Male Pregnancy in “Bloodchild”

Brendan’s post about the relationship between Gan and T’Gatoi reflecting many elements of Western society’s model of love and marriage reminded me of Butler’s claim that “Bloodchild” is her “pregnant man story” (30). Brendan claims that Butler has the “talent to alter this familiar institution (marriage) in such a way to make it seem foreign and repulsive”, but I think her mastery goes even further to take giving birth, something that happens numerous times a day and is generally considered a “miracle”, and make it into something that seems like torture. It might seem different because Gan is a boy and this is the way the Terrans “pay the rent”, but the impregnation of Terran men and subsequent birthing is very similar to what women have be going through for years.

Gan has been raised with the knowledge that he will one day carry T’Gatoi’s children (4). Many girls today are taught from their youth that they will grow up to be mothers. Just like Gan’s purpose in life is to have a Tlic’s children, girls are often taught having children is their purpose in life as well. The Terran don’t get a choice in carrying the Tlic’s young, something that prompts Qui to run away (20). In certain societies, women don’t get a choice, either. If they do have some type of agency, but accidentally become pregnant, most don’t have access to an abortion, leaving them without a desire or way to care for the child. Even if women repeatedly assert that they don’t want to have children, they are told they will change their minds, especially if their husbands want children. Though it is on a different scale, women live in “a world that is not [their] own” when you consider the fact that we live in a patriarchal society (32). I would argue that women are often expected to “pay the rent” by having children, like Gan is. Though times are changing, and most women are having children of their own volition, there are risks that come with pregnancy.

Qui is scared of being impregnated by T’Gatoi because he saw the Tlic young “eat their way out [of a Terran]” (30). That’s a valid fear, but women die in childbirth frightfully often, sometimes from a complication the fetus itself is causing. Furthermore, the scene where T’Gatoi has to open the N’Tlic so he can birth the grubs seems grotesque, but women routinely undergo C-sections where the doctor cuts them open to remove their child (15). Obviously, it is extremely painful for the N’Tlic, but that’s because his Tlic isn’t there to sting him into not feeling it, much like women are given drugs to numb them before childbirth (15-16). Sure, I was a little disturbed by the description of the grub/worms, but, if I’m being honest, newborn babies are gross too, especially when they’re covered in all that blood and goo.

I’m not saying everything about the arrangement between Tlic and Terran is perfect, but that what the Terran men are asked to do is not that heinous. Butler emphasizes this when she makes it clear Gan’s choice to carry T’Gatoi’s young is one made out of love. “Bloodchild” is set in a problematic world, but the fact that men become pregnant is not the worst part of it.

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