A voice inside her whispered, There are no heroes, and she remembered what Lord Petyr had said to her, here in this very hall. “Life is not a song, sweeting,” he’d told her. “You may learn that one day to your sorrow.” In life, the monsters win, she told herself.
All of A Song of Ice and Fire is bleak: mostly unsympathetic people have a ghastly time, then die. Very occasionally, courage is rewarded, but more often betrayal and trickery. One of the oaths sworn is “Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.” That does not turn out well, though. Some characters, such as Sansa, believe in honour and chivalry, even after seeing its opposite close to: “True knights protect the weak.” But this idea is mocked: “When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die,” Cersei tells Eddard Stark. Life is harsh:
The Peaceful People, [Missandei’s] folk were called. All agreed that they made the best slaves.
What about the trans people? Brienne of Tarth is mocked so long as a freak she believes it herself.
Had Brienne been a man, she would have been called big; for a woman, she was huge. Freakish was the word she had heard all her life. She was broad in the shoulder and broader in the hips. Her legs were long, her arms thick. Her chest was more muscle than bosom. Her hands were big, her feet enormous. And she was ugly besides, with a freckled, horsey face and teeth that seemed almost too big for her mouth. She did not need to be reminded of any of that.
She does not see herself as trans, as the concept does not exist in Westeros, but she takes a man’s role, as a knight. She is hated for it.
The Maid of Tarth had seen such eyes before. Lady Stark had been kind to her, but most women were just as cruel as men. She could not have said which she found most hurtful, the pretty girls with their waspish tongues and brittle laughter or the cold-eyed ladies who hid their disdain behind a mask of courtesy. And common women could be worse than either.
Randyll Tarly is typical:
“Some men are blessed with sons, some with daughters. No man deserves to be cursed with such as you.”
Renly’s acceptance made Brienne forever loyal:
She was prepared for coldness, for mockery, for hostility. She had supped upon such meat before. It was not the scorn of the many that left her confused and vulnerable, but the kindness of the few.
Only Podrick Payne, who acts as her squire, shows respect, addressing her as “Ser, my lady”.
Possibly there is a trans woman, mentioned once:
Some of the dockside whores were vicious, and sailors fresh from the sea never knew which ones. S’vrone was the worst. Everyone said she had robbed and killed a dozen men, rolling the bodies into the canals to feed the eels. The Drunken Daughter could be sweet when sober, but not with wine in her. And Canker Jeyne was really a man.
Prince Doran’s brother Oberyn has bastard daughters known as the sand snakes:
Obara Sand moved first. Even without her whip and shield, she had an angry mannish look to her. In place of a gown, she wore men’s breeches and a calf-length linen tunic, cinched at the waist with a belt of copper suns. Her brown hair was tied back in a knot. Snatching the skull from the maester’s soft pink hands, she placed it up atop the marble column.
Like in real life, women can be soldiers, pretending to be men, possibly trans men, though they are seen as remarkable:
“Did Mance ever sing of Brave Danny Flint?” “Not as I recall. Who was he?” “A girl who dressed up like a boy to take the black. Her song is sad and pretty. What happened to her wasn’t.” In some versions of the song, her ghost still walked the Nightfort.
The warrior witch Morna removed her weirwood mask just long enough to kiss [Jon Snow’s] gloved hand and swear to be his man or his woman, whichever he preferred.
There’s a bit of female domination, by magic:
Melisandre spoke softly in a strange tongue. The ruby at her throat throbbed slowly, and Jon saw that the smaller stone on Rattleshirt’s wrist was brightening and darkening as well. “So long as he wears the gem he is bound to me, blood and soul,” the red priestess said. “This man will serve you faithfully. The flames do not lie, Lord Snow.”
Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell, threatens his creature:
“She has no handmaids, poor thing,” he had said to Theon. “That leaves you, Reek. Should I put you in a dress?” He laughed. “Perhaps if you beg it of me. Just now, it will suffice for you to be her bath maid. I won’t have her smelling like you.”
There’s a slave hermaphrodite, who fulfils a trans cliché- that we are freakish, and imagine that makes us interesting:
a willowy creature called Sweets who dressed in moonstones and Myrish lace. “You are trying to decide if I’m a man or woman,” Sweets said, when she was brought before the dwarfs. Then she lifted her skirts and showed them what was underneath. “I’m both, and master loves me best.”
George RR Martin brings forth the worst of trans experience: the mockery and disdain, the violence, but everyone in his world has a horrible time. He does not single out trans people particularly.