• Moiya McTier

Episode 23: The World of Queer Worms

Updated: Feb 27


Apparently 99% of animals on Earth reproduce like ~the birds and the bees~ but what would life be like if you could make a baby with ANYONE, even yourself?


HOSTED by Moiya McTier (@GoAstroMo), astrophysicist and folklorist

GUESTS

  1. Bri Watson is an archivist, historian, and knowledge organizer with a specialty in the history of sexuality. You can follow Bri on twitter at @brimwats and learn more about their (truly impressive back catalogue of) work at brimwats.com.

  2. Alison Cerezo is a counseling psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara who focuses on social and mental health disparities among LGBTQ+ communities. You can follow Alison on twitter at @acerezo and visit her website, dralisoncerezo.com. Nerds (<3) can read about Alison's research here.

  3. Jimmy Bernot is a marine and evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. You can follow Jimmy on twitter at @JimmyBernot and read about his research and scicomm work at jimmybernot.com.


TRANSCRIPT

Moiya 0:08

Hello and welcome to Exolore, the show that helps you imagine other worlds but with facts and science. I'm your host Moiya McTier. I'm an astrophysicist who studies planets outside of our solar system. Those are called exoplanets. And I'm also a folklorist who specializes in creating and analyzing imaginary worlds. And this podcast is my way of sharing those worlds and that knowledge with you. It's time for another panel episode where I invite a bunch of smart people to help me imagine what life might be like on an alien planet. And today, we're talking about worm masturbation, the benefits of platonic intimacy, and how the number of nipples you have relates to the number of children you can expect from each pregnancy. Those are just a few of the things we talked about. It's a really fun conversation, you're in for a treat. And if you listen to the very end of the episode, you'll hear a personal story about how I came out, which is a hint at the topic of the episode. Now let's get to some introductions. Let's just get started, and Bri you're at the top of my screen so do you want to tell me who you are, what you do and what fictional worlds you've been inhabiting lately?


Bri 1:17

I'm Bri Watson [and] I am a PhD candidate at University of British Columbia School of Information. I focus specifically on equitable cataloguing for galleries, libraries, [and for] the COBE Museum's special collections, which means I'm interested in how different communities can use language in terms that they prefer in those kinds of institutions and how to help those institutions use those languages. I do have a master's degree in History and Sexuality and History of the Book from Drew University. I've published a book on the History of Pornography. So I work in the history of sexuality, history of information and classification. I mostly listen to audiobooks and that's been my pandemic choice. I've [also] been listening to "Children of Ruin" by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It's about a biologist essentially start to terraform world and tries to recreate monkeys with intelligence. But instead, the spiders get infected with the intelligence nano virus and the spiders become the intelligent species it's incredibly fascinating.


Moiya 2:20

I'm sure it is, but it sounds terrifying. I'm so afraid of spiders. Yeah, it seems very on brand for what we're doing here today. Alison, do you want to go next?


Alison 2:30

Sure. I'm Alison Cerezo. I use she/her and they/them pronouns. I'm an assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara, [in] Applied Psychology -- it's a department of counseling, clinical and school psychology. And so, as part of that job, I do a lot of research. And most of my research is with black and Latinx, sexual and gender diverse folks. I do a lot of community partnered research, trying to really think about the ways stigma and stress impact mental health and substance use, [and] also talking about resilience and coping and other good things like that.


Moiya 3:08

That sounds like really important work. Thanks for doing it.


Alison 3:10

Thanks.


Moiya 3:11

What about fictional worlds?


Alison 3:12

Oh, yeah. So I read recently, "The Secret Lives of Church Ladies" [by Deesha Philyaw], and it was a really wonderful book. It's like a series of short stories about women in the black church. And, to my surprise, there are a lot of queer stories in this series of stories. So it was really wonderful to be in that headspace just like being in a certain world for like, you know, 40 pages [and then] moving on to the next story. Apart from that, I I meditate every day, so wherever my mind takes me, that's the other world I go to.


Moiya 3:41

Oh, wow. Do you use any sort of guided meditation apps? Or are you experienced enough to do it on your own?


Alison 3:48

Well, yeah, I am. But I think it's really nice to use the apps because then it like tells me that like, hit 90 hours or whatever, it is nice. So there's one called the Breathe app. There's Calm and then there's one called Liberate that's created by people of color and there are some that are specifically on Liberate [that help with] deal[ing] with police brutality and other things like that.


Moiya 4:08

Sounds really great. I'll check that out later. Thank you.


Alison 4:11

Welcome.


Moiya 4:11

All right, Jimmy, your turn.


