I’m interested in having a race of immortals that doesn’t reproduce (after all, it isn’t necessary and it could lead to overpopulation). I’m interested in the idea of having this race be without sex or gender, but I’d like to know what I should consider from a social justice aspect.
- Is it better to divide them into genders or not?
- Is it better for them to be able to have sex or not?
- If beings of immortal race are “female coded,” and there’s also romance-like relationships between two of them — is there a risk of “queerbaiting”?
As I mentioned in my post on giving non-humans marginalized traits, any kind of marginalized traits or just unusual traits you give them in regards to sex, romance, and gender would help fight erasure, and be a plus. So if you want to make them all sexless and genderless, go for it.
For the most part, I think you can do whatever you want with their bodies, gender, or lifestyles. However, it would be strange if these immortal people who only reproduce rarely were all straight, cis, and monogamous. Like if all the immortal women get married to the immortal men and then change their last names to match their husbands… I think you get the idea, it would be unnaturally traditional. But maybe some do that, and others are totally different – every population has diversity, and a population of immortals who are free to express themselves might be super diverse. There’s nothing wrong with having traditional lifestyles in your story, but other lifestyles should be included too.
As I mentioned in my post about non-humans, I do think there’s something off about having a genderless race/species that are all coded as women. Most stories where this is the case are clearly written by men for the purpose of making a bunch of sexy ladies other men will appreciate. Feminine gender is defined as the opposite of masculine gender, and so having it exist by itself doesn’t make much sense.
Having a society that’s all men or all women makes it feel like the storyteller simply isn’t willing to abandon traditionally defined genders. If you’re going to have a single-gendered society, it’s a great opportunity to have characters who are actually gender nuetral.
Besides what traits you decide to give this race, how you explain these traits could be problematic. So let me just warn you against certain concepts, lest they make it into your story’s exposition or dialogue.
Focusing on overpopulation as a reason for these traits can be pretty problematic. Not that overpopulation isn’t a real thing or never causes any problems, but emphasizing it as an issue doesn’t create good outcomes. Women of color are always the ones blamed for having too many babies, in fact, in the US we have a real problem with forced sterilizations of women of color in hospitals.
Plus, the threat of simply running out of resources has never come to pass – technological gains can easily allow us to create more resources. People starve because resources aren’t distributed equally. Focusing on women’s empowerment creates better results in a population than focusing on how people are reproducing too much.
So instead of making these immortals sterile, consider making it so they rarely choose to reproduce. Today a lot of people are pressured about having kids, so it could be really refreshing to see a culture that doesn’t go for that. If they are sterile, provide a reason other than that they have to avoid overpopulation.
Tying Sex and Gender to Reproduction
It’s really problematic to say that gender, sex, and romance shouldn’t exist without procreation. By that same logic, if people in the real world engage with those things for purposes other than procreation, it is considered less legitimate. This line of thinking is used constantly to discriminate against queer people, as well as a variety of non-traditional lifestyles. So watch out for that. This definitely doesn’t mean your immortal race must have sex, gender, and romance, but I wouldn’t say they don’t have them because they don’t procreate.
Assuming Sex and Romance Have to Go Together
It is not queerbaiting to have two women in a romantic but nonsexual relationship. In fact, there are many queer asexuals who would love to see this. A romantic relationship without sex is as legitimate as a romantic relationship with sex. Sexual relationships without romance are also completely legitimate. Queerbaiting happens when the behavior between two characters is coded as romantic, flirtatious, or sexual, but explicitly the characters are just friends. If they have an explicitly romantic or sexual relationship, it’s not queerbaiting.
As I said, I think you have room to do a lot of different things with these immortal beings. You can decide for yourself what kind of culture and identities they have, whether to divide them into multiple genders or not, etc – most options are equally valid.
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