1. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

    Jul 17, 2017
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    Gender dysphoria in the context of shapeshifting plots

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Simon Price, Apr 19, 2019.

    This is a weird question, and I have my concerns that a solid answer wouldn’t even be possible, but I’m hoping I could at least get some kind of idea.

    Now, long before I was introduced to the concept of transgender people, I was exposed to several different stories involving the fiction concept of gender bending. Men suddenly becoming women, women suddenly becoming men, usually through some magical or sci-fi process, and usually with a readily available means to change back. I’ve always been a fan of the concept and think it’s a pretty entertaining way to explore and screw around with gender tropes. And it also turns out that my story will, indirectly and to a more limited degree, include that concept in ways a bit too complicated to get into here. If you want to read about it for more background, I explain the general premise here:


    But basically, the first book covers the teenage protagonists’ last year of high school right after the human race gained access to magical, superhuman powers, and there will be four weeks of this year where my protagonists will be able to freely shapeshift into and from the bodies of humanoid fantasy races (with the option to keep the new body at the cost of their old one by staying in it when the week is over) and half of these times the body will be the opposite sex, which obviously has a lot of potential for bizarre plots in those weeks.

    But now that I’m an adult who knows about transgender people, I have my suspicions that in real life it wouldn’t be quite as psychologically harmless to temporarily be given a body of the opposite sex. Furthermore, I have a transgender character, so dysphoria is going to be an element of the story that I can’t and don’t want to ignore. But I obviously have no direct personal experience about how it feels, and most of the discussion on the subject is in the context of the real world where changing sex is complicated, slow, hugely consequential, and an imperfect science. So I was wondering if I could get some answers from trans people on two specific questions:

    1: In your personal speculation, is dysphoria an “it’s a nice place to visit, but you really wouldn’t want to live there” sort of thing, where having the ability to change back at any time would keep dysphoria from setting in if a cis person wound up in an opposite sex form? Or would they instantly feel uncomfortable in this body and want to change back immediately?

    2: The aforementioned trans character can’t transition by conventional real-world means due to the world’s new magic, but she instantly takes a shine to one of these new, female bodies and immediately resolves to keep it when she gets it. When initially mapping this scene out in my head, a situation came up where her new body was moderately inconvenient (she didn’t have any clothes that fit it properly because her old body was overweight and taller) and one of her friends asked her to change back until they could sort that out, and my immediate instinct was for her to have a firm attitude of “I am never touching that body again as long as I live”, given how much grief that male body’s already given her when she was stuck in it. Is this accurate, or do you feel I’d be making her overreact to the prospect of temporarily switching back?
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
  2. BBQPorkbelly

    BBQPorkbelly Banned

    Feb 27, 2019
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    First of all, there is a big difference between gender dysphoria and having a fictional character's soul inside the body of the different/opposite sex.

    I recently watched a Korean drama called 화유기 (English: A Korean Odyssey) on Netflix, based on the Chinese classic novel called 西游記 (English: Journey to the West). One actor plays two roles - one male and one female. The male character is General Winter, and the female character is Summer Fairy. The male character and female character are two distinctive characters sharing the same physical body, played by the same actor. In the story, it is revealed that the female character has lost her own body and lives in the body of her brother. When she wakes up and controls the body, she puts on a more feminine appearance, but on the outside, it looks like a male in woman's garments and make-up. When General Winter wakes up and controls the body, he puts on a more masculine appearance.

    I also watched the 西游記 (1986 TV series) before, again based on the Chinese classic novel called 西游記 (English: Journey to the West). There were a couple of characters that actually transformed into the body of the different/opposite sex. Of course, the film crew probably just used a different actor/actress to make the transformation seamless.

    I think you are conflating two very different things - gender dysphoria/transgenderism/transsexuality and having a fictional character's soul inside the physical body of a different sex.

    If a fictional character willingly puts itself in a different-sex body, then that's not really a trans experience. Trans people probably cannot relate with this experience, because they are basically born in that body.

    If a fictional character unwillingly puts itself in a different-sex body, then that is sort of approaching a trans experience. However, one big difference is that trans people are born with a body like everybody else, while fictional characters may treat the body and soul as completely different and thus it would be possible to transfer a soul into a different body. Nature just makes a person develop into a creature with functional male organs, a creature with functional female organs, or a creature with non-functional reproductive organs. So, that means a person is born with functional male organs, and in a strict animal sense, would be considered male. This person has no experience with any other body. There is no soul-exchanging or body-exchanging. It is the same physical body. There is no soul. Soul is not a testable, scientific phenomenon.
  3. Zombie Among Us

    Zombie Among Us Active Member

    Oct 8, 2018
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    I’m transgender, so maybe I can give some insight.

    1) I feel that the cis person would instantly feel uncomfortable in the wrong body, but I’d say that depends on the person a bit. For me, dysphoria has always been there and my gender identity is very important to me, but that’s just my experience. However, if a cis character who doesn’t think about gender much suddenly ended up in a body they don’t like, I feel they would begin to think about it more.

    If I finally got the body I’d be more comfortable in, I wouldn’t look back. Again, this depends on the character. You seem to want to make gender important to her and have her never want to be male again, and I say go for it. I would not call it an overreaction on her part.

    1 and 2: some people, like myself, see their gender identity as very important to them. Your character seems to be the same way, and I’d say that’s perfectly fine. On the contrast, it’s not a big part of every person’s life. Some people really don’t care, and that’s fine too.

    Bottom line: it depends on the person.
    Simon Price likes this.
  4. Sark1986

    Sark1986 Active Member

    Apr 22, 2019
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    1: In your personal speculation, is dysphoria an “it’s a nice place to visit, but you really wouldn’t want to live there” sort of thing, where having the ability to change back at any time would keep dysphoria from setting in if a cis person wound up in an opposite sex form? Or would they instantly feel uncomfortable in this body and want to change back immediately?

    I am not so sure about this one - there are several questions to consider here - are the mind and body linked (if so to what extent)? This seems to be the key question to me. For instance I am currently working on a universe where all humans are permanently transformed into a range of different animals. One of the immediate problems I have tried to explore is the notion of going from two legs to four legs or even wings in some cases, balance, eating habits, even the simple act of going for a walk becomes a challenge. I have thought of also including gender as an issue, but then there is also sexuality and so many other factors at play there. I'm not sure there is a clear answer to these except that they are things that we should not expect a mind to simply enter a body with these differences and know immediately how to effectively function. One aspect in my story is that there is a partial romance factor being explored, but one party in the romance is a former human. I imagine most of this would be even worse if it were temporary.

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