Transparent (Spoilers)

transparentwedding

So, I finally watched Transparent, mainlining the two existing seasons over the course of a weekend.

And I don’t know what to say.

I liked the show.  I found it very watchable, and I feel it won on all fronts from a creative perspective: great writing, acting, directing, music.  However, The Pfeffermans are horrible people.  Unbridled narcissists, they crash into the lives of much nicer, more caring people and remorselessly shred their psyches and then cast these people aside like outgrown toys, occasionally popping back in to see if they can inflict new pain upon their victims.

Transparent feels very much like a soap opera, where a lot of the drama is driven by the lurid pleasure that comes from watching these people lure one victim after another into their web of lies and then wait for the moment when the poor person realizes that they are just another victim of a very sick family.

What makes Transparent different from Falcon Crest, however, is that many of the characters, not just the father, find themselves exploring their identities, sexual and gender.  The father, Maura, has come out as transgender and expressed her desire to live as a woman.   Sarah leaves her husband to rekindle a lesbian relationship she had in college.  Gaby pursues both a trans man and later a lesbian relationship with an old friend and one of her brother’s former conquests, and Shelly, the mother of the family, explores a lesbian relationship with her former husband.  So, with the exception of the son, so far, they are all what I would call genderfluid, open to exploring their own sexualities if not always very accepting of others.

But they are all assholes! Narcissists. They are a prevalent stereotype of LGBT people as people who love only themselves and do not seem to care at all how their actions impact others.  They are always me, me, me, and they lie and abuse people with impunity. So, isn’t it a problem that this show, being lauded as a ground-breaking step forward for LGBT people, portrays LGBT as horrible, selfish parasites?

No, and for this reason; because it is just like Falcon Crest. Or Dallas.  Or countless other shows where rich, entitled turds go around being selfish and abusive toward others. Transparent is not a documentary or an after-school special. It is a soap opera, and nice people are boring, so naturally these characters need to be flawed and terrible, because that is what viewers find entertaining.  No one is going to tune in to watch a well-adjusted family work out their problems like mature adults.  No one.  No one is going to tune in to watch a happily married couple go on an uneventful vacation.

There needs to be conflict.  Disaster.  Bad thinking.

In addition, among the victims suffering for the misfortune of getting involved with any of the human misery machines known as the Pfeffermans, are straight and LGBT characters alike.   We see that in the world there are good and bad people, and some of them are straight and some of them are not, and it is a good thing that this show can portray a balance.

If I were going to fault anything it would be the classification of this show as a comedy.   It seemed very clearly a drama to me.  There are some funny moments, but they emerge out of dramatic situations and are far less frequent than more dramatic moments.  It seems to me that the only reason that anyone would find this to be a comedy is if they are an immature person who thinks anything with non-traditional gender roles is automatically funny.  There is a scene, for example, where Maura has decided to perform at a LGBT talent show, and as she comes out and begins to sing all of her children begin laughing uncontrollably and then flee the room in the middle of her performance.

When Maura first emerged onto the stage, I was thinking– yes!  Do it!  Live your life!  I didn’t find it hilariously funny that she would have the courage to get up there and do it. Not at all.  Nor did I find it hilarious that her children would burst out laughing and then run out of the room.

But then I am one of those kind-hearted folks that people like the Pfeffermans would prey upon, so maybe that is why I found it sad people would be so hateful toward their own parent.

Transparent is a soap opera, and I would say a good one.  Season Two got more and more into gender identity, and I found it more and more interesting.  I am looking forward to the third season.  To me, I would call is Falcon Crest in transition.

If you are looking for a show about good people who are interested in growing and becoming better people– for real, not just for fashion– this probably isn’t the show for you.  But if you want to see horrible people being horrible, check it out.

Free on Amazon Prime

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitty Pride and Professor (really) X (Spoilers!)

skeevy

So, do you remember the time Professor X tried to do it with the teen-age Kitty Pride, but it wasn’t Kitty Pride but actually Baron Karza, the supreme enemy of the Micronauts?

The subplot, featured in the 4 issue x-Men and the Micronauts mini-series, flirted with Sub/Dom TG.    Baron Karza, trapped in the body of a female and dressed like a slave girl, on his back in such a vulnerable position, his arch-enemy, dominant, ready to make his move.  In the book, realizing his enemy intends to have sex with him, Karza tries desperately to distract his enemy, to keep him busy, because Karza feels physically helpess and unable to defend himself.

