A Trans Heart in Arya Stark’s Story
Game of Thrones was never must-see TV for me. I enjoyed it, but it was easy to forget after the episodes ended.
Then Arya Stark traveled to the House of Black and White to join the Faceless Men and something changed.
Now, I’m not saying Arya is a trans character. The language of our world doesn’t belong to the Seven Kingdoms. Yet I can’t help but watch the show with the one trans heart I have. I want to tell you why Arya matters so much to it.
It’s not just that she’s always been a gender non-confirming girl, preferring swords to dresses. I was and wasn’t that kind of girl, too.
And it’s not just that she lived as a boy for years in order to survive. I was and wasn’t that kind of boy, too.
No, it’s what happened at the House of Black and White that made me care so much for Arya Stark. Because I’ll tell you this: if our own world had a temple for faceless assassins, trans people would run that shit. We know what it means to say “a girl has no name.” I was and wasn’t that kind of girl, too.
Every trans person’s dysphoria is different. More than anything, mine was a kind of facelessness, a disassociation from my body. Zinnia Jones wrote in 5 Things to Know about Transgender Depersonalization:
Depersonalization disorder is chronic and unremitting; most individuals experience its onset in adolescence, while others report it being present since their childhood. Studies have found that trans people are anywhere from 3 to 18 times more likely to experience this chronic syndrome compared to the general population, and depersonalization has been a theme of numerous personal accounts and memoirs of trans people for decades.
Here I am writing about my own depersonalization (without knowing it) in my play, Other Bodies:
“And it was just then someone came up behind me and turned a switch and a different me took over and I was just watching. I was just watching as this other me made her laugh, made her laugh! I was just watching the third drink, the fourth, the fifth; it wasn’t really me walking her home, and it wasn’t my hand brushing hers, and even though I knew I wanted to go in, to go upstairs with her; it took that other man to say it.”
In my earliest dreams I was a shapeshifter. I didn’t fit in my own body. As the inevitabilities of gender broke over me, my longing became unbearable, so I gave that longing to a girl with no name.
So you can see how Arya, who already was so much like the girl and boy I was and wasn’t, you can see how her journey to the House of Black and White awoke something deep inside me. She gave up her name and didn’t. She died but lived. She shifted her shape without losing her self. This is my trans heart in Arya Stark’s story.
And when Arya Stark plunged her Valyrian steel dagger into the Night King, well…do you think I cried and cheered and danced around the room? Yeah. Because:
Let us walk away from the Many-Faced God of Death as our whole selves and we can save the world.