Because how else would I celebrate Nigma Box’s tenth anniversary?
Section 0: The Faffing Introduction
Over the past 3 years, I have been transforming Nigma Box from what was predominantly a video game related site into a bizarro hodgepodge of my fragmented interests, but mostly three things: Video game malarky including reviews of every game I play and weekly commentary on current goings-on in the industry. Creative writing endeavors, including my novels and my short story anthology series, TSF Series. And idiosyncratic rants that often veer into the realm of the insane, personal, or bizarre.
Despite this, however, Nigma Box is mostly known as a ‘gender bender review site’ due to my review of visual novels like Press-Switch, Student Transfer, and re:Dreamer. As I have discussed in my year-end analyses, the overwhelming majority of my readership comes for my coverage of these titles. As such, I feel that I have a certain self-assigned duty to discuss ‘gender bender’ materials in greater detail, which is the primary point of this essay. Or was. I’ve spent two weeks writing/editing this monster and I might have lost the thesis along the way.
I previously attempted this back in January of 2019, with Natalie Rambles About TG, when I was still getting the hang of this whole ‘long-form casual writing’ thing, and it was the first time I truly ‘came out’ as an avid lover of TG… but… wait. This essay is titled Natalie Rambles About ‘TSF.’ I said people consider Nigma Box a ‘gender bender review site.’ And now I’m talking about TG? Immediately, we’ve run into hurdle number one when discussing this topic. Accordingly, to dispel any confusion, let’s start with some self-made definitions.
Section 1: Definition Diatribe
TSF is a genre of fiction wherein a character undergoes a change in sex through fictitious or fantastical means. With the ensuing narrative, assuming there is one beyond the initial transformation, following how they adapt to these changes. It is a simple concept that has been around for a very long time, has been in a lot of popular media, and has become home to an assortment of tropes and subsets over its life.
TSF is an abbreviation of Trans-Sexual Fiction or Trans-Sexual Fantasy, and the term has several different variants. This includes TG, Gender Bender, Gender Swap and so forth. I have heard arguments over the years stating that these terms technically mean different things. Though, I disagree with that claim.
In my nearly 14 years of experience wallowing in various TSF communities (or as I affectionately call them, the gulags) I have come to the conclusion that there is no meaningful difference between the terms. TG (Trans-Gender), TSF (Trans-Sexual Fantasy or Trans-Sexual Fiction), Gender Bender, Gender Swap, or any related terminology, are all synonyms for the same concept. The distinction between these terms is where they are used, as this concept goes by different names in different communities. Gender Bender is probably the most mainstream name for the concept. TG is still prominent across the western (or western-aligned) internet. And TSF, or just TS, is the predominant form used by the sizable Japanese community.
The mechanically best and ‘most proper’ term for this would probably be something along the lines of ‘fantastical Transsexual transformation’, but TSF (Trans-Sexual Fantasy) has most of those words covered. The only real problem with TSF is finding out what it means. The definition exists within the community and, unlike with more mainstream things, you cannot just Google “TSF” and get a correct definition, because acronym sites don’t keep track of this crap.
Gender Bender, meanwhile, is home to a bit of a definitional divide. Merriam Webster defines gender bender as “a person who dresses and behaves like a member of the opposite sex.” Wikipedia uses the same definition and goes on to discuss crossdressing, drag, the theory of gender as performance, and other matters that have been flagged as containing “unclear or questionable” content. However, TV Tropes pretty much hits the nail on the head:
“A character has undergone a complete physical sex change, usually through magic or Applied Phlebotinum. Depending on the medium, genre, and storyline, this may be a one-time temporary change, a recurring change (causing the character to jump the gender line often), or even permanent.”
It’s pretty close to my personal definition and a far more accurate descriptor of how the term is used in this context.
TG is the most searchable, as just Googling it brings up TG sequences, TG captions, and other common forms the genre takes. So there is reason to view it as the ‘best’ term we have… yet I also kind of hate it when you remember that it is an acronym.
TG is an acronym of transgender. I have seen people who think it is an abbreviation for ‘Turn into a Girl,’ and based on the vast majority of content, that is not a wrong interpretation. Or in other words, TG literally means transgender, but the common use matches my definition included above. A piece of media where a character undergoes a change of sex via fantastical/fictitious means. Where did this second ‘common use’ meaning come from? Well, I do not know the actual reason, though my time around the gulags has given me a moderately squishy theory:
Originally, TG was used as the abbreviation for transgender content during the mid-90s and general early days of the internet, with sites like Fictionmania and many others cropping up and popularizing the term and shorthand of TG. However, it appears that a lot of writers/visitors of these sites did not quite understand what ‘transgender’ meant. Meaning that instead of viewing it as a term for stories that involved gender exploration, they viewed TG as short-hand for ‘people who change their sex through fictitious and fantastical means.’ People kept echoing this reinterpretation of TG, and it stuck. Presumably because a lot of people did not understand the distinction between gender (a social structure and component of identity) and sex (something determined by one’s sexual organs and biology).
There’s also ‘gender swap,’ a term that, like TG, is readily Google-able, has been around for a while, and stems from the same confusion over sex and gender. I thought the term was dying out, but it gained prominence in 2019 and 2020 due to the popularity of ‘gender swap’ apps. People saw the term, generalized its meaning, and continued applying it as a blanket term whenever they saw a male become female, or vice versa, no matter the context. Difference verse, same structure, and instead of a niche getting their terms wrong, it was the mainstream.
