Transcending Flesh: Vampires, Werewolves, and Quick Healers

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

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This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.


Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings

Essay #10: Vampires, Werewolves, and Quick Healers

Let's talk briefly about people with supernatural healing capabilities. I've written characters with magical powers and super-healing and I put forth that if your characters have super-healing, that power must interface with the body-owner's consent and desires, or you're going to run into trouble very quickly.

"Magical healing" that restores a body to a default state is a medical impossibility that we handwave with magic or magical science when we include it as a power in stories. It's one that can be fun to play with, but it has a history of being used to heap angst onto marginalized people in ways which are harmful, and then forgotten about when that same magical healing would become inconvenient to privileged audiences.

Below is a short list of things I've seen magical healing powers used for:

- Removing an existing long-term disability.
- Preventing or undoing gender confirmation surgery for trans people.
- Making sex painful by regenerating a hymen again and again.
- Enforcing an unwanted hairstyle which caused bodily dysphoria for the person.

Here is the catch. If you're going to regenerate all "damage" to a body instantly without consideration for the body-owner's desires, you cannot have:

- Tattoos.
- Body piercings.
- Tanned skin.
- Muscles.
- Pregnancy.

Oh, and if you're going to regenerate hair growth in ways which cause bodily dysphoria for the owner, you will also need to include:

- Leg hair.
- Armpit hair.
- Pubic hair.
- Fingernails and toenails of socially unacceptable length.

This is what I mean when I say that super-healing is often used to cause angst for marginalized people ("No gender confirmation surgery for trans people! The magic heals them right back to where they were!") but is forgotten about when privileged audiences want something for themselves, like pregnancy or modern hair styles. If you're going to show vampire angst because Claudie can't cut her girlish hairstyle away into something more mature or more masculine, then your sexy vampire ladies also need leg hair and armpit hair. If you're going to grow back a trans man's breasts after a mastectomy, nobody gets to have piercings.

If magic healing expels bullets and foreign bodies and doesn't take into account the wishes and consent of the body-owner, then pregnancy is impossible. Pregnancy involves a parasite which burrows into the lining of the uterus and then feeds from the host for months without considering the host's welfare. Real world pregnancy requires suppression of normal immune responses in order to prevent the body from rejecting the invasive foreign object. The fact that every pregnancy isn't rejected is, frankly, astounding.

Now, you can have pregnancy in super-healers by simply embracing the fact that the super-healing is magic and that magic can be guided by willpower and consent. If the character wants to be pregnant, their talent can accommodate for that. If the character wants to cut, grow, or otherwise change their hair, their talent can allow for that. If the character is transgender and wants to medically transition, their magical talent can make room for their choice and adjust to their self-image as the new "default" state to which the body is returned when wounded. Magic and the mind do not need to be at odds!

Similarly, if a character wants their magical talent to heal a childhood disability or old scars, that's a valid character decision. The problem is not with healing. The problem is with worlds which present the healing as something the character has no input or control over, and which erases their disability or erects a barrier to medical transition options, but then doesn't include foot-long toenails and armpit hair down to the waist because doing so would upset the intended cis and able-bodied audience.

Muscles require injury to the body. Tanning requires injury to the body. Pregnancy requires injury to the body. If these injuries are instantly healed then the muscles don't grow, the tan doesn't set, and the pregnancy doesn't develop. If your character can do any of these things, then there is no reason why they can't also maintain a disability or scar by choice, or seek out medical transition options to confirm their gender identity. Super-healing should not be used as a tool to strip agency from marginalized people.

In short: There's nothing wrong with super-healing magic. The problem is when that magic is used to harm marginalized people for supposed reasons which then evaporate when the result would inconvenience or upset privileged people in the audience.


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