Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Beth Marks"

This poem is from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] janetmiles and [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "You make my world a better place" square in my 1-31-15 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo Fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It is a sequel to "Faeder Way" in the series Feathered Nests.

"Beth Marks"

Ensign Landry had what were politely called quirks
and what Captain Judd called perversions
when he thought nobody was listening
who might report him for intolerance.

The Chief Medical Officer had been bemused
by Ensign Landry's XXY chromosomes and
the small but definite breasts that usually
didn't show underneath his uniform,
but hadn't made a fuss about anything.

Commander Hale was polite about it,
being a gender scholar, but the rest of the crew
could be erratic about remembering the etiquette.

As long as they left him alone
and let him do his job of analyzing
the cultural materials from alien civilizations,
Ensign Landry wasn't too picky about what people thought.

He used masculine pronouns because it was easy,
not because they particularly fit, and he let people
think of him as a man because it was convenient
and he didn't actually have a description
that he liked any better.

But he knew, and they knew, that it wasn't quite the same.

When they discovered the Fifers,
Ensign Landry was fascinated by their five-way
mashup of sex and gender, so beautifully encoded
into their crafts -- the bright dyes and tumbled stones
and intricately twisted baskets.

When some of the humans began emulating
the Fifers' peculiar relationship dynamics --
and it worked for them -- Ensign Landry finally
pulled his head out of his lab and went planetside.

It was an enlightening experience.

He talked and shopped and traded,
bought things and tried them out.

The Fifers promptly decided
that he must be a beth male since
he liked to dye his white-blond hair in colors
the way the beth males decorated their pale plumage.

It was ...
not right exactly,
but perhaps less wrong,
and it made Ensign Landry smile
to see his difference acknowledged.

The Fifers, after all, had three different versions
of males, each with subtle genetic divergences.
The two types of female were genetically the same
but performed different roles in social context.

Humans tended to think of having two sexes,
but more variation existed, even if most people
never paid any attention to it.

So Ensign Landry learned
the particular patterns of plant dyes
favored by the beth males, and
fiddled around with his hair until he
managed to duplicate the soft chevrons
that the Fifers had naturally, tinted
with flecks of blue and green and pink.

It took less than a week for Commander Tyre --
who more or less had the beth role
in his little polyfamily -- to do the same.

While it wasn't the same as having
someone exactly like himself,
it made Ensign Landry feel less alone.

He took to doing more of his work planetside,
laying out bits of this and that on a blanket
to see how they worked together, or not,
settling himself on the fringes of the crew
like the beth males fitting themselves
along the edges of the aleph territories.

Ensign Landry was neither the same nor different,
neither a part nor alone, marked in his own way,

and that worked for him.

* * *


Chromosome anomalies include the XXY mentioned in this poem along with a number of others, some relatively harmless like this and others more serious. So yes, sex/gender diversity is a hardwired biological thing as well as a social thing, nevermind some people's insistence on trying to divide everything into XY=male and XX=female.

Pixelated hair is a relatively new approach, although hair dyes have been used to create patterns for a long time.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing

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