However, I also dislike gender swap as a term because, the more I think of it, the less sense it makes. If gender is something mental and social, then swapping it implies that you exchange the gender identity and expression of two people. Now, that is a niche that I have seen explored in some places, namely through the work of the artist Giu Giu, but this is not what people mean when they use the term ‘gender swap.’ Sex swap would be a better term… except for how that sounds like a tag you might see on a porn site.
Now, before I continue, I just want to emphasize that you’re free to disagree with me, or call me out as being ‘wrong,’ for any of these claims or interpretations. I am not positioning myself as someone with or entitled to any degree of authority over anything. I’m just some dummy trying to make sense of things in order to appease the bees in my brain.
Section 2: Rule 63; It’s Also A Thing
Okay, so TSF, TG, Gender Bender— None of the terms are perfect, and they all mean the same thing. However, there is one other term that is sometimes brought up in the same circles and deserves its own definition. Rule 63.
Rule 63 is an internet-era adage stating that: “For every given male character, there is a female version of that character. For every given female character, there is a male version of that character.” This is in reference to how fan artists tend to like drawing just that: Male versions of female characters and female versions of male characters. And so long as a character is not super obscure, you can probably find someone who has drawn a character as a member of the ‘opposite sex.’
While TSF refers to a character undergoing a transformation, Rule 63 is more of a reimagining of a character as another gender and sex. In its most plain form, it asks what a male character would be like if they were female, and what a female character would be like if they were male. Or, alternatively, it is an excuse to draw familiar male characters as cute/sexy girls.
To give a fairly mainstream example, there were several episodes of the 2010 animated series Adventure Time that predominantly took place in an alternate universe where every male character was female and every female character was male. Instead of having the main characters, Finn and Jake, transform into female versions of themselves, these episodes featured their female counterparts, Fionna and Cake. Who are presented as separate characters. Accordingly, it falls under the Rule 63 bucket, not the TSF bucket.
A work can technically be both Rule 63 and TSF, as they are not mutually exclusive. Continuing with the Adventure Time example, if Finn and Fionna were to interact in some capacity, and then transform into each other, then it would meet both criteria. Because you have two distinctly different characters, primarily differentiated by one being male and the other being female, who both undergo a fantastical transformation that changes their sex.
Also, finding a proper definition for Rule 63 is a lost cause. Both Wikipedia and TV Tropes try to explain the concept of Rule 63, yet they both fudge it up in my book. Their definitions are not consistent with their examples, and they try to act like Rule 63 refers to something narrow and specific. When really, Rule 63 can apply to a single character, a group of characters, or an entire world. …It sucks when the closest thing to an authoritative source is wrong…
Section 3: The Appeals of TSF
So, I explained (or tried to explain) what TSF is. But why are people interested in it, and why has it amassed a following? Well, there is no singular answer as to why, yet there are several common answers that I have identified during my eclectic travels:
- Some find the idea of themself transforming into a member of the ‘opposite sex’ to be arousing.
- Some find the idea of a man being turned into a woman and then being made submissive to be ‘the hottest shit.’
- Some find it to be a form of escapism, and enjoy imagining what it would be like to be in a sexual situation as a member of the ‘opposite sex.’
- Some find the concept to be cute. They enjoy seeing a male character learn to feminize themself or seeing a female character learn to present themself as more masculine.
- Some enjoy the more societal implications of someone becoming a different gender. They enjoy seeing how a character’s identity is transformed by their own body and the way the world perceives them.
- Some enjoy it due to a formative childhood experience that featured a TSF sequence of some sort. Which is a pretty common source for any fascination to be honest.
- Some people… ‘just like it’ and cannot articulate why when asked and need to be fed an answer.
Personally, my interest in this subject matter started as a passing fascination when I was a little kid and saw tidbits of it in various pieces of media. Namely Dragon Ball, because Dragon Ball is pervy as heck. Then, at age 13, I wound up binging through the entirety of Ranma ½ in June 2008 (back when the way to watch anime was in three-part YouTube uploads). Doing so inspired me to seek out more media where ‘a guy becomes a girl’ and led me down a rabbit hole that I’ve been inside for so long that I have forgotten what the sky looks like.
First, I called it a fetish. Then I realized I was using it as a sort of coping mechanism for my own gender dysphoria (I’m trans by the way). And while I did try distancing myself from TSF when I first started transitioning, at that point, I had developed too great of a love of TSF as a genre to ever give it up. Where exactly did this ‘love’ come from? Well, allow me to try and explain.
After spending years searching for whatever TSF content I could find, I discovered various creators who were able to take the basic concept of TSF and go further with it. Wonderfully skilled artists who specialize or frequently explore TSF in a visually impressive manner, having their own interpretation of this concept and executing it in their own distinct styles. Writers who get the subject, explore it on a deeper level, avoid (or play) with trite pitfalls, and infuse the ensuing narrative with compelling characters and circumstances. And comic creators who mingle both of these strengths, benefitting from the structure of a prolonged narrative, while retaining the expressiveness of a visual medium.
In addition to there being skilled creators in this genre, there is also so much that can be done with the concept of a TSF story. A TSF story can come in the form of the following: A comedy. A tragedy. A coming of age story. A zany fantastical adventure. A dark introspective drama. A work of body horror. A piece of social commentary that contrasts the disparity between the lives of others. A work meant to explore the concept of gender identity and expression through the aid of fantastical elements. And so much more!
There is no shortage of things that you can do with TSF, and seeing what other creators do has kept me continuously engaged in the genre. In fact, it kept me so engaged that I decided that I not only started writing novels that (generally) feature TSF, but I also started an anthology series where every installment is centered around a TSF transformation.
