Butler and the Pronoun “It”

It’s been a while since we finished the Lilith’s Brood trilogy in class, but I keep thinking about the ooloi gender and using the pronoun “it.” I think I struggled with the concept of using the pronoun “it” for a few reasons, with the first being that in English, “it” is typically used for objects, and the second being that using “it” to refer to a human (normally when referring to humans as “it,” “it” is a derogatory word used to dehumanize trans people) is insulting. The ooloi, however, prefer to be called “it” when being talked about in the third person—and there are also humans whose preferred pronouns are “it” that are alive in our society today.

Is Butler hinting at a reclamation of the word “it,” or just hinting at using people’s preferred pronouns no matter what we are comfortable/used to? How does this discourse fit into the larger picture of Butler’s work where there are no trans characters (at least in the books we read of hers)? What is Butler suggesting when the only characters who do not fit into the gender binary are extraterrestrials? Butler’s use of “it” raises a lot of questions I’m not sure how to answer—if anyone has any insight, I’d love to hear it.

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