13 January 2011

Genderfabulous in Sci-Fi & Fantasy - Share your geekery with me!

If you follow my Twitter and/or Facebook, you have likely heard that I am writing a book, specifically a collection of essays, and it's on gender and some of the messy places that it touches upon in our lives.  As my friend Scout put it "My gosh, that could be an encyclopedia. Good luck whittling that down to fit into a single volume."  Indeed, Scout, indeed.

I am whittling down and speaking mostly from personal experience and observation, which is generally a good way to say out of trouble.  Yesterday I got to thinking, inspired by Lordissa knows what, about how explorations of non-binary gender in fiction tend to come up, in my experience, only in science fiction and, as some thoughtful, geeky friends pointed out, in fantasy as well.  The two examples that I thought of were: 1) In Slaughterhouse Five, it is pointed out to Billy that human sexual reproduction requires not two, but five human sexes, including gay men, women over 65, and the children who died before the age of one.  (Most were present in the fourth dimension only which would mean they were stationary in space and moving through time at light speed, but I'll let it slide.)  2)  In A Wrinkle in Time Meg is cared for by an alien that gets the name "Aunt Beast."  The creature gives no indication of having a sex or gender, but chooses those two words based on reconciling Meg's language with how she was relating to Meg.

The Slaughterhouse Five example is significant especially for it's inclusion of gay men as intrinsically necessary to the continuation of the human race as they/we are often portrayed as ill and detrimental to society.  (I usually choose queer on both sexuality and gender fronts, but "gay man" describes a significant portion of my experience and culture.)  It also breaks down the idea that men and women are sexually complimentary, and that it turn questions a great deal of assumptions about compulsory heterosexuality and sex and gender binarism.  In A Wrinkle in Time the author instead uses an entirely different species that exhibits no sex/gender (at least insofar as they're described in the book), yet Meg's language necessarily imposes gender upon them.

The idea that in order to explore non-binary sex and gender it must be written in a fantasy or sci-fi genre is at turns amusing, frustrating, and horrifying.  Living outside of one or both of those binaries is a reality for lots of us.  Maybe if it was in the non-fiction section instead, a beautiful, healthy baby born neither male, nor female, would simply be celebrated instead of labeled as diseased and likely submitted to surgery that is non-consensual and not medically necessary.  But I digress (for now).

I put it out to my Twitter crowd, and I am now putting it out here:  I would love to hear what you've read that explored humans, aliens, hobbits, or  whomever outside of sex/gender binaries, and how you felt about it.  Specifically, I want to publish these in the book as part of the essay.  Basically a sort of "you're totally not alone, go see these fiction books as affirming models of non-binary sex gender and make it your own reality."  So here's the deal:  if you consent to me using your words in my book, won't sue me, and aren't looking for compensation, please post below.  I'm looking for 1) The name of the book or show 2) how it broke sex/gender binary 3) 1-2 sentences about what you liked best about it (or write more and I'll edit down) and 4) How you'd like to be credited.  It can either be completely anonymous or I'll include one or all of your name, Twitter handle, and blog or website.

I got some great responses on Twitter that I'm posting screenshots of below.  (Anybody with a private account, I have respected that and not reposted here.)

So, PLEASE, share away, and then in a year or so you can tell all your friends you're published in a brilliant and geeky essay about gender on Mars. Or something.  And retweet, post on FB, and send this out to your listserve for scifi meetups. Don't lie, I know you have one.  I saw that picture of you at a Trekkie convention on Facebook. ;D


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