You're Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)

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Fanfiction
Title: You're Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)
Author(s): Trinity of One
Date(s): posted 27 December 2006
Length: ~13,300 words
Genre:
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
External Links: sga_flashfic livejournal community, part one
sga_flashfic livejournal community, part two

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You're Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl) is a Stargate Atlantis story by Trinity of One.

It was possibly the first "We're not Straight, We Just Love Each Other" fic in the Stargate Atlantis fandom.

In this story, Rodney and Laura Cadman as well as Radek and John switch bodies via an ancient machine, but the former can't reverse the process because of their previous bodysharing experience from the episode Duet. So Rodney keeps Cadman's body, and Cadman keeps his. The story centers around Rodney's reactions to his transformation and his slowly coming to terms with it, as well as in his shifting relationship with the world around him, including Cadman (who is handling the situation rather better than he is, in his opinion) and John, who has plenty of issues of his own relating to the switch.

This story was discussed at great length at The Cutting Board by cathexys in 2007 in the essay gender and sexuality in three SGA stories; archive link. The other two stories discussed are Always should be someone you really love and Straight as a Circle.

Author's Notes

Spoilers: Mostly written before S3, but now contains a few minor spoilers through 'The Game'

Warnings: Bodyswap, genderfuck, hetsex—it's a trifecta of sin!

Summary: Rodney crossed his arms under his breasts. "Well, this is stupid. And typical. Both my opportunities for hot gay sex and hot heterosexual sex are ruined!"

Reactions and Reviews

2006

Why this must be read: This my favourite gender-fuck story in this fandom to date. It's subtle and rich, and explores sexuality and gender in the most amazing way, and the relationship at its heart is wonderful. I have no words to do justice to this. Just. Read it.terrible ways in which the Wraith go about making humans their unwilling allies, and Domenika has done an incredible job of making this topic accessible, creating a wonderful original character, and slowly revealing the ethical dilemma at the heart of her story. Reading this made me ache with getting it in a way no empty political rhetoric ever could. What a great read! [1]
I've not read a lot of gender-switch stories. I never thought I'd find them so *profound.* Certainly there's a lot of issues inherent in the genre especially with regard to gender and identity and gender preference. Naturally I find that shit appealing. *g* It's very thoughtfully and sensitively handled in this story and whereas the switch could be all laughs (and there *are* laughs) it's actually rather sweet here. Not sure that I'm about to get into the genre in a big way but I certainly enjoyed this story.[2]

Hm, I confess I'm waggling my head a bit; this story is making me all thinky. I'm not sure what I think of--well, I guess I do share John's sexu-political concerns, that it's problematic to go het even for good reasons (and not the same as "going gay" in that the contextual power dynamic, as you obviously know, is totally different.)

On the other hand, this story does overtly what a lot of slash stories do covertly, i.e. show relationships where the "women" aren't stereotypes--except this one puts the "non-stereotypical female person" back in the woman's body. Also, this is very possibly this is the first "we're not straight, we just love each other" story, so go, you! *g*

But on the other other (third) hand, our last image of them--something about the way Rodney is playing with their intertwined hands in bed--is quite stereotypically het; almost too much so. I don't believe it of Rodney, in a way; its like, he really is moving into that Lifetime movie space and Nora Ephron was right after all. It would be different if they were arguing or fixing something or geeking out in some way, but instead...I dunno, man. And John is obviously still anxious about what his father thinks, which I think is a sign of the story's--I won't say yours; the author's been dead in my field for some time--anxiety about assuring us of the queerness of the almost stereotypical heterosexual ending.

On the other other other (fourth) hand, though, your commenters aren't wrong when they note that the surprising, subversive thing in a slash story is not returning them to their originally gendered bodies, so that what's "conventional" here--as John notes--is actually subversive to our slash conventions and thus deeply queer, so is this ultra subversive--subverting our expectations yet again!-- or two negatives (subverting the subversion) making a positive?