Section 4: “TSF is a Trope, Not a Genre“
Throughout this essay, I have been referring to TSF as a genre, which might have ruffled some feathers. When I have called TSF a genre in the past, people have shot me down. Saying that TSF is not a genre, but a trope, a tag, a thing that is attached to something, and TSF cannot constitute a genre. This is something that I personally disagree with, and for several reasons.
First off, genre and tropes are not mutually exclusive. If anything, one could argue that a genre is a collection of various tropes, and that the name of a genre can double as the name of a trope. For example, a dystopian setting is a trope found in a lot of fiction, yet dystopian fiction is also a widely recognized genre that has persisted for decades.
Secondly, the line between a trope and a genre is an ambiguous one. A genre is a category of art that is characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. While a trope is a recurring theme or motif within art. What separates a motif from a category? The correct answer it’s subjective, because there is no grand indisputable authority determining these things. And I subjectively think that TSF matches any reasonable ‘genre qualification test’ that you could throw its way.
Thirdly, there is nothing sacred about the idea of a genre. Anybody who looks at genre tags on a music site will be inundated with a deluge of terms that make little sense to anybody who is not invested in music as a medium. For example, the RateYourMusic listing for The House of Fata Morgana (one of my favorite game soundtracks of all time) is listed as Neoclassical Darkwave. Which… sounds right, but would most people consider that four-part word salad to be ‘one of the musical genres?’ Probably not.
Fourthly, if a community spans up around one thing, and that thing is not an intellectual property, then chances are you can warrant calling it a genre. This is something the TSF community has had for years, dating back to the Magical Sailor Fuku forums, Metamorphose, the Farhad TG Forums, and so forth. Nowadays… I assume that things are mostly relegated to Discord channels, Subreddits, smaller communal pockets, and 4chan. Unfortunately, I kinda lost track of the big communal hubs over the years.
Fifthly, if you are saying that ‘TSF is not a genre,’ you probably haven’t seen all the things that I’ve seen over the past 14 years. When you get deep enough into something, you start seeing subtleties and connections that are difficult to articulate. But after seeing people color outside the lines, get wild, get silly, and push the boundaries with TSF media, it becomes hard to say that something is just a trope and not a genre.
However, there is an argument that, assuming TSF is a genre, it really is more of a subgenre under the banner of Transformation, or TF. I agree with this classification, as the line between subgenre and genre is a semantic one as far as I’m concerned… and since I brought it up, I probably should talk about TF to some extent.
Section 5: A Trans-Formation Primer & Critique
While the word ‘transformation’ is incredibly broad, its use here is in the… physical sense. Transformation, or TF, is a genre where one thing physically transforms into something else through some fictitious or fantastical means. Most often a human transforming into another creature, person, or object. It is a broad description that effortlessly encompasses TSF, and can be seen as the parent genre.
Now, I am not going to do any sort of introspection into TF, describing its origins or why people like it. Because this essay is already too darn long, and because I have never considered myself to be a ‘true TF fan.’ Primarily because I dislike most human to animal transformations, because I think animals are awful creatures. Especially dogs, and especially cats. …Anthropomorphics are cool though, they’s good people.
That being said, TF is a genre I definitely have at least a modicum of love and affection for. I also commissioned artwork of Final Fantasy XIII protagonist, Claire “Lightning” Farron as an eclair. I have several folders containing ‘weird fetish nonsense’ that I am always happy to add to. Whether it be a comic about a man becoming an airplane, or a girl somersaulting onto an ice cream cone in order to become ice cream. And in my latest novel, I transformed a terrorist fuckboi into a talking, floating, indestructible purple dildo… with a urethral mouth and eyes on his ‘head.’ …Because I thought it would be cool, and it was.
…Also, this TSF/TF image right here has been etched into the corner of my mind since 2009:
…Getting back on topic, I, overall, like non-human transformation… but I have no idea how you make a compelling non-human TF story that does not fall into one of three categories:
- Someone is transformed into something and is forced to live the rest of their existence in this new form, even though they hate it.
- Someone is transformed into something and happily spends the rest of their existence in this new form.
- Someone is transformed into something and pursues a way to return to normal, likely learning a lesson as they regain their humanity.
Or in more colorful terms, your TF story could be about a dog realizing that it’s actually fine with being turned into bread. A human-turned-beastman trying to undo a dragon’s curse. Or some girl turning into a toaster oven and learning to slowly lose their humanity as she spends months ‘living’ as a non-autonomous object. Not a whole lot else though…
This brings up something I call the ‘we live in a society’ problem. If a character transforms into a creature/object whose presence is not generally accepted by society, ranging from a talking chair, to a giantess, to a furry anthropomorphic critter, then how can they live in society? How would they go about their daily life? Would they reveal themself to the world? Would they remain reclusive and live in the shadows? It is something that I think of whenever I see a piece of TF art. Yet it is rarely explored in detail, as TF content typically ends immediately after the transformation.
This problem can be circumvented by placing your story in a setting where more non-human sapient creatures are acceptable. Ranging anything from a fantasy world where monster girls are the norm, a contemporary world where furries are just another ethnicity, or a world where kitchen appliances are sapient slave race. But most creators don’t really think that far, as it’s easier to just base things in an approximation of reality.
I will say that there is an amazingly complex and layered artistry to depicting a physical transformation. And I would never say that a work of TF needs to include a detailed story, as there is absolutely nothing wrong with a transformation with no or little justification. TF can be as much or as little as it wants to be, and I view that freedom/flexibility as something of a great boon to the genre. However, after seeing what has to be over ten thousand transformations that begin and end with the transformation itself, I cannot help but crave for something with a bit more crunch to chew on.
