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Author Topic: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi  (Read 722 times)

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Offline Top CatTopic starter

Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« on: August 22, 2014, 04:47:51 PM »
Before I begin, I'd like to apologize if I end up offending anyone here with this discussion. That is not my intention, but this is going to come across as confrontational or belittling to some people (as I've already had that accusation once).

Transgender is essentially a fairly new medical concept here in reality. Being able to change someone's biology from male to female, or vice versa, has only been the crudest, most brutal, and cosmetic surgery until very, very recently. Even with modern technology, though, it's still far from being a complete gender changing technique - as yet, there are no ways to give someone who was born with male genitalia a fully functional set of female sexual organs, capable of creating eggs, ovulating, and holding the fertilized egg through the entire birth process. Likewise, it's impossible to take someone who was born physically female, and give them a fully functional set of male organs, with testes capable of generating sperm and driving the sperm through the penis. It does not exist yet.

Again, let me state that I'm not looking to offend anyone here. I do understand the issue much more fully than Joe Average. Hell, one of the people that I brought to E chose to identify as a Liege here, and I fully supported that.

But the issue I wish to discuss isn't with regard to reality as we know it. If we're writing a game set in a high-fantasy or high-science-fiction world, why would transgender (as we know it) necessarily exist? If there existed a spell or medical technique that could easily shift someone to Male or Female, why would there be a "transgender" trait at all?

I don't see how the idea where someone can fully choose what gender they are, whether it be magic, tech, or comic silliness (see Ranma 1/2) is somehow offensive to transgenders, nor do I see how transgenders MUST exist in all world concepts. I don't see why people who felt that they were the wrong gender and had an easy ability to switch would not do so. Hell, I can easily see some people who felt an affinity to both genders might well switch back and forth depending on their mood for the day.

I just don't see how the real-world, painful situation of being a Transgender grey-middle-ground is necessary in any world - including our own future - where the ability to fully change someone's physical gender is possible.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: August 22, 2014, 05:36:40 PM by Top Cat »

Offline Beorning

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2014, 07:28:42 PM »
Well, it kind of depends on what you define as "transgender"... If you define "transgender" narrowly, as being physically "in the middle", then I guess that term wouldn't be "necessary", if full gender changes were available. But if you understand "transgender" more as a matter of identity, as a person who was born of one gender but changed it, then the term would still be useful.

Also, there might be some people who might want to adopt some traits of opposite gender without going the full way. My sister knows a transgendered person (MtF) who, IIRC, considers herself a woman, while not being interested in having her male organs removed...

Offline BitterSweet

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2014, 10:34:47 PM »
Well, part of it is the word 'transgender' has become an umbrella term for a whole lot of people who do not necessarily all want the same thing.  The type of person you're talking about, Top Cat, was - until about three years ago(ish) - called transsexual, and is generally a person who feels that they were born a body that is the wrong physical sex for their gender identity.  Many, given the opportunity, would change their physical body to match their gender identity. 

There are also people who have a gender identity that doesn't entirely match their physical body but don't want or need to change it, or change it 'all the way' to match cismale and female bodies.  There are also folks who are genderfluid, other gendered etc and so on, with all the wonderful variety that humanity produces.

In a fantasy/sci-fi world where bodies could be easily changed, what I suspect you'd actually get are ... a sub-section of folks who change their physical body to match an internal gender identity, a group of folks who would partially change their body to match an ideal that isn't within the usual spectrum of human biology (note the current popularity of 'futa' among some straight men and women, for example), some people who would change their physical sex based on cultural fads, or simple curiosity ... and endless combinations of above.

I think the 'realistic' result of the ability to easily and completely change the physical sex of the human body would be a huge social change in our understanding of what gender and sex and sexual orientation are.

Offline Top CatTopic starter

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2014, 07:43:21 PM »
Thank you both for the replies, especially BitterSweet - your first paragraph, in particular, pointed out something I'd been only vaguely aware of - that there's quite a few different states of being that are lumped into "transgender" at this point. It's worth considering in the future, if/when this comes up again.

I can understand wanting to make a distinction that you're "male, and used to be female" (or vice versa), if such changes are still considered socially-important. I can understand wanting to play around and switch now and then (or even switch every few days, depending on your mood). I can understand exploring the other gender(s).

I think that part of the problem here, is that quite a lot of people (including me, I have to admit) expect "gender" to identify genitalia somehow; I know from discussion experience that there's quite a lot of people who don't understand that gender identifies anything other than genitalia. There are only two types of genitalia - male and female - and a third type - hermaphrodite or futanari*, which includes both. It seems like identifying as "transgender" or "trans," especially in a world where you can easily choose, is going out of the way to obfuscate, rather than identify.

* I personally like the term "futanari," since its literal translation is, "dual form." That seems so very accurate.

