Clare (fanbeatsman) wrote in gyaku_meta,
Clare
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long-ass thoughts on genderswap, I has them

So. Thanks to Takarazuka, a fic I'm trying to get written, and the trend that swept the kinkmeme recently, I've been thinking about genderswap a lot of late, and as always happens when there's something in fandom that both interests me and baffles me, I wanted to try and get some meta going. I suppose I'm bringing a discussion question rather than an essay: why do people write genderswap fic in this fandom? What can you do with it, what can you make it say? Which I'm asking not from a kind of incredulous, wtf are all you people doing with your Femnixes and Girlshoes etc. standpoint, but just to hear other people's perspectives - because I do get the appeal of genderswap in this fandom (like I said, I'm writing some myself), but in a fairly narrow, specific way, I think, and I'd be interested to hear what it does (if anything) for other people, or your wild speculation about everyone else's motives for writing it, and what you'd do or like to see done with it (including see it disappear completely?).

The main thing that makes me want to write genderswap is the feminist/gender studies/queer studies angle: how can you use it to interrogate gender roles and gender politics either in a series itself, or in its fandom? And you can do different things with that, I think, depending on what kind of genderswap you go for. Choosing the "X wakes up one morning/comes to from a sudden blackout/&c. and has switched gender as a result of a magic potion/curse/rift in the fabric of spacetime/botched channeling job (I guess the easiest route in this fandom)" route turns the genderswap into an explicit foil for revealing other characters' (and the character's own) biases (because you can structure a contrast between the pre-swap and post-swap treatment of the character, and isolate gender presentation as the factor influencing the change), and can be used to produce a "revelatory" kind of effect: "My eyes have been opened to how much different my experience of the world would be if I were a different gender." Also, because usually this kind of genderswap is at heart "Character X in a different body", with the physiological changes having maybe a little impact on their personality, you can also produce a similar revelation in the reader, or at least get them to ask themselves: would my attitude towards this character have been any different if (assuming all else is equal) they had been a different gender? (Klavier's an interesting one to think about this with)

If you go for the "All else - circumstances of birth, genetic makeup, upbringing, endpoint in canon - being equal, Character X was born and has always been a different gender" route, then you've got different options. You can switch a whole cast, and see if that makes any implicit biases or absences more transparent - or explore what kind of world the series would have to be set in to produce the gender-reversed makeup of the cast. You can take a very focused look at one specific character, and consider sexual politics through the lens of their identity: take apart how central their gender identity is to their canon personality and characterisation, think about what about them would have been the same and what would have been different if they had been born a different gender, and through that take apart just what part gender plays in shaping people's identities. It quite often, too, exposes how the roles of characters in canon are implicitly gendered - would the exact role of Edgeworth ever have been written for a woman, for example? (it's probably fairly obvious that this second type is the type I prefer to read and write - but I am willing to be converted to the first one!)

The other reason that's led to me writing the particular genderswap I am is purely porn-related. I badly wanted to write a very specific kind of sleazy femslash smut - the sort of sex you'd get between Klavier and Daryan, or Matt and Juan (except maybe with a little less hating each other) - but I couldn't find an f/f pairing in this fandom (or any fandom I'm in, really :/) that it seemed IC for (suggestions, if anyone's got any, would be welcomed!). So, fixation with genderswapping Klavier (more on that in a minute) + desire for Klavier/Daryan-esque femslash = fem!Klavier/fem!Daryan. Success. From what I've seen on the meme recently, this rationale seems quite common - using genderswap as a way of preseving a particularly appealing pairing dynamic while being able to enjoy a different (more appealing?) configuration of bits :D

So I do get genderswap, I do. I think the thing I don't always get is how it works with these games particularly.

At heart, I think this is probably because the first three games, at least, don't have any seriously questionable sexual politics (compared to a lot of other media, at least ) that I'd really want to see dealt with - and in fact, there's actually a lot about the gender makeup of the cast that I think is very positive and interesting and wouldn't like to see reversed. The Fey clan in its entirety, for one thing - I wouldn't want to lose the fact that it's a female-centric dynastic plot underpinning the first three games, for example, not to mention all the different relationships represented between women as a result. Mia specifically is already a woman in the more usually male role of mentor to a young man, and I love that Maya is a female sidekick whose relationship to the male protagonist is not sexualised. Meanwhile, genderswapping Phoenix or Edgeworth (I'm not sure if my point would still stand if you swapped both) and then getting them together could be an interesting way of showing (as I actually think Takarazuka's character design for Leona does) that if either of them were a woman, their relationship starts to look like one that would be broadly perceived and understood as romantic - but for me (and ymmv) what's interesting about their relationship is the fact that it is in canon such a romantic male-male friendship. Generally speaking, furthermore, there's not really a lack of either male or female characters - and there's certainly not a lack of possible pairings/OTns, so I tend to find I can get what I want smut-wise and gender-representation-wise from what's there in canon (of course, that said, as I guess I've illustrated above, this doesn't always hold true, and I've no doubt that other writers/readers have found that canon's not giving them quite what they want to write or read in this respect). And as a result of a relatively good balance between male and female characters, the world of the games itself comes across (comparatively, at any rate - which given the state of a lot of media isn't necessarily saying much) as being relatively egalitarian, which is something that makes genderswap less compelling, in my eyes.

