On the occasions when I do write, I almost inevitably switch genders between drafts. Occasionally multiple times per character. I sympathize with the lack of an easy search-and-replace option.
....and I sympathize with all the inherent gender assumptions and stereotypes that come flooding out every time. Which I read as more having to do with me, and the way I read gender.
Example? In this novella, I've switched the protagonist from female to male, and now I'm seriously considering switching back to female. In her original incarnation, as Beatrice, she watched in horror as her brother first verbally and then physically abused her nephew. In the second incarnation, as Jan, he went over and clocked his brother on the head with a shovel, ending the abuse.
Why was the male protagonist able to take action, to use violence to stop a violent situation, when his female double was unable to? I think this says at least as much about me and the frightening degree to which I've internalized these stereotypes of passivity/action as it does about the culture that promotes them.
But I think the characters benefit from the switching. I think they benefit from edits that move them subtly from original stereotype into new stereotype, a la "asshole" to "Bad Boy." Because it's not a full switch: they have all the inertia of the original portrayal. So they tend become more complex, less 2-dimensional, with every iteration. I think they have more options and actions available to them every time I struggle to bring my own gender stereotypes into line.
And so I'm thinking of switching Jan back to Beatrice, because I want Beatrice to have the ability to take action---even unacceptable action--- when something truly awful happens in her family. Because as a woman, I'd like to have that option on the table.
ps. If you ever teach at Clarion, Ben, will you make gender flipping an exercise that you teach?