Offline ImaginedScenes

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2014, 02:25:05 AM »
There are also people who have a gender identity that doesn't entirely match their physical body but don't want or need to change it, or change it 'all the way' to match cismale and female bodies.  There are also folks who are genderfluid, other gendered etc and so on, with all the wonderful variety that humanity produces.

Makes sense to me when someone says they switch gender roles and norms, is in a middle ground, or has defined their own gender roles and norms. I get that. Also makes sense when they say that they sometimes feel feminine and are attracted to guys and girls who are hard and muscled and take on more male gender roles, and sometimes feel masculine and are attracted to guys and girls who look softer and take on more female gender roles.

Also makes sense when someone says they feel like they should be a woman because they want to have a soft body and take on female gender roles.

If a person doesn't have a very masculine or feminine appearance and doesn't mostly take on male or female gender roles, they're just another man or woman in my eyes. It makes sense to me if they want to say they're a special gender like third gender or something, but they'd still be a man or a woman in my eyes because they aren't saying that their body is the opposite of what they feel they are in their mind. Don't know why they'd call themselves transgender.

Never really understood what people mean when they say that they're a different gender than their sex, but don't follow the gender roles of that other sex or want to be or look whatever they think is masculine or feminine. Some people talk about it like they sometimes feel like they're a man and other times feel like they're a woman but they don't change their appearance, behavior or sexual orientation. What does that mean? What is gender if it isn't related to behavior or appearance or sex?

The OP's question makes sense to me. What does it mean to be transgender if you can make your body look like whatever you want? I guess you could say a character was born transgender if they only got the ability to change their body later in life, but once they can change theur body why would they keep identifying as transgender?

Offline deadmanshand

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2014, 02:43:50 AM »
Just a quick thought before I head to bed - no one in a fantasy world would identify themselves as transgendered. The language for it wouldn't have developed. It's a modern term and thought process that created the labels for the various states covered under that heading. They might exist but without a modern psychological debate and study sociological construct the terms would not exist.

Offline Mosaic

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2014, 12:38:20 PM »

Never really understood what people mean when they say that they're a different gender than their sex, but don't follow the gender roles of that other sex or want to be or look whatever they think is masculine or feminine. Some people talk about it like they sometimes feel like they're a man and other times feel like they're a woman but they don't change their appearance, behavior or sexual orientation. What does that mean? What is gender if it isn't related to behavior or appearance or sex?


I might be misunderstanding your point here (apologies if so), but...

I can totally get that someone can feel uncomfortable playing out the gender roles that society compels them to by virtue of their biological sex. Then again, part of that discomfort may well be generated by an understanding that such gender roles are largely, or even entirely, nothing but social constructs. Since that would also apply to the gender roles of the opposing sex, it does not necessarily follow that the rejection of one's gender roles necessitates the adoption of the other sex's. Further, I expect most of those who do conclude that gender roles are social constructs also believe that such roles function in society to preserve the status quo, and therefore should be challenged.

If gender roles are simply social constructs, and they really do not apply to biological sex in the way that people believe they do, then in theory one can imagine the world in which there exist numerous genders instead of a binary system.

Offline BitterSweet

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2014, 01:34:13 PM »
Quote
but once they can change their body why would they keep identifying as transgender?

Because the term transgender (itself a fairly young word and concept) has become (or is becoming in this culture), a gender - like male or female.  So, whatever your body, or how you change it, you can retain the gender identity transgender.

Personally, I think it's partly a reaction to fairly rigid ideals of masculine and feminine and the fact that most cultures, traditionally had a third or other gender (two spirit, a host of shamanistic traditions, eunchs, the tradition in some cultures in Afghanistan of raising girls as boys, etc) that was generally eradicated by western christian mideveal and slightly post medival tradition.  You could say that transgender is a resurgence of a long existing human behavior that was temporarily misplaced.

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Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2014, 01:42:04 AM »
Never really understood what people mean when they say that they're a different gender than their sex, but don't follow the gender roles of that other sex or want to be or look whatever they think is masculine or feminine. Some people talk about it like they sometimes feel like they're a man and other times feel like they're a woman but they don't change their appearance, behavior or sexual orientation. What does that mean? What is gender if it isn't related to behavior or appearance or sex?

Sometimes, due to societal pressures, they are unable to change their appearance or behavior.  They might also be in a region where dressing or behaving like the gender that they truly identify with could result in being ostracized or even assaulted.  Also, sexual orientation is independent of gender.  For example, Person A is attracted to males.  That in itself doesn't tell you if Person A is a heterosexual with female parts, or a homosexual with male parts.  Further complicating things would be if Person A felt that they should have been born with female parts, but was instead born with male parts.

Offline Suspires

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2014, 06:58:16 AM »
Maybe helpful here:



(Taken from here.)

