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For Writers: The Difference Between Transgender and Gender Bending

RuPaul Laverne

Today’s writer topic comes from QSFer Matthew J. Metzger:

For trans: the difference between trans stories and genderbending stories.

This could be a dicey one. Gender discussions often are, so let’s try to talk this in a respectful, polite way.

As Matthew points out, gender bending and being transgender are two different things, though to the outside observer, they may have some similarities, in that both challenge our traditional conceptions about gender. And in addition to transgender, we can also add the gender fluid category.

So here are my thoughts – and feel free to tell me if I am dead wrong. :)

Someone who is transgender was born with a physical or externally apparent gender that does not match the gender of the person inside. They may have a body that is physically male but a persona/spirit/soul/mind that are female. Or vice versa. Think Laverne Cox.

Someone who is gender fluid does not belong to a particular binary gender – ie: male or female – but may have traits from both or neither.

Gender bending is the intentional act by someone who is one gender but wants to take on the persona of another, often to challenge society or for entertainment purposes. Think Victor Victoria or RuPaul. These people are quite often very happily the gender that they were physically born with, but choose to impersonate a person of the other gender (or to mix genders).

So do we agree with the definitions I laid out above? Did I leave anything out or get anything wrong? As a cis guy, I know it’s quite possible.

And how should we use this in our writing? Do writers often make the mistake of confusing gender bending characters with transgender and gender fluid characters?

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