kaigou: (1 olivia is not impressed)
[personal profile] kaigou
I've touched on this before but this weekend I read several novels that brought it back into focus for me. Then I came across a short blogpost about when a character defines herself as butch, and decided it was time to post. If you haven't read any of these titles, I recommend each (not unreservedly, but still more than mostly).

Sword of the Guardian — Shannon, Merry
Princess Shasta Soltranis enjoys a pampered life of court dances, elaborate finery, and the occasional secret fencing match with her twin brother, Daric. But in the midst of a birthday celebration, her world shatters when a mysterious assassin takes her brother's life. Shasta, the only remaining heir to the throne, narrowly escapes the assassin's blade thanks to the intervention of a traveling acrobat named Talon. With the threat of another attempt on Shasta's life imminent, her father declares that the young hero will be come the Princess's bodyguard. But what Shasta doesn't know is that her new guardian has a very well-kept secret: he is actually a she.

Branded Ann — Shannon, Merry
No pirate on the high seas is more bloodthirsty than the notorious Branded Ann, a woman with eyes like ice and a face marred by a mysterious cross-shaped scar. When she raids a merchant vessel bound for Jamaica, her only objective is to obtain the map that will lead her to a legendary treasure. But she hadn't bargained on taking Violet, the merchant's young widow, on board her ship as a prisoner. In spite of her childlike appearance, Violet has a dark side of her own that Ann finds both infuriating and endearing. As Branded Ann sails in search of treasure, her task is made more difficult by a stowaway child, an increasingly rebellious crew, and the treacherous seas of the Devil's Triangle; to make matters worse, she finds herself falling for her not-so-innocent but altogether charming captive.

Lady Knight — Baker, LJ
Rhiannon, outcast and female knight, seeks a cause worthy of a chivalric hero in a medieval world of magic and misogyny. Eleanor, a wealthy widow, has given up all hope of finding passionate love and her perfect knight--until she meets Rhiannon. Aveline, a powerful priestess, needs a warrior for her secret mission of starting a holy war. She binds Rhiannon with double-edged oaths and a magical sword. A love affair worthy of troubadours' songs clashes with loyalty, intrigue, ambition, and war, tangling the three women in a web that perhaps not even Rhiannon's sword can cut through.

Backwards to Oregon — Jae
Luke Hamilton has always been sure that she'd never marry. She accepted that she would spend her life alone when she chose to live her life disguised as a man. After working in a brothel for three years, Nora Macauley has lost all illusions about love. She no longer hopes for a man who will sweep her off her feet and take her away to begin a new, respectable life. But now they find themselves married and on the way to Oregon in a covered wagon, with two thousand miles ahead of them.

Click the cuts to see the summaries. Mostly I'd been trying to track down stories, any stories, which dealt with crossgender or crossdressing, stumbled on the first one, liked the author's voice enough to read the second, got the third recommended by virtue of the first two, and had to seriously google-fu to find the fourth, and read a little of a few others while looking.

(Warning: I DNF'd on the third due to warnings from reader reviews that the story not only doesn't HEA, it barely HFAs, and I'd pretty much hit my limit anyway from reading a warmed-over retelling of the Crusades, complete with Saladin's Arab world being cast as this side of barbaric, unintelligible devil-worshippers. Thanks, but I've done my time studying Crusades history, and if there were barbarians at the gates, it was the Christians. If you're equally skeptical about seeing the Christian Crusades as anything other than ambitious land-grabs by hordes of unwashed, uneducated masses, then expect this book to hit that annoyance button, hard.)

Along the way, I DNF'd on Shea Godfrey's Nightshade (the first three pages manages to fantasy-world-mashup India, the Middle East, and a bit of East Asia, and I like mashups but not quite to the degree of having to disconnect multiple culture clashes in my head while reading). I also DNF'd within a chapter on D.Jordan Redhawk's On Azrael's Wings because "worshipful slave falls in love with owner" is not, and hopefully never will be, a kink of mine. ("Recalcitrant and fiesty lower-level character fights back and gains equal standing in relationship with, and respect from, higher-level character," though, yes, but that didn't seem to be Redhawk's story.) Oh, and I started and stopped on Malinda Lo's Ash, too, mostly because I wasn't in the mood for YA; I wanted to read about adults in adult relationships with adult baggage. (Huntress remains on my TBR list, though, even if it is YA.)

