In Samuel R. Delany's novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, how are gender, species, and sexuality portrayed? I understand the protagonist's homosexual attraction to his partner, but how does the inter-species relations fit in all of it?
Samuel R. Delany's 1984 novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is sometimes categorized as a work of Afrofuturism, exploring questions of race and ethnicity by positing imaginary future societies in which ethnicity functions differently from our own to explore how we might re-imagine ethnicity. As an explicitly self-identified LBGTQ author, Delany also uses imagined future societies to re-imagine gender as a concept.
Human societies in the universe of Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand follow two rather distinct groups of cultural traditions and presumptions. The Family resemble humans in the twentieth-century developed world, with a belief in the nuclear family and heterosexual relationships as normal. The Sygn are more broad-minded, and rather than having a single, fixed set of norms for relationships, understand that there are many types of relationships with no one type being inherently better or more "normal" than any other.
The notions of relationships and gender are complicated in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by the existence of intelligent alien societies, often with different gender structures than humans. The Evelm of Velm, in particular, have three genders rather than two.
While The Family objects strongly to interspecies sexual relations, many Sygn consider both gender and species unimportant, and are more concerned with finding a partner with whom one can achieve perfect erotic compatibility.
Marq Dyeth, the sophisticated aristocrat who becomes erotically involved with the protagonist Rat Korga, introduces Korga to a culture in which polyamory and interspecies relationships are considered normal rather than perverse.
Overall, one could say gender and sexuality are portrayed in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand as fluid, with no absolute norms or models, but rather as varying with cultural conventions and individual tastes. Especially given Delany's personal history, the novel should be read as advocating more open concepts of gender and greater acceptance of a variety of sexual practices and orientations.