The novel tells a story of Ai and his mission in Gethen. Soon he became a part of their society and is introduces to Gethenians’ peculiar sexual relationships. Gethenians are ambisexual that is they can be men or women (non-gendered). They are sexually inactive but in four days (when they are in kemmer) in the month they choose to become a man or a woman that can be different in each month. Ai is considered sexually active permanently as other humans from his planet, which for the King are “A society of perverts”, “a disgusting” and “monstrously different” human beings.
I want to talk about gender issues that Le Guin has brought up in this SF novel. First of all, the type of language she created and used to support her argument against the universal and dominant understanding of sexuality and specifically the notion of privileged heterosexuality. In that vein, Sedgwick in her critical essay Epistemology of The Closet argued about the cultural way we comprehend the process of sexual specification or species formation and understandings of sexual choice. A deconstructive strategy needs to be seriously adopted to reject any cultural binary opposition – heterosexuality/homosexuality. She also discusses how gender formation influences both identity formation and sexual orientation.It is interesting to see how she looks at the definitions of homo/heterosexuality as a modern Western identity and social category.
I believe Le Guin’s work although is not sexuality-centered novel plays a major role in seeing how human beings can be divided regarding their sex, gender and sexuality. Also, I want to emphasize that she gives a gender choice and not force it, which I see it as a feminist thought. Le Guin teaches feminists ideas through the gender tension created by a driven desire to free all men and women from traditional methodology of treating and constructing the concept of gender, and minoritizing and universalizing view of it.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “Axiomatic.” Introduction. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California, 1990. 1-63. Print.