Anyway, outside of the obvious that all these works focus on lesbian relationships, the other major factor is that at least one-half of every relationship is a woman claiming, or who has claimed, significant earthly power and respect. In all but Nightshade and Ash, I'd say, this respect is also military or naval, with rank. In other words, women in positions of power, either able to kill or trained to kill. Those two exceptions I didn't read far enough to meet the 'other half' of the intended relationship pairing, but of those I did read, in all but one, this powerful/respected female character is, at first, mistaken for a man.

Sword of the Guardian is a similar premise to Love in the Mask (Korean manhwa), with the deception for the sake of (and including) the daughter of a powerful/titled man. Granted, even Love in the Mask didn't go so far as to put the main (female-as-male) character in the princess' bedroom, which was kind of a plot hole for me: if the culture sees women as less-powerful, and therefore a female guard wouldn't be taken seriously as an assassin-deterrent, wouldn't a culture with those assumptions therefore see a male guard in the princess' bedroom as even more questionable than a female bodyguard?

Regardless, Talon (the bodyguard) has spent most of her adolescent-into-adulthood years passing as a man. Therein lay one question the story begged in passing, and then slid right on by without actually addressing. Somewhere in there while contemplating her attraction to the princess, Talon asks herself the question whether, having worn masculine clothing, acted with masculine behaviors, and whatnot for so many years, she'd also "become male" on the inside, somehow.

Which, I think, is a really fascinating question. But this incredibly complex and difficult question merely got asked. There wasn't even an answer. It was just left hanging, and if there was any answer, it came from the text -- in that, as soon as the princess (finally) learns of Talon's biological sex, the pronouns in her point of view all switch to female. And for some reason, this really bothered me. It took me a bit to realize that I was actually switching the pronouns back to male, in the princess' point-of-view. My theories on why, though, in a bit.

This setup contrasts with Branded Ann, in which a female protagonist has adopted masculine garb, masculine behaviors, but remains clearly and staunchly female. There's no uncertainty about whether any of the masculine overlays undermine or contradict her female-ness. She's simply a pirate captain who can shoot, use a cutlass, owns and captains her own ship, runs a crew, and also happens to be a seriously badass woman.

The female knight in Lady Knight is sort of a blend of the two. She makes no attempts to mask that she's a woman; she's just in a story-setting where clothes are so different between the sexes that it's a cultural short-cut for other characters to simply assume based on dress, without further remark. Notably, she doesn't do the whole breast-binding nonsense that some of the other stories insist on (more on that in a bit). It's not that Rhiannon lets her knight's surcoat do all the talking, so much as that this is all anyone hears. (Plus, she's of such similar height, build, and coloring as an older brother, that several characters mistake her for her older brother upon first meeting.)

The last comparison is Luke in Backwards to Oregon, who for reasons similar to Talon's, adopted a male persona in early adolescence to survive in a world that doesn't care about, and gives no opportunities to, female children. And though both characters acted out of necessity, Luke addresses Talon's unanswered question far more forthrightly: that having spent so many years in masculine garb and behavior, it had become a part of him, to the point that he couldn't envision -- nor had any interest in -- 'being' a woman, gender-wise. Sex-wise, of course, neither character is in a world where a sex-change is an option, so the question of whether either would take it is left open.

But here's where my previous discomfort with Talon's story came into crystal-clear focus. Despite the fact that Luke has explicitly said he's more comfortable within male gender roles, as soon as his wife discovers his 'true' sex (like Talon, as a result of being injured), the text promptly changes to refer to Luke with female pronouns. As if it's not bad enough (but understandable, given the cultural setting) that the two cis-females who know of Luke's true sex proceed to always use female pronouns (although his wife slips once or twice and refers to him with male pronouns), it's really much, much worse to me that the text itself does the character this injustice. I mean, Luke couldn't say it any plainer that for all intents, barring his sex, he's happier as a man -- and then the narration turns around and insists on pronouns entirely opposite his own self-identification.

This struck me as the greatest of insults (however unrealized or unintentional on the part of the author) towards the character -- but it also told me where the author's/narration's ultimate trump card lay: in sex, not gender. That one could dress like a man, go to war like a man, be respected and accorded the social recognition as a man, and all the other cultural mores that might fit under the heading of 'masculine', but the instance of that sex-reveal and none of the chosen gender-preference mattered. The character's sex trumped all.

