The ship heaved.
Uhura was thrown out of her chair, against the rail, against Kirk. But this time she caught him.
She snagged him with one arm, and the rail with her other hand, and held them both against the tilt.
She felt the ease and power of doing it, felt her incredible strength and his small astonishment in her arms.
He clung to her for a moment on simple reflex, and then leveraged himself out of her arms, touching her arm for an instant in a display of gratitude.
In my 20s, I threw my original copy of Star Trek, The New Voyages, in which the above story appeared, into the garbage along with all of the other books I had which portrayed sex changes and what I would now call gender fluidity. The story featured an adventure in which Captain Kirk, Uhura and other members of the crew have their sexes reversed by alien technology controlled by one of Kirk’s old foes, a Klingon named Kang.
I found the aspects of the story in which Kirk found himself in these kinds of typical female situations fascinating and erotic. I played the images over and over in my mind; Uhura, big and broad shouldered, powerful, catching the dainty little Kirk in her arms, he looking up at her, shocked and giving her arm a little touch, and, I always added in my imagination, blushing as he realized how good it felt being held in her powerful arms.
This was an era when the women in adventure stories seemed to spend a lot of time being caught and held, rescued, carried after twisting an ankle, and I loved the thought so much of Kirk being put into that position. Other little details pleased me as well, details that may only have made into a story written by women imagining what it would be like for a man; at one point Kirk discovers that he can’t reach all the controls in a shuttle craft because they were never designed for someone of a female’s size in mind, and in another case he struggles to find phaser belt small enough for his slender waist. He hides one of the little hand phasers in his cleavage.
But most of all I reveled in the adventure story reversals, especially those involving sexual dynamics:
“You look quite precious.” Kang ran an appreciative eye over Kirk. “Ravishing.”
Kang did a slow survey of Kirk, suddenly reached out and lifted Kirk’s chin.
Kang shook his head. “You will walk or I will carry you.” He shot out a hand and grabbed Kirk’s wrist, started to drag him along.
He was on his feet, pulling Kirk up to his knees, finding his chin again and tilting his face up.
Being ogled. Physically dominated. Condescended to as Miss Kirk. It all thrilled me in ways to this day I don’t understand, and my fantasy life became filled with these kinds of images, leading right up to one of the most fascinating parts of the story. The Enterprise escapes from the alien planet and along with the Klingon ship, which has now become an ally with every member of the crew but one having been turned into a female, returns to star base. Jim Kirk begins to believe that he is stuck as a woman, and he starts to wonder what life will be like, especially… sex life.
He pretties himself up as much as he can allow himself to given his lingering male attitudes, goes to a bar and see if maybe he can hook up with someone. A man hits on him. He is flustered. Kang shows up and rescues him from the awkward situation, they flirt and leave the bar together, planning to “explore an aspect of the problem.” It seems Kirk is about to spend a night on his back, curling his toes, but then his boyfriend– oops. I mean first officer– Spock shows up and puts the kibosh on Kirk’s silly, girlish impulses.
So many times I played out the end of the story differently. Kirk, a horny young woman, supermodel beautiful we are given to believe, essentially becoming the female version of his old self– a slut, in the double-standard terms of our times– and the struggles and trials that would face him.
I love this story and read it many, many times, always adding my own little twists and additions.
And then one lonely night, half drunk, I tossed it in the trash. Single in my mid-twenties, living at the time in a trailer in the woods of North Florida, where traditional hetero-relations were the only thing accepted in public, and anything else could get you fired, beaten or worse, I felt lonely and wanted someone to love. I felt like something was wrong with me, and if I could just stop reading these stories, stop allowing myself to entertain these gender fluid fantasies, I could become normal and be happy, accepted into normal society. I would throw away all my stuff I had that was, I had decided, twisting my mind, and I would make myself normal by pure force of will!
Well, I didn’t.. Books thrown away, I still kept returning to those ideas that had been woken up in me, kept playing out those fantasies. A few years later I began going to used book stores and searching for this book and others I had thrown away– like Thorne Smith’s Turnabout, and eventually I found and bought a copy for 1.95, a crumbling, yellowing copy I still have to this day.
I love what I love, and I dream what I dream. And today I accept that even if some people still don’t. And when I do write my own TG stories, I like to imagine that sometimes my story is the one someone finds for the first time, and reads, and realizes that they are not alone, that someone out there has the very same dreams and visions.
The story is entitled The Procrustean Petard, written by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. It appeared in the collection, Star Trek, The New Voyages 2.