Extraterrestrials and gender

Humans generally come in male and female, with a few inbetween individuals.

But what about extraterrestrials?

Today’s featured article on Wikipedia is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. This was one of the first, if not THE first SFF piece to explore a society not constrained by gender. The residents of Gethen are genderless, or “ambisexual” (the lines between “sexuality” and “gender” being more blurred in the 1960s than they are today), much to the confusion of the human male protagonist. Le Guin described this in the foreword to the 1976 edition as a “thought experiment”.

My Rekodenzians are unisex creatures existing in a postgender society. In English and Anglic, they are generally referred to using the pronouns se, sem and ses. Le Guin refers to Gethenians in the masculine, but I feel that gender-neutral pronouns are more appropriate lest they be percieved as a binary gender (Le Guin, interestingly, has been attacked for presenting heterosexuality as the norm on Gethen with the implications that Ai and Estreven’s “forbidden love” is a homosexual one. There are so many things wrong with that conclusion I do not know where to begin). When I first started building the world of Rekodenz, in 2004, I envisioned them as being either male or female. After exploring the world of the Gethenians, I came to the conclusion that extraterrestrial societies, if they exist, probably do not have “gender” in the same way we do, in both biology and mental wiring. To me this is less of a “thought experiment” and more of a prediction. Western society is already making rapid shifts towards genderlessness, and by the time we discover intelligent life we probably won’t care about gender anway except for in biological discussion.

In short, Rekodenzians are genderless because I believe that extraterrestrials probably will be. This is not intended as a dig at anyone in the SFF community who thinks otherwise, and is just my opinion. I’m all ears.


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