To understand the dynamic Chris Claremont was playing with, understand that Baron Karza was the Darth Vader of the micro-verse, the ultimate bad guy.  Like Vader, he always wore armor and a helemt, a cold, distant figure, inscrutable.  He ruled over others, had an near-omnipotence in his realm, and could even take on the form of a centaur, cementing his status as an emblem of masculinity and virility..

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So, for him to find himself trapped in the body of a girl, helpless and in the clutches of a predatory male was as close to a total reversal as could be imagined.

The added level of kind of strange pervyness was that the villain is actually Professor Xavier, and, of course, Kitty Pride was one of his students.  The story line didn’t really delve too much into this, and there were never any ramifications beyond the mini-series, but it was a very interesting, human and flawed Xavier that emerged.

A third little bonus for me was the fact that I had owned many micronauts as a kid and loved them, so now one of my favorite toys had merged with TG fiction, and I was in heaven.

In any case, these kinds of role-changes are very interesting to me.  Karza very quickly chose to play the helpless maiden, seeking to flatter and cajole and manipulate the man who wanted to have sex with him, all his usual shouting and bravado gone.  Yet, he was still Karza, and he was just waiting for the chance to try and kill his enemy.

How much of femininity is simply practicality?  Would any intelligent man, placed in Karza’s situation, resort to passive, feminine strategies?  Would many women, if they were bigger and stronger than the men in their lives, take on the dominant role because they could?

These are the questions I feel we can explore in genderfluid fiction, readily and overtly.  Of course, Chris Clarement, author of the series, didn’t have the freedom to pursue the story line very far or very deep.  The most he could do was play at the surfaces.   But that doesn’t mean, and I am sure others, haven’t written fan fiction in which Baron Karza remains a teen-age girl, and where he comes to find the pleasure in surrender.

kitty

The Hit Girl (Spoilers)

hitgirl

Status.  Much of life, and much of TG fiction, revolves around the issue of status.  Who gets to be on top and why?  How much of that is related to gender identity, and what would happen to an alpha male type if he were to find himself in a beta-girl body?

The Hit Girl playfully explores all these ideas.  The main character starts the film as a hit man, a big, burly dude who kills people without remorse, but only people who have it coming. Nevertheless, he lives in a world where he does what he wants, solves problems with violence and never feels threatened.   Then, one day while visiting his niece, who he constantly refers to as ‘shorty’ despite the fact she hates it he dismisses her complaints about life in high-school by saying, “I would love to have a teen-age girl’s problems.”

He wakes up in the morning to find himself transformed into a petite teen-age girl, and one with a body more like a middle-school girl at that.  His niece finds great pleasure in seeing him now reduced in stature, both physically and socially, as she is now both taller and stronger than him. In addition, he finds himself facing the value system that society preaches in terms of male and female value.

Early on, he challenges his niece to tell him one good thing about the fact that he is now a teen-age girl.  She shrugs and says, “You’re really pretty?”

The plot of the film then moves along Freaky Friday, Turnabout tracks.  The former man  learns all about what it means to be a girl as he gets used to wearing a bra, deals with mean girl bullies  and has to even turn himself into a sex-object, dressing up as a slutty Catholic school girl and doing some awkward pole dancing as he tries to complete his mission and rescue a kidnapped friend.

A great deal of the humor of the movie involves seeing the character forced to experience life as a female, including being pressed into wearing girl’s clothes and carry around an extremely feminine backpack.  Yet, at the same time, it seeks to ultimate invert or at least challenge the male is better biases of society as the main character increasingly finds himself getting comfortable with and even enjoying aspects of being a girl.  Of course, most pointedly, he learns to reject the idea that he is now helpless and despite his small size and lack of physical strength, he takes on the challenge of taking out the scumbag kidnapper who is planning on trafficking in young women to pay off his debts.

The character, at the end of the film at least, remains female and seems to have accepted his new life.  He gets involved in drama, living his life as Jessica, with talk of his sister adopting him and raising him as her own daughter.    Maybe someday that movie will get made.

