One of the things I promised with the Omega on Top series was more explanation and exploration of how gender works in this vaguely futuristic society. I was hoping to do this with Glitterati Omega, the second book.
I have explored that, outside of the books, suggesting that what we have is a society where we’ve experienced a linguistic shift. The identities of “man” and “woman” are divorced from the sex identities of “alpha” and “omega.”
Yet discrimination persists, mostly on the basis of reproductive function.
Glitterati Omega, unfortunately, didn’t go as deep into gender issues as I’d thought it might. (Indeed, it went in a very different direction and explored other issues.) But, as with almost any story about a “male omega,” the text says a lot about gender—even if it’s not on the page.
When Is a Man No Longer a Man?
One of the most pertinent questions, for me at least, was the question of where man ends and woman begins.
I’d already established that “man” and “woman” are separate from “alpha” or “omega.” In Boardroom Omega, Jake and Perce are both men, even thought one is an alpha and one is an omega. Jake has two sisters, one of whom is an omega and one of whom is an alpha. Morgan, Perce’s middle sibling, is nonbinary, identifying as neither “man” nor “woman,” although they are an alpha.
What About a Femme Omega Man?
Enter Rupert. Rupert is an omega. Like Perce, he identifies as a man, using he/him pronouns and thinking of himself as “a man.” (He objects to his middle name, Lucille, partly because it’s feminized.)
If that’s all, though, then we could probably see Rupert as a trans man. That is, he has an XX phenotype, meaning he has body morphology that would match what we call “female.” In the world of Omega on Top, that’s an “omega.”
But Rupert takes us a step further here: he adopts “feminine” attire. Rupert, despite calling himself “a man,” has a hyper-feminine presentation. He wears ball gowns, heels, and makeup, and he’s concerned about how he looks, whether or not he’s “fashionable.” He even has body image issues, which we typically associate with women.
So, how does someone who is an XX-phenotype body then conceive of themselves as a man while also adopting a femme presentation?
Readers Will Want to Argue
I am aware people will tell me Rupert isn’t, in fact, a “he,” that Glitterati Omega isn’t MM or MLM romance. But the fact remains: Rupert is a man, precisely because he says he is one.
That’s what the unmooring of sex and gender means. Rupert can be “a man” at the same time he occupies space as “an omega.”
Many drag queens still think of themselves as men, excepting when they put on the outfit—and thus the persona. They move back and forth between being “a man” and being “a woman.” Drag queens (and drag kings) occupy an interstitial space on a gender continuum.
What they show us, though, is that it is possible for men to don ball gowns and over the top makeup and wigs and present in a hyper-feminine way, while still conceiving themselves as men.
Now, Rupert is a step away from a drag queen, in that his biology matches that of the “costume” rather than what he is when he takes it off. Rupert doesn’t need to play dress-up. Rupert could, if he desired, simply be a woman, and no one would question him. In fact, they’re more likely to question his being a man. Between biology and presentation, Rupert does not necessarily seem very much like a man.
Only the Individual Has Say in Glitterati Omega
Here’s the thing: in this society, the individual determines gender identity, no questions asked. So we have Perce the omega who is a man, and he adopts stereotypical masculine attire. His omega parent, who also identifies as a man, does not. Jake’s alpha mother and his alpha sister, for the most part, adopt feminine presentation. Perce also has an alpha sister who has a feminine presentation. And we see women alphas in Glitterati Omega as well—Winston’s mother Ndileka, for example. But Winston also mentions an omega brother and an omega sister.
The individual decides if they’re a man or a woman or both or neither or something else (a la Morgan). And nobody challenges that.
Rupert’s adoption of feminized dress and even the language he uses to refer to himself (as a “mother,” rather than as a “father”) suggests that he might actually be she.
But clothing, as much as we think of it as “masculine” or “feminine,” is actually neutral. It exists. We used to dress baby boys in dresses. A dress does not have a gender. We just make it gendered.
Men Can Be Feminine
This comes back to another point of unmooring our current triangulization of biological sex/gender identity/masculine-feminine.
I’ve already said sex and gender are separate from each other in the world of Omega on Top. Biological sex does not dictate gender identity. Biological sex remains the locus of discrimination; gender identity is free-form and free-flowing, with individuals choosing whether they’re men or women or what have you.
This allows us to move into a freer space with the adoption of what I’ll call the masculine or the feminine. Again, clothes are actually neutral; it’s human beings that assign them genders. We can see examples of this in history: men in the French court wore high heels in the 1600s. High heels, now quintessentially feminine, were masculine in the 1600s. Dresses for children were neutral. Even now, we have some clothing we think of as “unisex.”
While there are sometimes differences between “masculine” and “feminine” bodies, there’s huge variation among the human population more generally. You might have an XX-phenotype body that fits into “men’s jeans” or an ostensibly male body that fits into jeans that are supposedly for “women.”
