Our entire pattern of socio-sexual interaction is nonexistent here. The Gethenians do not see one another as men or women. This is almost impossible for our imaginations to accept. After all, what is the first question we ask abut a newborn baby?
Yet you cannot think of a Gethenian as 'it.' They are not neuters. They are potentials; during each sexual cycle they may develop in either direction for the duration of that cycle. No physiological habit is established, and the mother of several children may be the father of several more.
There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protected/protective. One is respected and judged only as a human being. You cannot cast a Gethenian in the role of Man or Woman, while adopting towards 'him' a corresponding role dependent on your expectations of the interactions between persons of the same or opposite sex. It is an appalling experience for a Terran...
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