thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2011-01-26 07:52 pm


My last recs set contained the following paragraph:

What is it with the punitive sex changes? I - I just find it fascinating. Plus, I can't help thinking about the punitive sex changes other fandom characters could get. John Sheppard becomes a girl because of his total failure to admit that he has ever had a feeling, and grimly represses his feelings about that, too. Aeryn Sun is turned into a boy for crimes probably relating to being a total badass, and snaps, "I already have a gun. Why would I want a dick?" Lionel Luthor turns Lex into a girl to punish him for being, you know, Lex, and Lex grimly says, "I can work with this," and does. Morgana is turned into a boy for being such a wicked, wicked sorceress, and hacks the person who did it to pieces with a sword. Sherlock Holmes is turned into a girl until he can actually be a decent human being sincerely, and "decent to John Watson" turns out not to count, so he has to stay a girl forever. Seriously - now that I think about it, every fandom imaginable needs this trope.

I meant it only as a reflection on a fictional trope, but I failed to acknowledge that some people live this as a painful reality, and in doing so, I hurt those people. I'm sorry.

(Please note: I can't moderate these comments; I'm just not at my computer reliably enough. I'm leaving them open so people can take further issues up with me if they want to or need to, but please be good to each other, everyone. If you aren't, I will only be able to protect everyone by shutting the comments down.)
feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)

[personal profile] feanna 2011-01-27 04:35 am (UTC)(link)
As I commented on the on the original posts quite a bit (even recognizing that genderswap (swap as in the swap takes place during the fic and is not wanted by the character undergoing it) fic is most often about societies definitions of gender and not about transsexual and genderqueer expreriences) and did not engage with the pang that I got at reading the above mentioned passage, therefore exercising my priviledge to ignore a problematic passage,
I would like to add my own apologies to all those hurt by it and the ensuing discussions in the comments.
eisen: Nagisa & Honoka (run away with me). (under true-blue sky.)

[personal profile] eisen 2011-01-27 05:38 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you.
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Hellblazer: Chas miserable)

[personal profile] kindkit 2011-01-27 06:11 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks. I didn't say anything at the time, but I was kind of uncomfortable with the way you talked about the "punitive genderswap" trope (and indeed I'm uncomfortable with genderswap stories in general because as a trans man I have all too much experience of being in the wrong body--in a way it's an interesting reflection on audience, as I find I tend to sympathize with the discomfort and angst of a male character who's been swapped to female in a way that the larger fanfic audience of cisgendered women readers apparently doesn't).
dingsi: The Corinthian smoking a cigarette. He looks down thoughtfully and breathes the smoke out of his nose. (Default)

[personal profile] dingsi 2011-01-27 10:41 am (UTC)(link)
A heartfelt thank you from me.

[personal profile] indywind 2011-01-27 02:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you.
libitina: snake across an open book (Default)

[personal profile] libitina 2011-01-27 02:50 pm (UTC)(link)
♥ thank you
vaznetti: (Default)

[personal profile] vaznetti 2011-01-27 03:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for this (although, you know, cis and straight myself, so not hurt personally, but I find the whole idea of punitive genderswap disturbing anyway.)
ysabel: (Default)

[personal profile] ysabel 2011-01-27 05:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I actually agreed with another commentor that seeing it as a thought experiment rather than as reality in some ways makes it more bearable a concept.

That said, I appreciate the sensitivity to others' feelings and the apology immensely, even if it didn't happen to hurt me personally.

[personal profile] axelrod 2011-01-27 10:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Having slept on it, the thing I want to say is: why did you NOT put the offending paragraph under a cut? I'd missed it the first time around; when I saw the subject and caught a whiff of your tone in regards to the subject and taking into account the fact that while I had no reason to think you were particularly ciscentric I also had no evidence that you'd check your ciscentrism without being told, I intelligently decided to take a look at the recs and skim your commentary and didn't see that paragraph at all - but I couldn't avoid it the second time.

Ok, well, another thing. What I've seen of the conversation on your journals so far has emphasized binary-identified trans people i.e. women and men. And fair enough, the people who first called you on your unfortunate tone both seem to be unequivocally men (I don't know either of them and so don't know any nuances to their gender/s). But one of the fics you link to, Intemperance by basingstoke (which I enjoyed a great deal despite pregnancy squick), portrays a character who I think it (arguably) not exactly binary.