So: clothing is only gendered because we say it is, by and large. Clothing then belongs to the sphere of “masculine” and “feminine.” Anyone can adopt something “masculine,” just the same as they can adopt something “feminine” at any time. Men can go into nursing (like Rupert); they can enjoy “feminine” pastimes like baking or sewing or cooking or even cleaning. And women, of course, can enjoy “masculine” pursuits like mechanics, sports, and more.
Thus: gender identity is separate from the masculine/feminine more generally. A man can thus adopt any number of feminine things or traits and still be a man.
People Will Judge
People do judge by appearance. But trying to impose our own judgments on others, versus accepting what they tell us, is pretty ridiculous when you think about it.
Suppose your name is Jo. This might be short for Joseph or Josephine. But you’re Jo. You like the name Jo, whether it’s short for something or not. You like it. It resonates with you.
Now you meet someone else. This person insists on calling you Jack. You correct them, every time, but they just look at you, shrug, and say, “Eh, you look like a Jack to me.”
But you know you are not a Jack. The name doesn’t resonate with you. That’s not who you are. You are a Jo!
You know you’re a Jo. This person frustrates you, because how the hell do they know? Who do they think they are to tell you that your name isn’t the one you know you have, but the one they’ve picked for you, because they think it suits you better?
Yet People Think It’s Appropriate
Now try that with gender. You’re a man, but everyone around you insists you’re actually a woman. Why? Because they decided that. Because they somehow know you better than you know yourself.
This is pure insanity, and that’s what we arrive at in Glitterati Omega. Rupert is a man by virtue of the fact he says he is one. Children have the freedom to decide; Rupert, at some point, decided. No one can question that and, through the course of the novel, no one does. Not once does Rupert’s self-identity as a man come into question.
And that’s because, by and large, sex, gender identity, and the masculine/feminine have been pulled apart in this society. Sex no longer dictates rigid gendering rules. Children are free to decide what they like and what they don’t like. That means “boy” children don’t get in trouble for playing in the kitchen—if that’s what makes them happy.
In a way, despite the discrimination that’s still happening on the basis of biological sex—and the assumptions that go along with it—this society has moved one step closer to a utopia, in that everyone is free, to some degree, to be themselves and to pursue what makes them happy.
Discrimination Does Still Exist in Glitterati Omega
One of the things Glitterati Omega explores, to some degree, is that pressure to conform to particular ideals and ideas still exist. Rupert, for example, struggles with a very Westernized kind of “feminism,” one that disdains the desire for children and motherhood. Even Winston trots out a little bit of that logic: omegas shouldn’t feel confined to being “baby factories” for alphas.
Perce runs up against that attitude in Boardroom. Most companies don’t want to hire omegas because it’s suspected they’ll need time off to look after their children. And there’s a suggestion that omegas are a certain way due to instinct and how their brains function. This looks like a lot of misogynistic drivel—and it is. It’s simply been moved away from gender identity to biological sex, which suggests that we’re not going to easily get rid of these attitudes that bodies that bear children are somehow lesser.
The Feminine Is Still Degraded
This, again, comes back to masculine/feminine assumptions. There’s an assumption that omegas are more feminine. Perce is more masculine, which he prefers. He proves the thinking about omegas as all highly feminine is untrue.
Rupert is at the opposite end of the spectrum; he embodies the stereotypical feminine. And in this, it shows us that what’s going on is that it isn’t women who face degradation so much as it’s the feminine more generally.
That’s true in our own society. Look at the ridicule a little boy who was happy playing in his toy kitchen faced, the backlash his parents faced for letting him play with “a girl toy.” Boys who play with dolls, who like dresses, who want to do anything remotely feminine are ostracized and degraded, bullied for their preferences.
The feminine is somehow lesser than the masculine. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or a woman performing the task—it has to do with how we perceive the behavior, as “feminized” or “masculinized.” And feminized behavior is always degraded, no matter who is doing the performance.
That’s what Rupert finds himself up against: he wants to be a mother; he enjoys his hyper-feminine presentation, but people ridicule and degrade him at every turn—not because he’s “a man” nor even, potentially, because he’s an omega. It’s because he engages with the feminine.
Rethinking the Value of the Feminine
Winston means to offer another way forward, one in which the feminine is not nearly so degraded. This is an idea that pervades many other non-Western cultures. Many Indigenous cultures are matriarchal and see the feminine as if not divine or sacred, then equal to the masculine.
I took heart from some of the theories of African motherism which profess that anyone—man, woman, otherwise—can be a mother. Sex and gender do not limit the role of “mother,” although it’s feminine. And that set me to wondering: what if we stopped putting limits on other things? What if “feminine” things weren’t so degraded?
That’s what Rupert wants; he expresses frustration with more Western-style “feminisms,” like what Perce espouses. Rupert doesn’t want to adopt the masculine, but he does want to stop being discriminated against. He feels the feminine is just as important, just as wonderful as the masculine, but Western-style thinking—and Western feminist thought—won’t let him express that.
And thus we come to a man who can be a mother, a man who can have a hyper-feminine presentation, and a man who can bear children and still be a man, despite what our limited gender theory paradigms would want us to accept as possible.
Within the world of Omega on Top, then, almost anything is possible.