Loki vs. the Kinsey Scale
In recent comic book news, it was announced that the character of Loki in the Thor comics is going to be portrayed as being both bisexual and being able to switch genders. This has become a polarizing subject for people on both sides of the fence. Some people are pleased to see more LGBTQ characters being introduced into the world of comics, some are offended. Some LGBTQ people are irritated that Loki is a villain in the books and consider this to be negative stereotyping, others applaud the historical accuracy of the character’s portrayal. It’s interesting to see Loki’s sexual activity still has the same ability to churn up chaos and discord even in the 21st century. Loki’s sexuality and fluid gender identity generates change within the universe on an epic scale, creating mythical beasts and monsters, while altering the course of mythic events.
The first of Loki’s unions of note is his relationship with female jötnar Angrboða (Snorri’s Edda, Gylfaginning XXXIV). Although the nature of his relations with the Angrboða is never made entirely clear, we do know that they had procreated on more than one occasion, producing the monsters Fenrir, Jörmungandr, and Hel. Whereas most fertility gods/goddesses will have offspring that are natural phenomena or gifts from the gods, Loki’s offspring are literal agents of chaos and death. Loki is capable of sowing the actual seed of discontent. Fenrir is an instrument of Ragnarök, destined to kill Odin and be destroyed by Odin’s son Víðarr. He is a harbinger of the death of the gods. Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, is a fearsome beast, destined to poison the sky and slay (and be slain by) Thor during the last battle. Hel is the embodiment of death with out great honor. Those not worthy of the pleasures of Valhalla go to Hel. All three of these offspring are death incarnate. Because Loki represents a reversal of expectation, the results of his sexual union are the antithesis of life.Loki’s fluid gender identity comes into play so frequently and at such important moments in the timeline of the gods, that it can’t be seen as anything but his “specialty”. His role as a trickster includes episodes of cross dressing, feminized behavior and appearance, and outright gender-swapping, and this is almost exclusively his domain (Thor’s adventures in drag and Odin’s predilection for seiðr not withstanding). Lokasenna is rife with accusations of his intrinsic feminine nature. Njord says of Loki:
“Small ill does it work, though a woman may have
A lord or a lover or both;
But a wonder it is, that this womanish god
Comes hither, though babes he has borne.”
and more than once Thor states, “Unmanly one, cease, or the mighty hammer, Mjollnir, shall close thy mouth.” (Poetic Edda, Lokasenna 57). Loki changes gender to betray the gods on several occasions; when he fools Frigg into revealing Baldr’s one vulnerability is mistletoe (Snorri’s Edda Gylfaginning) and again when Hel states she will only release Baldr if all the creatures of the earth will weep for him. Loki, presumably in the guise of a giantess, refuses, and Baldr is consigned to Hel’s domain until Ragnarök. Conversely, Loki’s twitchy gender has been used playfully and in service to the gods, as when he assists Thor in regaining Mjollnir (which was probably stolen by Loki in the first place).
Allegedly, Loki promises the moon, the sun, and Freya to an unnamed giant in exchange for fortifications around the realm of the gods, provided he finish the job within three seasons. When it looks like the giant might actually achieve this goal and deprive the gods of Freya (not to mention the sun and the moon), Loki is basically told, “Fix it. We don’t care how.” Loki then transforms not only his gender but his species, and becomes a saucy mare to seduce the giant’s faithful stallion. After spending a lost weekend in the forest with the stallion, the deal with the giant has been nullified and Loki finds himself in a family way. Eleven months later, out pops Odin’s horse Sleipnr While this story seems to have an innocent (if not slightly deviant) ending, it is interesting to note that Sleipnr is believed by some to be more than just your average magical eight-legged horse. The eight legs of Sleipnr are thought to represent the pallbearers that carry a body to their final resting place (Ellis Davidson, H. R Gods And Myths Of Northern Europe). Sleipnr is also the steed taken by Hermóðr to Hel to beg for Baldr’s life. Sleipnr is the steed of the shaman, a conveyance between this world and the world of the dead. Yet again, the issue of Loki’s loins subverts the convention of procreation.
Loki’s sexuality is oddly potent, in fact more is made out of his sexual exploits than any of the gods associated with fertility and fecundity. He is prolific in his progeny, although all his children bear the stigma of death somewhere in their genetic make up. At the same time, he is perceived as being androgynous and even effeminate, and doesn’t seem to shy away from sexual partners regardless of gender or even species. Within Loki is a transgressive representation of the spectrum of human sexuality, with all of its joy, comedy, humiliation, drama, and pain.