So, am I saying that TSF has ‘a bit more crunch to chew on’ than Non-TSF TF? Well, I would say that human-to-human transformations offer more ‘wiggle room’ for narrative exploration. The lives of human beings are complex microcosms of relationships, possessions, and responsibilities, which gives creators a toolbox overflowing with things they can use to spin a narrative. And when a human undergoes a transformation into another human, there is a deluge of factors to consider and play with.
How will they explain this to their friends and family? Are they living the life of someone else now? Can they still do their job? Do they have a new job? Are they able to take care of themselves in their new form? Do they understand or have information needed to process certain social cues? Are they going to try and go to school/work like this? How does the ‘normal’ react to the introduction of the ‘fantastical?’ Did this physical transformation come with any mental changes? All of these questions, and dozens more, represent avenues for creators to explore, and that is all before getting into the physical changes common across all strata of TF.
Okay, so I explained why I prefer human-to-human transformation, yet why do I prefer TSF? Intellectually? Because the most extreme thing you can change about a human, while keeping them a human, is probably their sex and secondary sexual characteristics. Honestly? It’s probably just an obsession at this point, where my brain gives me a bit of dopamine whenever I see the fella become a lass or the lady become a gent.
…Also, I just realized another reason why I prefer TSF. Because it can be read as a play on TF and Trans-Formation. You can read TSF as Trans-Sexual-Formation, which almost makes sense… just not quite. It sounds more like you’re talking about changing sexual formations or something.
Section 6: TSF & TransGender
As I mentioned back in Section 1, I believe that the origins of TSF on the internet can be traced back to the (mostly written) fantasies of transgender people. Fiction where they, or a proxy of themself, undergo a transformation that miraculously changes their sex and all related characteristics through means both faster and more thorough than those available in the real world.
Because of this common origin point, there has always been a strong transgender presence in the TSF community. They have always been perusing and enjoying TSF content. They have been TSF fans since the very beginnings of the internet. A lot of trans people, myself included, came to terms with their own gender identity thanks to their experience with TSF. And there is a constantly growing number of creators making works that use TSF as a means of exploring gender expression and identity.
TSF has amazing potential to be a means to spread ‘trans positivity,’ inspire people as they go through their own gender journeys, and explore gender in a manner not limited by the confines of reality. At the same time however, TSF works by no means need to explore gender issues, transgender themes, or the like. They can outright ignore the concept of gender exploration, or they could lean deeply into it, and I think that’s a great thing. I love TSF works that deeply explore themes of gender and identity. And I love works that abrasively do not give an iota of a shit, nor a quantum of a fuck, about any of that stuff. It makes the genre more interesting by having fewer hard rules for what a TSF work needs to be.
That being said, not everyone shares the same open views that I do. There are, naturally, those who actively dislike transgender themes in TSF content, and view TSF as a fetish for them, not a place to seriously explore transgender themes. I remember seeing this a lot when I had the tolerance to go into /d/ threads on 4chan back in 2018. And after perusing a month’s worth of TSF threads for this post, I can say that hasn’t really changed.
Though, I have to appreciate how honest and direct some of the posters were. It’s nice that they are so open about how they want things they dislike to, effectively, no longer exist. It’s sad that they’re so sensitive to the very idea of trans people. And it’s even sadder that some people take so much pride in their ‘degeneracy’ that they think acceptance destroys ‘the fetish.’ Which is a pretty bad way to view the things you like.
Now, I was originally planning on shifting to talk about people who might take umbrage with TSF for being ‘transphobic’ somehow, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a thing anybody needs to worry about. I mean, there was that 2017 controversy surrounding De-bimbofication by TF artist Sortimid, which was quickly swept under the rug, and only lives on in memes. As such, I can’t really see a TSF controversy gaining traction for more than a few days. So… let’s move onto the next section.
Section 7: Sifting For The Good Stuff
Even though I love TSF, I will openly admit that the vast majority of TSF media out there is middling, lacking in substance, or amateurishly crafted, if not all three. And if you want to find the good stuff, you need to sift through a lot of mediocrity. I won’t drop names, but just one search for the most recent ‘TG’ uploads on DeviantArt should give you a good idea of what I’m talking about. Not very well-written captions, illustrations from artists still developing their craft, uncanny photoshops, lackluster fiction, and so forth. Now, this is not at all unique to TSF. For just about anything niche, obscure, or fringe, you need to ask around and dig to find a lot of the good stuff.
That being said, over the past decade and change, the bar for quality in TSF works has gone WAY up, and for several reasons: The old guard is still honing their craft. A generation of TSF fans have become TSF creators. A generation of TSF fans now have jobs and can commission high quality works. And there was that NSFW boom a few years back thanks to the rise of Patreon and storefronts that cater to smaller creators. This has all done wonders to increase the quantity and quality of TSF content, and even as somebody who still loves a lot of the old stuff, it’s hard for me to argue that things, as a whole, aren’t better than they used to be. …But there is still some great stuff from a decade plus ago.
Because of this upswing, I have been incredibly content with where TSF is nowadays. There is so much high-quality content on my radar that it is genuinely hard for me to keep up with everything. To the point where I don’t even need to go looking for it. Nowadays, I just follow a few dozen artists across DeviantArt, Pixiv, or Twitter, and enjoy whatever comes into my inbox via Patreon.
