If the sex you’re born with affects how you’re treated, I don’t stand by it

I’ve just come back from a trip to Gethen – a cold place, with beautiful glaciers and a society of people that are devoid of sex and gender for most of the time.

They are simply *people*, undefined by what they have in between their legs or whether they can carry a child or not. Once a month, they go into kemmer and become either male or female for that one time. They can switch the following month. During kemmer they get to stay off work and concentrate on themselves. Whatever happens during kemmer does not affect their standing in society.

Wow!

Can you imagine?! 

When I wrote about how I would love a gender-free environment for my own child’s upbringing, I was met by a lot of resistance from several members of The Correspondent. Despite killing a story I was going to write about how much sex-at-birth affects brain development, the idea of how our sex at birth affects us has not left me. I simply can’t stop thinking about all the ways it affected me as I was growing up.

That is why I decided to travel to Gethen, the planet masterfully depicted in The Left Hand of Darkness, a 1969 science fiction book by Ursula K Le Guin. I discovered the planet, also known as Winter, first through the manly eyes of Genly Ai, an envoy from Terra, ie a human being from the same planet I am born on. His foreign view of Gethenian attitudes is full of stereotypes and misogyny. Just check out what Ai says about Estraven, a Gethenian politician.

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