From the News: Gender and Disability in a Post-Apocalyptic Future

Future gender

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/16/jamie-shupe-first-non-binary-person-oregon

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.

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5 thoughts on “From the News: Gender and Disability in a Post-Apocalyptic Future

  1. SF writers worry more than everyone else because, for each new development of science or history, they see so many things that can go wrong (self-driven car research is ongoing), and a few which can go wrong, and all the synergistic ways one development can intensify another.

    Any of us with children worries even harder – and our parents survived the atom bomb and WWII. I blame the media: the smallest butterfly-wing breeze anywhere on the whole planet, and they insist on crying doom everywhere.

    1. It’s pretty easy to cry “doom” over the littlest things, but most people tend to ignore even the big things. Except for the men who were drafted during WWII, and their families, Americans survived nicely because neither the war nor the atom bombs impacted them — except for rationing, and odds and ends like disaster exercises. But I wonder what life over the next 50 or 60 years will be like for my grandchildren, who are just starting out in the world. They’ve had it too easy, really, and they’re anything but prepared for real life.

      1. There is that – them being spoiled and not prepared for what will hit them.

        There is never any preparation sufficient; people have to learn as they go, and that includes our descendants. Maybe being a little spoiled will remind them that, with work, good things are possible. They will have the goals.

        Most kids eventually grow up – they have to. If they make it harder on themselves by their choices, most will eventually figure that out, too.

        The world will not end, most likely – we’re working on things as they come up, from ISIS to Zika.

  2. Gender is an interesting topic for sci-fi considerations. Although, losing access to hormone support isn’t confined to the future. Some people go through financial difficulties where they can’t afford it, or live in states that make access to those things difficult. If those hormones weren’t available in the future, it’d either be because transphobia became worse instead of better or an apocalypse totally leveled civilization, and then they wouldn’t be able to get the surgery either.

    1. I tend to think in terms of dystopias rather than apocalypse–a gradual change in which our current amenities become less available. Thus, a person who’s had the surgery, but finds themselves in a changing environment. However it came about, just as now, it’s a tragedy for the person. How they’re treated in the future by a society that may have gone through drastic change has many possible outcomes.

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