Would an androgynous and bisexual society eliminate gender roles? A review of The Left Hand of Darkness (spoiler free)

A few days ago I saw a post on Instagram from a distant cousin in which she and her partner were holding a neutral light with great emotion that a few seconds later turned blue. “It’s a boy,” shouted the people who appeared in the video. The father celebrated, especially moved, with a soccer ball and a certain team jersey in his hands.

I thought about how genuine this behavior is, born out of love, but also out of culture about gender that we have all internalized. The one that allows us to think that a dress can only be found in the girls’ section of a department store; the one that made me think of a man when I read “genomic science specialist” in an article until I got to the firm and realized it was a woman.

Here and in China, individuals tend to associate things, clothing, activities, sports, food, language and even emotions with a gender, which in turn is associated with a sex.

In science, in art, in the job market, on the internet, in the streets, in public spaces and inside homes; the gender roles they are everywhere and influence virtually all interpersonal relationships. In his fictional universe in The left hand of the darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin experiment by creating a society in which neither biological sex, nor gender identity, nor sexual preferences are constant. They exist, but they are not sitting. What is left then?

How is the planet Winter?

Gueden, which is also called Winter because it is in an ice age, is a planet whose inhabitants are biologically intersex and bisexual. It is not that gender and sex do not exist, it is that they are not a constant —I repeat this insistently because it seems to me that this is the fundamental argument that Le Guin wanted to show.

Gethenians enter “kemmer” only once every month – we will also encounter a complex measurement of time, by the way – and about three weeks of each month are neutral. So, a Gethenian is neither a man nor a woman most of the time and has no ability to have sexual intercourse until he enters kemmer, his genitalia adapt and finish developing at the same time as his partner’s and neither knows which sex he wants. will play So while at some time they may be fathers, many others may be mothers and gestate, although not all relationships involve reproduction.

Genly Ai, is an envoy of the Ekumen to Gueden, the mission is that all the planets have an alliance and collaborate together. Genly Ai, is a person from a world much more similar to ours, and this is something that we will be able to see throughout his journey as a guest and as an intruder in this world that he does not know and understands little. Genly, the envoy, up in the country of Karhide, where he meets Estraven, a Gethenian; He doesn’t have the luck he expected for his goal and tries again in the country of Orgoreyn, where he meets Estraven again. I will reserve the rest so that those who have not read The left hand of the darkness can continue reading.

And the end?

I was a little dissatisfied with the ending, but I think that’s the purpose. The novel is made more by its first pages than by the last; the argument and the proposal, rather than the outcome.

I think it’s interesting to see from the eyes of an Earthman, like us, who internalizes misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, classism, and racism—in a genuine way because Genly Ai doesn’t even notice it—a society where gender and sex are a intermittent condition and therefore do not determine or dominate their individuals.

This is present all the time, the divisions by sex do not exist, the gender war, then, neither. Although the novel develops the story of Genly Ai and Estraven in their own voices, these contrasts never disappear, while the terrestrial distinguishes, sections and understands everything through sex-gender, the Gethenian acts under the implicit principle that there are no differences .

Ursula K. Le Guin and her work

The author of science fiction novels He was born in California, United States and just four years ago he died at the age of 88. Much of his work is based on sociological and anthropological critiques embodied in the intersection of worlds as we know them and alien worlds.

I must confess that when I started The Dispossessed, the first novel by Le Guin that I read, I felt a heaviness; the feeling that I was missing something important and then wanting to go back and return to the beginning. With The Left Hand of Darkness it was not exactly different; the author uses words that do not exist in our language, because they are typical of the world she created, the measurements of time and space are also different. After the first few chapters it gets much better.

The journey to Gethen uncomfortable at times but, for me, it helped me imagine, from eyes very similar to mine, a society in which gender roles are extinct. And this is not about building, creating, designing, or predicting completely androgynous, intersex, or bisexual societies. That’s why I say extinguish roles, look deeper into ourselves and criticize ourselves when we think of everything in terms of gender or sex.

Ursula K. Le Guin herself says so in one of the most recent English editions of The Left Hand of Darkness:

“Yes, indeed people (in my book) are androgynous, but that doesn’t mean I’m predicting that in a millennium or so, we’ll all be androgynous, or announcing that I think you should be damn androgynous. I am simply observing—in the peculiar, tortuous, experimental thinking of science fiction—that if we are looked at at certain odd times of day or in certain weather, we are in fact already androgynous.”

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