This film hits a lot of buttons found in classic TG literature, and I feel does an interesting job exploring the challenges to identity and also the notions of status inherently tied up in gender, age and sex.  It seems to me that the story ultimately suggests that a lot of it has more to do with people’s own attitudes than with anything else.  It’s only embarrassing to be a girl because he feels that being a girl is inferior, but once he lets go of that assumption its just a life, and perhaps a better life than the one he had.  It turns out, having the problems of a teen-age girl really was just what he needed to become a better person.

His status in the eyes of the world may have diminished with his loss in stature, but his happiness is positively bullish.

Available on Amazon

New York Times Opinion Piece

The New York Times recently ran an Op-Ed piece where the writer discusses her life and how she and the world have changed and not changed.  It’s poetic and interesting and a little political, and I am just going to pass it on without further comment!

Loving Freely

AND, if you are in the New York Area, there are some interesting panels and films to check out as well mentioned in this article!

Film Fest!

Does The Soul Have a Gender?

TiresiasTiresias

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?

TG in 3D: Alien Worlds (spoilers)

alienworlds

Is what’s inside the true measure of a man?

Brick, a chauvinistic alpha male, asks this question just before revealing his new, pin-up girl body, with huge, gravity defying breasts, to his girlfriend, Connie.  And it is a first rate pin-up girl body, drawn by one of the masters of the form, Art Adams.  And those breasts are in 3-D, thrusting right off the page and right at the reader.

The girl he’d become– one of the most erotic images I had ever seen– a true fantasy girl in every way– blew my mind.  If you have seen Art Adam’s work, you know he loves the female form, and he draws erotic, idealized visions of femininity that surpass anything you will ever see in the real world.  The man who now found himself with those full, firm breasts and those slender, round arms was a tough, domineering, strong man who was all about the macho lifestyle, and now here he was in a physical form that embodied everything he had felt superior to before his change.

I think this was the first time I had seen a TG comic with nudity, a man as a bare-breasted woman, and that was part of the allure as well.   There he stood before the woman who loved him, now prettier and more generously endowed than she was.  I imagined the shame, the humiliation, the despair he must have felt to have his women see him as a female for the first time.

So, back to the question: Is what’s inside the true measure of a man?

The comic answers in a single panel as we see Brick, the former alpha male, wearing a pair of Daisy Dukes and cleaning laundry in a pond.  Connie, returning from a successful hunting trip, a rifle in one hand, calls out, “Better Hurry Up, Hun.”

“Yes, dear,”  Brick answers.  “Whatever you say, dear.”

The alpha male, now the prettier, curvier of the two, has become the fem in the relationship, and his formerly girly-girly girlfriend has become the dominant partner.  She has the rifle, she does the hunting.  He is in the traditional role of the wife.  The man with the bigger breasts has become the woman.  What’s inside has changed to match his new shape.

It may have been my juvenile state at the time, or maybe it is my still juvenile state as of today, but those breasts haunted me, the idea that those amazing breasts belonged to a man, and what it seemed like they had done to him.  I just felt like having those big, perfect breasts had stripped away his manhood, though I now would have to think there were other parts of his body that he lost that would have had an equal or bigger impact.  In any case, it seemed to me that it was the body that changed him.

In my own writings that have featured characters like Brick I have played with a different idea, though, than merely the idea that a perfect, sexy little pin-up girl body would turn a chauvinist into a pin-up girl personality.  My feeling has been that a chauvinist could become the victim of his own biases, and that he would turn himself into a submissive female, giggling and pleasing and all those things because he would believe that was all he could be given his new sex and shape. Perhaps it would not be a case of biology is destiny, but bias is destiny.

Check It Out at Mile High Comics

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!

Zerophilia and the Freedom to Choose

Warning:  Spoilerish Material Included!

zerophilia

Image:  Luke in female form with his best buddy.

Do you want to be a guy?  Or a girl? You can be one or the other, but not both. You have to choose.

This message is delivered to Luke, the main character in Zerophilia, who has discovered that he can switch sexes.  His buddy wants to him to stay a dude and can’t understand why anyone would want to be female.  His buddy’s girlfriend, on the other hand, thinks it would be fine if he decided to become a girl full time, and she even buys him a dress.  They all tell him they are fine with whatever choice he makes, but they do want him to make a choice.