Sherlock does not describe himself as a man. He dresses in a way conventional to men in his era; he uses masculine pronouns; he encourages others to believe he is a man: those qualities do not mean that he is, in fact, a man. When a fictional character says, repeatedly, that he is neither man nor woman and at one point *specifically* describes himself as a fourth gender (of who knows how many genders), well, you goddamnwell take that seriously and don't shoehorn him into the category FtM, which iirc you did in the comments on the first post on this subject (I'm not checking, bc reading those comments once was enough). Getting shoved into one or another category happens to non-binary people all the damn time, anyway. We're often forced to choose, when we use the bathroom or fill out forms; often, others choose for us, when they address us using gendered terms and so on. And this character specifically and repeatedly rejected *both* of the two commonly recognized genders (admittedly, rejecting one more violently and visibly than the other).

I realize that this character also describes himself as a monster. I realize that arguably Sherlock does not say he's a man out of internalized transphobia, out of an unfortunate conviction that he lacks what he needs to be a man. I realize it's possible to read Sherlock as, to use a contemporary term, a trans man. I would argue that reading, esp since he specifically uses the term fourth gender for himself. Sherlock doesn't reflect much of my own experience outside the binary (let's say that I find it, on the whole, easier if definitely unpleasant to let most people assume I'm a woman than a man), but I do recognize the struggle to create some kind of space in which to exist beyond "woman" and "man" in what Holmes says about his transition and so on. Some of Watson's thoughts when seeing Holmes' naked body were particularly poignant for me.

ETA: I do like fic where a character turns out to be trans instead of cis. I wouldn't call that genderswap; that term is transphobic and inaccurate anyway, since the way that trope goes is the character's physical body changes, not their gender identity.

I hate the kind of cracked out fic that's all about "LOL look at that macho guy forced to be a woman" because I don't find it funny at all. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that apparently a lot of people do. On the one hand, who am I to argue with someone else's id. On the other, the very premise is permeated with transphobia, and also misogyny in a way, since being a woman is framed as a punishment. At the least, I wish people were more aware of that trope's implications. And I wish they'd stop friggin calling it "genderswap".
Edited (ETA) 2011-01-27 22:32 (UTC)
dingsi: The Corinthian smoking a cigarette. He looks down thoughtfully and breathes the smoke out of his nose. (Default)

[personal profile] dingsi 2011-01-27 11:52 pm (UTC)(link)
And fair enough, the people who first called you on your unfortunate tone both seem to be unequivocally men (I don't know either of them and so don't know any nuances to their gender/s).

In case you are referring to this comment thread, I'm a trans man but [personal profile] eisen is a trans woman.

[personal profile] axelrod 2011-01-28 12:00 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for the correction. My memory is poor, and I didn't care to go dig through the comments again. My apologies to eisen.

[personal profile] axelrod 2011-01-28 06:22 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for putting it under a cut.

Categorizing people in history according to contemporary Western (and in my case at least fandom- and academic-influenced) language is often tricky, but this is a case the writer makes it pretty clear what Holmes is *not* even if it's impossible to make clear what he *is*.

If you say you don't use "genderswap" I'll take your word for it: my memory isn't reliable for certain details.
jamjar: (Default)

[personal profile] jamjar 2011-01-27 10:54 pm (UTC)(link)
It's interesting. I've read a lot of genderswitch (and alwaysbeena!) because it is a trope I enjoy. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one where there were... well, where the person was now in a body that wasn't just different, but wrong. That it wasn't just that it felt different or strange or uncomfortable, but that it was: this is not the gender I'm supposed to be. My body no longer fits.

Most genderswitch, it's an adventure-- so even ones where it's given as a punishment, or something other than the characters own choice or natural inclination, the switching body itself isn't necessarily punitive-- just the circumstances that body has to deal with. The new body is different, the circumstances (I can't see my family! This biology is strange and sometimes painful!) can be bad, but the body isn't, necessarily.

Interestingly, I read a Supernatural story recently with an alwaysbeenagirl!Dean genderswitched into a boy, who opts to stay that way, who is more comfortable in himself and fits better into his life as a man. And I'm pretty sure there's a House one floating about, where Wilson changes into a woman (I believe frogs are involved), changes back into a man and that's the wrong thing, changing back-- she has gender reassignment to go back to being a woman.

Most genderswitch fics aren't like that-- they're not about waking up and finding yourself in, not just the wrong gender but *wrongly gendered*. They're about experiencing something different, about adventure and change and holy fuck, being a girl/boy/other is difficult and amazing and complicated and exciting and oh, we can play around with this.

[personal profile] axelrod 2011-01-28 12:29 am (UTC)(link)
I think you totally missed the point of the apology. You're displaying the exact kind of cis privilege that hurt people in the first place, in the original post and comments.

