I’ve just finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and thought I would share some of my thoughts on my reading of it. I have had a few things spoiled for me about the next couple of books, but for the most part everything I am about to say is based on my reading of book one of The Gentleman Bastard Sequence. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read the books.
I realise it isn’t canon, but I have been reading the first book through a ‘Queer’ lens (in the Literary Theory kind of way), and have been analysing the story and text with the idea that Locke Lamora is actually a trans man.
This is based on a number of things, and whilst it isn’t supported by anything which couldn’t otherwise be given an explanation, there are some interesting ideas that make the reading possible.
1) Locke’s size. He is decidedly and noticeably thinner and smaller than the others. This is put down to malnutrition when he was younger, but he was adopted into Chain’s care at around 6/7, and was well fed from there. Despite this, he remained small and thinner than the other characters.
2) Locke rejected and doesn’t go by his ‘birth name’, and chose a new name for himself. He only reveals his ‘birth name’ to his best-friend/brother Jean at the end of the book, and the readers don’t see it. Jean professes that he can understand why Locke decided to call himself Locke instead, by stating that he would have changed his name too (Lynch, p. 529). Once again, we find out this name in book 3, but within the context of the first book alone it fits in with the reading that Locke rejected his birth-name because it was female.
3) Locke is a master of disguise and ‘mummery’ with access to a great number of resources. Considering the Gentleman Bastards have a million disguises, lotions and potions to change their appearance, and also had Sabetha in their ranks, it would be strange if they didn’t have a binder among all of those things. Locke would have had access to all of the materials he might want or need to battle any dysphoria.
4) So far as I remember Locke never refers to his own facial hair or a need to shave. In-fact, in chapter 12, part 1, Locke notes of Jean: ‘Normally fastidious, he was now several days unshaven’ (Lynch, p. 383). This suggests they do not have access to a razor during this period of the book. Despite this, Locke’s only complaint about himself is the fact his hair is greasy (Lynch, p. 397). Not once does he mention a stubble of his own. Seeing as Locke was unconscious for several days prior to this point, we know he didn’t shave himself, and it is unlikely Jean shaved Locke. We know Locke doesn’t have any facial hair during that time, however, because he later applies a false bread and a mustache.
The biggest oppositions to the reading are the following:
- Locke is kicked in the groin and is almost sick.
- Locke goes to a brothel but isn’t able to ‘perform’.
- Locke is topless in a scene.
All three of these can be fairly easily argued.
In Chapter 3, part 6, Locke breaks into Don Lorenzo’s house and ends up getting into a scuffle with Conte. In the ensuing struggle, Conte fells Locke by kicking him specifically in the ‘groin’ (Lynch, p. 129). At no point does the narration, or Locke himself refer to the injury as being to the balls, the testicles, or any other specific terminology. Indeed, when asked to describe the pain, Locke states it’s ‘As though I’m with child, and the little bastard is trying to cut his way out with an axe.’ (Lynch, p. 129). Locke’s need to vomit and unsteadiness, as well as the pain of being kicked in the groin, can be ascribed to the fact he was also punched three times in the stomach and solar plexus (Lynch, p. 129).
In Chapter 6, Part 5 Locke has gone to a brothel to ‘get [his] brains wenched out’ (Lynch, p. 251). Despite his intentions however, the next section has Locke lying naked in bed, stating that, ‘This isn’t working’ (Lynch, p. 252). His companion, Felice offers him an aphrodisiac, and we are given the impression that Locke just isn’t getting an erection.
Once again, however, nothing is explicitly named. There is no mention of a penis, or testicles. Felice is described as rubbing Locke’s inner thigh, and Locke refers to himself as ‘nothing resembling aroused’ (Lynch, p. 252), never once using language such as ‘hard’ or ‘stiff’ or other words often ascribed to an erection in fiction. The fact that Locke has a ‘slender line of hair’ (Lynch, p. 252) that runs down his stomach is also not direct evidence that he is cisgendered man.
