In the beginning, man created the Gods. Not God, not that divine love and peace that surrounds us, not the energy that created the Universe and imbued it with the small daily miracles that show us the existence of a power greater than ours. The gods, those deities of every pantheon around the world that personify the parts of our world and ourselves. Human faces placed upon facets of the Divine so that our limited mind is not only able to understand God but connect with them and commune with them.
The mythology of a culture, any culture, has always reflected the beliefs and customs of that culture. One of the roles of myth is to explain why things are the way they are. Because myth reflects the human condition, it is no surprise that gay, transgender and gender fluid deities are represented in nearly every pantheon around the world. From Agni of Hindu Mythos to Zeus in the Greek, human virtues, faults, failings, and sexuality have been reflected in our gods and our myths.
After digging through many lists and myths and winnowing down the choice, here are ten that caught my eye.
Zeus: Considering that 95% of Greek myth starts with “and Zeus liked what he saw and decided he would have it” any list about deities and sexuality would not be complete without him. While he is famous for morphing into many different forms and fathering dozens of demigods on mortal women, when it came to selecting his cup-bearer Zeus chose Ganymede, a mortal man known for his beauty. This myth explained the Greek practice of older men selecting younger men and mentoring them while keeping them as lovers. (no one said that all the practices of mythology were still socially acceptable today.)
Apollo The Greek sun god had many lovers, both male and female. As well as his many female lovers, Apollo was also lover to the Macedonian Prince Hyakinthos. After he died, Apollo had him immortalized in the hyacinth flower.
Dionysus: God of wine and song, and the god of transgender and intersex people. Dionysus had many lovers of both genders, some of his most well-known are Adonis, and the satyr Ampelos.
Atum the very first deity in Egyptian creation mythos, Atum was considered both male and female. On their own they produced two children, Shu and Tefnut, the well-known Mother-Father pair of Isis and Osiris appeared several generations later.
Hapi: While generally referred to as male in mythology, Hapi was always depicted with false breasts and beard. It is believed that this was to represent both male and female creative power in their ruling over the Nile which was the life blood of Egypt.
Vishnu/Mohini Vishnu, in Hindu myth is regarded as protector of the world. They are also depicted as Vishnu the male and Mohini the female, making them very much gender-fluid.
Bahuchara Mata: Bahuchara Mata was traveling with her sisters and threatened by the marauder Bapiya. After she and her sisters self-immolated their own breasts, Bapiya was cursed with impotence until he began to dress and act as a woman. Today, the Hindu goddess is worshipped as the originator and patron of the hijras, trans and intersex Bangladeshis considered in the faith to be of a “third gender.”
Bhagavati-devi: Bhagavati-devi is considered today to be the goddess of cross-dressing, and more than 5,000 male worshippers dress as women each year for the ritual Chamayavilakku festival in Kollam. Temple leaders say the tradition has been in place for hundreds of years.
Our gods have always reflected our own thoughts, desires, and beliefs and reflect the society that penned the myths. Historically, these myths, no matter what the society that spawned them, have always emphasized inclusion, and celebrating our differences and the strength that brings us as a civilization. If nothing else, they teach us that every part of the human condition is natural and should be acknowledged.