I begin with an excerpt from my last post on Thinking About Gender:
In writing Collaborators, I wanted to create a resonance between the tensions arising from First Contact and those arising from differences in gender and gender expectations. It seemed to me that one of the most important things we notice about another human being is whether they are of “our” gender. What if the native race did not divide themselves into (primarily) two genders? How would that work – biologically? romantically? socially? politically? How would it affect the division of labor? child-rearing? How would Terran-humans understand or misinterpret a race for whom every other age-appropriate person is a potential lover and life-mate? Not only that, but in a life-paired couple, each is equally likely to engender or gestate a child.
We humans tend to think about gender as binary, and the concepts of fluidity (changing from one to the other, not necessarily once but perhaps many times during a lifetime) or being both male and female (or neither) are fairly recent additions into conventional public discourse. Fluidity is not the same thing as being transgendered (which is where a person’s gender – their identity – and their sex – their biological/genetic category) are not the same. Both are different from sexual orientation, which has to do with attraction to another person. All too often, if a species that does not fit into the female/male division is portrayed in media, they’re shown as sexless, not only androgynous but lacking in sex drive.
I take exception to this. I see no reason why sexual activity should not be as important to an alien race as it is to human beings. We have sex for lots of reasons, reproduction being only one of them. It feels good – no, it feels great. It creates bonds between individuals, whether as part of lifelong commitments or otherwise. It’s physiologically good for health, both physical and mental. So for my alien race in Collaborators, I wanted sexuality to be important.