Jimmy 4:13

Hi, everybody. I'm Jimmy Bernot. I use he/him pronouns, and I am an NSF postdoc research fellow at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in DC. I study all sorts of invertebrates. I'm an invertebrate zoologist. So if you think of like the weirdest animals you can think of those are the things that I like to work with. [They're] usually really small ones that I have to use a microscope to look at. And I've always just kind of been fascinated with these, like small animals that are actually most of the diversity of life on the planet, but most of us goes through our days not really thinking much about them, just because they're pretty tiny. And what fictional worlds have I been inhabiting? Well, "Lord of the Rings" is kind of my go to that's like my comfort food, whether it's the books or the movies -- I've seen or read them both a million times. And lately, I've really been delving into a lot of video game worlds. So like "Skyrim", or "Borderlands", or I just got an "Oculus Quest" for Christmas. So that's like a whole VR world that's, like really captivating to.


Moiya 5:11

That's awesome. I'm curious, since you deal in your work with things that are so small that you can't really see them, does that change the way you interact with the real world around you? Like when you go out to a pond or something, are you just thinking of all the tiny little organisms that are in there crawling around?


Jimmy 5:30

Absolutely, yeah. I love that view of the world. I also have like a dissecting microscope, I take with me even on like camping trips and stuff, and my friends and their families usually love that because of just like, pull out a rock that has a little barnacle on it. And most people have never looked at the little legs of a barnacle, or realized that there's so much going on inside these small things. So it definitely changes the way you look at the world. I took a class with a great professor named Janine Kira [sp?], and she would teach us all about invertebrates. It was an invertebrate zoology class. And she would always tell us, like if these things were bigger, you'd want to keep all of them as pets. We'd go into all these sections, and you'd be like, "yeah, that was a few inches long[er], people would keep that in an aquarium" or something because they look so cool. And they do such interesting things.


Moiya 6:14

I didn't even know barnacles had legs [that's] amazing. Let's get into our world. So in the world we're talking about today, hermaphroditic reproduction is way more common than it is here on Earth. Which is why we have Jimmy here to talk to us about how different organisms can reproduce. My hope, and my guess is that this will lead to imagining a world where gender and sex aren't prescriptive --bthe way they are here on Earth because if every one is hermaphroditic, then why would gender and sex work the same way on this world? And so I would just love to imagine, with this group of people that I have here today, what would a world for queer people really look like? And I'm really excited to see what we come up with. So first, I'm going to zoom in on that term, "hermaphroditic reproduction". I remember growing up hearing the word hermaphrodite, and I went to school in a very rural part of the country and so people would use it as an insult, but I want to talk about the science of it. So Jimmy, can you tell us what "hermaphroditic reproduction" is; and in a science context, what a "hermaphrodite" is?


Jimmy 7:31

Sure, so first maybe I'll talk a little bit about separate sexes or what we call in the science or biology community usually being dioecious. So like di as in two, [so] separate sexes. And so most of us are familiar with that because you know, humans are dioecious, and almost all vertebrates are so our pets and everything are all dioecious. So we're used to male and female, but actually, a lot of animals on the planet are hermaphroditic, which means each individual has both male and female reproductive organs. There's some variation here. So some animals are hermaphroditic, but have separate sexes at different parts of their life. So they might start out as male and later become female, but a lot of animals have separate sexes throughout their whole life. So if we think of things like earthworms, and slugs, and snails and a group that I spent a lot of time studying tapeworms, those all have both male and female reproductive organs in them at all times. They [will] still usually mate with other individuals, but then both individuals can exchange sperm with each other. And both can leave and have offspring. [However], there are some cases where they don't always mate with other individuals [and] they do what's called "selfing", where they self fertilize and become pregnant basically using their own sperm and eggs. But most of the time, they mate with another individual, and then both individuals can exchange sperm and leave pregnant, essentially.


Moiya 8:55

That's so cool. I say that because I think it would just be really cool if my male partner could get pregnant instead of me that would be better -- from my perspective. Bri, can you maybe say a little bit about the history of the term "hermaphrodite" and "hermaphroditic"?


Bri 9:12

I'm interested by your story about being familiar with him as an insult. I mean, yes, frequently, it was an insult. But like, historically, it's kind of been a pinning place for all the anxieties around sex and gender, which comes later, but like sex, specifically -- one is sex, and one is the body. Up until the 1800s and maybe 1750s is really when this investigation really [began to] start that you would have this sense of like, "oh, this is what a male body is. And this is what a female body is". One of the great examples I use is Catalina de Russo, who is a female nun who was born in Spain and then goes to the New World and becomes a Conquistador and is running around and doing all the things [that] the Conquistador does. [This is] what we would call a cross dressed or maybe a transvestite or maybe a transsexual woman but not quite; and at one point, she gets captured by the Spanish authorities and she's stripped down. She's naked and they can see her naked body, but they never think of her as a woman in the way that we would think "Oh, she has a vagina, so she's a woman". There [isn't] that association with the body. In English pornography and English folklore (and French and German,,, really across Europe) was the sense that if you behaved in the wrong manner, you would become more mannish. You would become a mannish woman, and your clitoris would expand to become your penis. If you were a man and you acted too effeminate, your testicles and your penis would shrivel up and become [useless]. So [this became the] pinning point of all anxieties.


