“You see… when those Elements are ignited by the… the spark, that resides in the heart of us all, it creates the sixth element: the element of… magic!”-
– Twilight Sparkle, unicorn, My Little Pony films
Part 1 of this post discussed the unicorn as pop culture meme, the ways this mythical creature has been coded feminine in consumer culture and its inherent connection to rainbows.
In (my abridged version of) Noah’s arc; god floods the earth, Noah builds an arc big enough for two of each animal to repopulate, the unicorns get left behind, afterwards god send a rainbow. And why were the unicorns left behind? I am delighted to report people seriously debate this in online forums. There, I learned theories include: they were too slow and missed out, they were too dangerous with their big pointy horns and their Uber driver got lost on the way to there (kidding!). Unicorns and rainbows, it seems, are a match made in heaven.
I have another theory. Perhaps unicorns just didn’t gel with the idea of the male and female pairings of the arc animals, or being part of that privileged group. He didn’t subscribe to the religious -hetero-patriarchy being enforced on the arc and would rather take his chances in the wilderness. Later, in allegory and fables the unicorn was painted as a wild creature under constant threat of capture, torment and death. Many artworks showed unicorns being chased by hunting dogs, trapped behind a fence or bloodied at the end of a spear.
Yet the spirit of the unicorn resisted, refusing to be tamed. He was an outsider, strange, rare and unknowable. These ideas resonate with the queer experience as a marginalized group, and with queer expressions of gender. Historically the unicorn was understood to be male, but this has shifted. Today’s unicorn, candy coloured and cartoonish, with a glittering coat is coded female. But there is this hard to avoid matter of the very phallic, sword -like horn in the middle of the forehead, which implies masculinity. Rendering the creature both soft and sharp, fierce and friendly, wild and domesticated. In the one creature there exists no/ both/ all/ other genders.
From ancient Greece, to the renaissance, even in Chinese mythology, the history and recurring stories of the unicorn are opaque and hard to pin down. Meanings shift and change, much like the many complex, evolving identities of the queer community. This myth resonates with these marginalised people in this time and place. And has been adapted and adopted, woven into the rich tapestry of queer culture. We own it – it’s ours now.
And finally, the other compelling theories I came up with to explain the links between queers and unicorn which didn’t make this post include:
- Gays are rare and magical AF
- Unicorns are pretty much a horse in drag
- And are the only animal with a dildo on its forehead (Image: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/rainbow-unicorn-background-in-the-rainbow_1229996.htm)