Though, what routinely irks me is when people with artistic skills try to take on the concept, yet only offer a surface level exploration of the genre. This is something I run into a lot when checking out new potential Patreon creators, and when I go on my weekly e-hentai visit every Saturday morning. At least 80% of the stuff I find winds up being unremarkable surface-level exploration of TSF. Most of which involves some schmuck who winds up with ABCP (ass, boobs, clit, and pussy) and then gets railed by some guy while murmuring about the ‘pleasures of a woman’s body’ because le wymynz likey da pee-pee-rape-fuckies.
Now, you could look at my words on your screen and say: “Natalie, you dummy-dumb! Why, in the name of Mozilla, are you looking to hentai funny books for quality storytelling?”
To which I say, you shut your mouth, Andrea, ‘cos you don’t know what you’re talking about! Some of the dopest and greatest TSF content I have ever seen has been in the form of an erotic comic. And you know why? Because comics are a low cost narrative delivery medium that allows creators to explore utterly buck wild concepts in a visual and long-form medium! I would gush about some of my favorites… except I’m saving that for the second part of this article, Natalie Rambles About TSF Comics.
…Unfortunately, most of those concepts tend to be strictly male-to-female. I mentioned before that TSF, or rather TG, may as well mean ‘Turn into a Girl’ because the overwhelming majority of content involves men becoming women. To the point where the only TSF artists I know who primarily does proper female-to-male stuff are Mopan, um… there’s… no, not Diggerman, he does female to drag stuff. Fanter doesn’t count either. So, um… just Mopan, I guess.
Why is this the case? Well, you could probably write an entire dissertation about this topic, but here are just a few surface level reasons why FtM is not popular:
- The belief that ‘male is the default,’ while ‘females are more interesting.’ So turning a female into a male is viewed as someone interesting ‘becoming the default’ which is ‘uninteresting.’
- The belief that females and their biology are more visually appealing than male biology, and that most people prefer looking at attractive women over men.
- The fact that the majority of people who create TSF artwork are more attracted to women than they are to men.
- The persistent heterosexual-male-centric culture that believes that the idea of a woman, something sexually desirable, turning into a man, something not sexually desirable, is either gross or ‘gay.’ Or, in other words, bros don’t like seeing men in a sexual context unless the man is meant to be a vessel for them to identify with.
- The fact that more people are more inclined to support and share artwork of cute girls than people are willing to support and share artwork of handsome boys.
- The belief that you have more ‘toys’ to play with when illustrating a female character with regards to proportions, hairstyles, and clothing.
Now, I could talk about how TSF content creators should try and push more female-to-male TSF stuff. Though, I would be kind of a hypocrite if I did so. To be fully transparent, I was disinterested in the female-to-male perspective until about four years ago or so (when I started presenting as female). Since then, I have not made much in the way of female-to-male content, even with a series that is meant to explore a wide spectrum of TSF transformations. …I’ll try to get better at that in the Latin American trilogy.
Section 8: TSF Transformation Methods – A Sampler Exploration
Next up, I should probably discuss the most prominent and explored part of TSF as a genre: The transformation. To reiterate what I said earlier, there is an amazingly complex and layered artistry to depicting a transformation sequence. When I say that, I am not strictly talking about a physical transformation from one form to another. I am talking about any method that can be used to make a guy become a girl (or vice versa). This includes the standard physical transformation, body swapping, possession, skinsuits/bodysuits, and other, less common, methods that are used to change the initial subject into something else.
Having spoken to TSF fans and read many discussions, I have reached the conclusion that the method of transformation is a very significant factor for some people. Some people like regular physical transformations and only want to see those when looking for TSF. Others have more narrow interests and are subset fans first, and TSF fans second.
Personally, I tend to be more on the indifferent side of things. Why? Well, I already implied how my gulag days taught me to be grateful for whatever I could find. A secondary reason stems from how I used to run a TG Captions site back in 2015 and 2016. In producing the 350-ish captions for that site, I got so desperate for ideas that I created a random concept generator using categories found on other TG Caption sites. It was not a good idea, nor was it particularly fun. Also, I’m sorry that my crappy captions are polluting searches for ‘TG’ stuff even to this day.
My indifference aside, I do believe that all of these methods have their own narrative strengths and weaknesses, so let’s run through them.
A pure physical transformation is the most self-contained concept. One person undergoes a physical transformation through some fantastical means. While multiple people can be involved, and mass transformation events can occur, it is ultimately a transformation of self. Secondary parties do not need to be involved, and the story can go in virtually any direction following that. From seeing the protagonist cope with this transformation in an unchanged reality, witness reality changing as part of their physical transformation, or experience a mental alteration that goes with their new form. It is simple, versatile, and is the baseline for a reason.
The only true limitation I see with physical transformations is, going back to Section 5, the ‘we live in a society’ clause. People are heavily documented and have identities defined not only in databases, but in social structures. The transformed character would need to explain their new identity unless reality either accepts physical transformations as a normal thing, or was altered along with the transformation. Or if they know a guy who can forge government documents.
That being said, the wonderful thing about a straight physical transformation is that you can do pretty much anything. While the go-to is just making a sexy ‘opposite sex’ version of a male character, no matter what they looked like previously, it does not necessarily need to be so basic or limited. Any number of aspects of a person can change as part of this transformation, including their age, race, physical features, or even mental state. Or if you are going in more of a fantasy and sci-fi route, you may as well change the species too, because why not add more kindling to the bonfire of possibility?
