Walking to Inspiration!

Holmdel Park, New Jersey

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Today, I’m gonna share on where I get my ideas. I’ve written hundreds of gender swap short stories, novels, novellas and now scripts over the years. While they share a common element– someone gets gender swapped– they also are all different and unique in their own ways. Mostly, that does not result from a kind of logical process, but from an imaginative experience.

One of the greatest idea generating activities in my life involves walking. Aside from getting story ideas, I just like to walk. It’s healthy, and for me it’s a form of meditation. When I walk regularly, I just feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.

And, I get ideas. In the case of my current novel, Carrolwood, for example, the voice of the narrator came to me as I walked around my neighborhood after dinner one sweaty summer night. I sort of met this character, and I thought the voice was funny, and I began to think about what kind of story I could tell with that voice. The characters and setting all then just kind of emerged from my subconscious.

Another time I was walking around the beach down at Asbury Park, NJ, where the evil, 19th century clown Tillie still serves as town mascot, and I just started to think about what if Tillie were an evil spirit haunting the town? As I walked around, I took pictures of different locations, and the story ended up being built around that walk.

In addition to getting ideas for stories, I sometimes walk to inspiration while in the middle of a story. Sometimes when I am writing I get in a jam and can’t figure out what the character would or should do, I take a long walk, and the answer a lot of times just comes to me. Sometimes I see the scene in my head, and at those times I am very much inclined to believe in the idea of a muse that is feeding me ideas. It really does feel to me sometimes like I am seeing the story happen and just writing it down rather than “coming up with it.”

There are other ways ideas come to me. Sometimes I create a cover and then write a story to match. I have been inspired sometimes by other authors. For example, I once decided to write a TG story in the style of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Likewise, Forever Mine started out as “forced femme version of YOU (the book and Netflix series). There must be others I can’t think of right now– Oh, yeah– It Girl! What? Just started out as “TG Anime.”

But, I would say, without walking, I think I would write a lot less. There’s just something about walking along a shady, tree-lined path that allows my mind to open itself up and accept the gifts of inspiration!

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The Wild Boys: DVD Now Available!

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Buy the North American Blue Ray HERE!

Though I feel few share my fascination and admiration of The Wild Boys, I nevertheless decided to post up my review of the DVD, in which I will discuss in greater depth why I love this movie, as well as the Bonus Features.

To start with my love of the movie, let me express my admiration for the film making itself, which comes from what some, including the director, call the “Incoherents” movement.  Simply, this means the director does not concern himself with creating a false sense of unity and realism such as a viewer would find a mainstream Hollywood film.

So,  in TWB, sometimes the movie looks like an old-fashioned sea adventure, sometimes like a period drama, sometimes like dream.  In fact, to my mind, the result creates for the reader an experience much like a dream– with the  use of compression and symbolism, for example, inviting a series of sub-conscious reactions.   All of this works very well with the material, which explores mutability, metamorphosis, boys turning into girls, men into women.

As with the camera, the director does not ask the actors to play everything in a naturalistic way, which in any case he rejects as just another technique.  Sometimes the actors do seem to deliver their lines “California Style” but often, working with the camera, lines are infused with gravity, characters look off in dramatic ways or turn their heads for effect.  Within that context, the actors in this film, and particularly the young women who play the boys, I find all of their performances compelling.  The young women embody young masculinity, with the mannerisms and voices feeling right– not caricature  or camp, but like boys.  Similarly, they commit totally to surreal scenes, such as when a bout of boyish rough housing beneath falling feathers turns erotic just as they stand on the cusp of their new, female bodies.

So, innovative directing that matches the themes and subject matter, plus epic performances, and that’s a great film.  But, of course, I have a particular affinity for work that explores gender, and this one does it in ways that most such movies never have the nerve to explore.

