Gender, Marriage Equality and Building a World

Take a look at your birth certificate. If issued in America, it has a gender listed on it.


World building always starts from the ground up. Basics of geography, physics and human culture powerfully inform the way your future, near future, or fantasy world is built. Let’s explore this simple question – why does the government need to know your gender when you’re born? – and see how interconnected biology and history are to matters of social justice that are deeply important to us nowadays.

Take a look at the news reports: somewhere, at any given moment, someone is ranting that government sanction of gay marriage threatens all marriage. Is this moron actually crazy? Or does he have the weight of history behind his words?

Why does government need to sanction marriage at all?

Why is there a distinction, from a legal and taxation point of view, between, say, an LLC formed between ANY two people and a marriage? (Recently, being involved in both with the same person, I’ve had reason to notice that from a legal standpoint, they’re not that different in my country.)

Let’s go back to basics. For writers who are interested in crafting a world where government doesn’t interfere with gender or marriage, or one where government is in total control of it, it’s worth knowing the answers to these questions. Let’s start with the bottom one and work upward.

What is government?

Many species form types of governments: ants, termites, bees, pack predators, monkeys, dolphins, us. A tribe, a religion, a herd, a voting system, a patriarchal or matriarchal family group. In a wolf pack, there are rules and roles: who eats first, who gets the leavings, who stays back and watches the kids. A system of government.

At its core, for our purposes, a government is a codified system of centralizing and redistributing resources.

Species that evolve a system to redistribute resources tend to benefit, as a species, because if each of the ten or so predators in the pack had to bring down its own elk, fewer of them would eat. Humans, with their language, writing and engineering skills, have historically been really enthusiastic about government, inventing lots of different types, more and more complex. Note, I never said a government distributes resources fairly… struggle between individuals, as well as between governments, continues to exist, because our biology also requires us to compete and evolve.

From the standpoint of a government, one of the resources to control is the existence and loyalty of future generations. Keeping the next round of children in THIS tribe, THIS religion, benefits that tribe or religion versus others. So religions and governments have often, throughout history (not always) kept track of the genders and the marriages, with varying degrees of meddling involved.

So that moron? Well, when he shouts “Gay marriage threatens all marriage!” he is voicing the imperative of both biology and history. Yes, he’s still a moron. Yes, he’s completely wrong – technology and progress have changed the factors, and we don’t need to live in trees and throw rocks anymore, either. But that’s why it’s so hard for him, and those like him, to shake off that attitude.

If you’re writing a world where the birth certificates don’t have genders listed on them – where, for example, you get to declare your own gender at a certain age, or whenever you feel like it, or switch around at will, or nobody gives a crap at all because the process of having children isn’t related to the gender of their parents anymore… good for you! I’ll read it.

But it’s not a simple change to the world as it is – there must be much more world building thought put into it. A lot of history and biology would have to be considered, and the pace of change is slow, and interlocked with other changes.

It’s not easy to build a plausible world without understanding how this one works.

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