Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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People Against Genderbending

While looking for links about genderbending, I found some posts against genderbending: "The Trouble With Titties: Genderbending & Fan Culture" and "On ‘Genderbending’." Some thoughts ...

* You can write anything you want. Writing is not a problem. Tell ALL the stories!

* If you share what you write, and it hurts people or makes the world worse instead of better, that is a problem. Try to minimize that as much as possible.

* Gender policing is generally a bad idea with poor outcomes. Consider that even the wackiest depictions of genderbending are somebody's idea of gender expression. Not necessarily the healthiest of ideas, but theirs, which means picking at them could cause problems as much as letting them stand. A sticky issue, you perceive.

* Most of the trouble in genderbending is not a concept issue but a quality issue. Like everything else in writing, genderbending can be done well or poorly. It is often done poorly because 1) it is a challenging technique and 2) most people haven't actually studied gender in enough depth to know what they are doing with it. That doesn't mean it can't be done well, and great genderbending can be truly awesome.

* Write badly with pride! If you're not making any mistakes, you're not learning, you're coasting. But do try to learn from your mistakes, so you don't repeat them.

* What would help is not trying to stamp out genderbending, but rather to increase the quality and diversity of genderbent entertainment. In particular, more material by QUILTBAG folks would help, as they often know more about sex/gender than cishetetc. folks do.

With regard to quality, it seems that I am finding, producing, and sponsoring a far better selection of genderbent material than the authors of the above articles have. Of course there's a lot of crap out there -- Sturgeon was an optimist -- but there are also some real gems. Consider some examples:

* Elementary is a rare example of both genderbending and racebending the same character, and it works: Joan Watson is Asian instead of white, female instead of male. The show puts considerable thought into how these changes would affect Watson's character, career, and role in the plot.

* Robin Hood has been imagined as female dozens of times.

* The Ursulan Cycle is genderbent Arthurian Cycle. I created it in response to [personal profile] dialecticdreamer's essay "Genderbending -- Are We Ready?" I wanted to address the dearth of female characters in entertainment by offering an adventure with lots of women, but I also wanted to explore how changing the gender would impact the plot. Frex, an unplanned pregnancy has a very different effect on a queen than on a king, as shown in my poem "Of the Line of Danu" and "Morwenna" by [personal profile] clare_dragonfly. Check out the genderbent characters. This is an open-source fandom, so anyone can write in it.

* The Blueshift Troupers features human shapeshifters. They use a template to alter their traits, and when they come out of the chrysalis, anything can be different or the same -- sex, gender, orientation, etc. Read "Times of Hardship and Ease" for a description. Although most genderbending sticks with heterosexual portrayals, Zasha has just turned from male to female, masculine to feminine, but has kept her love of women so she is presently a lesbian. A quirk of this series is how the characters remain connected in their relationships over the course of many changes.

* Schrodinger's Heroes is designed to span alternate dimensions, so the characters are meant to genderbend (or racebend, etc.) easily. Quinn is always quirky and abhors labels, but is usually some flavor of trans or genderqueer. Morgan started out as a female character on the apocryphal TV show, but after the actress died in a car accident, was replaced by male!Morgan from an genderswap episode. And then there's Schrodinger's Hulk, in which I bend only the gender and not the sex of Bruce Banner, positing that because Hulk is hypermasculine, Bruce must actually be feminine, because a man would have had an anima (inner feminine spirit) instead of an animus (inner masculine spirit). "Safe Keeping" is the first story, and "Two Spirits, One Past" focuses on the gender identity issues.

* Calliope is a transgender superhera, but as a gendershifter, her secret identity is Calvin -- her birth identity. She thinks of herself as a woman, but she hasn't given up Calvin completely, so it's more complicated than that.

* The Super-Queers series by [personal profile] bairnsidhe features a variety of sex/gender/orientation configurations rarely found in mainstream comics. See the poem "Chaos Out Of Order" that I sponsored.
Tags: activism, gender studies, reading, writing
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