Close Reading 1: Slaughterhouse 5
“The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him to imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn't be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty-five. There couldn't be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on.”
The first time that I read this novel in high school, this passage interested and confused me. The thought of there being more than two genders present on the planet caught me off guard. While gender is not ever a subject that confuses me, this idea did not make sense to me. Gender, on Earth, is confined to male and female. It begs the question of what the Tralfamadorians consider to be a gender, in the third and fourth dimensions.
Vonnegut leads us to assume that the genders must be those that he listed. We know that to make a human baby, you need a male and a female. Since he refers to homosexuality in this passage, it is safe to draw the connection that he considers homosexuals to be their own gender. That would lead readers to believe that the other sexes are a heterosexual male, heterosexual female, homosexual male and homosexual female. However, that only gives us four of the seven proposed genders. Based off of that theory, it would be safe to assume that the other genders would be a transgender male, a transgender female, and hermaphrodites. For someone who is an active member of the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and ally) community, this was a plausible, and easy, connection for me. However, if we were to consider what Vonnegut says later on in the passage, it could be that he considers the other genders to be something entirely different.
If readers focus on the exact wording in the passage, it implies that the other five...
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