No Lovin’ Queers Allowed!

A Ranty Review of No Girls Allowed

I came upon this graphic collection of stories (as opposed to “graphic novel”) at the library, and quickly checked it out. I was thinking of some of the tomboys I know who could really do with a book like this. One little girl in particular was very interested in going to “Twelfth Night” because she heard the women dressed as men. She was disappointed with the whole thing, I heard; not quite what she’d hoped for, all that tittery het titillation. And No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Willow Dawson, Kids Can Press, 2008, also disappoints.

The subjects of the stories are: Hatshepesut, Mu Lan, Alfhild, Esther Brandeau, James Barry, Ellen Craft, and Sarah Rosetta Wakeman.

Hatshepesut and James Barry are the only ones who don’t have love interest of the male persuasion – they don’t have no love interests at all, despite the fact that James Barry, for one, seems to me to have very probably been queer. The rest of them dress as men for various reasons, including helping to save their husbands (Ellen Craft impersonated a white slave owner to get herself and her husband up to the north and freedom) but end up getting together with men and being happy to don female weeds once more.

Let me ask the question I asked when I reviewed My Dog Tulip by J.A. Ackerley in a previous blog: In this day and age, can’t we expect a little more? Can’t we expect the queers to be seen and recognized? (Speaking of queers and dogs, here is a weird thing: James Barry always had a poodle, apparently, and always called it Psyche.)

For those little tomboys who are yearning to put on boys’ clothes and have adventures that don’t involve marrying men in the end? Maybe just one wee story? In a book about women dressing as men? Hello? I know nothing about James Barry (born Margaret Anne Buckley) other than what I just read in this book, but obviously she felt very comfortable in men’s clothing, was hugely ambitious (she became an incredibly renowned and popular doctor), and – I’m just guessing here – PROBABLY HAD A SEXUALITY!!! Now, there’s a concept. Surely someone knows something about this and just a little of her love life could have been included – the straight women’s love lives were front and center.

Ok, even if little to nothing is known about James other than his passion for poodles called Psyche, couldn’t the writer and illustrator have included just one story about a woman who dressed as a man because she was QUEER and it allowed her to get on with her life and marry the woman she loved? All I’m coming up with here is Patience and Sarah, who aren’t real people (only wonderful butch/femme characters from Isabel Miller’s fabulous novel, Patience and Sarah), but just because I’m blanking out on my queer history doesn’t mean there isn’t anybody.

If you got up the guts to check this book out, you little tomboys out there, you would get something, yes, but maybe not what you were really, subconsciously, looking for, not that potentially life-saving nod to how you imagine yourself as a grownup. And that is a real blow to your love, freedom and adventure; not at all what the book so earnestly set out to do. And BOY is that a shame!

Published in: on October 5, 2009 at 6:23 AM  Leave a Comment