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Musings that have been floating around in my brain for the past several months re: fic and changing bodies and identity and gender and how that plays out in different fandoms.

Okay, so you know those fics where X character wakes up or gets zapped by an Ancient machine or magic or what-have-you, and a previously female character ends up in a male body, or a male one ends up in a female body? (I've never read anything where the author tackled intersex people, so I can't speak for those)

It kind of varies between fandoms, but I've been noticing a spate of it in the Japanese/Jpop and Korean/Kpop fandoms I'm in lately. And it happens a lot where when, say a male character wakes up in a female body, suddenly everyone around them is awkward and treats them like they changed genders, and switch pronouns, and that character starts trying to display traits marked as "feminine", and usually somewhere in there we have a party of describing their new appearance (and clothes) and somehow sex ends up getting involved in the name of exploration.

...honestly I am guilty of some that in one fic I wrote, but that fic gave me so much trouble because I was adamant about keeping the pronouns, because in my head I *knew* the characters still thought of themselves as male, they were in essence borrowing the bodies for a while, and deciding to try performing a different gender as part of the experience. But I still felt kinda icky at myself for putting them through that gaze experience of "hey, let's dress you up girly and describe every bit of how you look for the audience now". Sorry for putting you through it, lovely betas! ^^;;

And honestly I should have known better than to call it genderswap, given all the stuff I've done in school about sex and gender not being the same thing. But that was the term available, and I didn't think to try a new or different one. And then I hit Kpop fic and the pronoun-switching was going on all over the place. On second thought, it might with a stretch be considered genderswap because the authors were making their body-switched characters think of themselves as a different gender, and perform a different gender. It still kind of bothered me that the sexswap caused the person to suddenly change their behavior and thought-processes so much, because in most cases I'm not sure the author was trying to discuss issues of gender identity at all.

Anyway, I'd hesitated to post anything about it because while I like being kind of androgynous, I mostly identify female and I don't think of myself as being trans, so I didn't want to speak for that experience.

*****
Luckily! And the point of this post! Iambickilometer made a post called Five+ Ways Being Transgender in Fandom Really Sucks, and Why I Stick With It Anyway and [livejournal.com profile] gyzym linked to it and had some interesting discussion of her own here.

I'm curious about your thoughts? .____.

...love to you all, I'm still alive. ♥

Date: 2011-03-27 08:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hedgerose.livejournal.com
Your linking to [livejournal.com profile] iambickilometer's post was allll confusing because I know both you and him IRL, but both of these posts are about fandom. Agh. Worlds collide!

Date: 2011-03-28 05:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmia.livejournal.com
Hee. Brain explody? ^^ Also hi, how are you? Still hang out with E and G from time to time? :D

Date: 2011-03-28 06:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hedgerose.livejournal.com
Yep, very brain-explody. I'm good! I don't see E and G as often as I'd like to, but we do still hang out occasionally-- they're up further north than is conveniently driveable for me.

Date: 2011-03-27 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kitty-tape.livejournal.com
Misfile is a web comic that I think kind of gets it right. The premise is that an incompetent angel accidentally messed up two people's lives by mixing up papers from their "files". One of the characters became two years younger, the other (Ash) goes from biologically male to female. One of the persistent themes is Ash's lack of comfort with suddenly being a woman, and his wondering whether certain behaviors (caused by the trials of high school life) are because his mind is becoming more girly or if his male self would have done the same thing.

Date: 2011-03-28 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmia.livejournal.com
Ooh, thank you very much for the link! I love how this post has turned into recs.

See, that makes sense to me, and I would love more body/sex-swap stories to explore that sense of discomfort and displacement more. And since you talk about the mind-body relationship being one of the themes, I definitely need to check out that web comic.

I might be going in circles, but I guess that's the major point of being trans, where the perception of self doesn't match up with the physical reality, and how does what's going on with the physical body affect what's going on with one's mind/personality development/perception of the world.

Thank you! ♥ And how are you doing, how's life up north? ♥

Date: 2011-03-29 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kitty-tape.livejournal.com
I'm well! We're busy, busy, but good. How are you?
From: [identity profile] kegom.livejournal.com
I read Iambickilometer's post too, some time ago, and it really opened my eyes to some stuff that seems rather poorly thought out. (Of course I'm sure there're exceptions, but so far I haven't seen any.) I did use to wonder about stuff like sex-swapped people immediately deciding to try out their new body by having sex with it, but of course, since I'm asexual, that was something I was bound to notice. But I never really thought about the fact that any cis-gendered person would be bound to feel horribly uncomfortable in an opposite-sex body, even though the thought of waking up in a man's body without knowing when I might change back is pretty horrifying to me when I really think about it.


I think suspension of disbelief can be kept up quite well, if there's enough basis for the acceptance of the opposite-sex appearance and if the gender of the person that's changed isn't changed as well. If the characters are Arashi (or V6), for example (wasn't your fic the one where the whole of JE were changed and Arashi went home to have an orgy? Or do I confuse you with someone else?), I can easily believe that, since they're already subjected to so much sex/gender related madness (just how often have they cross-dressed yet?), their public personas would react quite calmly to the situation, as long as they knew that they'd probably turn back again pretty soon.
If the characters were Western actors or, say, the characters from Hikaru no Go, for example, who're not subjected to the craziness of the Japanese entertainment industry, I'd have a far harder time believing that they'd just as easily accept the change.


