Transfic

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms:
Related: genderfuck, genderswap
See Also: Trans Characters in Fandom
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Transfic is a term used to denote fan fiction about transgender characters, usually characters who are not stated as transgender/transsexual/gender diverse in canon. The genre is relatively new, with the earliest story on record being Jane Sehrn-Ta's Star Wars fic, Changes, first posted to the Master and Apprentice mailing list in 2004.[1]

Since then the number of transfics has been steadily growing, especially in bandom, Harry Potter, and Stargate: Atlantis. The majority of the authors are trans or genderqueer themselves, many of whom are dissatisfied with traditional genderswap.[2] Homestuck also has a notable portion of its fanbase that produce transfic or artworks with trans characters, with a blog named Transstuck that compiles a suitable majority of the works on Tumblr and AO3. Much like its fellow fandoms, most of these works are produced by trans authors and artists.

Kyuuketsukirui maintains a multi-fandom transfic master list, formerly on Delicious[1], but now on Pinboard [2]. As of January 2013, the Pinboard masterlist contains over 500 fics in over 100 fandoms.

Controversy

Some fans take issue with certain types of transfic, usually the ones written by cis authors whose fics they feel are formulaic, cliché, and an overly narrow view of the trans community. One major point of contention is how many of these fics have a trans character forcibly outed via a "shocking discovery" rather than having them come out on their own.

In a post on the subreddit /r/asktransgender where the OP was asking what the other users think about genderbends in relation to a specific tumblr post, answers strayed into discussion of transfic, fanart, and headcanons.

[emmentaller]
Yeah, I don't agree with much of that. If you portray a cis male character as an alternate-universe cis female, that has nothing to do with trans people. They're both cis.

It would be cool to see more of, say, a trans man Link or a trans woman Leia; but that wouldn't be gender bending because the character's gender hasn't changed. It'd be, idk, some other thing.

With that being said, there are two huge issues:

I think a lot of this fiction winds up as having some in-universe transformation happen, which turns it into trans fiction; specifically, it's the dangerously misinformative forced-fem wank stuff that dominates pop cultural understanding of trans issues. We're not far enough from actual, super-dangerous transitions to make ridiculous, magical man-to-woman transformations fun again. That's probably transphobic.

If you as, say, a man, decide to cosplay as, say, a female character, you must take extra care to make it clear to observers that you're playing that character as a cis man, not playing a bigoted representation of a trans woman. Even if that's not what you intend, if you don't make an effort to avoid it, that's probably transphobic.[3]

[gaijin_smash]
As a counter opinion, and probably an unpopular one, I hate seeing trans versions of established characters.

To me, I find it almost fetishizing the trans experience, that artists (usually on tumblr) just tack a trans past or status on to a character in most cases without any real thought to it, just to seem progressive or inclusive. I don't relate to a 'trans-ified' version of a cis character any more than I do to that cis character, so it just feels like an empty gesture.

Like that who debacle with the leaders of the Pokemon Go factions being viewed as trans on tumblr. Why? That's not real representation or positivity, in my opinion.[4]

[confusedtransbean (OP)]
I think trans versions of definitely cis characters and .. trans characters on tumblr over all are one-sided and fetish-y.

I'd rather have legitimate trans characters, written as trans, (hopefully by trans folk) than all the.... like you said, all the attempts at forcing inclusiveness to something that didn't have it to begin with.[5]


[xenvy04]
They aren't a problem. The motivation for a genderbend is always just "gee I wonder what this character would look like if they were the opposite sex."

Trans headcanons, on the other hand, are questionable at times. Like there's a trans boy Buttercup headcanon which is fucking shit, because it's just based on the fact that she's butch, confusing gender expression with gender identity, which is really sexist.

Also sometimes even the good ones, like trans Mettaton (which I love a lot, going from Happsta -> MTT was definitely trans allegory), are done for bad reasons. Liiiike if you look for MTT porn, quite a lot of it, he's got a vag. I mean, I don't really care to get all up in people's fetishes, but it makes me wonder how many of the people headcanoning him as trans did it purely for fetishistic reasons.[6]

[confusedtransbean (OP)]
Someone else mentioned the Buttercup HC and I agreed that it was pretty much BS and a huge ignorance to how being transgender actually is.

Mettaton's usually HC'ing as trans (or at least most artists I follow do?) but I can agree that some of the art.. and their description... isn't to represent trans characters but for their own personal fetish.