Some of favorite moments resonate either because they blow past previous limitations, or else they celebrate what seem to me “classic” TG moments.  For example, there is a scene where one of the boys, still identifying totally as a boy, is startled and screams in a “feminine” manner, then discovers he now sounds like a girl when he talks.  The “voice change” had always been one of my favorite tropes, and so it was very fun to see this played out, with the boy clutching his throat, clearly embarrassed, and the others, not realizing they will share his fate, mocking him and calling him “girly.”

Another trope I enjoy the movie explores is that they boys develop breasts before they become biologically female, so we see a couple of them struggling with the shame of having breasts, the insecurity and ways it challenges their sense of identity.

Finally, the role-reversal and feminizing– or at least the forcing of the boys into feminine roles and situations, begins long before their physical change.  The Captain sexually harasses one of them at one point, while they also are forced to walk through a field full of “groping” plants.  And, of course, there is the phallic tree and its white juice they must drink to survive, as well as a suggestive fruit they are forced to eat.  So, while some may struggle waiting for the physical changes to occur, there is plenty to see in terms of gender before they even get to the biological morphing.  After the morphing, this film gets much more naked than most, so the reality of the new bodies is right there on the screen.

For viewers interested in seeing how characters adjust to their change, this film does not offer a lot.  After initially shocked and embarrassed reactions, including some morning for their lost phalluses, the characters seem to accept their new genders readily.  In addition, they seem largely unchanged, simply becomes female versions of themselves, with the same attitudes and values as before, something which I find interesting, but might not satisfy all viewers.

Bonus Features

Not much.  Of the deleted scenes, I did find two very worthwhile:  First, as he has first turned fully into a female, one of the boys is crying, staring at himself in the mirror.  A character known as The Doctor walks over and pulls his shirt open, so he now must confront the sight of his breasts.   In the second, a group of sailors comes to the island, and we see the boys– now all female–  moving in feminine, erotic poses, luring the men to their doom like sirens.

The others were well deleted.  In addition, the Behind the Scenes, while interesting, was a disappointment– and probably meant to be.  I must confess that here I had hoped for something more conventional, especially interviews with the actors about what it was like to play boys, for example, how they prepared, the voices…etc…  But it is a surreal short film shot on Super 8 with the actor murmuring poetically.  It works as a short film and ads some to the experience of the film– there is a scene of the actors, all in their boy forms, having fun with fake phalluses– but it doesn’t reveal as much as I had hoped.

 

Buy the DVD!

 

Gender Bender streaming on Netflix

Check out my gender bending ebooks!

And especially My Epic Fantasy Series!

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In the future, you are not your body; you are data.  And, in this future world, corporations and governments can strip your data from one human body (called a sleeve) and place it in another, or even just store you indefinitely as information either with consciousness or within a simulated world.  This is the SCIFI basis of Altered Carbon, the name of both a book and a TV series.

Obviously, this opens up a lot of possibilities for gender swapping and exploration.  In the book and in the movie, it is clear that the main character, who identifies as male and embodies the tough guy investigator type (Deckard in Blade Runner, Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane novels…etc…) has spent some time in female sleeves.  He mentions it in the book, and in the show when people scan his ID, all his former identities come up, and several are clearly female.

Unfortunately, neither the book nor the TV show delve too deeply into the gender games.  For those who enjoy the much more rare female to male swap, there is a fun sequence where a main character, Kristin Ortega, brings her grandmother back in the body of a hulking, tattooed and very male goon in order to celebrate El dia de los Muertos.  The actor does not over play the feminine mannerisms, and is actually very good at embodying a grandmother enjoying spending a holiday with her family.

All of the characters we meet seem to identify as straight male or female regardless of their sleeve’s sex, and there is little sense that the body swapping has led to any major changes in society in terms of how people perceive male and female.  It largely reflects our mainstream world with a SCIFI filter.  However, there is some interesting action, and the little taste of gender bending that’s there was enough to fire up my imagination.

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Another Netflix series based on a novel that gets into some gender bending is Kiss Me First.  

Get Book Here

Kiss Me First follows a young woman who spends a great deal of her time in a virtual reality game, using the name Shadowfax.  This show delves into identity more intentionally than AC, and without giving away too much I will reveal that there is a character in the virtual world who is not what she seems!  We also have characters logging in as other people, and lots of questions about what’s real and what isn’t.  I would love to see more gender stuff in future installments, but again what is there and what is potentially there got my imagination working.

