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Manifesto – Beyond Gender Research Collective Skip to main content

Beyond Gender Manifesto

The Beyond Gender Manifesto is a living, evolving document directed towards the stars with no fixed destination. Its contents are liable to change along with the membership of the collective. Published versions – snapshots – show the manifesto as it existed in a certain context at a particular point in time.

The Manifesto has been published in the following places:

The current manifesto text is below.

This is what we think of science fiction:

We think that it could do better.

We have looked…

We have looked to SF for new ways of thinking and feeling about gender.

We have looked to it for cyborgs and aliens, for creatures whose strangeness shows us the strangeness in ourselves.

We have looked beyond the binary, beyond Nature, beyond gender.

We have looked for SF that is trans-inclusive, that is anti-essentialist, that adopts an intersectional lens.

We have looked for SF that embraces a utopian perspective, that opens up space for radical change.

We have looked for SF that rejects Eurocentrism and moves beyond its own white, western canon.

The impossible attracts me because everything possible has been done and the world didn’t change.

Sun Ra

And we have found wonderful things, fantastic new worlds, forgotten ways of being. We have found strangenesses that challenge and provoke us and inspire us to transform what Wendy Trevino has called the “cruel fictions” of this, the world in which we must live.

But not enough.

Nor prominently enough, not unapologetically enough.

Always, as James Tiptree Jr. might put it, only “in the chinks of the world machine”.

We are continually disappointed in the quantity of SF which recreates the dominant ideological conditions which oppress and constrain its readers.

This is what we expect from science fiction.

We expect SF to provide us with more than a seat at the table. We expect it to overturn the table, to transform it into a barricade, to set the table on fire. We expect SF to challenge us, to shake loose possibility, to construct new worlds.

We expect the process of writing and reading SF to be transformative.

We expect SF to acknowledge its power, to take responsibility for its potential for violence, for its potential for cruelty.

We expect SF to support us in our efforts to dismantle systems of oppression and exclusion.

We expect SF to offer us more than the possible.

We expect SF to provide us with tools to dismantle dominant narratives of gender, race, class; to inspire us with new futures; to stoke our rage at the present.

We expect SF to be prepared to transform itself.

We expect to see ourselves in SF.

We expect SF to trouble categorization.

We expect SF to establish points of connection with our alien kin.

Because when you’ve achieved one impossible the others come together to be with their brother.

Sun Ra

We expect SF to reveal the wondrous strangeness of the present. We expect a great deal from SF because this is what it is for!

One impossible calls out to the others, imagining one another into communities of being.

And, to this end, we expect more funding for writers and academics from minoritized backgrounds; more acknowledgement of the labour that is disproportionately done by those who are least compensated for it; more spaces dedicated to the imagining, sharing and proliferation of this kind of SF.

It is not a mystery why SF has failed us in this catastrophic way.

The white capitalist queerphobic patriarchy is heavily invested in making sure its cruel fictions are not thought otherwise; making sure that SF writers don’t reveal to their readers how strange everything is, in this, and in other possible worlds.

SF has been historically dominated by the “universal”; the cis white male middle- class; chiseled white jaws above the collar of his space suit; birds nest hair topping white face, whiter scientist’s coat. The adventurer of colonial fiction in other garb.

The ubiquity of this image is of course a fiction (it’s silly but it’s still cruel). Focusing solely upon it risks the elision of our forebears: the feminist visionaries who came before. However, the image remains.

How do we move beyond?

More is needed than simply the repeated calls for change. Important as they are, such tactics have not moved us far enough.

Rather than channeling political energy into the operations of government — prefigurative politics meant acting as if the world sought, or some aspect of it, was already in place.

Davina Cooper

Instead, we should pay attention to the material production of SF. And so, a new set of questions emerge. Who writes science fiction, and why? Who owns the means of publishing and distribution? What excludes those voices who could truly move us beyond into the better?

These are our questions, these our expectations. We work to see them answered, to see them met, to move beyond them into the realms of impossibility.

The binary must be tripped into the quantum.

For us, gender is a technology, aslant; reoriented to an expansive otherwise, rather than a regulating known.

For us the move beyond gender is an invocation, a casting circle calling forth the yet undreamed of, a speaking of the unspoken, rather than a force of policing or truncation.

Rather than imposing a rigidified order of power relations, gender as routed through SF’s catalytic and cascading experimentations, becomes the basis for new honesties: an embrace, a beckoning, a desiring for the potentialities encrypted even within the quotidian.

In a utopian mode, our move beyond gender is an efflorescence, hyperlinking to ways of being together.

We believe that SF, as key means for the fictioning of the otherwise, has an ethical obligation to disrupt the prevailing logics of a suffocating now, to instead envision and bring about emancipatory futures, futures which multiply, rather than reduce, our ways of being in (and beyond) the world(s).

Science fiction can turn the actuarial gaze of capitalistic control back upon itself.

We are more than speculations; but we also engage in speculations that the patriarchy can never dream of.

Caring for myself is not self- indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

Audre Lorde

Caring for each other is not a loss of the self but a self-fulfillment, and that is an act of political warfare which we demand science fiction equip us to undertake.