'Not quite like you. A little like us': An Analysis of Physical, Social, and Psychological Constructions of Non-Binary Gender in Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood
This thesis examines how the physical construction of the ooloi Oankali aliens in Octavia Butler's trilogy Lilith's Brood enables the text to explore the limitations of a two-gender construct. It does so by positing the existence of other conscious organic life with a third gender outside the scope of Earth-bound organisms. The ooloi must be understood by a definition of gender that takes into consideration socially constructed and performed roles. The physical bodies of the ooloi have a "boundary-crossing" identity that is unambiguous. Their transformative and healing abilities, physical characteristics, and place in the social structure of the Oankali makes them the targets of disgust and hatred by humans who fear difference. This thesis analyzes how Butler uses the ooloi to demonstrate the possibility that humans living on a future Earth can supersede their innately destructive qualities.