An interesting question appeared on Twitter – where are the queer robots in Sci-Fi?
Other than that SNL skit, had there been a queer sci-fi AI in television or movies?
— Scifiinterfaces.com (@scifiinterfaces) June 5, 2019
Let’s first define what we mean by Queer. This usually means outside of binary gender and/or someone who is attracted to the same sex – what’s commonly referred to as LGBT+. Feel free to supply your own definition.
As for what we mean by AI – let’s go with “mechanical or non-biological autonomous being.” That’s probably wide enough – but do please suggest better definitions.
So is a gay/lesbian robot one who is attracted to other robots? Or to humans with a similar gender? Let’s go with yes to all of the above.
Do robots have gender?
Humans love categorising things – especially inanimate objects. Some languages divide every noun into male a female. Why? Humans gonna human.
The television is female in French – “la télévision” – but masculine in German – “der Fernseher”. Stupid humans and their pathetic meaty brains.
Nevertheless, humans can usually look at a human-ish thing and assign it a specific gender.
Maschinenmensch – from Metropolis – is a Gynoid (as distinct from an Android). “She” has a feminine body shape and that’s enough for most people to go on.
HAL – from 2001 – is just a disembodied voice. But it definitely has a male voice. Is there any attraction between Hal and Dave? I doubt it – but it’s an interesting reading of their toxic relationship.
Kryten – from Red Dwarf – is coded as male. All the characters refer to him with male pronouns. Under British comedy rules, he is also “camp” – an over-the-top and stereotypically effeminate man.
Kryten is sexually attracted to other household appliances.
But… Kryten’s “perfect mate” is a distinctly female Gynoid.
(Fun fact – Camille and Kryten are played by real-life wife and husband Judy Pascoe and Robert Llewelyn!)
C-3P0 – another British campbot – is clearly in love with R2-D2 – whether or not that love is reciprocated is hard to say.
Threepio and Artoo may behave like an old married couple – but the astromech has an eye for the ladies.
I say “ladies” – just because a robot is pink, doesn’t mean it’s a girl. (KT-10 is a girl though.)
Robots attracted to humans
There are several examples of “female” computers falling in love with male humans – and a disturbing number of sex-worker bots – but it is much harder to find queer examples.
The Tick has an AI in a boat. The AI is male and attracted to other men. Who may or may not be boats.
Is the boat programmed to be gay? Are his desires hardwired? Are yours?
Remember “Alien: Resurrection”? Winona Ryder played the robot “Call” who has a “suggestive” relationship with Ripley. As this ship video demonstrates.
TV show “Humans” has one of the robots fall in love with a human
Is Rachael from Blade Runner a robot, or a lesbian?
It’s possible for you to swap the gender of your Voice Assistant in real life. Your GPS can have a male voice one day, and you can swap it to female the next.
I couldn’t find many examples in fiction which an AI changed gender.
Back to Red Dwarf again. In the series 3 opener “Backwards” it is revealed that Holly (a computer with a male face) fell in love with Hilly (a computer with a female face). And subsequently performed a head sex change. Although she kept the name Holly.
The entire crew of Red Dwarf accept this. They never comment on it, nor disparage her.
Basically, what I’m saying is this: if you can’t accept your trans friends, you’re literally a worse human than Arnold Judas Rimmer.