Moiya 10:59

Wow, I had no idea that that happened so late in history, like really starting to think about sex in this way. Also, there's some logic missing in what they thought there because a "mannish" woman's clitoris would get larger, but did they also think that if a man acted particularly mannish that his penis would get bigger? I don't think so. Right?


Bri 11:26

Yes, I think they did. Actually. It depends on who and what place in time you're talking about and what class you're talking about. But there's much more of this vagueness around like body parts and sizes. [There's] this diassociation between sex and gender. I would say in a strange way [That the] 1600s - 1700s [and the even] earlier 1500s kind of had like a more of a gender understanding of sex than we do.


Moiya 11:54

Yeah, I guess before all of the biology/science stuff took hold, we weren't really able to think about things like that.


Bri 12:03

It's really with a microscope, actually, with the sperm and seeing the little sperms running around and that really kicks off the "turn to the body" in history of medicine and science.


Moiya 12:14

That's fascinating and terrifying.


Jimmy 12:17

Yeah, that's so interesting. And I feel like as a biologist, and a person that loves microscopes, I should like apologize on behalf of the microscopy world for really setting us back in time, quite a bit whey they started applying a really rigid, kind of like genetic or gamete based idea of gender.


Moiya 12:38

You've also given us a lot of medicine and cool gadgets and technology. So there's that too. Alison, I'll admit that I don't know much about the subfields of psychology and how it breaks dow; but how does the psychology of sex and gender tie together? Is that even a fair question? That's seems so broad.


Alison 13:01

That's a huge question, but yeah, that's like an entire podcast like. I [do] feel like there's definitely an increase in folks within psychology. I think the health profession is really starting to look more at the experiences of intersex people. I come up against this, where the majority of the work that I do is with women; and so the term that a lot of folks would use, like sexual minority women, but so many of the folks in my studies are non binary, or just have like, multiple ways that they they sort of understand and experience gender with sex not really being part of that, you know, it's really about how folks understand who they are. And so it's been this interesting thing [where] I feel in the last couple [of] years, where reviewers will tell me like, "no, people have to choose women or non binary". And I'm like, "No, I don't think so", [that's] not how the world works. People will choose different things at different times in their lives. And/or these distinct categories don't always work for everyone. And I think especially in my experience[s] of doing a lot of research with women of color, that the ways that people have been describing "studs" or other things are more culturally important too [and it helps with describing themselves] and how they fit in the world. So I don't know [if] that answers the question as directly as you need, but I think [that] thinking about gender in a more complicated way [and that] thinking about folks who aren't necessarily the classic cisgender, male or female, that's something that's maybe [more] complex, and different; [and] I think it's become more broadly understood within my field at least.


Moiya 14:31

That's great. I want to zero in on what you said about how in the real world, you don't have to choose. You don't have to choose one gender and stick with it for your entire life. And I think that that's what the life forms on this world that we're building would do. So let's get back to that. So they reproduce hermaphroditically, Jimmy when you look at species who are hermaphroditic, do you see any trends in what types of environments yield those traits? Are they more often found in water, or jungles, or whatever.


Jimmy 15:04

Wow, that is such a good question, and I wish I knew the answer to it. I'm sure there's probably an evolutionary biologist that has looked at this. I know, I've been surprised to see hermaphoditism kind of pop up in many places across the tree of life. And that's one thing that has surprised me because when I started learning about hermaphroditism, actually, you start in the invertebrate world, or even in the plant world, and plants have like really crazy sexual systems that do all kinds of crazy things. And it would be great to have a botanist to like fill us in on some of the wild things, it's hard for us to wrap our mind around. But once you start learning about hermaphroditism, I'm actually surprised that it's not everywhere in the animal kingdom, because it's so much more efficient. I mean, when you think about looking for a mate, if you're like a pretty rare animal, it might be very uncommon for you to come across any other individuals of your species. And then if you have separate sexes, you have to cut that probability in half that you'll then find a likely mate. So that actually makes it really tricky, especially if you know, I mean, think about a great white shark or something. They have separate sexes, but they're solitary almost their whole life. So it's rare that they come across any individuals of their species. And then if two males come across each other and they want to breed that doesn't help them at all. So kind of when you frame it that way, it makes you start wondering, "why isn't all of animal life hermaphroditic"? It's so much more efficient -- two earthworms, or two slugs meet each other and they can fertilize each other no matter what, and then both individuals can go on and have offspring [that's] really efficient. So I'm not sure if there are particular habitats or lifestyles that are associated with hermaphroditism, I've just been surprised that it comes and goes as often as it does both hermaphroditic animals sometimes then evolve and have separate sexes, or the opposite happens where things with separate sexes appear to evolve hermaphroditism.