If I understand the question correctly, you're talking about changing biological sex.  As other folks have said above, this is just one piece of the complicated thing we call gender.  An easy magical or technological switch of sex organs doesn't necessarily transfer to the other areas.  For one recent example, many trans men are finding that they're taken more seriously at work than when they were perceived as women.

I may be reading this into your post when it isn't there, but you seem to be kind of irritated or frustrated that people might want to include transgender issues in fantasy or science fiction stories.  It's not strange at all for people to do that--everyone selects the elements they want to include in fiction, from things that are interesting or meaningful to them.  And if you belong to a group that is usually marginalized or objectified or just plain invisible in most published fiction, it's a pretty normal response to push for inclusion where you want to see it.

Offline ImaginedScenes

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2014, 07:54:23 PM »
Seems I've been misunderstood. I'd like to try again.

I thought the OP was asking about the meaning of the word transgender if a person could make their body be whatever they wanted it to be, yeah? Like they had a good genie in a lamp? My question was about why a person who could *poof* become a woman in body and mind by saying "I want to be a woman" would still call themselves transgender. What BitterSweet said about it having a more cultural meaning kind of makes sense to me.

About gender roles and orientation. I didn't mean that being female gender and feminine meant you were attracted to male gender and masculinity or that male sex was attracted to female sex. It's like how you relate though. If I'm a female gender and a male sex and follow very feminine gender role expectations, yeah? Mightn't I be attracted to certain types of people who have follow masculine gender roles? If I like male-sex guys, maybe  male-sex guys who are masculine? If I like female-sex girls, maybe female-sex girls who are masculine? If I like male-sex girls, maybe male-sex girls who are masculine? Am I making sense or do you think I'm being loony?

I don't think that breaking gender roles or looking feminine has to mean you're a woman in a man's body. I don't think that being attracted to men when you're a man means some part of you is a woman. I think I break a fair bit of gender roles for men and I don't feel like I'm a woman or third gender.

My other question was about people who say they feel like a woman or a man or a different gender but there's nothing different about the gender roles or sexual orientation or appearance they have. If my mate is an attractive girl who follows feminine gender roles and is attracted to men, yeah? What does it mean if she says she feels like her gender is male? She looks and talks and acts just like any other woman I know and she says she's not hiding who she is. It's people like her who I guess would still say they're transgender if they had genie powers. Don't right understand why though.

I don't rib her about it or ask. Don't want to make her uncomfortable. Just can't quite get her meaning.

Offline deadmanshand

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2014, 09:14:36 PM »
Maybe helpful here:



(Taken from here.)


I would just like to point out that this image is really, really fucking helpful for people who don't generally deal with or have to talk about these topics. Clears up a lot of questions in very short order. Which is really nice. It's like a decoder ring for someone who has never been involved in gender/sexuality issues*.

*All of my issues are purely anger based - and a persistent allergy to stupidity.

Offline Florence

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2014, 01:06:28 PM »
As one of this site's fine liegey types (though I should clarify, NOT transgender), I personally am not offended.

There's still be transgender people, they'd just be able to magic up the bodies the feel comfortable in and be happy with them. Assuming that level of magic exists... if not, then... well, they'd still exist, presumably in a similar capacity to the real world. Sci-fi is more or less the same.

And of course, as has been said, there are the... others, such as myself.

In fact, a few people might remember a thread I posted up in... I THINK it was the GBLTQA forum, a while back, where I asked people if they could use advanced science to get any body they want, what it would be like. The thread didn't really skyrocket in popularity, but those who did reply seemed to enjoy the idea for the most part, so I'm not sure who's offended by the idea.

And as has also been brought up there's the fact that even if technology changes, the culture and society may not have completely caught up, and if its a medieval fantasy setting, it could be even worse than it is in the real modern world.

Maybe helpful here:



(Taken from here.)

That link is getting sent to everyone I know. xD

Offline ImaginedScenes

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2014, 01:19:57 PM »
Thinking about it some more I realized my ideas were too simplified. Maleness might not be about how you look or what gender roles you follow. Might also just mean being similar to your male mates. I was thinking, yeah, that I like a lot of RPGs. I used to think that was a nerdy guy thing but now a lot of women gamers play RPGs. Probably more women play RPGs than play shooters. RPGs aren't a woman-only thing and shooters aren't a guy-only thing, but you might think someone who likes a lot of things guys like but doesn't like many things a lot of girls like is manly. She might mean something like that. Like she feels like a guy because she is into more stuff a lot of guys are or says things that a lot of guys say. Which is true. I feel a bit stupid now. Sorry if I offended anyone with my ignorance.