Body swapping inherently involves two or more characters, and when used, it often leads to some level of social interaction between both the two swapped individuals and numerous other characters. While direct transformations are the most isolated and personal, body swaps are the most social. They come with more creative limitations, as you are dealing with multiple characters, but they also have arguably greater depth due to their ability to pursue parallel stories between multiple characters. …Not that most TSF body swap stories actually attempt that… including the ones I’ve written.
This social element makes body swaps a particularly popular narrative exploration angle even outside of niche transformation communities. It presents creators with an opportunity for characters to learn intimate details about the other person, develop empathy for them, and learn that their assumptions were wrong. Or, in the case with male to female or female to male body swaps, what it is like to be a member of another sex.
As I said earlier, “the lives of human beings are complex microcosms of relationships, possessions, and responsibilities, which gives creators a toolbox overflowing with things they can use to spin a narrative.” And nowhere is this more true than in a body swap scenario, as it is not just taking on the appearance and guise of someone else. It is taking on their entire life. Which is an idea so grand that it opens up a county-load of avenues to explore.
Unfortunately, the popularity of body swaps as a concept has led to a number of tired and uncreative elements to flutter about in the popular consciousness. Accordingly, many more ‘mainstream’ examples do not think too deeply about the ramifications of a body swap. Which isn’t a knock against the concept, as much as it is an indication that creators should try harder and think more about the potential ramifications of a body swap.
Possession allows one to effectively take over the body and life of someone else, while condensing, comatosing, or dismissing away their original body. It is a way for one character to take control of the body of another character, in a nonreciprocal exchange. Where, most often, the possessor retains full control of their body, while the possessed is either oblivious or is a mere observer. This makes possession a very empowering sort of transformation. As it grants one access to all the perks of being in the body of another, without necessarily needing to face the consequences as, in typical possession stories, the possessor can leave their target at any time.
This, to me, makes possession the biggest ‘power fantasy’ TSF transformation, as the realistic ramifications of an ability like possession are… pretty insane to think about. It is the idea of hijacking someone’s body, impersonating them, and using their status and resources to achieve one’s own goals. Just the idea of a character using possession to achieve political or monetary gains by sabotaging others, framing enemies for heinous crimes, and evading all capture gets my mental gears grinding like crazy!
Which, in turn, makes me wish that more TSF works used possession to convey these more macro-level ideas. Instead, a lot of them just focus on somebody turning into a ghost or slime, possessing a lady, and doing a lewd. Or the possession goes awry in some way, leaving the possessor stuck in their new body, or captured by someone who just so happens to know about possession. Which is a shame when you could use possession to get rich, crash markets, leak unannounced video games, dishonor your political enemies, and start wars!
Next we have skinsuits/bodysuits! Throughout basically every incarnation, they take the form of sheathes that resemble human skin, and have the power to reshape the proportions of any person who wears the suit. By wearing one, the wearer is effectively physically transformed into whoever/whatever the suit resembles. Thereby granting the wearer full access to the senses available to the bodysuit they are wearing. As a concept, they are almost exclusively explored in more… perverted circles, but as a mechanism for transformation, I find them to be both layered and compelling.
A bodysuit is a self-contained transformation object that can be used by anyone, and the transformation that happens is not abstract. Bodysuits are effectively just incredibly thorough costumes that resemble a person. And, much like a costume, bodysuits are often depicted as something that can be taken off at the wearer’s behest.
As for their creation, bodysuits are typically either created by transforming people into bodysuits, or as a synthetic object that just so happens to resemble a person. No matter their origin, however, bodysuits are ultimately treated as objects. They do not require food, water, or any sustenance and they are lightweight, flexible, and durable enough to cram into a backpack, handbag, or cardboard box.
In regards to the actual transformation aspect, something that I find so potent about these sequences over others is how they ultimately traced back to something familiar to just about anyone. Putting on a bodysuit is putting on an article of clothing, and while that might seem like a simple thing to depict, it really isn’t. It not only requires a good deal of artistic skill to properly depict visually, but there’s also the matter of capturing the tone. Should the wearing process be malicious, erotic, gradual, or frantic? How should the person’s body contort as they wear the bodysuit?
In regards to its role as a narrative device, I think that bodysuits are moderately limited, as most of the bodysuit fiction I have come across involve some permutation of the following:
- People using bodysuits to steal the lives of others.
- People using bodysuits as a disguise to escape an unfortunate fate.
- People using them as a tool to lead a double life.
- People using them as a masturbatory aid.
- People using them as a tool to blackmail, dehumanize, or harm people.
- People being trapped inside bodysuits with no way to escape (which kind of misses the point).
- Some sort of power fantasy where a ‘man’ (and it is always a ‘man’) assembles a collection of female bodysuits stored in a closet/bedroom.
There is definitely room for narrative exploration to be had, and I think that bodysuits should have a larger following than they do. However, bodysuits tend to be among the more… fetish-y of the transformation methods, presumably due to the cultural stigma around the whole ‘man wearing a woman suit’ thing, even in some TSF communities. Which is always strikes me as bizarre, and reminds me of something a kigurumi cosplayer once told me:
“We skinsuit TG fans, we don’t want to hurt anyone in real life. ;w; w-we just want to have fun…”
Which is true for… all forms of TSF and TF. They’re just people trying to have some fun in this world by engaging with a fantasy, not plotting out how they are going to do body crimes in the real world.
Section 9: Natalie’s Preferences
I’ve alluded to my preferences throughout this essay so far, but let’s throw subtlety out the window and into the streets, where that fish-whore belongs, and turn this into a 100% personal ramble.