What does Luke want?  Luke wants both.  He is attracted to both men and women, and though he rebels against the notion of becoming female, he ultimately goes so far as to put on a dress and make out with a boy he has a crush on.  Luke is not only ambivalent when it comes to his sexual interests, but he is sweet and sensitive while also loving sports and driving around in a big truck.  In other words, he lives in a world where he is both masculine and feminine, and he has never been able to choose just one.  This beautifully blurry existence continues even when he is unwillingly trapped in a female body.

The film has a happy ending for our protagonist and a positive message for those who shift along gender lines.   It turns out that all Luke needs to do is find someone else like him, someone else who kinda sort likes being both masculine and feminine.  When Luke does find his “soul mate” we see their relationship in montage; sometimes Luke is the girl, sometimes he is the guy, sometimes they are both guys, sometimes both girls.

The films message?  Those who don’t care to choose don’t have to choose.  They just have to seek out their tribe and find people who are cool with gender fluidity.

Check out the website, and Zerophilia is currently available on Amazon.com instant video as well!

http://www.zerophilia.com/

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Zerophilia-Taylor-Handley/dp/B005MHSA3A/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1439348072&sr=1-1-catcorr

Turnabout Intruder: Thoughts and Speculations

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“She could have had as rich a life as any woman.  If only… If only….”

The last lines of the last episode of the original Star Trek television series, and the first body swap story I remember ever seeing.  I was young– pre-teens, and I loved Star Trek, which was in constant re-runs on the UHF stations that broadcast out of Detroit back in the 1970s.

Growing up without a father, I had chosen Captain James T. Kirk as a hero and role model, so it was a strange and fascinating thing to see this episode in which he found himself trapped in the body of a woman.  My hero?  my role model?  A girl?  Yet, early in the episode, the characters who put Kirk in that body still refer to him as a he, despite the female form.

Aha!  That excited and interested me.  He was still a he, even though he was a girl?

The episode raised a lot of questions that I had never really consider, particularly in the court martial scenes. “You claim to be Captain Kirk?”  Lester asks, smirking and laughing at the red-haired woman wearing some kind of weird mod pantsuit.

“No,”  Kirk answers.  “I claim that whatever makes James Kirk a unique entity is being held in this body.”    What I heard him saying, though I didn’t have the words, was, “I am not my body.  The thing that makes me who I am is not this woman’s shape.”

The essence of a person, their gender, their THEM, was independent of their form.  Being, to borrow philosophical terms later in life, was independent of essence.

The iconic nature of the role reversal that lit up my young mind.  Kirk, in the woman’s body, being carried around effortlessly by the man, like the women on the covers of my mother’s romance novels.  Kirk on his knees after being physically over-powered by his former male body.  Kirk, reaching for and grabbing Spock’s hand.  Placed in a woman’s body, Kirk was forced into a woman’s traditional role, pleading with the men in his life to rescue him.  In the end, of course, he saves himself through action, as men are supposed to do, but it is not as a man that James Kirk saved himself; it was as a woman, and that to me seemed to suggest that biology was not, as some would suggest, destiny.

Though I believe it may have been an attempt at a feminist statement, the episode has since been condemned for being sexist, retrograde.  The woman in Kirk’s body is prone to fits of hysteria, loves to file her nails and proves incapable of commanding a star ship.  At one point when she complains about the lack of opportunity for women,Kirk agrees with her that life is unfair for women, but with the kind of dismissive “Whaddya gonna do?”  attitude that is still far too prevalent.   The last lines of the episode are specific.   She could have lived a life as rich as any woman.  Not, clearly, as rich as any man, which was the real issue.

Still, I feel it holds up well both as an exploration of the cost of gender bias as well as a exploration of a body swapping gender reversal.  In the end, Lester’s ultimate defeat and punishment is to be trapped in a traditional gender role– to be dependent on a man for her care and protection.  What could be a more powerful statement against the notion of domestic bliss as the be all and end all for women than the image of a woman, broken and weeping with despair at the thought of being stuck marrying a doctor who wants her to just stop striving and be his wife?  And that was back when television shows portrayed that every woman on Earth creamed her jeans at the thought of marrying a doctor.

If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it lately, check it out on Amazon or Netflix,  Sandra Smith is great as Captain Kirk:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708485/