Finally in Chapter 12, part 1, Locke is topless during a scene. The only two people present, however, are Jean, Locke’s closest friend, and Master Ibelius, a physiker (Doctor). Locke is topless because he had been heavily beaten, and Ibelius applied a poultice to his chest to help heal him. This all occurred while Locke was unconscious. Whilst this does play into the rather uncomfortable trend of trans characters being outed through un-consensual nudity, it never-the-less does not rule out the reading, especially if Jean was already aware of Locke being a trans-man, which would be very likely. This would explain why there were no questions asked when Locke woke up, and Locke did not feel overly uncomfortable. Given that the world contains alchemy which is used to recreate a number of technologies, such as lights, heating and other modern day conveniences, it also isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Locke – given his substantial wealth – was able to purchase a testosterone or hormone equivalent, or even have surgery.
Once again, I am aware this idea was not Scott Lynch’s intention, and that Locke was almost certainly written and conceived as a cisgendered man. However, the book lends itself to the reading, and it is definitely worth considering the text with that literary lens in mind. So far as I currently see it, Locke Lamora is a trans man, and I have yet to find any sufficient evidence that really jars my interpretation.
Lynch, Scott, The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gollancz, London, 2017)
3 thoughts on “The Gentleman Bastard Sequence – Locke Lamora is a Trans Man.”
I stumbled on this by accident but I can’t resist commenting.
Locke is NOT a trans man. From canon, we can gather he is:
A. A normal orphan who came down with Black Whisper
B. The reincarnation of the most powerful Bondsmagi, looking to resurrect his wife
1) Locke’s Size: Being an orphan in Camorr doesn’t feed well most of the time. Being smaller and thinner than others is normal, and someone has to be it. It also helps in subverting expectations as Locke does not appear to be the omnipotent hero.
2) Locke remembers his name: Lamor Acanthus. Why he is uncomfortable is unknown. Maybe it’s trauma after Black Whisper, maybe it’s that everyone knows him by Locke Lamora, maybe he is a reincarnation with his memory fragmented. If the painting at the end of Book 3 is to be believed, he had a red-haired wife and when he died transplanted his body into an orphan boy in an orchestrated Black Whisper event.
3) Locke has a lot of disguises because he’s a bloody conman. He robs the rich. That’s it.
4) Shaving is boring to read about. Jean needs to shave because he’s the manliest guy in the books and fantasy books need to reinforce stereotypes.
I’m not even going to bother arguing against your other points because they’re so absurd. How bout when Locke and Sabetha are together in that little room and about to go further? How about the fact that no other dog leech finds it odd to examine Locke at the start of Book 3? Or that the Bondsmagi who cure him don’t react differently? It doesn’t add up. Considering the clear divide between males and females in the books, it’s hard to justify that EVERYONE feels that being transgender is normal.
If Locke Lamora is ever read in English classrooms, I don’t want people to even consider that he’s trans-male. He’s not. He’s a brilliant con-artist who occasionally messes up colossally and we’re just there to witness it.
Thank you for your comment on my article regarding Locke Lamora as a trans man. I see you feel very strongly about it, and I respect that. You clearly love the series as much as I do. However, you appear not to have correctly read my article, so allow me to clarify a few things.
To begin with, I acknowledge that Locke is not trans canonically. I go on to state this is an interpretation based entirely on the first book, and that I know my arguments do not stand with events that occur in later books. The article is openly based on an interpretation, and is not meant to persuade anyone that Locke is a trans man. Instead it utilizes Barthes’ ‘Death of the author’ to ask readers to exam the book without context, purely as readers. In this case, through a Queer lens.
As a University Lecturer and author, this is an exercise I encourage my pupils to do, as it expands their ability to creatively engage with texts, and subsequently understand how different perspectives may alter perceptions. This is a key way of actually learning how novels work, and whilst I don’t usually agree with Barthes, I do think his ideas are worth exploring. If you want to talk about this in further detail, I would be happy to email you using the provided address left in your comment. It’s always nice to meet another Locke Lamora fan.
Sorry, I forgot to check back here. I would love to talk to you about The Lies of Locke Lamora. I can see where you’re coming from now, it’s just that I love the book as it’s presented, nothing more.