It's the aspects of the game that are problematic that would for me generate the most interesting genderswap. Getting Diegodot involved, for example - one of the genderswaps I've enjoyed most in this fandom was a Miego fic where Mia ended up male-bodied after a channeling went wrong, and Diego had to deal with that (with sexy results). Or Dahlia and Iris, both of whom stay just on the right side of stereotype for me - I think it could be fun to see how Dahlia's particular brand of evil reads when you detach it from the lineage of beautiful, poisonous, evil women she sometimes feels like she belongs to, or how Iris's traditionally feminine qualities read when embodied by a man. Genderswapping Franziska might work well, too, not because her character is particularly problematic in my eyes, but because a lot of the reactions of other characters to her in the games seem a little gendered to me. And there's a lot you could do with Apollo Justice, given that the gender issues of that game are different and more concerning.

In the end, I think whether or not I "get" genderswap fic fandom really does just depend on the characters. The sexual politics of the series generally I don't find troubling enough to want to write or read srs bsns feminist genderswap - individual characters, OTOH, are a different story, and I do find that for me, some characters genderswap better or more interestingly than others. miss_prince said to me when we were talking about this that she finds genderswap most interesting the closer the character is to traditional masculinity or femininity (giving Tigre and Iris as examples), and I'd agree - I'm personally looking for where genderswap would produce the biggest or most revealing difference, either in the experiences a character is likely to have because of their gender presentation, or the difference it might make to the player/fan's perception of them. This is why personally, I'm really keen on genderswapping Klavier. My wanting to write genderswap actually came out of talking to (IIRC) alienchrist and shahni about if or how fans would treat Klavier differently if he presented as female - how his charm, his attractiveness, his flirtatiousness, his high self-esteem, his love of the spotlight, his relentless cheerfulness and the points where his emotional displays are odd or awkward, his prodigious success, the (really kind of implausible) fact that he works two incredibly time-consuming jobs and is extremely successful at both of them, just generally his persona and the way he relates for people, would have been judged and received if we were talking about Klaudia, rather than Klavier, Gavin. Because it seems to me that despite the androgynous and not explicitly gendered aspects of his personality, there's a lot about Klavier that aligns with acceptable paradigms of masculinity and not with acceptable paradigms of femininity. And then I started to think about how far Klaudia Gavin might have ended up a different person as a result of different pressures or expectations - would she have become a different kind of flirtatious? Might she have had to prove herself in different ways? What might her confidence and high self-esteem have become in the face of different attitudes towards it? Would she have been a different kind of performer, and would a woman-fronted (or all-female) Gavinners have been a different kind of band? And then I couldn't stop thinking about it, and so I started writing a genderswapped Klavier/Daryan fic that one day I swear I will finish.

I'm sure, though, a good fic writer could ask similar questions of a whole range of a whole range of characters and come up with interesting answers where I'm just drawing blanks (cards on the table: I personally don't get the appeal of genderswapping Phoenix or Kristoph at all, for porn purposes or otherwise, and in fact it was the recent proliferation of fics that do that's been pushing me to think harder about the appeal of genderswap beyond what I'd want from it) - and I'd love to hear if there's any characters in particular you guys would be particularly interested in genderswapping, and why.

The final thing that makes me think sometimes is whether "why (or "how to") genderswap?" is necessarily the most interesting question to ask about it. Whether it's worth instead picking apart the concept itself from a gender studies perspective, and whether it relies on particular notions of gender (throughout this whole thing, for example, I've presupposed a gender binary of one form or another) - or asking how (if at all) it relates to trans issues, for example. Or if it's best approached just as a literary device, and one that relies on a particular set of assumptions and conventions to achieve a particular set of effects. It's not an angle as yet I've thought much about, though, idk about anybody else?
Tags: essay, fanfiction, genderswap
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...I'm really amused that you referenced one of my fics in this, because I'm one of the people who just doesn't get the point of genderswap at all (anecdote to come in a moment), and only wrote the fic in question specifically because I had an amusing idea about how to switch gender in a way that made some amount of sense in canon. XD I didn't even consider it a genderswap, honestly, more a "oops, different body for a few days" kind of thing.