That got me thinking about how we see the two. In most of the western/anglo cultural context, there seems to be a general assumption that one's gender, as the visible/external, is the sole indicator of one's physical/private (eg must be naked to see fully) sex. Transgression is letting the two differ, because gender is seen as mutable (hey, in some cases it can be as easy as taking off one set of clothes and putting on another, in the eyes of random passerby), so gender is forced to be inline with sex. But if gender is seen as the dominant -- in that it's something you can choose in terms of dress, behavior, and so on -- then couldn't it, in turn, be seen as your way to signal what's 'true' about yourself, independent of actual physiological status?



Of all the (het, not lesbian) crossdressing stories I've read, though, only one manhwa takes the crossdressing signifier-confusion to a logical point. In Boy of the Female Wolf, the young female protagonist does every thing good Korean girls shouldn't do. She picks fights, dresses like a boy, even uses boy-verbiage, and generally causes all kinds of trouble. She's also just androgynous enough (and young enough) that she could be a cute person of either gender. Naturally, girls notice that kind of thing, and the protagonist has no qualms about going out on dates with girls who've confessed to her. Being a Korean manhwa, of course she won't end up kissing/liking anyone but the hero, so her dallying with ignorant high-school girls seems to be mostly for her own amusement. Although it's never laid out in the text flatly, it's certainly written as though the protagonist feels (and she seems to imply it, when talking about the girls who ask her out) that if the girls can only see her 'outside' (the gendered behavior/dress), then it's their own problem. She's under no obligation to say anything, and in fact, it'd be rude not to take them up on their invitations. She's playing at being a boy, and boys go out on dates with girls. The logic is actually kind of impeccable, when you think about it.

Which brings me to a slight segue, and that's the one about gendered garb. In Love in the Mask, Coffee Prince, Sword of the Guardian, and Backwards to Oregon, the female-sex'd characters all bind. Same goes for plenty of the other crossdressing manhwa, manga, novels, and dramas I've read/watched. It's like a mandatory scene, to see the girl binding her breasts before putting on her shirt. Gets to the point that it almost feels like if we viewers/readers don't get this, we might actually forget, y'know, that it's a girl under there. Boy of the Female Wolf doesn't have this kind of scene, as far as I recall. (For that matter, all this breast-binding and no one ever does anything about, say, covering the absence of an adam's apple. That can be a signifier, too, but I guess other than making the character wear a high-set choker or emo-goth collar, that's hard to mask.)

But we don't realize how much emphasis (or reliance) we put on dress. Lady Knight brings this out really well, in that the knight-protagonist has her hair cropped boy-short, is nearly as tall as her elder brother (and is much taller than most of the women), is lean and lanky due to years in the saddle and on the battlefield, and is dressed in a knight's tunic and surcoat. In a culture where the dress and hairstyles between genders have such radical differences, there wouldn't be a reason to look for breasts or adam's apple. Honestly, I wouldn't expect most onlookers to even think they need to look further, and back to that whole gender-matching-sex thing. (Although I should note that Rhiannon, in Lady Knight, is crossdressing but not with the intention of passing.)

Anyway, back to the whole breast-binding thing. This especially cracks me up when we're talking about bodies in which the female character (or actress) has an A-cup, maybe shy of a B-cup. And given the descriptions of breasts unbound, none of these characters are largely endowed. In which case, binding isn't even necessary. Look, I had my hair chopped to about an inch in length, wore cut-off jeans with combat boots, and a slightly-oversized sweatshirt, and got hit on regularly by gay guys at the local gay video rental place. I was most definitely not binding jack, and I was skinny but I was certainly not an A-cup, either. But I had every masculine signifier (and who goes around checking adam's apples, anyway?), plus I was studying the various display boxes for gay porn videos. The gay guys hitting on me saw every clue they needed to assume I was a barely-legal gayboi, and those signifiers were enough that they found me attractive (to, admittedly, my then-rather-young self's bafflement, since I'd never thought to 'see' myself as 'male' and had no clue of the signals I was giving off by dress, actions, and behavior).

