I don’t know if everyone out there obsessively charts their lives and biographies, but it’s definitely a point of curiosity for me. As I’ve said before I will probably never ever know where my fixation on gender and transformation stories originated, only that I was definitely on the lookout by the time I was watching Saturday Morning Cartoons. My first bodyswap fic was loosely based around Rogue from the X-Men cartoon (rrrowrrr) and in the third grade I presented a story about a cursed object that de-aged my friends to kindergarten (I actually love that I did this – when you’re eight, going back to five is a huge step back!) That same year, I read a book called “The Chocolate Touch,” a kiddie take on Midas that culminates in the young boy turning his mother into solid chocolate with a kiss. Between those three works, I was already keenly aware of the possibilities and anxieties about what could be done to your body, or your self, in fiction.
Sometime in the mid-90s, I learned about mangas like Ranma 1/2 and Futaba-Kun Change, which excited me, only I never had much access to either at my local comic shop, and – if I’m being frank about my tastes – was not much of a fan of manga style. I could never read either – to this day have only read excerpts – but I liked imagining the contents based on the descriptions.
I liked the idea of fluidity between bodies, genders and identities that these stories represented, as well as outside triggers that were beyond your control. After all, we are not in command of what we look like when we are born, the logical extension of that is that circumstance could change that just as easily.
Of the two, I preferred Futaba, which always carried less cultural cachet and today has been all but forgotten. Ranma, with its water-based change, seemed like harmless fun, but Futaba, who changes into girl-mode when aroused, had a real stake to it. Even as a tween, I knew how insane it would be to have that happen when you were attracted to women, to never be able to take action on that,and how far, far, far out of your control it would be at age 13. I thought the art was great, too.
The biggest ping in my young reading life, that basically guaranteed I would never stop thinking about these matters, came from an unlikely source, a certain chubby Italian-American plumber.
At some point, Nintendo published a series of “Choose Your Own Adventure” style stories featuring the Mario characters, and I just happened to acquire this one. In it, you play the role of Luigi as the Mushroom Kingdom is beset by a plot that has all the radios broadcasting frequency that switches peoples’ brains. Early in the story, Mario and the Princess are swapped, and you have to choose who to go with as they both try their own methods to figure it out. I have to admit, it was the first time I ever thought seriously about what was under the Princess’ frilly pink dress.
(Ever since then, the idea of doing a TG-themed CYOA-style narrative has taunted me, as it would be very time-intensive to get to the level of quality I pride myself on. Early in my writing “career” I did contribute to a website called Fiction Branches, which offered a similar, yet more improvisational experience. I remember opening tab after tab and barely being able to trace which threads I was following!)
All of this fell to the back of my brain, of course, as I grew into my teen years and found other outlets that I didn’t see fit to skew in a TG/TF direction – stories, plays, homemade comics (at the time I was so lousy at drawing women that I didn’t want to waste my energy trying to execute any ideas I liked with mediocre imagery.) Then as I headed into my last year of high school it all came roaring back… but that is another story, and will be told another time…