not My Favorite Stories
by Quentin 'Cubist' Long
©2002 Quentin Long -- all rights reserved
We all have our personal tastes, and it would be silly to imagine that any one story (or even any one general class of stories) can or should appeal to all of the people who might read it (or them). In my case, I have found that transgender stories, as a group, constitute conclusive proof of Sturgeon's Law. I'm not so jaundiced as to believe that all TG stuff is intrinsically garbage, just because -- but I have noticed that an excessively large fraction of such tales are marred by one or more of a number of motifs which, for one reason or another, I find highly questionable. Some of these motifs are blameless in their own right, merely threadbare from pathological overuse; others I dislike on their own merits (or lack thereof), in addition to their pathological overuse. Either way, we're talking about clichés, and for your edification, here are nine of them in no particular order.
I: No conservation of parity
Something like 99.99% of all TG stories involve male-to-female transformation. Fine, but what's wrong with female-to-male? Are there no women who abuse the powers and privileges of their gender, and therefore must be taught a TG lesson? No female sorcerers fall in love with people of inappropriate sex, and consequently remodel the prospective partner's bod to make them a more-suitable bed partner? No women ever have the misfortune of encountering gender-bending anomalies of whatever kind? No women suffer from gender dysphoria and pursue every available avenue by which God's "mistake" might be corrected? Apparently, we are meant to believe that all possible methods of gender reversal (genetic modification, magical spells, Divine intervention, et cetera ad nauseum) have a rather intense built-in bias towards eliminating that ol' debbil Y-chromosome. And while I'm on the subject, there's also this amazing, disproportionate tendency to generate overendowed and/or oversexed bombshells; apparently, you ain't really a woman unless you're 42DDD or better and willing to "put out" for anything with a penis...
Okay, strictly speaking I should have said "scummy males", but there's an amazingly large percentage of TG stuff in which the adjective is redundant because every male character just plain is scummy! I don't get it, myself. Why do so bleeding many TG authors do this? What makes them so virulently bigoted -- and the concept "all X are scum" is bigotry, whether X is "males", "females", Jews", "blacks", "humans", or whatever else -- against the Y-chromosome-enhanced segment of the human species? Are they radical feminists of the "all sex is rape" variety, or deeply unhappy males who loathe their own gender, or what?
III: Stuck in a rut
Considered in the abstract, as an isolated concept unto itself, it's not unreasonable that some poor bastard in the process of transformation might feel any number of highly intense sensations. Nor is it unreasonable that those sensations might include sexual arousal; Tourette's Syndrome-like spasms of profanity; peculiar dietary urges; a compulsion to yodel; or whatever other neural quirk. What is unreasonable, is that so bleeding many TG authors invoke sexual arousal and nothing but for their characters whose gender is in process of getting bent. News flash, people: It's been done! Time to move along, already!
IV: The grass is greener...
Here's a bit we've all seen a few times: "My life used to suck. But then I became a woman, and now everything is just great!" Holy Rose-Colored Glasses, Batman! It's one thing if a character is unable to see anything good in male existence, and is equally blind to the bad aspects of female-ness, but I expect better of authors. If you're wondering why I'm not kvetching about "everything is perfect since I became a man" stories, the reason is simple: I haven't seen any, and in fact am not at all sure that they even exist.
Face it: Magic is a crutch for lazy writers. It's the ultimate plot device; all you do is write "And then they found this old grimoire," and your characters are set up for anything and everything you, the author, care to inflict on them! No need to expend any mental effort coming up with a plausible mechanism for the sex-change; likewise, you don't have to divert any of your valuable word-count away from the really important stuff like a highly detailed description of the sensations of the change, and how horny the new woman is, and her newfound fascination with properly feminine stuff like clothes, and...
VI: Rape and other good, clean fun
If you've got two (or more) consenting adults, that's one thing. But if any of the participants are not involved of their own free will, it's another thing entirely, and the word for that thing is 'rape'. Look, folks -- "No" means "no", got it? "No" does not mean "get the bitch soused on her own hyper-concentrated hormones" or whatever, is that clear? Rape is rape, no matter whether the victim was born female 20 years ago or created female 20 seconds ago (raped males are essentially nonexistent in TG fiction, to the best of my knowledge).
VII: The Question
If you've read more than three TG stories, you know what The Question is: "Two fingers, or the whole hand?" Once the change begins, start counting the words to see how long it takes the author to get to The Question. Bonus points if The Question occurs before the change is complete, and double bonus if The Question occurs in the same paragraph as the start of the change. Technically speaking, The Question is only a (mis-) feature of male-to-female stories, not of TG as a whole -- but as noted earlier, this genre contains so many more ex-males than ex-females that the latter can be discarded without loss of generality.
VIII: Boy meets (ex-) boy...
"Two male characters. Lifelong friends. One gets TG'ed. They marry, and live happily ever after." This is not a bad plotline in and of itself, but... it's been done, people. Many times over. By now, it's gotten to be as predictable and rigidly stylized as a Kabuki dance! Obviously, some people do enjoy that sort of thing. I am not one of those people.
IX: The Perfect Woman
The concept of "the Genetically/Biologically/etc Perfect Woman" is a valid one to explore in fiction. Unfortunately, an awful bleeding lot of TG authors have some very disturbing conceptions of exactly what "the Perfect Woman" is, if one takes their stories as evidence of their views on this point. For instance, some authors define "the Perfect Woman" solely and entirely in terms of her vagina -- i.e. her readiness and willingness to engage in sexual activity. She may have been a 36-year-old man at the time she got TG'ed, but despite her complete absence of female sexual experience, she is nonetheless a past master of any and all forms of sexual activity. Likewise, never mind that she had 36 years of experience dealing with the male hormones of her former body; her new set of biochemicals will surely result in chronically loosened panties, end of discussion (see also: The Question, above). And of course, Goddess forbid that the Perfect Woman should ever be smaller than 42DDD!
Final note to TG writers: It is worth noting that TSAT is perfectly willing to use transgender stories, as witness Skin Deep II. My own personal preferences notwithstanding, my partner in crime (Michael Bard) has more of a taste for this stuff than I do. So by all means write and submit TG stories; the presence of items listed in this essay will not disqualify a story from consideration! But let's say we've got two TG stories to choose from, and they differ in the number of TG-ish clichés they incorporate. All else being equal, we'll probably go with the one that's least cliché-ridden.