So, about a year ago, my friend iambickilometer made a post called Five+ Ways Being Transgender in Fandom Really Sucks, and Why I Stick With It Anyway. It is an incredible post, and everyone should read it; it's concise and clear and moving, and you will unquestionably learn from it. I know I did, when I read it last April. Iambic says a number of things within that post that are worth reading and rereading until you know them by heart, and I'm not going to discuss most of them here--he's done a far better job of saying it all than I ever could, and he speaks from a plane of experience that I've never traveled on. You should go read his words, you guys--read and reread, digest, take to heart.
There's just one thing that I'm going to say, because I've been seeing it everywhere for months and months now and I think it's just because folks don't know: that stuff that's usually called genderswap fic? Guys, it's pretty much always sexswap.
These are two definitions Iambic included in his post; he pointed out there that they are his own, because these are words that can mean different things to different people. His understanding of these terms lines up with mine, so I am using them here; I humbly second his request not to challenge these definitions unless they are unintentionally offensive.
sex: a classification of body dependent upon reproductive organs and hormones associated with reproduction and development.
gender: the way a person relates to their sex.
To put it another way: gender's about identity. It's about who you are as a person, not what body parts you do or do not have. So stories where, I don't know, Arthur from Inception wakes up in a female body, or Kono from Hawaii 5-0 wakes up in a male body? Unless you're also addressing a shift in gender identity (which, by the way, is something I personally would love to read), these are sexswap stories, not genderswap stories. It's not a question of which sounds better, or which is clearer, or even of fandom vernacular--it is, really and truly, a case of one being a misnomer, and the other being correct.
I have this life philosophy, you guys, about taking in as much as you can, about viewing every situation you find yourself in as a potential learning experience. When I got into fandom originally, I thought it was going to be a place to stretch my writing muscles, a place to teach myself to write by writing. Instead, I discovered more than I ever thought I'd know about other people's histories, cultures, identities and life experiences. I'm a cisgendered, bisexual Jewish girl from a city on the edge of a once-burnt river; I don't know really know shit about shit, and I don't claim to know. But I know more than I would have, is the thing, and it's because people like Iambic have taken the time and energy and inherent risk to tell me.
And I say all this to make the following point: this post is not about shame. It's not about making you feel bad about stuff you've written or thought about writing; you're not going to find me in your comments, typing in RAGECAPS and making angry faces. I'm not interested in policing you or pushing you or making choices for you--that's not who I am, and it's not what I'm about. Rather, this post is about awareness. It's about broadening horizons, and learning something you maybe didn't know before. It's about the moment I had, reading Iambic's post last April and realizing I'd had some things wrong; it's about sharing that moment with you guys, both for the sake respecting the experience of others and for the sake of accuracy, for the sake of our own integrity as writers and readers and artists.
In conclusion: we're a community of fans, and whether they've been scripted and acted or inked and bound, we know better than anyone that words have power and weight and meaning. So let's use them correctly, yeah? Let's say what we mean to say. ♥