As noted above, I clearly don't get genderswap, and this may be because I don't understand the concept of gender roles. A trans friend wrote a series of genderswapped drabbles in another fandom, and my comment was basically "Hahaha, I love how everything's EXACTLY THE SAME." And they were like "...Weird, my point was how different everything would be." Despite going back and looking, I just don't see the difference. (Which is a testament to said writer's characterization skills - so glad they've discovered Ace Attorney. :D) Same kind of thing in this fandom's genderswap. (Unless they make the femmed-up characters into sluts, which is a whole other issue...)

Maybe it's just these two fandoms, which both have non-traditional gender roles to begin with? I've never seen genderswap in any other fandom I've been involved with (old and/or obscure is the norm, unfortunately), so I'm not sure how a "normal" fandom would handle it.

Or maybe it's like the aforementioned friend suggested later, and I just don't get gender or the differences between them because I'm agendered. This is fairly plausible, and if I could convince myself that there's such a thing as non-biological gender (no flames please, I know it's not politically correct, but I'm at least trying to understand why I don't understand it, you know?), I'd guess it's right on the money.

On the other hand, when it comes to art? I love doing genderswap, of anyone and everyone. But particularly the tricky things, like a fem!Gumshoe. That was a blast, as was figuring out what Mia would look like as a guy. And I really wish I had come up with the awesomeness that was fem!Tigre. But that might have something to do with my fondness for character concept design, rather than an urge to switch people's genders.

So in summary? I don't get it. But I do like an art challenge.

And completely randomly, I went to an Indigo Girls concert a few months ago... and Emily was wearing a purple shirt with her halo of blonde hair, and Amy was wearing black and metal studs and a big wallet chain and rocking all over the stage, and the whole time I could not stop thinking "THIS IS JUST LIKE THAT GENDERSWAPPED KLAVIER/DARYAN REQUEST, WTF".
:D! Honestly, I wouldn't have known that from reading it. Haha, I love seeing reader-response theory in action; it pushes my academic geek buttons.

I definitely think that genderswap relies on a particular understanding of gender roles, and it is one that's not particularly familiar to me on a personal level. I'd say that while I'm not agendered, I'm definitely cisgendered, in the sense that my gender identity doesn't really make itself felt all that much or pose me any problems or discomfort, but furthermore as a result of (this is pure speculation, my grasp of gender theory's pretty basic) being raised both hyperaware of feminist and gender issues, and in a series of fairly egalitarian environments, I've never really experienced much of the explicit pressure of gender roles and gendered expectations. But on the other hand, it is one that makes sense to me on an intuitive level - idk in what ways gender is a function of biology (like I said, it's not something that's obvious to me from my own gender identity, and I've not read all that much theory about it), but I can see and accept the idea that any given individual's gender identity is shaped by culturally circulating constructs of "masculinity" and "femininity", to a greater or lesser extent depending on other factors (in the same way that other aspects of their identity will be shaped by models of behaviour, in ways that are probably often invisible or naturalised). And I think that's the main idea that drives genderswap - the idea that from a starting point of biology (which is itself a discursive construct, a lot of the time), an individual's experiences and identity will be at least partially determined by a particular set of cultural expectations. It's not inevitable that this will happen, it intersects with a whole bunch of other factors, and it will happen in different ways to different individuals, but it probably will happen at some point. Genderswap, then, in theory makes the process transparent to some degree.

If you're in a world or a context, then, where these expectations don't seem to operate with any particular weight or force behind them, or even don't exist at all (although the fictional universes where that's genuinely true are few and far between), then genderswap's going to fall pretty flat - or at least, is going to be far trickier to negotiate, because any differences will be entirely a function of biology, and like you suggest, that's very much a minefield. But I do think this is basically where the AA universe is at (or the first three games, at any rate) - reasonably egalitarian, no really clear indications that characters are experiencing pressure to conform to particular gender roles - and I'm with you in thinking that that's probably why genderswap isn't always that interesting in this fandom.

It's really, really interesting what you say about being drawn to genderswap art instead (also, the fem!Gumshoe was you? she was great and hot) - is it purely the physical/anatomical changes that interest you, or is it a process of, I want to say translation? By which I mean, say if you're genderswapping Mia, would you look at (say) her boobs and think *substitute appropriate male anatomy here*, or would you look at her boobs and try and find something that would give the same effect (sexiness? fan service? idek why Mia has those enormous boobs, not that I'm particularly complaining) on a male body?