My point here is that onlookers take a lot for granted based on how we appear and act (and this includes the subtle undercurrents of privilege, too). Most men have chests that would actually qualify as about A-cup, and there are men with larger chests than that. The muscle sizes up a little differently, but it's not like a chest-shape is all that out of the realm of possibility for a man. You have to get into C-cup on a woman for it really to start to be an issue, seems to me, because the other factor is clothing itself. Clothing, like a slightly oversized sweatshirt did for me, can hide a lot. Take a shirt, just a little oversized, make sure it's straight-sided (not fitted), and wear it untucked. Then rachet it up and put your hands in your pockets. The front of the shirt will blouson out a little, masking not the chest but the differential between breast and rib-cage, and it's that differential, not the size of the breasts per se, that can act as a clue that someone has "breasts". This is also why the drag queens I've met, when in drag, wear corsets and upper-clothing that fits closely to the ribcage: it's to over-emphasis the differential between ribcage and chest-muscle, and create the illusion of breasts.

(Plus, I'm also aware that binding tightly, and regularly, can put pressure on breast-mass -- for any sex -- and thereby lead to cysts. Not to mention that in the days before they invented elastic, it's damn hard to bind without serious, even breathing-levels of dangerous, tightness -- and possibly hourly retyings. Forget about doing any strenuous movements, as the fabric will just roll down if you only bind your chest and not go over the shoulders. There's a reason corsets had bones in 'em. Fabric just can't hold up to that kind of stress without reinforcement, and don't even get me started on the k-dramas and j-dramas that show actresses binding with 2" wide gauze. Bitch, please.)

Then, add on top clothing which is highly tailored to be gendered: corsets to create an hourglass shape, or men's pants that are tight in the seat and crotch and fitted close to the leg. These clothing shapes are created to emphasize the underlying physiological identity. In, say, Victorian England, a woman could wear a man's pants but if her shape is closer to the classical 'female' shape (ie hips), then a man's pants aren't going to quite fit right, not to mention would probably necessitate padding in the crotch. Not at all the same if it's, say, Europe anywhere from 500 CE up to about 1600 CE, when a fair range of men's daily garb included tunics that fell from mid-thigh to mid-calf. Or, in Japanese, Korean, or Chinese clothing, it was a tunic or wrap anywhere from mid-thigh to ankle-length. Get into Southeast Asia, where men wear sarongs, and again, not quite so tailored to match the physiological build. (Not saying a man's casual kimono worn slightly open a la Rurouni Kenshin, or a man's sarong tied tightly enough, don't reveal other clues, but just speaking generally here.) Which means that with the exception of Backwards to Oregon, where it's 1850 and the clothing is tailored tightly to the specific expected/shaped physiology, in most other times and places it might not be so necessary for adaptations like padding or binding.



I mentioned Love in the Mask, which plays with the crossdressing trope (as do many Japanese and Korean manga/manhwa), but is one of only two stories I know of where the female character's non-cis-gendering prompts a major shift in the otherwise-cis-gendered, cis-sexual hero. (The other being a remarkable k-drama, Coffee Prince.) Both heroes realize their attraction to the (seemingly) male protagonist well before ever realizing she's actually a woman, and rather than sit on their hands, they do some serious soul-searching on what this means for them.

The hero of Love in the Mask essentially does a GFY for the heroine; the hero of Coffee Prince even comes out to his family. Both are absolutely and fully prepared, as best they can, for the reality that they've each fallen in love with someone who also happens to be male. And, as long as the gendered signifiers are all 'male, male, male' in terms of dress, behavior, speech, and so on, their reasoning and reactions are understandable.

In fact, in Coffee Prince, the hero -- having gone through agonies of tackling his self-identity in light of this attraction -- is understandably angry and betrayed to discover the heroine is female. Some viewers thought he was being mean, but... I felt like I could understand. Questioning your own sexuality is damn hard, coming to terms with it even harder, and to discover you went through that because someone lied to you... that could really destroy a relationship.

In Lady Knight, Rhiannon is not crossdressing in a deceptive (cover the physiology) sense, in that she's adopted masculine behaviors but without hiding her sex-status. She's actually a fascinating character for that reason, in very different ways from most of the other crossdressing heroines (and rivaling maybe only Boy of the Female Wolf for being aware of the mixed signals and slightly amused by others' reactions, in a way). Rhiannon is more of a truly androgynous character, in that she embodies male and female aspects simultaneously (instead of emphasizing one while masking the other), and when other characters -- who assume at a distance that she's male -- then realize she's female, it's more of a mild social embarrassment, akin to saying "ma'am" to a man with long hair. Like the protagonist in Boy of the Female Wolf, her mild reaction treats the assumptions as the viewer's problem, not hers.

