Welcome Home, Jean: A Trans Reading of House of X

In 1991, like many, I discovered the X-Men — Marvel Comics’ merry band of mutants. People born with fantastic and imaginative powers who live in a world of humans who hate and fear them. First through the beloved animated series, and soon after via the X-Men comics I fell in love with the characters. At the time I was just beginning to realize that I was transgender. I hadn’t arrived at that conclusion yet, all I knew was I felt off and what I was learning from my health book in grade school was terrifying. In the months that followed I continued to learn more about the X-Men, and myself… I‘d learned the word “transsexual” from a Jerry Springer episode, an episode that served to simultaneously give me a word for what I was feeling, and taught me that embracing my gender identity was a very bad idea. So I sought solace in the world of the X-Men.

Over time as new writers came on board, I fell away from the X-Men. Their world had gone from optimistic, to incredibly pessimistic. They’d fallen victim to genocide events — Genosha, House of M, the M-Pox. Their leader had been changed from a kind, caring, father figure into a murderous fetus, an abusive and manipulative villain, or worse (depending on the writer at the time). They’d been pulled away from their core message and motivation and forced to merely survive and just take abuse from external forces and those within. It was a dark period for the X-Men, which I for the most part avoided. So when I heard about Marvel’s latest attempt to relaunch the X-Men line of comics I was skeptical — but intrigued. I really — really — wanted the X-Men back. I longed to escape into their world again. So, when House of X issues began releasing I read them. What I found was a profound and affirming modernization of the X-Men and their core mythology. This refocus has brought the X-Men back to their former glory while re-establishing and modernizing their metaphor to marginalized people in our society in an effective and affirming manner.

Within the first pages we’re shown a completely different vision of the mutants. They don’t look the same, they’re no longer at a School for Gifted Youngsters, but they’re distinctly still the X-Men. We soon find Jean Grey escorting a group of young mutants to their new home, Krakoa — a Mutant Nation. Xavier telepathically greets Jean as they enter, “Welcome home, Jean. You’re safe here. We all are” he says.

Professor Xavier welcomes Jean home in House of X #1
House of X #1 (Marvel Comics, July 2019)

With just three panels it’s established what the X-Men have built here: a safe place. A place to live free of humanity’s oppression, to live with their families, free of worry of the next great atrocity that will be visited upon them — a home. Upon hearing Xavier’s words, Jean is teary eyed and smiles. These panels are particularly poignant to me. Back when I first heard the word transsexual — via Jerry Springer — I’d have loved a place like Krakoa. A place where I could be surrounded by people that genuinely understand and care, to explore my feelings safely and without judgement.

Living day to day as a trans woman, you come to accept that in public spaces you’re never truly safe from harm, either psychological or physical, due to your identity. After finally accepting my identity and reaching out to others in the trans community, I found a recurring narrative, a shared dream, spoken of in trans circles. A community for trans people and by trans people, where we can live free of all the baggage that society heaps upon us. Somewhere that is truly a safe space to be ourselves, to own our identities, and be free of judgement or prejudice or malice or misguided fear is a very precious dream, as I’m sure it is for many marginalized people. In that sense, Krakoa is a kind of wish fulfillment. Krakoa modernizes X-Men lore by creating a place where mutants can be mutants, rather than hide and attempt to “pass” for humans at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. They no longer have to exist in the world constantly on the defensive, constantly in fear.

House of X #1 (Marvel Comics, July 2019)

They have safety. They have a home. They have hope.

One thought on “Welcome Home, Jean: A Trans Reading of House of X

  1. This was almost my exact reaction to HoX/PoX. While I’ve loved the X-books for decades, the mutant metaphor never entirely worked for me as a trans woman until now. A community built by us, for us resonated so strongly!

    It’s been … interesting to see how much of the white cishet male audience has a different reaction to the idea of a mutant haven. I don’t look at Krakoa and see “culty”, I see a marginalized population that feels safe for the first time.

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