A new look at genders in space. . .
|Sure, I'm a woman in the Space Merchants and sure I have a hard time believing that even in 2216, that's a disadvantage. I mean if feminism hasn't won by now, when will it win? But I have reason to hope.
Did I ever tell you about the Gorlothians?
I first met a Gorlothian when I was assigned to the SS Tiburon. From the minute I stepped on board, I realized that it ought to have been called the SS Testosterone. When Captain Ramirez introduced me to the crew, I saw that it consisted of three men, which meant that I had to listen to three obnoxious catcalls, and one Gorlothian which simply stood before me and saluted.
The Gorlothian impressed me and not just because it had good manners. It stood well over eight feet tall and was covered mostly with hair, although a few bare patches on its chest helped to show its muscles. It also had two long white horns coming from its head which made it look sort of like an ox or yak.
Still, I ended up being more concerned about the human crew members. The catcalling and the whistling and the comments about my lower posterior region didn't stop during my first shift. I tried complaining to Captain Ramirez about it, but he just laughed and said, "They're spacemen. What do you expect? Take it as a compliment."
Still, the interesting part came during my second shift off. I went to the lounge and was relieved to discover that there was nobody else there. I was all set to enjoy a cup of Europan coffee with a cookie when someone else came in.
I was astonished because it looked like someone I had never seen on the ship before. A woman no less. She was a petite thing with long dark hair and ivory white skin. She also had two pointy things on her head which made her look like some kind of elf or fairy. "Hello, Lt. Braxton," she said with a smile.
"Hello," I said confused.
"You and I have not yet procreated," she said simply.
"What? Of course we haven't." Well, maybe if I swung that way, I would have been interested because she was quite pretty, but I have always been quite straight in spite of the accusations from my crewmates.
"I should explain. On this ship, it is a tradition that when a new male joins the crew, I procreate with him. When you joined the crew, I asked Captain Ramirez if I still should procreate with you because you are female, and he said, 'If you can make it happen, we'd all love to hear about it.' "
"No doubt!" I said growing angry. "First of all, I will not have sex with you. Second, I think the tradition you just described is disgusting and sexist even by the standards of this place. Who are you, anyway? Some space whore that the crew picked up for their enjoyment?"
The woman paused as if a little uncertain. "We normally do not reveal that until after procreation, but if you are certain it will not happen. . ."
And then she changed. Her body grew and bulged with muscles. Hair sprouted all over her body and the two points on her head became long horns. I gasped because she was the Gorlothian.
And that's how I learned the whole story about Gorlothians. To make a long story short, Gorlothians are not male and female like humans , but can change from male to female depending on which is necessary or desirable at the moment. On a merchant space freighter, that's usually male because it means the Gorlothian is ten times stronger and can work much harder then any human.
But at the moment, I wasn't sure what to say. After a pause, I said, "Why don't you turn female again so we can discuss this?"
The Gorlothian shrugged and changed back to a female. The body hair shed into a pile on the floor, but I figured someone else could take care of that. What I had in mind, was that since this was literally the only other woman on the ship, maybe she and I could be allies. Or even friends?
"What do you like to eat?" I asked.
"Well, it is interesting. As a male, I still prefer Gorlothian food so I usually eat Rangu steaks, but for some reason my female side likes human food."
"Great! Can the food prep computer get you any human food now?"
She turned to the computer. "I will have a butterscotch sundae. Two scoops of chocolate. One vanilla. Extra whipped cream and don't forget the cherry."
"Wow! I guess you don't worry too much about your figure."
She shrugged again. "Well, changing from male to female and back expends lots of calories."
"Is that right? You know, if you ever visit Earth, you're going to meet a whole lot of women who hate you."
I meant it in fun, but she seemed to take it seriously. "Why?" she asked with genuine distress. "Why women hate me?"
"Don't worry too much about it," I said putting an affectionate arm around her. "Let's talk about something else. Now, tell me about this tradition on the ship. Who thought of it?"
"Well, I guess Mr. Lenard did. He told me that when I first introduced myself to a new crew member, I should be a male and not explain my other side. Then I should approach new person as a female and see if they wanted to procreate. (They always did). Then, after procreation, I turn male while still naked in bed with new person, so they can see my penis pop out of my vagina."
"Why would anyone want to do that?" I asked somewhat rhetorically.
"At first, I wondered same thing, but then I saw why. When men find out I am sometimes male, they react and it funny." She smiled brightly.
I sighed. "You know, sometimes I think I have different sides. As an officer on this ship, I think that this tradition is disgusting, unprofessional, and sexist, but as a person. . .maybe it is kind of funny."
But I decided to speak with her about something else. "Have you heard about how I get 'compliments' from the crew? And I imagine you get them too when you're a female."
"Oh yes, I get lots of compliments from the crew." She sounded proud enough.
"But do you get compliments when you are male?"
"Well. . .no. . .;" she said as if suddenly realizing it. "I guess I get enough when I am female."
"Right. And that's why Human men have such harder lives then Gorlothians. Most of them live their entire lives never getting compliments."
"How sad! Why not give them compliments?"
"I don't know. I guess the human culture doesn't realize that they're people with needs."
"Well, maybe you and I could give men on this ship compliments."
"What a radical suggestion!" I said. "But I think you'd be better at it than me because you've seen more of these men then I have."
She liked the idea.
So things began the next day when a male Gorlothian reported for duty. First, he spoke to Captain Ramirez in that stentorian baritone voice. "Captain Ramirez, I just wanted to inform you that you have a very excellent ass."
Captain Ramirez looked stunned. "What?"
"That is a compliment. Do you like it?"
I was trying not to giggle.
Then the Gorlothian turned to Mr. Hudson. "Mr. Hudson, I just wanted to tell you that your male sex organ is quite adequate."
"Well, I wish to give compliments without lying. Your organ is one eighth the size of mine, but that is normal for a human. It During your initiation, it performed quite nicely even if you took several minutes to make it erect."
Everyone in the room was stunned except me who was doubled over with laughter. Maybe that's why the Gorlothian spoke to me next. "Are these good compliments?"
"Well," I said trying to catch my breath, "that last one was more constructive criticism, but I'm sure it's still appreciated. Right, Mr. Hudson?"
"I think we had better have a crew meeting," said Captain Ramirez coldly.
Well, after that, things changed on the SS Tiburon. The whistling and the catcalls stopped. In fact, not long after that, we took on two new female crew members who were both impressed by the crew's professionalism. They also both became very friendly with the Gorlothian who started being seen in female form a lot more often.
So what is the point of this story? Well, if feminism could come to the SS Tiburon, it can come anywhere in the universe, so there's hope.