OK, I'm actually writing an essay on WNGWJLEO and I think you just gave me exhibit B. I need to go off and think about this for a while!! [3]

Just to wander into this conversation to say that I will really, really look forward to reading that essay, if it's for general consumption, and that I'm both pleased and surprised that you think that this is the first time that 'we're not straight we just like each other' has been written. I wrote a long rambly comment below where I said I thought that it couldn't possibly be the first time that had been done, because it seems so obvious, in retrospect, but then I suppose all the best ideas do.

I'm also really interested that the problem you had with the story seems to have come out of a very similar place to mine - I'm studying sexual ethics and gender identity in classical antiquity at the moment, which involves looking at what's culturally specific about our own lables - but was very different. Although actually, looking again, I'm not so sure if it is. For me, it was the juxtaposition of Rodney's difficulty in accepting his new body and gender (the two problems not necessarily going hand in hand - I never saw Rodney as being very invested in his body/gender, but being very insecure generally, and I wondered how much of his issue with gaining a new body was to do with that, rather than with now being a woman), and his ease in accepting his attraction to John.

Although I loved the way Trin dealt with John's difficulties in 'turning straight', which was a really interesting spin on the genre, the issues surrounding the fact that Rodney was 'turning gay' at the same time seemed weirdly absent from the story - in fact, he's the only person who does switch sexualities in that way, as it's not implied that he found John attractive before, particularly, and yet it's just not there. It also kind of ties in with what you said, which I agree with, that he seems strangely invested in his newfound heterosexuality, while John is still very much invested in being queer. I was uncomfortable, along with John, with the implications of what Rodney was saying about boy-girl friendships, and wanting their relationship 'to be okay'. And actually, I come up against this line -

Rodney knew the answer; for once, this was not gratifying to him. "Who says I didn't? Maybe I'm just finally getting around to you."

What does he mean? That it wasn't him that chose John, it was Cadman? Did Rodney go along with his body's heterosexuality and his mind's liking for John, because it was easier than dealing with what Cadman tackled head-on, suddenly being redefined as gay?

I can see that Rodney's plying John with het porn is just part of Rodney's spectacularly poor judgement and his strategy to get to sex nownownow, but it doesn't feel like he doesn't mean it. Although he is clearly both attracted to and in love with John, he's also gunning for a non-queer, 'normal' relationship. Despite the resentment Rodney feels about being treated differently as a woman, the way he deals with John is all about gender - he says, 'No man wouldn't be attracted to this body,' and 'woman are clingy and possessive, I know', 'we used to be guy-friends' (why the distinction? Did Rodney have only female friends?) etc., and then he wants John to 'do' him, missionary style. It seems a little like despite everything he goes through, Rodney is invested in traditional gender roles (which might fit canonically with the way he treats Sam Carter, although that always felt to me like a leftover from SG-1 Rodney, and OC for ours), and part of his problem is making the transition from one to the other - he doesn't try to change them, or readjust his perception of them.

Anyway. I'm rambling again. And sorry, Trin, I've been talking about the story like nobody wrote it, but like Ces said, you're dead. About self-revelation in stories - well, actually, I'll write another comment about that, this is too long.[4]

2007

....interesting; I like the balance between Rodney's masculinity and his new body, the middle ground he finds; I felt that the issues of his orientation were (unusually in a genderswap story) somewhat elided, but there was examination of related issues. Um. This is also different because it's bodyswap and not genderswap, so the issues of "passing" and changing clothing and so on are not quite the same; Cadman's body is female, and dressed and treated as such, so that's the baseline Rodney is dealing with, rather than a body which has previously been male.[5]
Genderfucked: Rodney, Cadman - Both bodyswap and genderswap, with some interesting twists. Rodney and Cadman swap bodies and the effect just might be permanent. Trin does a nice job of dealing with the repercussions for both Rodney and Laura and their relationships with each other and with others on Atlantis, but it is her take on John and Rodney's relationship that is the most interesting and complex. I love this version of John, the way so much of his sense of self is tied up in his feelings about his sexuality. I especially love the recognition of the inherent queerness of Rodney and Laura's situation and how that impacts all aspects of their lives.[6]

2007 Discussion at "The Cutting Board"

This story was discussed at great length at The Cutting Board by cathexys in 2007 in the essay gender and sexuality in three SGA stories, original link now offline; archive link to LiveJournal post; archive link to Dreamwidth mirrored post. The other two stories discussed in the essay are always should be someone you really love and Straight as a Circle.

