2016-09-10

Boy/Girl/Thing

This may be the newest poem I have ever posted, I was editing it as recently as August 7th...  although, as is common for me, it had its origin some years ago and had to sit around in my subconscious/backlog until I was ready, willing and able to complete it.

This is also one of the hardest pieces of text that I've written for some time and the explanation for that is chock full of *spoilers* so stop here and go to the poem first if you want to experience it without preconceptions...



Ready now?
  OK, so this is my attempt to get beyond gender.  Gender has been one of the major social battle grounds of the late 20th and and early 21st centuries, and great progress has been made
at least in some parts of the World.

So in this poem I'm attempting to look ahead to a time when gender is completely sorted out, and I'm using the trick of writing in the voices of two intelligent machines that don't have gender.  This way they can look, as it were, from the outside.  I've also added (off stage) some sort of do-gooders who are trying to "give" gender to the two machines
presumably on the basis that it is their (human?) right but missing the point that the machines may be happier as they are...

...which of course echoes various historical cases of people thinking they know what's best for other people...

...I've even attempted to suggest that wiping over with a lint-free cloth is something of a sex act for these machines (I don't see that sex without gender is at all contradictory...) and finally, just for kicks and characterisation, one machine has a crush on the other (which again doesn't absolutely require gender.)

So why was that hard to write?  Just because English isn't designed to portray conversations between sapients without gender.  We only have the one ungendered pronoun: "it" which is far too loaded to sprinkle around unexplained.  So I had to resort to a certain amount of syntactic trickery (like assuming the person now speaking is the one whom we just just watched acting) and also repeating the two names more often than is common for casual writing.


And as it happens the whole exercise is a complete failure, because having gone to all that trouble: used gender-neutral names, avoided gendered pronouns and generally twisted the text...  I still think of one character as more male and the other as more female
—damn!







Boy/Girl/Thing


This whole damn gender thing  fucks me, says Viv,
so many different ways.  A tiny nod,
a shrug, sets sensor clusters all asway
and Chris has always been in love
and Chris will never say

one word to the machine called Vivian.
Working together now, they pull
a rusty barrel, probe the casing.
Viv tastes, grimacing; throws the tongue away.
Phenols again, we're broadly screwed
to sell this crap.  A sighwe'll have to crack
it down to short-chain feed.
A wiggle in the nether parts and Chris
has never seen a sight so fine
as hydrocarbon plant deploys.  Meanwhile, Viv

still ranting on the need for sex:
You see the bit that gets to me...
remember how they showed that vid:
two squirming pink things on a bed.
It bites an alloy thumb.  For me
the only sexy bit was how they'd come:

their car I thought was someone I'd enjoy.

And all the while poor Chris,
while not unhappy being an "it",
feels some appeal in girls and boys,
and beds; and is content to rub a cloth
across his best friend's heat exchanger grills,
but wonders if there's something more.  So asks,
and instantly feels shy: Tonight
maybe let's try again...
but this time both be boys?



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