Somewhere Under the Rainbow


PSA: Passing under a rainbow will make you trans.

It’s true! I read it in a book about rainbows. I’ll give you the full passage so we are both on the same page:
In some folklore, the rainbow’s most prominent sexual trait is its ability to change people’s gender. For Bohemian girls younger than seven years old, passing beneath the rainbow is a transsexual experience. Hungarians are less restrictive and believe that sex changes happen to anyone who passes through the arch. Serbian, French, and Albanian folklore all give the rainbow transsexual power over humans (and sometimes animals). Two Ohioans recently [1981] offered different accounts of rainbow-driven sex changes. The Chinese I Ching (twelfth century B.C.) hints at the sexual mutability of the rainbow when it says “The rainbow is the combination of yin and yang,” the complementary female and male opposites contained in all life. The seemingly strange optics of real rainbows probably prompts such beliefs.

You don’t say. In case you were wondering, the book I am reading is Raymond L. Lee, Jr., and Alistair B. Fraser, The Rainbow Bridge: Rainbows in Art, Myth, and Science, published by The Pennsylvania State University Press in 2001. The reference to the transsexuality of Bohemian rainbows comes from Carl B. Boyer’s The Rainbow: From Myth to Mathematics, first published in 1959 by Sagamore Press, reprinted by Princeton University Press in 1987. So, fwiw, not exactly new, albeit both acceptable to academic publishing boards.

Both books spend far more time on “the seemingly strange optics of real rainbows” than on folk beliefs, giving such details as the rainbow’s sex changing properties simply, if you will, for local color. They also note, for example, that there are two famous rainbows found in the Bible (Noah’s and Christ’s). They talk about Iris as a goddess of the elements who signalled when the rains were coming, and about the African and South American stories about rainbows eating people. They mention the descriptions of the rainbow as a bridge to heaven and Pathway of Souls among peoples around the world (North American Indians, Japanese, Hawaiians and Polynesians), and how the rainbow has been taken as both a sign of bad luck and of good. 

In myths and legends the world over, as Lee, Fraser, and Boyer show, rainbows provide paths into Faerie and portals to Doom. 

And then comes the kicker: there is no “under” the rainbow, it’s all in our heads, more particularly, our eyes:

Q3: What causes the rainbow’s circular shape? Many drops acting in concert cause the rainbow, and all of these must be at the same angle from the sun (that is, the same angle from the antisolar point). Thus at any instant only those drops before you that are on a 42º circle centered about the antisolar point can send you the concentrated rainbow light. These drops may be at any distance, but they must be on the 42º circle. Put another way, the rainbow is a mosaic of light sent to you by many raindrops as they fall through the surface of the imaginary cone whose tip is at your eye and whose radius is 42º. 

The rainbow is a mosaic of light seen only because your head is centered in a circle at the right angle (42º) to the sun. You cannot pass under the rainbow—because you are already a part of it. Without your eye to catch the refracted rays of the sun at just the right angle, there would be no rainbow. Rainbows, as a medium, “R” Us. 

No wonder we tell so many stories about them. Rainbows are, quite literally, a bridge between the visible and the invisible, the physical, material world and the realm of perception. They exist only as light in interaction with raindrops and our eyes. They are an illusion but real, located between the sun and the shadow of our heads. They project themselves onto us, streaming into our eyes while our heads block out the sun.

But why, therefore, should they change our sex?

The cities and corporations of the Western world are about to enter into a month of rainbows, celebrating with parades and sales the transformation of men and women into all manner of magical creatures: men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, men and women who have sex with women and men, men who have been transformed into women, women who have been transformed into men, men who have been transformed into dogs and other furry animals, women who have been transformed into cats and clowns. 

The power of the rainbow is palpable. Awe-inspiring. Terrible. It makes you sick. It makes you want to join.

Once upon a time, I agreed with the proposition that what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms was none of my business. Surely there could be no danger in men having sex with other men or women having sex with women. It was sterile, after all, merely a matter of physical and emotional pleasure. And we all enjoy physical and emotional pleasure! As long as there were no children involved, what could be the harm?