I'm not sure I'm making any sense here :/ I also feel like I've dumped a whole load of probably very boring theoretical rambling on you that you've no doubt heard already, for which I apologise if that's the case.

I have to say, one of the things that turned "oh hey wouldn't Klavier and Daryan as hot rockstar lesbians be cool?" into "OMG want to write this fic" was the ridiculous amount of time me and my girlfriend spent coming up with female artists/bands that we thought Klavier/Daryan/the Gavinners would be like if genderswapped :D (I think we eventually settled on Alison Goldfrapp for Klavier ¬_¬)
Heh, analysis is pretty much always interesting, so no problems here!

Regarding gender identity, I'm pretty much with you about never having felt any particular pressures or expectations. My identity growing up was based entirely on the fact that I had a really high IQ and had an affinity for art. It didn't hurt that I'm asexual. Femininity? Masculinity? Attractive? Unattractive? *shrug* Who cares, I'm smart and I draw. It's only in the last few years that I've noticed any sort of sexism directed at me, mostly by well-meaning customers at work who are concerned because the tiny little girl they could probably pick up with one hand is working all by herself all night next to a bar, and don't I get scared? But what they don't see is that despite being 5'2" and maybe 94 pounds soaking wet, my mental image of myself is something like a 6 and a half foot tall buff biker dude wearing black leather. ...It occurs to me just now that maybe I have no particular issue with gender identity because it's the least incongruous part of my self-image. ;)

But at any rate, getting past all the self-indulgent tl;dr, I've never felt trapped or pigeonholed. I just don't relate to it, so my general answer to "What would so-and-so be like if they were male instead of female?" is "They'd have a penis and wouldn't have breasts. ...What?"

Which I guess is why the art interests me more. I like variations on a theme - I'm not a furry, but characters drawn as animals is interesting, and the anthromorphic Billy/Charley awhile back was great. It's not related to gender specifically - it's an interest that goes way beyond that. When I do it relating to gender, my response is mostly based on the idea of genetics and a certain degree of societal expectations (and what it gives you to work with).

Using Gumshoe as an example (I think someone else did one too, but I'm responsible for one of them), Gumshoe's a big, broad guy. If he was a woman, I imagine he'd still be big and broad - it would be sort of boring if he magically slimmed down. A lot of big, broad women I know are big all over, making them curvy, if not in the sort of way that gets you in Playboy. Gumshoe's poor, and probably doesn't have a lot of time/money for a haircut, so why wouldn't fem!Gumshoe put it off? Since the longest part of Gumshoe's hair sticks up, it's probably unruly. Rather than spending time/money/effort on taming it when it's longer, fem!Gumshoe pulls it back in a sloppy ponytail. Clothes are tailored in a more traditionally feminine way, since when women go to buy clothes, that's what they get, but still nondescript and old - and Gumshoe got a skirt because Maggey's uniform had a skirt, but it could go either way. And thus we have a Gumshoe who's still Gumshoe, rather than a traditionally pretty woman who happens to be wearing a trenchcoat.

Mia's tougher, because I don't think big boobs necessarily equates to big cock... I think I may have said something along those lines in the fic, though, just because it's funny to see Diego taken down a peg. ;) Largely it's the same things as above - take the distinguishing features and apply them to a different form (and since I don't define Mia by her chest...). Other than the form, no difference - especially in Mia, who's not an especially feminine woman personality-wise. I suppose if I was going into a whole AU where she was born male into the matriarchal Fey clan, then that could be different, just because that's one of the few parts of the AA-verse where gender actually does have anything to do with anything.

