Without further ado: Since my tumblr has apparently become a Discworld blog – introducing someone else to a fandom turns out to be surprisingly similar to initial immersion when it comes to said fandom colonising your thoughts all the time – I thought I may as well have my flail about Monstrous Regiment and why it is my faaaaaavourite aside from all my other favourites. Er, and then it sort of turned into a kind of essay like thingy? So be warned :P
Amazing as Terry Pratchett is generally, he’s always been kind of short on LGBT inclusion – oh, there’s any number of characters that could be background gays, but when it comes to named characters and canon sexuality, he seemed a bit flummoxed for quite a while. Aside from Nobby Nobbs’ awkward comic relief cross-dressing, the closest thing for a long time was the fact that Dwarfs, we were allowed to assume, did whatever they did and nobody Mentioned Gender, so really any given dwarf couple were Schrodinger’s Queers. They also got the closet metaphor with the whole “coming out as female” thing, and I believe later there was one named dwarf who was in fact transgender as we would understand it. But at the same time, Trolls, whose genders were usually clear, managed to fail the Bechdel Test as a species.
And then came Monstrous Regiment, the book which increased genderqueer visibility in fantasy fiction by approximately 300%, as well as introducing the Disc’s first proper lesbian couple and quite possibly failing the Reverse Bechdel Test.
The trope of a girl dressing up as a boy to join a traditionally male military institution is old stuff by now, the most salient example in my reading being Tamora Pierce’s Lioness series. It’s a fairly polar trope, really – on the one hand, you get what is usually a fairly badass woman doing badass things and being as good as or usually better than any number of boys (who are not, after all, protagonists) – but at the same time, it means your main character can quite easily be the only female character of note, and as a tomboy in a gender-segregated society she’s not likely to have great relationships with other women who fit into their assigned social roles – conveniently perpetuating the Not Like Other Girls idea that’s partly responsible for the massive difference in popularity between Arya and Sansa Stark.
( Spoilers yonder! )