The subject of gender tends to be extremely divisive. Front and center in the media as it is these days, new questions keep coming up, vigorously debated but never truly answered. I doubt they’ll ever be answered since gender can be looked at from a social, a genetic, or a psychological point of view. An article that caught my eye recently was about the first person (in the US, at least) to be declared legally neither male nor female. It doesn’t, of course, answer any of the questions. In fact, it raises more.
Jamie Shupe can legitimately be considered transgender, although he has no intention of going all the way to surgery. I believe that people should be able to present themselves as whatever gender feels like their real self, but the question that constantly comes up for me is one that impinges on me as a writer of near-future science fiction. In that mode, I see transgender as a possible tragedy in the making. Whatever measures a person may take to change their gender, they remain the same at the genetic level. What if, in the future, be it near or far, the hormones that transgender people rely on to maintain their many of their physiological changes are no longer available? What happens to the male whose transition includes major surgery involving the sexual organs. Without hormone support, he will regress to most of the male physiological characteristics. What effects will that have — socially as well as psychologically? Will I ever write a story about such a man? It would take a great deal of intense thought to do it in a way that is sensitive rather than sensationalistic.
Zika and Climate Change
Again, I tend to see the news in terms of how it will spin out into the future. Zika and other tropical diseases that will affect new demographics is certainly something that attracts me as potential science fiction. Zika is already in the United States, and children have been born here with mental and other disabilities stemming from the disease. Scientists know that climate warming will be accompanied, in northerly nations by an increase in diseases once confined to warmer climates. Can they reach epidemic proportions? Will we see increasing numbers of badly damaged children born to infected mothers? How will that affect the larger societies. The questions, as in the topic of gender, are endless.
The worst-case scenario is that the apocalypse, if there is one, will come gradually, carried by insects, rather than as a sudden disruption of everything we know.