And you know, all the talk about Klavier and how he'd be different if female... I still don't see it. He'd probably have a somewhat different fanbase/reputation, but I don't think fem!Klavier would care - just keep on doing what she's doing, being cocky and confident and ignoring all the people who were going "WTF." ;) But that's just the interpretation of his personality that I like, and he's a tough one to pin down. It also may not help that I cosplay him, and randomly put on his bling and wig after having acquired a purple corset recently, just to see what I thought. Crossplay means genderswap can be fun and fast! ;)
I can definitely see how you wouldn't relate to it, yeah, and I think that's fair enough. I suppose the question your experience raises for someone who was trying to write genderswap would be, well, in that case, who would be the characters for whom, like you, gender roles and gender expectations don't have that much of an impact on their identity and experience, and why? (and by extension, then, who it would be pretty pointless - or at least indicative of a different issue entirely - to genderswap :D) Is it as simple as looking for characters who either don't read as stereotypically male or female, or who challenge the gender binary? Or is there a set of criteria, circumstances or factors that make gender constructs affect some people less than others, that you can look for in particular characters? I'm pretty sure my comparative lack of gender identity, for example, is at least in part a function of growing up in a massively female-dominated environment, in which femaleness was naturalised and default - so I wonder if you could hypothesise that the same would be true of the Fey women? Or I wonder if intelligence is a factor - by which I don't mean "intelligent people aren't affected by gender expectations", which is demonstrably untrue, but rather the idea that with exceptional intelligence (the same would probably go for any other talent, too), the ability stands on its own and speaks for itself enough to override any gendered expectations - it's undeniable enough that no one could possibly say or think "you are not as smart/strong/etc. because you are female/male". Idk. This is all speculation, really, and tbh it's the gender politics of the fictional world that are relevant, as much or more so, to genderswap specifically. And because the AA-verse is pretty good sexual politics-wise, unpacking what it does think would probably require a whole other essay, haha XD I do find it really interesting to think about, though.

Thanks for answering my question about the art; I love seeing the thought processes behind people's work! Sounds like you think about it in the way I was trying to get at when I called it translation - a process of decoding and re-encoding, extrapolating from the canon concept design the creative decision underpinning it (Gumshoe's messy hair <= his economic status), and then finding another way of expressing it. I guess that's probably the basic principle behind genderswap - where at the point of thinking about the creative decision, you pay particular attention to how it's been influenced by gender.

So much food for thought here - thank you!
I usually really don't get the genderswap appeal either -- though some of my reasons are a little different. As a heterosexual woman, I do fall into the stereotype of not having a huge amount of interest in reading porn focused on female bodies (whether it's femslash or het from the male POV), and I'm okay with owning that. So genderswap just for having girls-in-porn makes no sense. (And genderswap going the other way is so rare that I don't have a sample size for figuring out my reaction.)

I agree that the first three games are remarkably gender-balanced -- Dahlia is a bit of a femme fatale, but her real adversary is Mia, not a man, and their battle is NOT any sort of catfight. Etc. And Phoenix is remarkably free from gender norms. Memorably, I remember putting my foot in it a little in chat at one point by scoffing that "Phoenix is such a girl" -- I was rightly jumped upon until I'd had time to explain that I was used to being around people that would know that I was intentionally layering irony and several cultural lenses on the statement. He cries, several times, in canon. (Even in AJ, though IIRC it's during the flashback so it is pre-poker-face Phoenix.) I personally think only one thing would be tough to make work if you genderflipped Phoenix: his friendship with Larry, and that would be because of Larry and how little boys are socialized. Everything else just *works*, which is remarkably refreshing. (Well, the fact that adult Edgeworth is probably the most overtly sexist
character in the first three games might also cause issues, but he's such an all-around jerk to Phoenix that I don't think that particular issue would make things that much worse.)

Ack, none of this is coherent right now. More later, since for a cisgendered person, I've always had a ridiculously large amount to say on gender as a social construct, even before I was old enough and educated enough to know that that was what I was talking about.

Klaudia Gavin, stylistic heir to Lita Ford and Joan Jett, is kind of compelling, though. And kind of makes me want K/A, which I'm not fond of. (I don't ship much in AJ -- I'll read K/D and rarepairs and mindfuck Kristoph/Phoenix, but mostly I like gen.)
I do know what you mean with that first paragraph, although I come at it from a slightly different perspective (having more interest in female bodies, I guess :D) - I have no interest in genderswapping to turn a same-sex relationship into a het one, partly because turning a less socially acceptable relationship into a more socially acceptable one never quite sits well with me, but part of it also is that het porn does nothing for me, no matter whose POV it's from. Which no doubt contributes to my bafflement at all the Femnix/Edgeworth stuff going around.

That's a really good point about Dahlia and Mia. I suppose although Dahlia's behaviour and basic character design fits a fairly tired stereotype, the games contextualise it very differently, within the dynastic plot - the (hetero)sexual dimensions of what she does are present only really in the service of her desire for self-assertion and revenge in her complex family situation. And I agree with you about Phoenix, entirely (although you mentioning his friendships made me think: in the same way that I wondered if genderswapping Phoenix would make his relationship with Edgeworth read more readily as romantic, I wonder if it would make his relationship with Maya read more readily - although I already think it does, but I know there are those who disagree - as platonic/familial?).