Part of the essay, gender and sexuality in three SGA stories, by cathexys at The Cutting Board:

You're Pretty Good Looking and the vicissitudes of bodies

"You're Pretty Good Looking for a Girl" presents us with another double gender swap, this time Laura Cadman and Rodney get stuck in different bodies. The most interesting response to me is Cadman's who seems to adjust to the change with a certain ease not exhibited by Rodney: She had no problem with it: her movements were easy—had been, from almost the beginning. This could simply be the author's focus on Rodney as point of view character, but I'd suggest that Cadman might simply be more genderqueer, more at ease with her male side even before the switch. She's an explosion expert in the Marines, a predominatly male area in a fairly male field. Unlike Rodney who's invested in his masculinity and mourns it, Cadman adjusts more easily (which also might suggest that changing "up the social ladder"'s easier than down?). Rodney's concerns are both the different (i.e., female) body as well as his apparently biological responses to John: He was aware of Sheppard—or rather, he told himself frantically, this body was aware of him. So in the figure of Rodney we see an emphasis on biological determination as he suddenly seems to find John attractive in ways he previously didn't (or didn't let himself acknowledge?). Sadly, once John and Rodney get together, we see less of Rodney's issues about having sex with a man than we see about John, whose identity and orientation issues are central to the last parts of the story.

We're Not Straight and John's queer identity politics

In the discussion to the story cesperanza coined the term We're Not Straight, We Just Love Each Other (WNSWJLEO) to describe the moment where John decides to be with Rodney even though Rodney's gender is not John's preferred one (i.e., Rodney's female and John gay) and in the way bodies and their centrality are configured in the story: conventionally, bodies both do and don't matter in the characters' worlds--WNGWJLEO insisting that the characters, while straight, love each other enough to "get over" and "come to love" the "wrongly gendered body"--just as you did here, which is why it's a WNSWJLEO; but on the other hand, the bodies in slash matter very much to the largely female audience who is frequently drooling and noting the [actor/characters] bodies in obsessive detail. Just like in traditional WNG, Trin's characters love one another so deeply that genders and physical embodiments become secondary to physically expressing this deep love. In fact, the emphasis is on what's really inside that body, separating body fro identity in certain ways: Sheppard stared at him, into him, like he was searching for the last remaining spark of light at the center of a black hole; Rodney didn't break the gaze as with a sigh he stepped forward into the palm Sheppard instinctively uncurled, cupping it gently around Rodney's breast. "This is me." Moreover, one could argue the story's even more complicated insofar as John's hesitancy to sleep with Rodney as girl is as much grounded in politics and community as it is in John's same sex desire: [Rodney] closed his eyes. "It wouldn't mean..." He opened them again; he had to look, had to see Sheppard's face. "Wanting me, like this—it wouldn't mean giving into your father, or society, or...or The Man. It would just mean..." He shrugged, helplessly, giving up. "It would mean whatever you want it to mean.". His gayness and ultimate willingness to have "straight" sex thus is already complicated as not only being about biological desires but also about community allegiances. Meanwhile, however, Rodney's not-gay narrative (i.e., the fact that at the beginning of the story he self-identifies as straight yet in a woman's body desires another man) ends up getting oddly elided in a mixture between his body desiring males (thus leaving him oddly straight) and him desiring John (which would return to WNG territory, i.e., his love for John overcoming his straight desires in not wanting to sleep with other men). You're Pretty thus plays with WNG by embracing it (in Rodney), inverting it (in John), and rejecting it (in the way John is troubled by betraying his hard-won queer identity rather than the actual sex with Rodney).

References

  1. ^ rec at Crack Van, October 2006
  2. ^ recs by mandysbitch, March 2006
  3. ^ one of the 145 comments at the LiveJournal post, this one by, cesperanza
  4. ^ one of the 145 comments at the LiveJournal post, this one by, toft froggy
  5. ^ comment by wychwood, January 14, 2007, Three Things I Wish People Would Bear In Mind When Writing Genderswap
  6. ^ March 28, 2007 rec by fairestcat at Genderfuck Recs