Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Nonbinary representation before that was a thing
I think all of the years I spent not reading Ursula K. Le Guin can be attributed to the melodrama of the first few pages of The Left Hand of Darkness. Now that I've gotten over myself and just read the damn thing I'm probably going to spend a few years kicking myself for not getting into her work earlier.
Le Guin's writing has made my life better in a significant way even outside of the fact that she writes good books. Her exploration of gender at the heart of The Left Hand of Darkness is aggressively feminist for the time that the novel was written and even today could be seen as shocking with the realizations that a human who views sex and gender as a binary encounters in a nonbinary species.
I'm hella 1000% here for this shit.
Ai's difficulty in his relationships with the Gethenians is a beautiful exploration of the male gaze and how it colors literally everything in the world as Le Guin depicts it. Ai has trouble accepting nonbinary pronouns and presentations, he forces descriptions of behaviors as belonging to one human gender or another, unconsciously assigning positive traits to masculinity and negative traits to femininity. Ursula K. Le Guin went in with guns blazing and stripped the logic away from gendered assumptions and gave not one single fuck about making her work more palatable or less challenging.
And it's amazing - it's also amazing how far we've come since 1969 and how stuck we seem to be in some ways. Right now we have a whole vocabulary for gender fluidity and nonbinary spectra that simply didn't when Le Guin was writing TLHoD; but right now we still have issues of people seeing certain kinds of work or chores or colors or clothing as right for only one gender or another, completely ignoring that there might be something in-between.
Anyway, I loved the shit out of the book and it made me cry. A+, 10/10, would read again.
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. Ace Books. New York: New York. 2010. (1969).