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Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2014, 01:31:56 PM »
Being willing to learn is always a plus.  ;D  I'm a girl gamer, who would sooner swallow a live hornet than get all primped and polished.  I shop 'like a guy' (Need shirt.  There shirt.  *thump*  Shirt dead.  Go play video games.) instead of poking about at every single store in the mall.  I can carry on conversations about football and pro wrestling, and technical math and science stuff.  But I'm mostly fine with my female body.  ('Cept once a month or so.  But that's a little TMI.)  So - not trans, just have a different range of interests than the stereotypical 'feminine' ones.

Online BAMF

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2014, 04:01:13 PM »
(Need shirt.  There shirt.  *thump*  Shirt dead.  Go play video games.)
This cracked me up, Oniya. <3

My own two cents on this... I'm one of those "others" that Florence was talking about. I probably qualify for a Leige tag, but don't want to give up access to the Ladies Only board. :P I recently tentatively put the label of "genderfluid" on for size and I think that one fits rather well. Like Oniya, though, I have many different ways of expressing myself (gender expression) that don't really fit into the social norms for either of the binary genders. I enjoy video games (a wide variety of them, from shooters to RPGs to "girly games" like the ones you'd find on Facebook or the mobile app store), I like watching makeup videos and playing with it, and I don't mind getting dirty. It all really depends on mood and situation for me and how I'm feeling.

Offline Florence

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2014, 04:15:53 PM »
This cracked me up, Oniya. <3

My own two cents on this... I'm one of those "others" that Florence was talking about. I probably qualify for a Leige tag, but don't want to give up access to the Ladies Only board. :P I recently tentatively put the label of "genderfluid" on for size and I think that one fits rather well. Like Oniya, though, I have many different ways of expressing myself (gender expression) that don't really fit into the social norms for either of the binary genders. I enjoy video games (a wide variety of them, from shooters to RPGs to "girly games" like the ones you'd find on Facebook or the mobile app store), I like watching makeup videos and playing with it, and I don't mind getting dirty. It all really depends on mood and situation for me and how I'm feeling.

-brofists... er... sisfists? ... siblingfists? Whatever- Genderfluidity, representin 8D

But seriously, I think its silly to lump things together as 'boy stuff' or 'girl stuff', yeah I love Sailor Moon AND Dragon Ball Z, what are you gonna do about it? :V I watched Transformers and Jem and Thundercats and... Okay, I actually can't think of another oldschool girly cartoon that I liked, but still.

And Oniya, that killed me too xD

Online BAMF

Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2014, 04:21:00 PM »
-brofists... er... sisfists? ... siblingfists? Whatever- Genderfluidity, representin 8D

This cracked me up too. <3

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Transgender in Fantasy/SciFi
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2014, 03:06:55 PM »
Thinking about it some more I realized my ideas were too simplified. Maleness might not be about how you look or what gender roles you follow. Might also just mean being similar to your male mates. I was thinking, yeah, that I like a lot of RPGs. I used to think that was a nerdy guy thing but now a lot of women gamers play RPGs. Probably more women play RPGs than play shooters. RPGs aren't a woman-only thing and shooters aren't a guy-only thing, but you might think someone who likes a lot of things guys like but doesn't like many things a lot of girls like is manly. She might mean something like that. Like she feels like a guy because she is into more stuff a lot of guys are or says things that a lot of guys say. Which is true. I feel a bit stupid now. Sorry if I offended anyone with my ignorance.

In my experience and that of others I've spoken with, you've got cause and effect mixed up a bit here. Liege-types, generally speaking,* tend to be way more conscious of gendered aspects of their behaviour than most people - "manly" behaviour doesn't cause masculine self-perception or identity, but a masculine self-perception or identity is likely to cause more consciously "manly" behaviour.
This isn't to fault you for getting it wrong - it's a complex subject, and you're obviously trying to learn. This is a good thing! We're still working out the concepts and vocabulary for a lot of this stuff, and cause and effect can be muddy.

As to the original subject: I find nothing particularly offensive about worlds where people can choose their bodies. In fact, I love 'em. (Eclipse Phase, I'm looking in your direction.)
Overly-simplistic first thoughts
What I would find offensive is a world in which this tech is available - and yet society is still rigidly locked into the exact same understanding of gender roles, expressions, and identities we have today. That sort of thing should completely revolutionize a society's understanding of what it means to be male or female or both or neither, and pretty much obliterate sexism as a casual byproduct.
The problem is that this tech is a huge thing - it requires a deep exploration, both in-setting and out, of what gender is and is not, what happens when society's expectations of gender don't match individuals' understanding, and how society reacts to these factors. In short, a world in which absolutely nobody has to be transgender has more obligation to explore trans-centric subjects and themes, not less.

EDIT: My intial thoughts on this were heavily assumptive and rather simpleminded. Corrected.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2014, 03:27:32 PM by Ephiral »