As I said to mullenkamp, I think genderswap definitely relies heavily on defining gender as a social construct, and theorising an individual's experiences and identity as influenced by culturally circulating models of identity. But exactly how you put this theory into practice isn't straightforward - there's so many other factors intersecting with this process, and one of the really interesting things about genderswap for me (this is probably because character theory is one of my particular academic geek buttons) is how you figure out what are the constants about a character (environment? upbringing? genetic factors?) - what would stay the same if their gender changed? And what kind of model of human identity underpins the decisions and assumptions you make? I'm also conscious that my acceptance of the gender-as-social-construct approach is helped by my being cisgendered, and not being particularly sensitive to the biological basis of my gender identity - but at the same time, I don't know enough about that half of this subject to be able to engage with how physiology affects gender identity without going for the biological essentialist approach.

...I just looked up Lita Ford and my goodness if I didn't already want to write Klaudia Gavin I DO NOW.
Oh, I certainly think that genderswapped Phoenix would result in a) fandom being much smaller, because sadly a lot of guys wouldn't play a game with a female protagonist unless she's Lara Croft-esque, and b) everyone and their brother arguing that Phoenix/Edgeworth was really canon and not just subtext. Even though (since I'm not proposing to swap the Feys) Phoenix/Dollie would still be canon and thus there would be no more evidence that Phoenix is bisexual than there already is. And the Iris/Phoenix/Edgeworth love triangle would get more fic than it does. And there would be a lot of Larry/Phoenix, taking over the "but they're like sibs" argument from Phoenix/Maya. Gumshoe/Edgeworth would be the only main slash pairing.

I'm still really intrigued by the point you made in the original essay -- that it's not JUST about gender as a social construct in society at large, but also about how gender is constructed in the specific work being pulled from. That's a whole world of interesting right there. (And you can probably add the fact that gender isn't quite viewed the same in Japan as the US, though most of the localization weirdness in the games stems from differences in law than society.)

I tend to ignore a lot of the pop-press stuff on biological differences, because I think most of it is counterproductive. (Except medical studies that allow us to treat people more effectively.) This is heavily due to personal experience -- by any of those learning/psychology studies that show a difference, I learn/work/think "like a man". And I get tired of being told I'm an outlier.
...I'm staring at a library of 50+ videogames here, and counting 3 female protagonists (Jade in Beyond Good and Evil, Alex in Eternal Darkness, and Micaiah in FE10 - and even those last two are only the main characters for part of the game). Sigh. So I suppose that, in fact, would be one reason why a female Phoenix would appeal to me.

Something I've thought for quite a long time, which you've just reminded me of, is the idea that broadly speaking, a lot less "proof" of interest or attraction is demanded when you're talking about a heterosexual relationship - and not only in the context of ship teasing or shipping debates; so many incidental heterosexual romances in media are actually given very little development, as though the fact that one of them is a man and one of them is a woman is enough context to make attraction plausible. I watched a film the other day, a heist film, and at the end one of the men involved revealed an attraction to another of the men - and it seemed to me to come completely out of left-field. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that an attraction between them hadn't been given any less context or development than in similar scenarios where it's a man and a woman involved, and it was kind of a startling reminder of just how many deeply, deeply ingrained expectations and defaults you bring to media, and that can be activated with just a few cues, and just how much films/games/etc. usually rely on them.

It's so, so easy to see how Larry/Femnix would be shipped - their friendship could be turned into one of those relationships where you think it's a really sweet and rare heterosocial friendship but it becomes revealed that the guy is actually madly in love with the girl and she has no idea (not that I'm getting a bit sick of that trope or anything).

Talking about issues like this always brings home to me just how much baggage individual creative decisions have, and how fiction really is just layer upon layer of scripts and tropes and conventions that we use to understand and express the world. I'm very unromantic and pragmatic about how I treat fiction, though.

I think there's probably a whole other essay that could be written about how gender actually operates in the fictional world of these games - and of course, even saying that is interesting to me, because it relies on a very specific view of fiction: the text being an expression or representation of an imaginary world behind it, that you can reconstruct from the text and then make new inferences from. Which I actually think, the way people are making fiction at the moment, is becoming a more and more relevant and applicable view. Tangent, though.
the text being an expression or representation of an imaginary world behind it, that you can reconstruct from the text and then make new inferences from.

Well, in this case, I think it's a very relevant view, since there's a bunch of places the ficwriter has to extrapolate (that have nothing to do with gender). Mainly about law, since the system is a parody of Japanese law transplanted to the US, with some minor pieces of US legal jargon tacked on in localization. From evidence laws to poker for money being illegal, it's clearly not-quite-our-world, and once one starts worldbuilding, it's easy to keep going. Also, lots of video-game fans are used to sci-fi/fantasy settings, where there's a huge amount of worldbuilding, and gender perception really may intentionally be part of the difference.
Honestly, it doesn't interest me that much, except for that 'exposing the dynamic' aspect that it might bring in. I've not written any. I'm a slightly more interested in having characters already challenging the gender binary - the first thing I ever wrote for this fandom was Edgeworth as a FtM, and I find Machi an extremely interesting character as being someone who could fall into a 'trap' type of role, but whose seriousness of character keeps him from being typical.