But in Backwards to Oregon and Sword of the Guardian, the stories' built-in cultural context means the crossdressing has a definite element of deception. Again, given the cultural context where sex trumps gender, the intent to appear as one seamless, culturally-appropriate gender is effectively also an intent to hide the 'truth' of the non-matching sex. In both cases, the love interest at some point expresses (to herself, or to the cross-dressing protagonist) a set of heterocentric expectations -- fancy wedding, children, proper unenthusiastic marital relations, white picket fence, etc. When the 'truth' is revealed, this all comes crashing down on those love interests, and both feel intensely betrayed.

I'm not saying I don't get that. In the case of the princess in Sword of the Guardian, it's someone she's worshiped, goaded into giving her a first kiss, and has practically lived cheek-by-jowl daily for almost two years. (It's further complicated by the story's opening being the assassination of the princess' twin brother, so she's psychologically come to rely on the bodyguard as a replacement brother-figure.) Although the princess is still somewhat self-centered in thinking she knew "everything" about her closest friend/bodyguard, I think her reaction -- based on the world's sex-trumps-gender and her own expectations -- is understandable. In a way, the love interest in Backwards to Oregon has just as much invested, in that she's left behind her life in Missouri and is now on a wagon-train with her (supposed) husband, and it's not like she can up and leave if it don't work. She's built up a series of assumptions and expectations, and like the princess, discovering that everything she took at face-value was not, in fact, the 'real' face... it's hard. It understandably would feel like a betrayal of one's trust, but that betrayal -- to me -- is one rooted entirely in the premise that sex trumps everything. That if gender/public does not match sex/private, then what one has viewed and taken as 'real' has been nothing but a deceptive mask -- instead of seeing the gender as what's 'real' and the sex as what's out of alignment.

Only in a world where gender is the trump and sex is secondary -- any divergence due solely to sex being unchangeable (within story-context) -- could you reasonably bypass this conflicted reaction. Any revelation of one's sex, I'd think, might be a surprise, but the face-value is the real value. The visible clues of hair, dress, behavior, what-have-you, have already answered the question -- just like any story where you first meet someone at, I don't know, the local swimming hole and see clear indications of physical-sex before the person's ever opened their mouth. There's a slight cognitive dissonance if, say, you see all the clear signals of someone's sex (breasts, adam's apple, what-have-you), and then the person opens their mouth and is clearly quite feminine or masculine, or whatever doesn't mesh with your gendered expectations of what "goes" with the sex-based expectations.

That kind of mismatch can be disconcerting for some, but rarely insurmountable, and I'd say that's because in our western/anglo culture, sex trumps gender. So variations in gender are allowable, as long as the sex is already 'known', or assumed to be known. But if gender is what's 'known' and seen as 'true', then doesn't that logically imply that variations in sex would be allowable?



In my head, there's a story where a crossdressing female-sexed character explains that -- as someone adopting/adapting behaviors that are culturally contextual as 'masculine', he's taken on behaviors that feel right to him. His body is the 'wrong' part, but as he can't do much about that (again, a world where surgery isn't feasible/invented yet).

In a world where gender (the outer/behavior) reveals the truth, then it'd make sense to me that any listeners to this revelation of disjunction (between gender and sex) would of course see his female-sex as, effectively, "a man with the wrong body". That he's no less a man (or, for that matter, a woman with a male body is no less a woman); he's just someone whose body doesn't fit properly -- but that, via gender, the person has managed as much as possible to be inline with those internal/emotional preferences. And that therefore, neither that listener's dialogue nor the narration would change pronouns, because there's no change in the 'truth' for the transgendered character. He is still 'he'; she is still 'she'. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the onlooking characters might even be baffled by the notion of changing pronouns to match physical sex, as the pronouns all along have matched the 'truth' of the gender.

