“To Boldly Go Where No Straight Person Has Gone Before?”: The Left Hand of Darkness and Star Trek: The Next Generation as Problematic Challenges to Gender and Sexuality
Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1969 Novel The Left Hand of Darkness and “The Outcast,” a 1992 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, have both been criticized for their representations of gender and sexuality essentially because they fail to remove fully the “traditional straitjackets” of the male-female binary and the heteronormativity they seek to challenge. A selection of this criticism is discussed, along with a close reading of each work. Despite different media, a difference in the degree of focus on gender, and the years separating them, the two works share striking similarities, making them worthy of comparison. This paper will reveal two shared features of The Left Hand of Darkness and “The Outcast” that undermine their stated or presumed aims: first, both works serve to reenforce a male-female gender binary, and second, while the use of androgynous characters has the potential to challenge heterosexual norms, both works reenforce such norms by gendering — specifically, feminizing — otherwise androgynous characters and conflating biological sex or gender identity with sexual orientation through romantic relationships with male protagonists.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
Copyright DateAugust 2012
left hand of darkness