What are my preferences when it comes to TSF? Um… I like race change. I’m fond of any sort of physical/mental transformation that involves any form of ‘fusion.’ I have a soft spot for inter-family stuff, even though I know that’s ‘problematic.’ Of the four aforementioned methods, my favorite would be body swap, because ‘it makes the most sense to me’ (whatever that means). I have a special fondness for large-scale transformation scenarios, mostly because I was super into The Great Shift stories and captions when I was a wee teen (I still miss Alicia).
Yet while I like to see things like this, I don’t really seek them out.
As I keep on prattling on about, my time in the gulags during the late 2000s and early 2010s taught me to not be picky, to accept and enjoy whatever I could find. I like to think that this has given me an open mind to TSF, as I do at least try to give everything a shot. In my mind, this mentality encourages me to be more open to more things, take in more work from more people, and pursue weirder and wilder ideas in my own work.
So, instead of “preferences,” I guess I should be describing what I look for and what I enjoy seeing when I check out TSF content. And the answer can be succinctly boiled down to two factors: Creativity and commitment.
I have seen thousands of transformation sequences, captions, and comics. I have gone through more TSF content than I could ever hope to remember. As such, I tend to crave the weirder end of things. Concepts that are unconventional or take things into unique directions. This can be anything from the ‘three layer genital system’ of Dosukebe Seal by Inucream. To the surreality of that legendary Shinji Ikari cactus woman comic by cgaegavga99. Or any number of Student Transfer Scenarios. Ranging from the rampant creativity of Never by C.R.E.A.M. To the wild science fantasy and galactic-scope of Principiis Magicae by Adamdead. To Truth or Syn, which I described as “like spending a day in a dump truck full of spaghetti, cum, and horse cocks.” …That was a compliment, by the way.
At best, highly creative works like this leave me feeling deeply satisfied, and at their worst, they leave me throbbing with creative energy and a desire to do what the original work was attempting, but bigger, weirder, and ‘better.’
However, things do not need to be deeply creative to captivate me, as I am more than happy with a familiar premise and execution if the creator really commits to it. By commitment, I mean that the work is trying to do something grander. When the creator has a multi-faceted series of goals beyond the surface level and is trying to create a story with depth, detail, and character. I, naturally, most often see this in works with longer lengths and larger scopes.
I think the poster child for this would be re:Dreamer, which aspires to take the premise of ‘guy finds an app that turns him into a girl’ and tell an exceptionally long and exceedingly thorough story from this premise. One with a meticulously crafted cast of characters, a detailed alternate universe setting, various routes, and a high bar for both written and presentational quality.
Other examples include longer running series that have the luxury of multiple chapters to tell more complex stories with character development, changes to the setting, and so forth. Just to name three: Pokémon TSF by Vel, Forever Summer by Moonlly, and Requited Change by MassManiac. All of which have routinely impressed me with not only their ability to tell a focused and deliberate story, but how all of them keep finding more ways to impress or amaze me as new elements are introduced and situations become increasingly absurd. Plus, as on-going series, it is a lot easier to remain invested in their worlds, characters, and concepts than it is with single multi-page comics, sequences, or even elaborate pin-ups with associated short-stories. Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with those… I just like the long-form stuff better.
Now, more savvy readers might have read that last paragraph and gotten confused by my mentioning of Forever Summer. A comic about a young man being coerced by his non-familial female guardian to start crossdressing, feminizing his behaviors, and presenting himself as her daughter, while undergoing a series of medical procedures. I mentioned that under the context of it being a TSF comic, though isn’t that actually just a forced feminization story, and not a TSF story? Because the character does not undergo a fantastical change of sex
Well, it’s definitely a forced feminization story (a term that can and does apply to a significant portion of TSF content). And I could argue semantics about how the protagonist’s transition timeline is fantastically fast, no matter how good his HRT is, yet that’s kind of burying the argument. Even if the story’s timescale was altered to resemble a more realistic transition, I would still consider it to be an example of the TSF genre, simply because it feels like a TSF story.
What does that even mean? Well, it is difficult to articulate. The meaning and definition of a genre is something that can be stated into words, yet it is something that has a lot of unspoken subtleties that are difficult to pinpoint without having an extensive amount of experience. Or in other word, it captures many beats common throughout other TSF fiction. To the point that, even though there is no instigating trigger that physically changes the protagonist, it still captures the idea of a gradual Transsexual transformation over time. It still feels like a TSF work. Also, Moonlly calls it a TSF comic, and they seem to be pretty well versed in the genre.
Moving away from that tangent, I’ve discussed what I like but what do I dislike? Beyond works that are uncreative, surface-level, or blasé, I don’t strictly dislike too much… except for one thing.
I super dislike sissification stuff. This is mostly due to how I stumbled onto the work of Milda7 when I was 15 or 16, and… I still think that some of her work is more fucked up than anything I have ever written. Which is saying something, considering I wrote Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth, which has child vore (both ways), cannibal cunnilingus, and other fun stuff! And let’s not even mention the pig-rape-hell from The Saga of Vincent Dawn.
Based on what I have seen, Milda7’s works follow a male character who is abducted and feminized against his will. Except it is not usual feminization, it is an exaggerated hyper-femininity that is wildly divorced from anything I have seen… anywhere else. It is a process that uses ‘science’ to rapidly and permanently change one’s body. Is done under the pretense of enacting justice upon someone who only did something vaguely wrong. And the stories end with the protagonist being forced to… not live his life as a woman, but as a doll. As something so extremely feminine that their humanity is secondary to their femininity.
I’m signaling her out, but I don’t mean to condemn Milda7 or anything like that. She is allowed to do literally whatever she wants with her work. I personally do not like her work, but I was the one who chose to read it back in 2011(?), and I was the one who chose to store it for the past 7 years (because I’m a hoarder like that). So, really, I only have myself to blame.