In that story, the one hearing this revelation might have a bit of cognitive dissonance (and maybe some searching about whether it's a body-type that's physically attractive to the listener), but it wouldn't be something I'd write as a betrayal of the highest order. The truth -- the gender -- was already there, all along. There was no deception. It'd be no more, I think, than discovering that, say, the fully-abled person you met at the coffee shop actually has a leg prothesis. The issue isn't that the person was 'lying' to the listener about whether they're able to walk without adaptive equipment. The issue is fully the listener's burden, to decide whether they're attracted or not -- but any such decision, I think, would be their own. And not because they're throwing a tantrum about not knowing the 'truth'. What they saw -- a masculine, or feminine, or third-sex, or lively active person or whatever -- was the ultimate 'truth'. There were no lies, thus there can be no ultimate betrayal.

Of course, when I take this to the ultimate conclusion, then only the protagonists of Backwards to Oregon, Lady Knight, and Boy of the Female Wolf would really qualify as non-liars. In Love in the Mask, Coffee Prince, and others like Boku ni Natta Watashi and Sungkyunkwan Scandal, the female protagonist adopts masculine gender for intentionally deceptive (although usually well-meant) reasons. I call it 'deceptive' because it's actually the opposite of the female protagonist's stated preferences: each character, at some point, expresses a longing to be, and to be seen as, 'female' again. The feminine gender and all its attendant behaviors is one that feels 'right', and the adopted masculine gender is a cover. Each character is quite quick to re-take female behaviors, dress, and so on, as soon as (or whenever) she gets the chance. In those cases, yeah, I would expect there to be betrayal regardless of what trumps what, because the gendered mask does not mesh with the person's emotional/psychological preferences. What's on the outside is a lie -- regardless of the physical, but more importantly of the heart.

But then, the flip side of that would be the masculine character whose heart leans towards the collection of outward behaviors, clothing, whatever the culture usually codes as 'female'. His gender-presentation may mesh with his sex-status, but ultimately, isn't that also living a lie? To present as a gender that's not truly what your heart feels is right?

Only Sword of the Guardian stands apart from this, in that Talon never once expresses even the faintest interest in putting on a dress, learning to do needlepoint, or whatever else is that story-world's set of female-gender attributes. Only once I'd read Backwards to Oregon did I realize why the switch in Talon's pronouns (and the ensuing pointed comments about "both women" when referring to Talon and the princess) bother me so much. Because although Talon raises and then drops the question of feeling/becoming 'a man' on the inside, Talon never once raises the prospect -- at all -- of adopting 'female' genderisms again. In fact, he goes so far as to offer to be the princess' consort/husband, and his sole reason for reluctance is that he has no ambition to be king. Not a word is said about whether Talon would like to, y'know, put on pretty dresses, and I don't know about you, but I'd think if the gender-presentation isn't comfortable, isn't "true", then eventually you'd want to shuck it and get into something more comfortable, more true to you. But Talon doesn't express that; in fact, in every thought, word, and deed, he appears to be quite willing to continue to identify as the story's culturally-defined 'male' gender permanently, which makes the female-pronouns all the more annoying to me. Whatever the narration says (and Talon doesn't say), the impression I get is that he's more like Luke than any of the "oh, I wish the world saw me as a girl" protagonists from stories like Coffee Prince.

Ironically, Jae's handling of Luke's character development follows the opposite path, regardless of the narration's pronouns. As Luke settles into his role as husband and father, he's able to take on more feminine-coded behaviors. He cooks, he does the laundry rather than make his pregnant wife do it, he learns to change a diaper and spends evenings reading to his adopted daughter. And at the same time, it frees up his wife to adopt more masculine-coded behaviors, like having the strength/right to tell a man she doesn't want to be molested, or learning to shoot a gun, or being in charge of the oxen team.

When it comes to true crossgender (gender != sex, in case you were wondering), Backwards to Oregon had a lot of the things I cherish most in my own relationships, in a way. It showed quite well (without ever telling or even lecturing) how when one-half of a relationship commands all the coded behaviors of a certain mode, it leaves no room for the other half to take any of that on. But if one-half willingly surrenders some of that coded behavior, the other half is free to pick them up, and exchange some in return. The wife can be the one who shoots the bad guys and protects her husband; the husband can be the one who does laundry and nurtures the children. By the end of the story, they're a true and equal partnership, where neither is trapped in one set of coded behaviors or another. I find it intriguing that the only story in which the crossgender character explicitly states his preference for gender (regardless of sex) is also the only story in which ultimately his gender stretches to embrace the gender-coded behaviors he'd left behind, and equally allows his partner to take on a kind of cross-gendering as well.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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