The thing you mention at the beginning - the characters suddenly starting to behave like girls and thinking of themselves as such - is something that I can't suspend my disbelief of, though. Plus, it annoys me on the same level that feminized OOC characters annoy me: Whether we want it to be or not, gender is still a pretty big issue in pretty much all human societies (even children as young as four or five will be curious to know whether a small baby is a boy or a girl!) and it influences the way we think in a thousand little ways (it's such a difficult and huge topic that I once spent an entire night talking about that with my brother, who's a sociologist), so changing the gender of a character takes something away from his/her "true" characterisation. Plus, I can't help but suspect that the "all fanfic writers are girls" - and often younger girls as well - principle comes into play here: since the fanfic writers are girls, they turn the characters into the gender that they themselves know better, complete with female thought processes and pronouns. And personally, I think something like that is just laziness and sloppy writing. :(

To be completely fair to fanfiction writers, though, it's something "real" authors do as well. Most anime and manga hero/ines have little problems with their temporary sex-reassignment and while, for example, "The Day of Revolution" by Mikiyo Tsuda actually attempts to handle some of the problems with being of the opposite gender suddenly (after the intersexed hero/ine decides to live as a girl instead of a boy), I still couldn't quite believe just how quick the hero, who'd spent 15 years growing up as a boy and didn't give any signs of being transgendered before the discovery of his intersexed biology, adjusted to being a girl. :(
(And let's not talk about Ozma of Oz...)

Edit: Sorry, I just noticed I missed typing some words!
Edited Date: 2011-03-27 08:51 pm (UTC)

Part 2!

Date: 2011-03-27 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kegom.livejournal.com
Btw, if you're curious, TV Tropes have a nice page with good and not-so-good examples for Gender Bender, with links to some very nice "laws" of sex-swaps that can be found in pretty much all media. (They do, btw, address the "gender" issue on that page, but skirt it by just giving the disclaimer that they work with the "old" definition of gender. I guess it would be too complicated to change the page's title when basically everyone knows such stories as "gender bender" or "gender swap", even if it's not quite correct.)
They also have a page about "the mind is a plaything of the body", which is a trope that might actually allow authors to (more or less valiantly) do the kinds of changes in personality... though I guess they'd have to know the trope first, which I somehow doubt with some of those fanfiction authors. ^^"

Date: 2011-03-28 06:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] artemidora.livejournal.com
Ha! I read iambickilometer's post earlier today!

I really enjoyed the gender-identity stuff in this Sherlock story I read recently: Equivalence by [livejournal.com profile] introductory. I don't think you've watched Sherlock? But the story is mainly about a minor character who gets basically no development onscreen, so you don't really need to have seen it; you can get by just with knowing that it's a version of the Sherlock Holmes stories set in modern-day London. (You could probably get by with even less than that, honestly.) The companion story by another author, linked in that entry, was also lovely. They're wonderful and make me all warm and fuzzy inside. ♥

Date: 2011-03-28 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmia.livejournal.com
Ooh, I'll have to check that out. I still haven't watched any Sherlock, though I did read that one trans Sherlock story that I talked to you about (did you link it to me? I think I found it via someone else and you were going to link to me. The one with the not!mpreg.)

Date: 2011-03-30 07:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scififreak.livejournal.com
Thanks for the link, Helen! I really enjoyed that post. It really got me to thinking about my fandoms. I'm fortunate that my main reading fandom, SGA, has quite a few trans stories. And a few intersex stories. And most that I've read are not too bad, and some are even excellent.

I'm thinking of two stories off the top of my head. In one, John and two other Red Shirts are swapped by a Ancient artifact (of course, right?) on an away mission. The interesting part is that all three of them are shown to have very different reactions to the change. One is very happy because he has always wanted to be female and was trans and no one knew it. The other person is very unhappy and cant' get used to the change. To the point that he accepts reassignment surgery to get a male body back. John, our main character, decides to do nothing. If an ability to change back comes up, he'll go for it, but he's not especially attached to either gender, so he learns to adapt to his new body and moves on.

In another good fic, John is MtF and fully transitions over the course of the whole (long) story. The great thing about it is how deeply they touch on all aspects of the issue. And not just John's life, but the lives of the people around him. Esp Cam, who is in love with John, but has his own hard journey of acceptance and soul searching to do. It also starts from the end, post-transition, and works its way back to the beginning. So at the start of the fic I had no idea I was reading "John's" pov because of how fully female she was.

I also once read a really interesting HP fic where Ginny was a MtF who was sex reassigned with magic, by Arthur, at birth so that Molly would think that she had a girl and would stop trying for one (having all the kids was killing her). Ginny didn't know this until she hit puberty and some crazy changes started taking place...like a menstrual penis. It makes sense in context. lol

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