aurora (despite Malificent obviously being gay). Even Disney’s other princesses of color don’t end up getting that kind of egregious treatment, even though white people love to eroticize women of color.

Jasmine hails from one of the most medically- and scientifically-literate cultures in the ancient world. A culture that already had a concept of transgender women, and has transgender priestess of various faiths. So it’s hardly a stretch to believe it isn’t appropriate for a fantastical, Arabian-knights-style setting.

So let’s talk about this. Let’s stop hiding the fact. Maybe it was too taboo to discuss in 1992, but it’s 2014 now and Jasmine is Disney’s first trans princess, and more people need to know.

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    It like when they see trans narrative written BY trans women, and call them confusing or ambiguous because we don’t...
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