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In books as in life, gender shouldn’t be everything

I’m a radical. I’d truly like to live in a world where a person’s gender was one of the least important things that other people registered about them – you know, after their sense of humour, their personality, or their intelligence, for example.

However, it seems that humanity as a species can’t keep itself from a prurient fascination with the shape of other humans’ genitalia. From colour-coding new-born infants to be sure that complete strangers can recognise on sight what shape their genitals are, to trying to control who sleeps with who (if it’s consensual and they aren’t trying to get in your pants, why exactly is it your business?), to regulating what a gender can and can’t do, it’s everywhere.

It’s particularly annoying to me that I can go to the effort of writing an entire book (that shit’s hard, folks), with a plot, and character arcs and everything, and the main and possibly only thing that sticks with some people is the fact that it’s got a female protagonist. And *gasp* she’s in a leadership role, not in one of the approved female positions, like between the hero and a mattress.

When are we going to get past this massive hang-up? I’m tired of being told what I can and can’t do based solely on my gender. I’m tired of seeing books filled with characters who are, basically, tropes (princess who needs rescuing, anyone?). I’m tired of reading about US politicians advocating the death sentence for abortion, and seeing adverts where men are repeatedly indoctrinated with what ‘being a real man’ means.

So yeah, I do get mildly irritated when someone reads one of my books, goes to the trouble of leaving a very nice, in-depth review…but focusses strongly on the fact that the protagonist is a woman.

Khyria’s gender is one of the least important things about the character. I can’t help feeling that, much as I appreciated the review, some of the key points about the character and the book were relegated to a secondary position by the sheer level of shock and awe generated by her gender. I also can’t help feeling that this points to something deeply wrong with our society.

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