Thanks to Milo and, more recently, to Moira Greyland Peat, I understand that I was wrong. There are always children involved. But why rainbows?

Here’s the way Milo put it:
The shabby, earthly cult of homosexualism has always been laser-focused on children because it is really a reimagining of a very old, pagan form of worship: blood sacrifice, especially of children by their own kin, in the hope of supernatural reward. It is inversion of divine joy. Everything they do is a pathetic inversion of the good, the whole and the true — even their wretched rainbow, a reappropriation of the symbol of God’s covenant with Noah, explicitly associated with fertility because the ark was populated by heterosexual pairs of animals.

Moira grew up with this sacrifice. Her mother Marion Zimmer Bradley (yes, that Marion Zimmer Bradley) and her father Walter Breen were both gay, both incestuous child abusers, both highly intelligent, and both associated with fantasy and sci-fi. You feel like you just stepped off a ledge into the Noachian flood? This is a dream Moira had just after her father died, the one time she mentions rainbows in her book:

That night, I dreamed I saw my father. I was sitting behind a black desk in an office with a window, and he was walking across the hallway in front of me. I saw him through the window. He was wearing one of his rainbow shirts and he was transfigured with heavenly light. I asked him if he was okay, and he said yes. I asked him if he was dead, and he said he was. He told me he had to see Yeshua. Suddenly I woke up, crying, but feeling at peace.

Walter Breen died in 1990, Marion Zimmer Bradley died in 1999, long before the corporations changed their logos. Why did Moira dream of her father, whom she had had arrested and sent to jail for child molestation, wearing “one of his rainbow shirts” and “transfigured with heavenly light”? She loved her father—“I died that day,” she says, when asked about how she felt at turning her father in—and dreamed of him wearing a rainbow. Even though he was a monster. Even though he was her abuser.

We are fighting the rainbow. We are fighting the transformative power of the light. The terror and the power and the awe of the rainbow is everywhere in the folk traditions of the world, but we in our secular post-modern “science” think only in terms of biology and sex, never in terms of the spiritual energies flowing into us from the rainbow’s refracted light.

We are like children dancing in a thunderstorm, oblivious to the danger of the lightning, giddy with the thought of becoming one with the raindrops. We laugh and play like the unicorns in the song, absorbed by the dance. 

I know I had zero idea about the dangers of the rainbow the Sunday twelve years ago when I marched with members of my then-church in the Chicago Pride Parade. My husband was there with me, and we brought our dog (bad idea—the asphalt was too hot for her paws), and it seemed edgy and delightful to walk down the middle of the street, celebrating “love.” Everyone was decorated with rainbows, and everyone seemed to be having so much fun.

Were we channeling demons? Making sacrifices to the pagan gods? Something has happened in modernity that makes rainbows ubiquitous. Marshall McLuhan would point to the electric light, Henry Adams would point to the electric dynamo. I have been pointing to masks and the trance states they induce. Something powerful has us in its grip, which works on our souls as much as our bodies and minds. Is it sugar? Is it the pirate code? Is it the Iron Horse that feeds the Corn Oligarchs with its sacrifices? Is it the Rainbow Queen with her alchemists, slavery, and gold

What I do know is that with the rainbow comes judgment. Try it this coming month. Try resisting the power of the magic. The backlash (I predict) will be fierce from those who are caught up in dancing in its light. But perhaps this is the reason: the rainbow is, after all, the throne of the Judge. And we know that when the Judge comes, seated on his rainbow throne, he will divide the saved from the damned. Everyone will be present in body as well as soul, and the saved will cross over into the Light, while the damned will be cast into darkness. 

No wonder it is so hard not to get caught up in the rave.

Tl;dr: The less mystical version of this argument: We are all caught up in the rainbow light, not just those marching in the June parades. None of us is immune to its energy; what that means is still to be explored. 

My fellow poet Kilts Khalfan has one argument: “Talking Our Way Out of Rocky Horror: Why Gender Restoration is the Culture War.”

Our new poem Draco Alchemicus is attempting another. Rainbow Time is coming soon!


  1. I read somewhere last night that "Pride' is still among the deadly sins and that Rainbows are still the domain of God?



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