Genderpunk: A Bold New Genre of Resistance and Liberation in an Age of Rising Cishet Supremacy
In science fiction literature there’s no shortage -punk subgenres. Through different aesthetics, time periods, and other focuses, these genres’ rebellious characters challenge corrupt corporations, governments, and social norms. Interestingly, however—and so far as I can tell—the term genderpunk has yet to be ascribed to and associated with any particular type of science fiction narrative. There are certainly examples of science fiction stories where gender, challenging gender roles, and taking on patriarchal systems are primary themes. There’s also mythpunk, in which old myths and fairytales are reimagined with queer characters and themes. But there doesn’t seem to be any science fiction as of yet specifically labeled genderpunk.
At the same time that it’s never been applied to sci-fi, genderpunk isn’t a new term. Also known as genderfuck, the term refers on the one hand to a general culture of resistance against gender normativity. On the other hand, it’s more specifically a gender identity in and of itself, one that represents a conscious and active resistance against gender norms, homophobia, and transphobia. It’s a practice of fucking with and purposefully mocking traditional ideas of gender identity, gender roles, and gender presentation that assume one’s sense of self, social roles, and sexual orientation are all predetermined by sex assignment at birth.
So what would genderpunk look like as a speculative fiction genre?
While the wider community of queer readers, authors, and accomplices will certainly be the ones to mold and develop such a genre, I propose genderpunk stories are set in a world where the typical power structures of gender and sexuality are exacerbated to dystopian extremes (which neither nowadays nor historically will be far-fetched by any stretch of the imagination). In this stark universe, a powerful, oppressive right-wing theocracy wields capitalism and violent, state-sponsored terrorism as tools to enforce rigid heteronormative, cisnormative, and misogynistic ideologies, institutions, hierarchies, and social structures.
However, it’s within these bleak circumstances that our heroes arise—a myriad of trans and queer individuals, embodying the most vibrant and diverse expressions of ever-evolving human identity, relentlessly challenging and rebelling against the binary systems imposed upon them. The genre is characterized by its defiant spirit and its unflinching examination of gender and sexual identity in an oppressive society. However, at its heart, genderpunk is ultimately about hope, resistance, and the transformative power of self-expression, it’s about sheer and unabashed queer joy in the face of ideologies and institutions that want to wipe us out.
The world of genderpunk is richly imagined, and easily draws elements from various other ‘punk’ genres to create a unique aesthetic.
From cyberpunk, it borrows both the gritty, repressive authoritarian urban landscapes and the spirit of rebellion against an oppressive system. Advanced technology plays a critical role in genderpunk society. The internet and various cybernetic enhancements, for example, become tools for resistance, communication, and expression of identity, allowing protagonists to shape their identities outside of restrictive societal norms, and network with other revolutionaries.
The optimism and ecological themes of solarpunk also thread through genderpunk. As much as society oppresses them, our heroes maintain a strong, bright hope for a future where they’re accepted for who they are. Rooftop gardens bloom high above the city’s smoggy air, hidden oases of renewable energy and sustainable living symbolizing the flourishing of queer culture amidst the oppressive conditions.
Body horror elements and biopunk are present as well, serving as metaphors for the societal terror inflicted upon individuals who don’t conform. Some characters may choose to modify their bodies to more accurately reflect their identities, despite the inherent risk in an environment where such actions are punishable. These graphic transformations underline the horrifying extremes that individuals must go to express their authentic selves under oppressive socio-political systems.
Finally, genderpunk stories take place in a world where magic exists. Because whether you like it or not, queers are beautiful and magical beings. The genre’s magic draws from aetherpunk, combining ethereal energy and otherworldly technological mechanisms, symbolizing the indomitable spirit of the queer and trans community. This magic often ties into the protagonist’s identity, perhaps changing as they do, becoming a tangible representation of their journey. This potent blend of mysticism and symbolism challenges the conventional Christian doctrines that the theocracy uses to justify its oppressive rule. Theocratic state systems in genderpunk worlds often seek to control and use magic to their benefit, while simultaneously and contradictorily seeking to destroy the ‘inherent evil’ of magic.
The heroes of genderpunk science fiction stories are trans folks, activists, hackers, witches, scientists, artists—and of course, all queer as fuck—each with their unique way of fighting the system. Their battles are not only physical but ideological, as they strive to break the iron chains of a society that refuses to acknowledge their existence. Their stories are tales of courage, defiance, and the relentless pursuit of freedom and self-expression.
Genderpunk is a powerful genre that imagines a world where the fight for trans and queer rights is pushed to the forefront. Despite its dystopian setting, the genre maintains an inherent optimism, symbolizing the potential for change and the resilience of those who resist oppression. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s strength, and a celebration of the beautiful diversity that makes us who we are.
The creation of a genderpunk sci-fi genre in the midst of the current wave of anti-trans rhetoric, legislation, violence, and the recent rise of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) ideology is not just a form of artistic expression, but a critical form of social commentary and a call to action. It comes as a response to the increasingly hostile environment for trans and queer individuals. In this way it seeks to raise awareness, foster empathy, and motivate change.
Genderpunk stands as a stark mirror for our society, reflecting the harmful consequences of transphobia, homophobia, and restrictive gender norms. It shows the dystopian extremes that such ideologies are leading to if left unchallenged. The genre amplifies the struggles of trans and queer individuals, making the impacts of these oppressive ideologies undeniable. In doing so, it challenges readers to question and confront their prejudices and biases, serving as a vehicle for social change.
By placing trans and queer characters at the center of the narrative, genderpunk also counters the harmful stereotypes and erasure that our communities often face in media. It provides representation, showing queer folks not as caricatures or side characters, but as fully realized people with our own unique struggles, hopes, and dreams. It brings to life the strength and resilience of our communities, challenging the dehumanizing narratives often propagated by anti-trans rhetoric and TERF ideology.
Moreover, in a society where extremist religious groups seek to undermine LGBTQ+ rights, the fantastical elements of genderpunk—especially its appropriation and subversion of Christian symbolism—serve as powerful tools of resistance. It takes these symbols used to oppress and transforms them into symbols of defiance and liberation, asserting the validity and value of queer and trans identities.
The overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the threat it presents to individual bodily autonomy resonates deeply within the body horror elements of genderpunk. In a world where bodily autonomy is under threat, the acts of body modifications in genderpunk narratives stand as acts of rebellion, emphasizing the importance of individual sovereignty over one’s body.
In these ways, the emergence of genderpunk is not merely a new genre for entertainment but an act of social and political resistance. It serves as a compelling platform to challenge harmful ideologies, represent marginalized communities, and inspire hope and action for a more inclusive and accepting future. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this topic and this new genre. But for now, its enough to end by saying that I hope to see genderpunk stories flowing out in the public soon through both self-publishing and traditional publishing avenues.