Caeneus and the Transphobic Centaur

CW: Ancient misgendering, ancient deadnaming.

Set up is the story of Caeneus (masculine) who used to be Cainis (feminine). Cainis, as a woman, was raped by Neptune, who then gave her any boon she wanted, so she requested to become a man so she could never be raped again. Neptune made it so they could never even be penetrated in any way ever again, turning Cainis into the man – and ultimately warrior – Caeneus. During the battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs, a centaur named Latreus comes upon Caeneus and deadnames and misgenders him, trying to put him “in his place”:

“Cainis, you bitch! Must I tolerate you? You will always be female / and Cainis to me. Perhaps you forget your original sex. / Do you ever recall what you did to deserve your reward? Do you think / of the price which you paid to achieve this specious / masculine body? Look at the girl you were born and the shame that she suffered. Then go, / return to your distaff and basket of wool. Go back to your spinning, / and lave the fighting to men!”

Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.469-476; trans. Raeburn

Caeneus subsequently defeated Latreus in battle. Though later the other centaurs buried Caeneus under forest-worth of trees to suffocate him (remember he cannot be penetrated by a sword or spear), and Caeneus transformed into a bird.

Some things never change I guess. Here a hyper-masculine centaur cannot accept that a trans-man is more manly than he is (and, it turns out, he is!), so turns to taunts, deadnames (Cainis to me), misgendering (female … to me). It’s all relational here. But when all the talk is over, when the social posturing is done, Caeneus is more man that Latreus can handle.

Here’s to all my trans-masculine / trans men friends who are such amazing men!

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