Genderpunk: Ten Forerunners

JANK
3 min readJul 2, 2023

A number of folks have left comments and messages asking for examples of past works that fit the idea of a genderpunk genre. Below is just such a list of works that, to various extents, fit the genre description I provided in the article, Genderpunk: A Bold New Genre of Resistance and Liberation in an Age of Rising Cishet Supremacy. It’s also been pointed that genderpunk is “hardly new.” Which is true in its own way. So I want to reiterate that the term is new as applied to genre literature.

That doesn’t mean the term itself didn’t exist prior to this (it definitely did), and it also doesn’t mean that aren’t already stories out there that fit the new genre (their definitely are, and I drew from them in thinking about how this newly named genre might be described). But as far as I know, based on my research into the idea (and if I’m wrong about even this, please do correct me) there wasn’t a specific label to define these stories apart from general science fiction. Until now. Sure, there queer scifi. But generally speaking queer sci-fi is simply stories with queer characters, where as genderpunk necessitates a focus on particular themes like overcoming systemic state oppression.

(That’s not at all to disparage queer sci-fi. I love it. It’s important. And especially when it first came around, it was valuable and cutting edge and it’s still super valuable and very much needed!)

With all that in mind, here’s a list of pre-existing works that — again, to various extents — fit the concept of a gender punk sci-fi genre.

Do you see something on the list that you think shouldn’t be? Leave a comment and state your case! Or, if you have other examples that you don’t see on the list below, feel free to leave them in the comments!

10 Pre-Existing “Genderpunk” Books

  1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: This novel features an alien race that does not have fixed genders. The individuals of this race can switch genders based on their relationship and environmental circumstances. It’s a groundbreaking work that deeply explores the concept of gender.
  2. Nevada by Imogen Binnie: This is a novel about a trans woman living in New York City who goes on a road trip of self-discovery. It’s a raw and intimate exploration of gender identity and selfhood.
  3. Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott: This cyberpunk novel features a lesbian protagonist and explores themes of queer identity and community.
  4. The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley: This space opera features an all-female cast and explores themes of gender and identity in a universe where women can give birth to everything, from other women to the ships they live on.
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: This novel tells the story of a totalitarian society where women are strictly controlled, cannot work, and are assigned to various roles such as ‘Handmaids’, who are kept for reproductive purposes, until the protagonist fights back.
  6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: While not a speculative fiction, it’s a Pulitzer-winning novel that explores intersex identity, the fluidity of gender, and the complex interplay of genetics, identity, and society.
  7. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg: This is a groundbreaking novel about the complexities of gender. The protagonist is a lesbian who adopts a male identity for safety. It explores themes of identity, survival, and the cost of conformity.
  8. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf: Published in 1921 and by far the oldest book on this list, the novel features a protagonist who changes gender over centuries of living, experiencing life as both a man and a woman. It is a profound exploration of gender and identity.
  9. Dreadnought by April Daniels: This is the first book in a series that features a transgender superhero. The protagonist inherits the powers of a superhero, which also transform her body into her desired female form, forcing her to deal with her gender identity publicly while also battling supervillains.
  10. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: This space opera features an AI protagonist who perceives everyone as female due to their native language’s lack of gender pronouns. It’s an exploration of gender and identity from a truly unique perspective.

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JANK

Author, screenwriter, publisher, game maker, musician, & organizer. EIC at Android Press, Solarpunk Mag, Rural Oregon life. Trans and anti-authoritarian.