This comment isn't going anywhere... I just wanted you to know I read this!
Tbh, I think this actually raises a really good point, and has clarified something in my head that I was trying to get out when I wrote the essay, but couldn't quite get the words for: I think that genderswap can be a way of exposing and making transparent the operation of binary constructs of gender in society, but it isn't necessarily a device you can use to challenge them - it points out that the gender binary exists and is influential as a construct, but doesn't really provide space for showing how gender identity (as opposed to gender roles) can be much more complex than it allows for. Which I guess it doesn't need to - there's nothing wrong with it being a specific fictional device with a specific purpose - but this does show that genderswap does have its limits as a way of thinking about gender in fiction.

Thanks very much for reading it :)
One of the examples of canon-genderswap that I thought was handled in an infuriating way is Dilandau/Celena in Escaflowne. When Dilandau turn back into Celena, he becomes this vapid, helpless, bland character who I am sure will be coddled by Allen, because he's a chauvinist like that. Granted, we only see her very briefly in the last episode, and I love how one of my favorite fan-authors handled giving Celena a story and a character post-series. In this case, the fandom improved upon the canon.
This just goes to show, I guess, that for all I'm rambling about genderswap as this great feminist device for exposing gender constructs, it can also be just as easily used to reinforce gender stereotypes and essentialist approaches - because all it inherently posits is a link between gender and identity; you can figure that link however you like. Whether it's "an individual's configuration of sex, gender identity and gender presentation will influence their experiences in life and be influenced by particular cultural constructs and expectations", or "biology = identity and your gender prescribes your personality". I guess I just tend to stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes to the latter type, heh.
As one of the not-so-anons who started off part thirteen of the kink meme with a girl!Phoenix request, I have to admit that I'm mostly in it for... well, straight!Edgeworth, I guess? Lmao. Also, the hot? But basically I love love love Phoenix/Edgeworth, and it's kind of fun for me to see what their dynamic would be like if one or both of them were swapped, and it gives me a chance to explore things that wouldn't happen if they were both male (pregnancy being the obvious example, along with I guess stuff like how they'd act together in public, assuming they live in a world where being homosexual isn't fully accepted yet, and in the case of f/f - lesbian lawyers!). I mean, I think I'm straight, but I've found women to be attractive before without wanting to enter in a relationship with them, so... well, why not.

...Which I guess ultimately down to the fact that hey, I like genderswap for mostly shallow reasons. XD
Shallow reasons are good! Hell, I'm not going to deny that my own reasons for writing K/D as hot lesbian rockstars are in no small part shallow :D

It's funny, reading this comment, because I understand your reasons completely, I just don't empathise with them at all - which I guess illustrates just how much the appeal of genderswap can be purely a matter of personal taste in matters not necessarily related to the act of genderswapping. For example, I definitely see your point about wanting to see how they'd cope with things that as a same-sex couple they wouldn't have to deal with - but to use your pregnancy example, I'm almost pregnancy-phobic, and I never ever ever read pregnancy fics, so I personally wouldn't get anything out of it. And again, I definitely sympathise with the hotness argument - but as I said to valentinite, het porn leaves me completely cold, so again I wouldn't get anything out of it. Which is sort of making me feel like my entire essay could really just be boiled down to "YMMV", haha XD It is also, though, giving me a clearer picture of the appeal of genderswap as a means to an end, rather than in itself, and I really appreciate that, thank you :)
I wish I had more time to blather on at you, but I wanted to agree with you that Klavier is an especially interesting case, and perhaps the only genderswap potential that interests me in this fandom. I think you hit the nail on the head- there's little in the way of gender politics in AA, or much that you can explore without destabilising the aesthetic of the series. In my previous fandoms, genderswap was something I couldn't get enough of, but it's significant that these were all shounen jump series, and there was something delicious about making all these manly stereotypical men suffer, almost, there were so many rigid gender boundaries to destabilise.

