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Escapade Panel: Fueling the Fires of Genderfuckery

Fueling the Fires of Genderfuckery

I recently attended the slash convention Escapade, and plan to post a few random thoughts on the panels I attended, when I have time to write them up.

Here’s the program book description of “Fueling the Fires of Genderfuckery”:
“When het is slash and slash is het and pronoun rules just no longer apply. Which of our boys is hot as a girl? Which of our girls is hot as a boy? More and more fandoms are producing genderfuck AUs, Uberfics, reincarnations, disguises, momentary illusions, temporary transformations, permanent shapeshifts… It’s all so hot, so let’s share the good stuff.”

I’m going to be a little sketchy on this post. There was something in the hotel, or in the area, which was causing me to have allergy problems, and by Sunday afternoon, my brain was fried.

This was a fascinating panel on all the various ways people play with gender in fanfic. A quick rundown of the various topics covered, either in depth, or in passing: cross dressing, mpreg, the feminization of one partner in a pairing, and more I’m not remembering at the moment.

The focus, however, was on actual gender switching, whether by SF or magical means. This could be an body swap with another person, or it would be having your own body transformed into the opposite sex. All kinds of examples from various fandoms were discussed. Harry Potter fans, in particular, seem to frequently explore this theme.

The moderator used a flipchart to list various fandoms where some kind of gender-switch or cross-dressing was canon. Nearly a dozen were listed - everything from Classic Trek (Kirk – Janice Lester) to Quantum Leap (how many women did Sam Beckett leap into? Oooh, that sounds nasty!) to Deep Space 9 (the trills), to Xena, Warrior Princess (present day reincarnation story) to Due South (Miss Fraser!). People were, in fact, hard-pressed to find any show at all where there hadn’t been at least some kind of genderfuckery in canon.

Fascination with this subject was traced all the way back to Shakespeare - all those cross-dressing comedies!

There was serious discussion about what this kind of fic reveals about our own thoughts and feelings about gender, and our motivations for writing these kinds of fics. A couple of examples were mentioned of stories where the author explicitly examined these assumptions. I mentioned a 1970s era Connie F Classic Trek het story where Kirk, after the experience with Janice Lester, becomes impotent and has to re-examine all of his own concepts of gender and power.

“The Procrustean Petard" by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath was brought up as an early example of the genre. This story was published in the pro book “Star Trek: The New Voyages” # 2, which I believe was published in 1983. I personally don’t remember one thing about that story except that almost all of the classic Trek characters were transformed into the opposite sex.

A number of other stories were mentioned, including one of my favorite Sentinel novels, "B.J. Sandburg" by Gillian.

People also discussed the “pronoun problem” – what do you call your guy when he’s in a woman’s body anyway?

I wish I could remember more! Anyone else?

Comments

I've read a few in Trek fandoms.

One series featured Kirk finding himself permanently trapped in Lester's body after "Turnabout Intruder". He had to face sexism, Spock's confusion, and his own rage.

Another called "The Left Hand of Madness" by Siubhan had Tom Paris stranded with Chakotay on a planet for six months while he slowly changed sexes and went nearly mad.
>>>One series featured Kirk finding himself permanently trapped in Lester's body after "Turnabout Intruder". He had to face sexism, Spock's confusion, and his own rage.

I remember reading that one. Is that the one where Lester, in Kirk's body, is killed, and so Kirk has no "body" to go back to? I remember thinking that was an interesting take on that situation.

>>>Another called "The Left Hand of Madness" by Siubhan had Tom Paris stranded with Chakotay on a planet for six months while he slowly changed sexes and went nearly mad.

Great play on the title of that Ursula LeGuin book! Did the story take any other concepts from that book, do you know?
Re Kirk: that was the one. I liked how the writer handled mind-body gender confusion, especially in a K/S story.

Re Paris: Not really. This was a basic "put 'em on a planet for six months and make it impossible to rescue them" story. (There were a lot of those in Voyager.) The science was interesting - a solar system that exists in two different time streams at once with planets shifting back and forth - but the only similarity between it and the LeGuin book was the sex change, and in this case it wasn't voluntary.
>>Re Paris: Not really. This was a basic "put 'em on a planet for six months and make it impossible to rescue them" story. (There were a lot of those in Voyager.)

Fannish "cliches" are so interesting! It's not enough that they're lost in the Delta Quadrant, they have to be Really Truly lost?

>>>The science was interesting - a solar system that exists in two different time streams at once with planets shifting back and forth - but the only similarity between it and the LeGuin book was the sex change, and in this case it wasn't voluntary.

Of course, the story title is a riff on the book title. Did he go mad because of the sex change itself? because of the process itself? or just couldn't handle being a woman?
Mainly because of the change, because without any medical equipment (except a regular tricorder) he isn't sure what's going on. It's also very gradual and he begins to think he's imagining everything and possibly going insane. But when his penis disappears he just can't remain in denial and goes berserk, beating himself up.