Which also isn't bad unless they're masquerading it as something else?[7]

[xenvy04]
Yea, exactly lol Like I don't think it's an issue for people to have fetishes, but they shouldn't pretend their fetish means they're an ally and has some politics/morality behind it. It's like when girls with gay fetishes act like it makes them an ally. Like nope lmao

Also fetishes are ok as long as the person isn't bothering actual trans people with it. They cross a line if they start messaging trans people dirty things unwantedly, or making assumptions about their body (like that they haven't gotten bottom surgery).

But yea if they want to draw fanart/reblog fanart on their blog because it's their fetish, no problemo.[8]

[confusedtransbean (OP)]
Oh man, yaoi fan girls. I used to have a friend who loved lines like "I like gay people more than gay people!" because of her love for graphic yaoi manga. It was.. It was something.

But yeah, that's exactly my opinion on fetishes directed toward things like that too! As long as you don't bother, badger, and ask super invasive things to people who don't consent/aren't interested.. go for it![9]

Transfics written by trans authors tend to have a better reception by trans readers, due to the fics being constructed based on the author's experiences rather than fetishistic stereotypes. Although some readers prefer to opt out of reading any fic featuring trans renditions of established characters, many readers find reading an accurate trans representation of a character they already love or relate to to be healing or transformative, and many readers express a sense of relief to have finally found a transfic - or any fiction at all, for that matter - that reflects their own experiences without being stereotyped or fetishized.

Readers from Mogatrat's Life is Strange fic Bloom, for example, have written:

[ChrissyF]

I'm a trans woman myself and I played the first 3 chapters of life is strange just before I started to figure myself out, and max as a character is quite similar to me in a lot of ways, it really jolted some feelings home. Seeing a character who I partially based my current self off made even more like me (trans) and feeling things that I now feel (we're about the same age and stage in transition) as well as all the rest of the many many emotions in this piece is like, mind meltingly incredible. I've never felt so strongly for feelings a character is feeling in my life and I really want to thank you for this incredible work.[10]

[TransientPokemonMaster]
This was beautiful from start to finish. I loved this so much, and being able to read something about a trans character for once, written by someone who is trans was incredible. Every time I read something with a trans main character I'm usually cringing too much to actually finish, but you've written Max so beautifully here.

She really does gel like a mirror for how a lot of my own transition has gone. And being to read something where, yeah it's a plot point, but not the source of her entire being is so wonderful. And the fact that she just gets to be happy and just be? That means the world.[11]

Many trans transfic authors have also expressed that they feel that, since they couldn't find a transfic that truly reflected them, they would simply have to write one themselves.

Fanworks Examples

Ace Attorney:

Animorphs

Assassin's Creed:

Attack on Titan:

Inception:

Harry Potter:

Life is Strange

Marvel Cinematic Universe

  • Known Associates by thingswithwings, a epic-length fic focused on Steve Rogers' sexuality and gender identity before, during, and after the main events of the first two Captain America movies. Steve is genderqueer.
  • Red by sebastianL, set Post Captain America: Civil War, a fic told through the POV of Red(Wanda Maximoff) a trans male character.

ProtoCreed:

Revolutionary Girl Utena:

Star Wars

Supernatural

  • D'Arc, by Xenerik, a character study of Sam Winchester as a genderqueer trans person.

Teen Wolf:

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel 616):

Voltron: Legendary Defender

  • SPECTRUM, a zine "composed of art and fics centering around the theme of living transgender", predominantly by trans creators.

Yuri!!! on Ice:

Fan Events and Challenges

Resources

Meta

References

  1. ^ Jane Sehrn-Ta, Changes, September 30, 2004 (Accessed 2 October 2008)
  2. ^ thepurpleswitch, put your hand between an aching head and an aching wound., Archived version, May 10, 2007 (Accessed 2 October 2008)
  3. ^ emmentaller, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  4. ^ gaijin_smash, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  5. ^ confusedtransbean, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  6. ^ xenvy04, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  7. ^ confusedtransbean, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  8. ^ xenvy04, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  9. ^ confusedtransbean, Genderbends considered transphobic? Why/Why not? archived Posted 02 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2018.
  10. ^ ChrissyF, Bloom Chapter Twenty. Posted 4 July 2017, retrieved 10 March 2021.
  11. ^ TransientPokemonMaster,Bloom Chapter Twenty. Posted 30 July 2020, retrieved 10 March 2021.