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Lastly, a more straight up gender bending French film called I am Not an Easy Man.  In this film, like Second Nature, a chauvinistic male finds himself transported to a mirror universe where gender roles are revered.  Women are the aggressors, and they hold most of the money and the power.  Men are expected to do their best to look attractive for the women and are viewed as the lesser sex.  It’s a fun and interesting take on the usual story as the man finds himself struggling to deal with being objectified …etc… and there is a little body image stuff as at one point he contemplated putting inserts into his underwear to give himself a bigger butt.  The acting is all good, and the film does make some nice observations about gender and politics.

Check them out and let me know what you think!  I get lonely out here in my virtual world and would love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to brush your teeth!

Changers Report: Spoilers

Changers Book One: Drew by [Cooper, T, Glock-Cooper, Allison]

 

I love the genius premise of Changers: each year of high-school, the main character turns into a completely different person.  In the case of the main character in Changers: Book One, 13 year old skater dude Ethan Wakes up to discover he has become a blonde girl!

Now, I am always most interested in gender changes, and especially of the unwilling variety, and for Ethan it is most certainly an unwilling change.  He actually had been shy around girls and uncomfortable with them, but had set down as one of his goals for his freshman year to get a girlfriend.  Now, he suddenly finds he is a girl, and he has no idea how to be HER.

Now, I call it a genius premise because many young people do go through different identities during their high-school years, sometimes willfully and sometimes, like Ethan, now called Drew, in a way that feels unwilling and haphazard.  So, I feel that Ethan’s seemingly supernatural experience neatly parallels and explores the real life experiences of young people, especially now that they are more free to explore their gender identity.

In the first part of the book, we get to see Drew as she adjusts to the expectations of girl teen culture, becomes a junior varsity cheerleader and explores relationships with other girls and boys.  It’s fun and contains many of the beats we expect, while at the same time offering grounded characters who seem psychologically real.

In addition to her learning how to be a high-school girl, she also has to deal with the fact that she is part of a secret society of kids who are all changing identities just like her, and that this society has a LOT of rules, along with a lot of ominous threats about what will happen if she breaks them.

Which brings me to one thing I didn’t love: I felt the rules of the Changers world were too complicated and limiting, and that too much time was spent dwelling on them.  I didn’t find the Changers’ culture believable.  For example, all of the changers are sworn to keep their nature a secret, and yet they are then given a tattoo on their butt which makes it easy to identify them.  It makes little sense.  The character also has to attend an incredibly dull and boring seminar which I found agonizing to read about, and which ended with a huge party for all the changers where they were encouraged to mingle even though they were forbidden from having relationships with each other.  So, those section did not shine, especially compared to the other stuff, which was all really great.

I like the book and recommend it.  There is even talk of a series, so this could be a really fun TV show one day!  Check it out!!!!

Changers Book One

New York Times Feature on the Authors

T Cooper’s Website

Tangerine: Spoilers

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The film Tangerine explores the lives of two transgender friends living in Los Angeles, features transgender performers in the lead roles, and explores and celebrates their lives and struggles without ever being self-consciously a statement about transgender issues.

What I mean is that this film is a film about people.   And in the same way a similar movie might have been about two friends who happened to be straight, or two friends who happened to be doctors, or any two people who happened to be other things, this one explores the lives of two people who happen to be TG, but who are not limited by that aspect of their identities, and who are neither valorized or mocked because of it.  There is no sense that the audience has any obligation to pay special attention to the fact that they are TG, or to view the film like a movie in a sociology class where the subtext is, “This is how TG people put on their shoes!”   They are people like other people, and that is among the film’s triumphs.

And what do these people want?  The same things as everyone else: they want to be valued, loved, understood, and it is their pursuit of these universal human needs to drives the drama of the film and almost brought me to tears on several occasions.