Also, the MeowWithMe ‘reworks’ of Milda7’s comics are a lot better, but the idea of something like ‘permanent makeup’ is still messed up. And not the messed up that I like!
Section 10: TSF Forever!
Something that I gradually realized as I cobbled together the bits and pieces of this essay— expanding, cutting, and rewriting things into a semi-coherent croissant-like shape— was the fact that I’ve invested a non-insignificant portion of my personal identity into TSF.
Since I first became invested in TSF back in June 2008, when I was 13, I do not think I have gone a single day without thinking about it in some way, shape, or form. I’m 27 now, so I have been invested in TSF for the majority of my life. This December will mark my tenth anniversary writing TSF fiction, and I have absolutely no intention of stopping. My next four novels are all set to heavily feature TSF, and I want to produce 100 numbered installments of TSF Series before I die. Over the span of 3 years, I have written 13.
The entire reason why I started Nigma Box was to improve my skills as a writer and become better at expressing my opinions. I don’t consider myself to be particularly good at that (or anything for that matter), yet over the ensuing decade, my goals have changed from that of self-improvement to that of content creation. And virtually all ‘wholly creative content’ I want to make involves TSF in some way, shape, or form.
(Admittedly, February 2022’s Psycho Bullet Festival 2222 really wasn’t TSF— it was a fetish-colored sci-fi action story— but it had the TSF stank to it. And April 2022’s Weiss Vice: Glory Unto Genocide was TSF, but that was very secondary to the whole anti-white-supremacy element.)
This leads me to the conclusion that TSF is something that I am going to remain fascinated with for the remainder of my life. It has become something so deeply entrenched in my mind that its exploration has become a part of me. …And the only reason anybody really gives a guff about what I do online is because of my TSF-related stuff! So I may as well keep on doing TSF stuff until I die! So… yeah. TSF Forever!
Continued in Part 2: Natalie Rambles About TSF Comics
That’s over 8,000 words— more than enough to be considered a completed Ramble— but this is the 10th anniversary special! Meaning I should go all out! I should go hog wild! So, instead of talking about TSF as a concept, I should showcase TSF works I really like. I’ve already done this with the images strewn throughout this essay (sources and links are below), and… that is nowhere near sufficient!
…Unfortunately, this post is already super long, and instead of making this the longest post on Nigma Box, I’m going to break this sucker up into two parts, and continue things in Natalie Rambles About TSF Comics.
Image Sources (in order of appearance):
TSF Sequence ♂➡♀ ♀➡♂ by Giu Giu (Pixiv ID 2231072)
TG Sequence – Office Secretary by Chadtow
The Genderswapped Boy Who’s Ready for and Used to his Body Suddenly Changing into a Girl’s During Class by Nahoyan
6 Panel Life by Ian C. Samson
TG/TF Patreon Reward by Fokk3rs
Enjoying a Sundress by CastleDolphyn
[GET BENT] ~Added Description~ by Cylent-Nite
My Hero Academia Genderbend / Girls by PEB99
Treat Yourself, Girl! (Basic TG) by CrownCosmo
A Manga About a Hero who Pulled Out the Holy Sword and Became a Girl by Taro Fukuoka
Ojou-sama Irekawari by Yuniba
MonGirl 4koma 196 – Punishment for Lolicon by GreenTeaNeko
Gnarly Drink TG by DizzyOrNot
Lucky Magnemite (Magnemite TF Seq) by Sera-fuku
A Link to the Dark World by P.Chronos
I’m Okay With Dis by Luxianne
In the Dragon’s Den by TheTransformistress
TG Tennis! By Lali-Yah
A Situation Where You Wake up in the Morning and a Girl Unknown to You Stares Back at You in the Mirror by Braze2530
Sequence – Trans-scent-ant by Kim Rinzley
I Have Replaced Myself in the World Beyond the Mirror by Totoyasu (Pixiv ID 3633145)
The Experiment by Zoe Crockett (Colored by ChaldeaChange)
Highschool DxD Issei Gender Swap by BaalBuddy
Kanbaru (TG) by melonFF (Mopan)
Magic Ring by JamesnJellies
Character Upgrades! By Ovidpaio
Dip in the GPA! By Isle of Hando (Parts 1, 2, 3)
The Body Possession Service by Imp Underneath
Bodysuit 23 #422 by Megazone23pt2
Cat Costume by MXL (Pixiv ID 4030952)
Turmoil on the Train By Chibiibiru (Pixiv ID 1700219)
The Prostitute, the Escort, and the Pervert (Woman Eater) by Nojo
TG Sequence TG Sequence by Lime-TG
re:Dreamer by Dream Team Studio
Forever Summer Chapter 21 by Moonlly
Milda007-2 by Milda7 (I called it Military 002 in my personal archive?)
Cosmetic Surgery: Page 57 by MeowWithMe
Planetary Wonder Flora! By Glockens
For the images in this post, I wanted to include as many different TSF/TG/TF artists as I could, but I had to take in several factors when considering which images would fit with this essay’s format. This meant I had to edit several images, make vertical comics horizontal, rearrange certain things, run noise reduction, crop images, and censor nipples. Also, I tried to feature an artist only once across both Natalie Rambles About TSF and Natalie Rambles About TSF Comics. Emphasis on tried.
Huh. In finalizing this, I just realized that both posts have 38 images. That was not even intentional, and I regret that it wasn’t 37. Because 37 is, objectively, the best number!