Things progress to being "superficially male" according to the tricorder (with which he begins to scan himself regularly) to "sex indiscriminate" to "superficially female" to "female". The sex change affects his sexuality but not his gender - he's still male, but he finds himself attracted to Chakotay.

Things get better once he can tell Chakotay what is happening and the changes slow down. He never feels right being a woman, but he learns to accept it. They also begin a relationship and begin to think their world is a kind of primitive idyll.

Then Tom realizes he hasn't had a period in nine weeks.

It's one of only two stories I can think of where the resolution occurs as it did.
>>>But when his penis disappears he just can't remain in denial and goes berserk, beating himself up.

That would definitely be enough to drive any guy crazy...!

>>>Then Tom realizes he hasn't had a period in nine weeks.
It's one of only two stories I can think of where the resolution occurs as it did.

Fascinating! Do you have a link to this story?
Thanks so much for these links! It's my busy time of year at work, so I haven't had much time for LJ or reading fic, but I've saved these for later reading.
"The Procrustean Petard" by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath was brought up as an early example of the genre. ... I personally don’t remember one thing about that story except that almost all of the classic Trek characters were transformed into the opposite sex.

I remember it very well. It was hot like a hot, hot thing. Spock remained a man; the alien sex-change machine gave him an extra Y chromosome to manage, and it was tough, even for Spock. It was SO Marshak&Culbreath. Overly macho Spock, Vulcans are better, etc. (Which, yeah, stupid, but hot.) Kang, the Klingon commander, also remained male and got the extra Y and he had the hots for "Miss Kirk." Spock found out he had to protect the captain in this new way.

Anyway, genderfuck in Due South is generally much more frivolous and light. Most are not written as particularly serious. However, I am writing one that is. Not dark, just not written for humor or kink. Isis is writing one, too, and we both should have them out some time later this year. It's an SF premise, a dimensional swap with Ray's female counterpart, Rae. Fun project, so far. :)
>>>I remember it very well. It was hot like a hot, hot thing. Spock remained a man; the alien sex-change machine gave him an extra Y chromosome to manage . . . .Kang, the Klingon commander, also remained male and got the extra Y and he had the hots for "Miss Kirk."

Oh yeah! Now it's coming back to me. Well, it's been over 20 years since I read it...

>>>Anyway, genderfuck in Due South is generally much more frivolous and light. Most are not written as particularly serious. However, I am writing one that is. Not dark, just not written for humor or kink. Isis is writing one, too, and we both should have them out some time later this year. It's an SF premise, a dimensional swap with Ray's female counterpart, Rae. Fun project, so far. :)

Yay! I'll be there to read them, when they're ready to go.
Lots of genderfuck in Stargate:Atlantis fandom too, some light, some funny, some not so much.
A lot of very good authors have written at least one of those, and I, for one, will certainly NOT complain - I love genderfuck.
But I've noticed it also depends on the fandom - not so much in ST:TOS, a lot in SGA, and why not in HP (I read mostly Snarry there, and even there I prefer post-Hogwarts Harry - with a few exceptions, of course).
I'm not sure why, though.
>>>Lots of genderfuck in Stargate:Atlantis fandom too, some light, some funny, some not so much.

Yes, I've heard that about SGA fandom. I've started reading SGA fic, but I haven't read enough yet to notice trends.

>>>But I've noticed it also depends on the fandom - not so much in ST:TOS, a lot in SGA, and why not in HP (I read mostly Snarry there, and even there I prefer post-Hogwarts Harry - with a few exceptions, of course). I'm not sure why, though.

It *is* interesting to see which fandoms follow which trends. There certainly have been a lot of trends in fandom over the years, and most of these apply to some - but rarely all - fandoms. I'm sure someone somewhere has written an academic paper on this...
Wow - I wish some of these K/S stories were online! It was a fun panel. I think we're talking about making it into part of the fandom wiki somehow, I was also surprised at the amount of genderswitching in canon!

(ps. I was the mod; and it was Day 3 of a three day con, so I was really pleased there was so much discussion from the attendees!)
>>>Wow - I wish some of these K/S stories were online!

There have been quite a number of K/S stories over the years exploring the consequences of Kirk's body-switch with Janice Lester.

The main archive for the fandom is:

ksarchive.com

I don't know offhand if any of "Janice Lester" stories are in the archive. The archive is continuing to grow, as more and more authors from the zine era are allowing their work to be posted online.

>>>It was a fun panel. I think we're talking about making it into part of the fandom wiki somehow, I was also surprised at the amount of genderswitching in canon!

That just *amazed* me! But - as someone pointed out - Shakespeare is full of genderswitching, so I think this makes this an archetypal theme. So I guess it's no surprise so many shows have, over the years, explored this theme.

>>>(ps. I was the mod; and it was Day 3 of a three day con, so I was really pleased there was so much discussion from the attendees!)

You did a great job! And yes, people were very involved with the discussion. Quite fascinating!