Alexandra has planned a big concert and invited all of her friends as well as everyone else in the neighborhood.  She loves to sing and hopes for a special evening sharing her love with her friends, who have all enthusiastically promised to come see her.   When she gets to the venue, not even one person has shown up, and she stands outside arguing with the manager, insisting that people are on the way, refusing to believe that not even a single person cared enough to make it to the show.  I ached for her both because she had been abandoned, and because she refused to believe she had been abandoned.  I know that feeling.   When I was a kid, the last time my mother tried to throw a birthday party for me no one came.  No one.   And I could see the pain and shame she felt as much as I felt my own.  I didn’t even realize no one liked me until I was sitting there in our dirty little house, watching my mother calling neighbors and listening to their excuses.  I know that feeling and experience is shared by many people who are not “normal.”

Finally, one person does show up, Sin-Dee, who has brought along a woman she is kidnapping–  see the movie– and Alexandra performs for her friend and the other lonely people who spend their Christmas Eves at seedy bars.

Sin-Dee is the more temperamental of the two, and her quest on this Christmas Eve has been to find the woman who has been sleeping with her boyfriend and confront them.   During this confrontation, she learns that her boyfriend has cheated on her not only with the one girl, but also with her best friend, Alexandra, whose concert she alone cared enough to see.

The second betrayal breaks her heart.   She is devastated, and she wanders off into the night to turn some tricks, looking for some way to get out of herself, to stop feeling what she is feeling, only to have a car full of frat boys throw a bottle of piss in her face.

The movie does, in scenes like the one above, show some of the abusive behavior with a transgender person might face, some of the disgusting acts that happen.  These women are as far from Kaitlin Jenner and the Victoria’s Secret fashion show as you can get, and their lives are full of hardships, not magazine covers celebrating them for their courage.

So, when Sin-Dee is horrified, despairing, broken, who comes to the rescue?  Alexandra.   She comes over and helps her friend, and the two of them at least have each other.  They are not along on Christmas Eve, and they are not defeated.   They each seem determined to keep on living, to get up and make it another day.

There is a third character searching for connection in the movie, an Armenian cab driver.  He is married and has a child, and he loves men, and particularly Sin-Dee.   The last we see of him he is alone in his living room, standing in front of a Christmas tree, with a lost and lonely look on his face as he faces maintaining his marriage, keeping up his obligations, continuing to live in the closet.  How much worse to be alone in the presence of others?  To be a stranger to yourself?

The film could, I suppose, be accused of typing transgender characters in the sense that they are sex workers.  One of the criticism of the portrayal of TG people in the past is that they tend to be criminals or prostitutes, drug addicts.

But, see the movie. It doesn’t have that feel of otherness about it.  In fact, it brings attentions to harsh realities:

Ms. Taylor (Alexandra) now finds herself in a position similar to Ms. Cox, (Orange is the New Black) as a spokeswoman for transgender people, appreciative of the increased visibility yet dismayed at the soaring rates of homicide, suicide attempts and unemployment that plague this world. “Visibility is very important, but it’s not changing the day-to-day lives of everyday trans people,” Ms. Cox said. “We need another culture shift.”

They are people.  They may be poor. They may be TG.  They may be or do a lot of things good and bad– but what we see in this movie is that they are people who just want to be loved and live their lives, and that is a wonderful thing to see.

It’s available for streaming!  Tangerine On Netflix

 

 

 

 

Does The Soul Have a Gender?

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Each time I start a new book, I look for something new to explore.   Almost all of them have, of course, dealt with gender identity, but with most of my books I start off asking a slightly different question, or exploring a slightly different scenario.

For the book I am working on now, I started with the question which serves as the title of this blog– does the soul have a gender?  I have occasionally included religious dimensions in my work, usually Christian, but this time I am exploring the idea of reincarnation.

I know in some cultures the idea persists that the soul takes on a female form when it is less spiritually evolved, and that as one progresses in their lives they eventually get to be a male. However, I reject this notion, which I believe reflects patriarchal and misogynistic cultures and their fear of women more than any true spiritual understanding.

