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Saturday, June 13, 2009

We’re Glad Our Son Is Gay

The following excerpt comes from the revised, second edition of my novel Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.

The planet Valchondria seems advanced and remarkably humane in many ways. But the government regulates people's weight, reproduction, theology, actions, and speech; the government also forbids travel and contact beyond Valchondria's atmosphere. A charismatic leader called "Gazer" leads the cult of Degranon; he promises change, but at a violent and oppressive cost. In between these two dystopias (failed Utopias), we find Taldra and Hachen, striving to make a better world for their twin sons. Obviously, the book raises many social issues, but it often does so in humorous or exciting ways. This scene obviously pokes fun at the ridiculous Earth tradition known as "homophobia," but it still has some scary overtones. (The Valchondrians use "same-gendered" in place of the words “gay” or “homosexual.”)

Her gray eyes sparkled like no eyes Hachen had ever seen. Actually, she had broken the law by secretly telling him that her eyes were light brown, but, unlike his gifted spouse, he couldn’t see in color. He couldn’t even see the redness of her skin, though he knew from history class that most people on Valchondria have red, brown, or black skin, and some of the people who had once lived there had yellow or white skin. To him, everyone simply looked white or black.

During history classes, before the Maintainers expunged certain anti-glory facts from the school curriculum, Hachen had learned about how white-skinned people and yellow-skinned people faded from existence. After the Supreme Science Council realized that those two races contracted certain illnesses that no one else contracted, they worked with the Maintainers to pass a constitutional amendment, banning any two members of those races from marrying. The measure supposedly protected Valchondria’s families and stability. Within three generations, both races ceased to exist; only the red, black, and brown races remained obvious, or some mixture of the three.

That time in Valchondria’s history brought outcries of shame, and the government vowed to never again use the law to promote bigotry. But then, little more than a hundred years later, the SSC found that obesity caused many illnesses, adding to increased national healthcare costs. So another constitutional amendment passed, this one allowing the Maintainers to fine people for not keeping a healthy height-to-weight ratio.

And after the virus came, the Maintainers and the SSC passed yet another constitutional amendment that promoted discrimination. That one made the ridiculous assertion that discussing colorsightedness posed a heavy hazard threat to traditional values, and that claiming to be colorsighted was nothing more than a plea for so-called “special rights.” It amazed Hachen that a civilized culture could keep taking away people’s civil rights. It also hurt him, because the woman he loved was the target of that bigotry.

And the new forms of bigotry kept emerging. Next came legally permitted language, initially called “socially recommended rhetoric,” creeping slowly into schools and the media and then into the law. And then Maintainer cameras came. And freedom left. All in the names of preserving traditional Valchondrian values. All suffocating Valchondrian creativity, thought, and progress.

Hachen clasped the slender hand that reached toward the tiny person in the infant pod that was attached to the bed.

“I’ll get him,” said Hachen. He gently lifted the pale infant, who was wrapped in a white cloth as soft and warm as his skin.

“I was hoping to be able to say ‘them.’” She accepted the crying child into her arms, and he grew quiet as she rocked him back and forth.

“We had to work quickly. It’s bad enough we’re violating the codes. We can’t jeopardize Geln’s career as well as our own.”

“I know, Hachen. I just wanted a chance to see them both. I can’t believe I passed out during the birth.”

“I think those mind relaxants had something to do with it. I’m just glad no other healers came in. No one knows except for you, me, and Geln.”

“Wouldn’t the gossip masters love this story? ‘Leading scientists discover a rift in time and transport illegal twin into the past. Check your collector for details.’” She rubbed the tiny infant’s red face, and he seemed to smile. “Is this Argen, or Telius?”

“Argen,” said Hachen, sitting down on the edge of the bed. They had agreed on given names for the twins long before Taldra even started showing. “They’re identical. I performed a genetic scan; they’re both healthy and of potentially high intellect. Telius will need that to survive in his primitive environment.”

“But you said the village is peaceful. Hachen, where are we sending our baby?”

“Someplace where he at least has a chance.” Hachen had never seen her look so vulnerable before, like anyone could crush her with a touch. Before, she always projected herself as brave and outspoken, sometimes even reckless, but he could tell becoming a mother would change her. Somehow, she seemed less courageous but more protective. He tried to think of words to reassure her. “The village is peaceful. I just meant that he won’t have all the luxuries and protections we have. He’ll be like…well, like a colonist.”

The look of worry gave way to one of wonder. “I like that analogy.” She smiled at the baby who slept in her arms. “Maybe one day, we’ll all be on one colony together, the four of us.”

“That sounds nice. To the side, the genetic scan also showed that they’re both same-gendered.” Hachen used the term with pride, and Taldra smiled with the same pride. At least no one ever came up with the crumbled idea of discriminating against people who identified romantically and emotionally with members of their own gender. No culture could ever be that rusted, he told himself, but then thought again of how utterly ridiculous he saw all other forms of bigotry; none of it made sense. Discrimination and prejudice never made any sense at all to Hachen.