You call it "interesting"; other people have already explained that sex-swap fic portrays a reality that people actually have to live: getting trapped (by society, at least, and possibly by their own body) as the wrong gender. Sex-swap fic often don't take into consideration any of the bigotry which trans people face; they don't have (frex) a female-bodied Dean trying to hide that he's female, they don't have the kind of reactions Dean would get if he were revealed to be female, esp in the kind of bar that Dean tends to frequent, and let me tell you that would be the bad kind of adventure.

Obviously, cis people's reactions to spontaneously turning into a different sex will vary, but insofar as I've read that subgenre of sex-swap, their reactions rarely ring true to me.

Frankly, some sex-swap fic simply seems fetishistic. Something to do with feminizing macho characters and/or wanting a favorite character to have female genitalia but still remaining that same character. It can blur the boundaries of slash and het, it can create interesting opportunities for writing bi characters. And I don't have a problem with people scratching their itches; I just wish they'd do so with some more awareness of the impact their fetish can have on actual people and awareness of what being trans is actually like. Ideally, such fic could be marked as "unrealistic fetish-fuel", which is what some of this genre is - and that's the kind I, and other actual trans people, DO NOT want to read at all or do not want to read at certain times, don't want to be taken unawares by.

Also, see my comment above: I briefly discuss why "genderswitch" or "genderswap" are inaccurate and offensive. "Sex-swap" better describes what actually goes on in that particular subgenre of fic, and doesn't imply that one's gender is directly connected to one's genitals.

I think the sort of fic where a character is written as trans (i.e. same gender as in canon, but trans instead of cis) or as having always been a different gender from the one they are in canon are different subgenres. They can also be written offensively (in the latter case, stereotypes of the new gender often abound) but the basic premise can lead to some really good stuff and I do like it when someone writes a trans character competently.
jamjar: (Default)

[personal profile] jamjar 2011-01-28 07:17 am (UTC)(link)
Sorry, I should have been clearer-- I wasn't saying that sexswap is intrinsically interesting, I was saying that I think it's interesting that most sexswap fic is decidedly not about the reality of being transgender, I think it's interesting that most sexswap wants to be about exploring something new (for the character, at least), that isn't necessarily wrong or strange.

There are sexswap fics that focus on that-- where the point of the fic is much more transgender issues, where that's what the fic is exploring. Most sexswap is more focussed on exploring what it is to be male or female in the world. What it's like to have that all for the first time, how it changes the way you deal with and the world deals with you. And some of it definitely has other messages -that being this gender doesn't change someone's essential nature, even if it lets them explore or be aware of certain things, that there are pros and cons of being that gender in the world, that being that gender can be good, even if it's not going to be permanent.

I dislike ones that stereotype either gender as sloppy writing and basically insulting, but I like ones that have a sense of... well, opening up.

[identity profile] 2011-01-27 07:53 am (UTC)(link)
I think you just hit on the head why I hate genderswap fics - as a cis woman I feel they trivialize women and my experiences as a woman by bringing the whole experience down to "I have boobs, I must now flaunt them and have sex with a man". There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but either I fail at finding them or I do find them but don't know anything of the canon. And I do hate that the experience is only hard in certain ways - if you play around with how you express your gender then there's a WIDE range of responses, and a lot of them suck.

Anyway, while I wasn't personally offended by your comments (I found the reviews of the stories really charming, as always), thank you for putting up an apology - I know it can be a lot easier not to. It gave me the warm fuzzies to see a note of "Whoops, fuck, sorry!" pop up on my flist :)
ext_7829: (Default)

[identity profile] 2011-01-27 04:56 pm (UTC)(link)
For what it's worth, I *never* would have (and still don't) read that paragraph or any of your discussion of punitive sex changes as mocking people in real life. I read it as brainstorming about a trope. Admittedly, the trope can be done poorly, like any fanfic cliche. However, when the author writes it correctly, with intelligence and consideration, it can become a fascinating exploration of societal biases about gender and the individual's own expectations of his or her gender prejudices and definition of self.

My two cents.

[identity profile] 2011-01-27 06:09 pm (UTC)(link)

sentientcitizen: Back shot of broody Duncan MacLeod; text reads, "with my sheild or on it" (HL - With My Sheild Or On It)

[personal profile] sentientcitizen 2011-01-27 07:10 pm (UTC)(link)
IAWTC too - although as a cisgendered woman who wasn't the target of the perceived mocking, I suspect it's easier for me to stay unoffended. I think an apology was the right call, for those who it did hurt, but I agree with [ profile] gwynevere1's thoughts re: intelligent use of the trope.