Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Points Masculine, by An Owomoyela

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(Military SF) On top of fighting against an anarchist revolution, a soldier copes with what he's sure is a man pretending to be a woman in the Women's Volunteer Corps. (6,030 words; Time: 20m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Award-Worthy

"," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 72, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

The narrator lacked three points on the masculinity test to get a position in the regular army, but by the end of the story, we're sure he's earned it--whether the army ever agrees or not.

The core of the story is about the narrator's struggle to accept John as a teammate and as a worthy person. As a genuine (but closeted) genuine transsexual, the narrator is unusually sensitive to anyone who might just be pretending. He pegs John immediately, and his suspicions only grow over time.

Even over the course of the desperate firefight in the abandoned supermarket, the narrator doesn't warm to John, until it's just the two of them. The narrator reveals the truth about his own status (remarkable, because he had shared it with no one), and John finally admits that, yes, he considers himself male, not female, and, yes, he's doing this to avoid active duty.
"The only way I could've gotten this job was by acting, every day, like I was something I wasn't."
The only way I got this job was by arguing my whole life I was who I was.
The narrator shares his secret with John because despite the vast differences between them (including race and education on top of gender and commitment to fighting), they have something very important in common: they both have secrets. At the end, we're not at all surprised that John goes to extra trouble to help keep the narrator's secret; we expect it of him. With that, the narrator finally arrives at a grudging respect for the man, and sees that they're "[j]ust two guys in bad positions."

Whether the narrator ever gets the medal and those missing three points, he emerges much stronger, and having acquired a real friend. Well done!

This story makes excellent use of the gender issues; they are not merely a decoration. The narrator's transition is imperfect, and he does a lot to try to compensate for it. Being transgendered is not presented as something that a person can just choose. The things you can choose (e.g. whether to be honest with yourself or with others) have costs and are not to be chosen lightly.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 72)
An Owomoyela Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. What's not clear but is implied, is that this society is very strict about who can do what jobs, subject to how Male or how Female they are. This part needs some more fleshing out.

    The "revs" are fighting against this control.

    Our narrator's story is the strong part.

    John's part of the story is not. Given that the society rules that both of them live by and are fighting for are not that clear, it makes John's behaviour look like a dis-service to men who have taken up nursing.