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Non-binary penguins.


THE ENTITY KNOWN as Sam Smith has announced that henceforth its pronouns will be “they/them” when other entities talk or write about it, or them. The remaining pronouns will remain heteronormatively normal and subservient to patriarchal denominative oppression, no doubt awaiting the time of complete liberation when someone comes up with suitable, non-offensive alternatives. The entity therefore will still employ the pronouns “I/me” when addressing other entities, and “you/your” when talking to itself in the mirror, although it is unclear at the moment whether it will employ “they/them” when giving itself a pep talk (in the third, non-gendered person, that is).

The entity announced its non-binariness some months ago, but it is only now, having been “at war” with its own gender for a whole lifetime (or “being confused about one’s sexuality” as we used to say in the antediluvian days of sanity) that it has decided to take the giant step for the fluidly-gendered to ask the rest of the world for its linguistic compliance in the matter.

The brave, heroic announcement was greeted with ecstatic applause from media outlets, genuflecting fans, the LGBTQZ community and mentally disturbed individuals around the globe.

Sam Smith, for those of you living in blissful benightedness of the current celebrity world, is a singer who looks like a bloke but sings like a girl or like James Blunt. He may in the future stop looking like a bloke, start looking like a girl but still carry on singing like a girl albeit in a non-gendered way. He sang a tune for a recent James Bond movie. James Bond, at the time of writing, is still a white, very hetero binary male who adheres to the old patriarchal modes of address and behaviour. Plans are in progress to rectify this. Luckily that won’t make any difference to most carbon-based life forms since Bond is fictional.

Also fictional is Fireman Sam, the popular children’s animated character who is long overdue an update into Firehuman Sam(antha) unless he wishes to be relegated to the dumpster of binned binaries. Sam has been dropped as the unofficial mascot of Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service because he is not “inclusive” enough. Fireman Sam, in other words, is a bloke and that is bad voodoo these days because he is the kind of character that reinforces gender stereotypes, keeping the ladies from wanting to become firehumans and engine drivers and the like.

Lez Britzman, Chief Fire Officer for the service, tried to defend this decision, saying the character is “dated”. I put it to Mr Britzman that his big mistake here was not in relegating Fireman Sam to the dustbin but going public with the decision. If he’d kept schtum nobody would have noticed. The local council’s union member also stepped in with boilerplate platitudes about diversity and the evil Tories. Cheap political point scoring on top of witless bandwagon-jumping. You can’t beat it.

Insensitive and sexist it may be of me but I really do not care if a woman wants to join the fire service or drive trains.

Insensitive and sexist it may be of me but I really do not care if a woman wants to join the fire service or drive trains. If she is so put off by the predominance of male characters in children’s programmes that she doesn’t bother to try then I don’t want her anywhere near the job. Nor do I want her being accepted only after the entry requirements have been lowered to allow her in.

Luckily, like Bond, Sam is fictional and his disappearance from Lincs Fire Service open days won’t make any difference to normal carbon-based life forms, male, female, drily combustible or wet as your regular vegan.

One life form, however, that is real and has also been dragooned into the gender-bender cabaret is the humble penguin. Two Gentoos at London Sea Life, Rocky and Marama, are both looking after a four-month old chick. Two lesbian penguins, that is, because Rocky and Marama have been together for five years and between them hatched the egg, which was taken from its birth mother when it was decided she already had too many chicks to look after. A bit like Penguin Social Services. Questions need to be raised, however, with the continued patriarchal use of terms such as “mother”.

Staff at London Sea Life have described Rocky and Marama as lesbian although they have provided no evidence of seeing the two in Sapphic congress or confirming they have declared their partnership via an avian partnership or same-sex marriage. Following the diktats required by the latest gender-bender baloney they have declared that the chick will not be assigned a sex and will be raised gender-free. One must assume it will have a choice between trucks and dolls, blue and pink, etc, or whatever young penguins receive as part of their maturation. As yet no one has interviewed the nameless chick for a personal response.

Graham McGrath, General Manager, says, “it is completely natural for penguins to develop genderless identities as they grow into mature adults.” I have no experience of the psychosexual life of penguins but I am a little sceptical that the concept of identity is applicable or comprehensible to them. They have not, after all, been through the modern western education system, studied Queer Theory at university or read Judith Butler and associated luminaries to enlighten them. Soon, however, with more education, we may see multitudes of non-binary penguins proudly displaying their LGBTQA flags and demanding humans address them by their chosen pronouns. Rejoice.

suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.

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