I believe that neither male nor female is a superior or more evolved gender.  I believe they are different identities and that each has its strengths and weaknesses.  I believe both males and females are capable of creating life and beauty, and both are also capable of destruction and ugliness.

The cyclops.   The sirens.  One crushes with brute strength.  One lures you to your death with the allure of their beautiful voices.   We need both the masculine and the feminine and all the gradations in between.   The most evolved cultures honor all and live without fear of any.

I don’t know where any of my books are going as I write them.  I just write and see where the characters take me.  Sometimes, readers have complained about my endings, but I always feel like I am ending the stories where I need to.   Right now, having started with my questions about the soul, I am just letting the characters go where they please, and I am really enjoying writing my mythic exploration of this idea as my main character slowly comes to realize that he has a female soul, and how that knowledge impacts him in his current life.

 Here is an excerpt:

The water felt warm and scented oils clung to his smooth leg, the sweet odor of eucalyptus rising up to meet him as he stepped in completely, sliding down into the luxurious waters, and the candles flickered and he sighed as the water rose over his soft, swaying breasts, and he sighed softly, arching his back as he ran his hands his breasts, lifting them and squeezing his legs together as he remembered the way Chris had fucked him…

Craig opened his eyes, looking down at his hands on his flat, muscular chest.  What the hell?  He’d seen himself as a woman.  Again.   Had… loved seeing himself as a woman.  It had felt so good, so real, so…. Right?

Everything was wrong.   So wrong.   What had Chris done to him?

Wild Cards, a princess and a pregnancy (Spoilers)

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How would a man react to being turned into a pregnant woman?

The Wild Cards series of books, edited by George R.R. Martin was set in a version of our world in which a strange virus mutated some of the population, giving super powers to a few and making others into grotesque outcasts.  In Book 9, Jokertown Shuffle, things got TG to the extreme when the very male Dr. Tachyon is switched into the body of a teen-age girl by his own sociopathic son.

The story line delved into some ugly realities faced by women–  Tachyon is raped and abused by his son– in way I had never seen up to that point, and it juxtaposed that story line brilliantly with a fairy-tale princess vision of reality, with Tachyon finding himself a damsel in distress, having dreams where he is in a Alice in Wonderland fairy world, passively hoping to be rescued by a mysterious figure known as The Outcast.

The combination of these various very feminine/female fears and fantasies being imposed on a man fascinated me, delving into those questions of behavior and the line between biology and free-will.  Tachyon, initially horrified to have something growing inside him, quickly becomes overwhelmed by his body’s maternal instincts, and helpless and desperate, he just as quickly embraces his role as a pretty young princess, dependent on a man to rescue and protect him.

At the time, I felt the book very clearly fell on the side of biology.  It seemed to say–  put a baby in a man’s belly, and he will become a mother, put a man in a woman’s body, and he will start to have female fantasies.   I feel now, re-reading the book, that I may have misjudged.  Tachyon does not just find himself in a young woman’s body– he is subjected to brutality and abuse, rape, physically and mentally tortured and imprisoned.   Could many of the behaviors that I thought were biological actually be the result of the experiences he suffered?

Clearly, these things all would have an impact, so that whatever the biology and brain chemistry he found himself swimming in as a man in a pregnant woman’s body, the abuse and imprisonment also shaped his reactions and feelings.  Abortion wasn’t an option.  He had to carry the baby, and so he chose to dedicate himself to being the best mother he could be to his unborn child.

I remain fascinated by the fairy tale elements of Tachyon’s journey into motherhood and the impact being turned into a damsel in distress had on him and might have on other types of men. It’s something I have explored and continue to explore in my own writing.  Many of my stories use fairy tale tropes and Jungian archetypes, and I continue to like to write about the interaction between biology, environment and culture when it comes to gender identity.  I think there are some men out there who would become good mothers, but my feeling is that most of them would not primarily due to fear and ego.  Maybe I’ll write about that sometime soon.

Check it Out on Amazon!