Considering that AA is already kind of queer, there's less satisfaction for me to derive from messing around with gender. Klavier's the exception for me, because I had the opportunity of playing him changed into a woman once, and it was remarkable- my interpretation of him is as someone who delights in being pansexual and exceptional (-ly flirty!) , and I didn't realise just how much he relied on being male in order to do this. It exposed a great male privilege. The same goes for Doctor Who's Captain Jack, I think... creating a female character who can do the same things requires so much more careful balancing of all aspects of her life. I don't think Klaudia could have become a prosecutor with the same personality. Women are forced to take different paths to rise the ranks, and being flirty and braznely pansexual isn't one of them, not with the sort of respect Klavier sems to garner. It's a scenario I don't find delicious to contemplate either, it's less about destablising conventional masculinity (which Klavier isn't) than reaffirming for me just how differently women have to approach positions of power, and it bothers more than entertains me.
It also sets me back in trying to establish Klavier as having a decent meaty masculinity in a potential relationship with Apollo, something I have enough trouble with already. ;3 ;3
I'm glad you found the time to blather on even a little :D Not least because this:

I had the opportunity of playing him changed into a woman once, and it was remarkable- my interpretation of him is as someone who delights in being pansexual and exceptional (-ly flirty!) , and I didn't realise just how much he relied on being male in order to do this. It exposed a great male privilege. The same goes for Doctor Who's Captain Jack, I think... creating a female character who can do the same things requires so much more careful balancing of all aspects of her life.

THIS THIS THIS. Yes. I think this is totally true, and is exactly what I was trying to get at, except said much more clearly :D In fact, this whole comment is just making me sort of point and say YES TRUTH. I think she'd end up a different kind of prosecutor, if she was one at all - the fact that Klavier relies so much on showmanship and is still trusted to be skilled and intelligent (not that he isn't, of course) seems to me a function of male privilege; I can imagine a similarly talented Klaudia as having to prove herself a lot more and take her job a lot more seriously. As a more trivial example, the Gavinners fit a very definitely gendered model of a rock band, the kind of stadium rock band that U2 are, for example - I think an all-female Gavinners would be a very different band, and probably wouldn't have had the same kind of success as it's suggested that the Gavinners in canon have. In terms of her sexuality, in the thing I'm writing I've actually ended up seeing her identifying as lesbian more than pansexual (which is how, like you, I'd see Klavier), because I'm really uncomfortable with the connotations her behaviour takes on in a heterosexual context, and I don't really know what to do with that.

You're absolutely right, though; though it's something I find interesting to write, it's not something I find enjoyable or entertaining to write - it's difficult and pretty depressing to think about, and tbh isn't really teaching me or helping me see anything I don't already know (like you say, it's just reaffirmation). But because it bothers me, I just can't seem to leave it alone - I'm a terribly masochistic fic writer, really. And also because I'm very much drawn these days to worrying at points where gender biases are less obvious, and where things that seem to be challenging the status quo and going outside it (like Klavier's non-traditional masculinity) are still shored up by it to some extent.

This is sort of tangential now, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoy hearing your thoughts on Klavier/Apollo - I was very dismissive of it for a long time, but whenever you talk about it I feel like I get a much clearer idea of how it works and what you can do with it.
Heheh, I can never resist. ;3 ;3

I'm really uncomfortable with the connotations her behaviour takes on in a heterosexual context, and I don't really know what to do with that.
Here's another resounding YES from me. :D I already have problems with exceedingly flirty takes on a male Klavier, let alone a female one! So much of the Klavier/Ema dynamic seems to rely on what I'd consider sexual harassment, and I really don't want my hero to be that kind of guy.
As for a female Klavier, a flirtatious blonde is really problematic, as you say. There seems to be this casual wholesome goodness vibe I get from Klavier, and I didn't realise how exclusively male it seemed to be. Especially living in Australia, there are so few 'types' of women that can be 'wholesomely good' and simultaneously 'flirty' in popular culture, let alone musical and intellectual. Sexuality is something women can't turn off as it suits them, rather than as it suits the public. I imagine Klara would have to suppress parts of herself, as all women do, whereas Klavier can let it hang loose, and his faults make up his appeal. This standard never exists for women, and just thinking on it now, I can absolutely agree with and see how just about the only acceptable way to genderswap Klavier would be to make him a lesbian- it'd be the only way to eliminate the pressure to live up to the male gaze. But as you say, it politicizes the Gavinners, to an extent, not that that's a bad thing, but again it indicates just what types of women are allowed to succeed.

I'm all depresso today, I'm sorry! I was reflecting on how niche my interests become and how much I'm losing interest in anime/manga as the stereotypes are so limited, and the misogyny in fandom is offputting, too. :( On a different note, though, I still have that half-written essay on Klavier/Apollo. :) I'll get it done someday so we can have more meaty talks. :)