Moiya 16:56

Okay, so it seems like we don't necessarily have to change anything about the environment to make it more likely that hermaphroditic reproduction is common, but maybe just like the initial condition, let's just at the very beginning of our world, say [that] there are more hermaphroditic species. And we don't know why.


Jimmy 17:17

Most of our genetics, even between males and females are the same. Females have most of the same genetic machinery that males do. We know in humans, it's really just this one chromosome that has a small number of differences. So most of what you know, [that] a woman has in her body is equipped to build a male body or vice versa. So it doesn't take any crazy stroke of the imagination to imagine a world where all of those things are genetically encoded, and just about all life there.


Moiya 17:43

Oh, all right. Well, then, for the rest of the conversation, let's imagine a planet that is essentially Earth. Is there a word for how humans reproduce and like most animals, just like sexual reproduction?


Jimmy 17:55

So I guess I would go with like dioecious or dioeci, which is like separate sexes, that sometimes called like unisexuality, or there's a few other words for it, but the word that usually comes to mind for me is "dioecious", which is separate sexes or "monoecious", and "hermaphroditic", which is like both sexes in one.


Moiya 18:14

Okay, cool. So we are imagining a world that is basically earth but instead of dioecious-nes happening. It didn't happen there. Cool. Let's start thinking about what these creatures look like. We know how they reproduce. But as we all know, that is not the most important thing about a person. Neither are their looks, but let's talk about it. So what physical features do we think they would have? Jimmy, are there any physical features that are common among hermaphroditic creatures? I know you study invertebrates?


Jimmy 18:47

Well, a lot of hermaphroditic animals have both a penis and a vagina. So the tapeworms that I worked on have both of those organs and then they have also testes and ovaries. You can find things that sound stranger than fiction on earth already. So I mean, some of the tapeworms could have like 200 testes, in each segment of their body, and then hundreds of segments and so like their entire body is basically reproductive organs. Those exists on earth already all over the place. So you know, let your imagination run wild, because there's probably something weirder than you're imagining already on this planet. So if people you know, want to imagine organisms that have both male and female reproductive organs, that happens. You could also have really not much external genitalia. And you can imagine like free spawning type things that might just like release their sperm or eggs out into the water or into the air or something like that to be carried around. Or then you could even imagine plant-like reproduction where one animal comes to a flower and picks up its sperm, its pollen, and then carries that to another individual and drops it off. These crazy sexual systems already happen all around us so I would say be untethered, let your imagination run wild. We could probably find natural examples weirder than anything we'd come up with.


Moiya 20:06

Great. Alison or Bri, do you have any [suggestions]? We can make whatever we want here. So do you want our lifeforms to look like anything in particular, they don't have to look like humans at all.


Alison 20:20

It makes me excited to think [that] maybe we wouldn't have to deal with patriarchy in the same way, right? That people would just I don't know how they're gonna identify in this world, but don't necessarily have to worry about securiting a mate in the same kind of way. You can do your own thing, literally, and create a family for yourself. I just think it's so hard for me to imagine myself as anything other than super gay to be totally honest. Like, I would remain super gay, but then I wouldn't have to be so nervous about having to, like go through IVF or other stuff to get pregnant or having planned it all out, because I don't have sperm or a partner with sperm [who] can make that happen. So I just think about the power and the confidence that comes [along] with that. In my work, [there is] the violence that certain communities face, and if we don't have to tie value to our sex or our reproductive value, and all the challenges that come [along] with patriarchy, then people could live freer lives, [that aren't] targeted in the same way.


Moiya 21:29

Absolutely. I like thinking about a world where the dominant species, on the top [of] the food chain, [has] no sexual dimorphism. You can't tell the difference between people of different sexes, because there aren't really different sexes here. I've often had the experience of walking down the street and seeing like a very large man and crossing just in case. And I like the idea of that not happening on this world. Bri, do you have thoughts?


Bri 21:55

I might say [that] there's no reason this couldn't be our world right now, but if we're really creating a world, and if hemaphroditism is more common, than interspecies breeding and creation should [also] be more common. So [then] why [can't] our world [exist] with multiple species [always] interacting?


Moiya 22:17

Jimmy, does that check out from a bio perspective?


Jimmy 22:20

So that brings up a really interesting question. But I would say we don't see that happening more often in hermaphroditic species. And that's usually because it's generally pretty inefficient for most species to attempt to mate with like divergent species. I'm saying species here, but you could think of lineages or whatever you want to think of these evolutionary units. If they're already pretty different, they probably specialized on different things; and they've kind of diverged over time already. And so most of the time, when different species come back together, they either are sexually incompatible, like their sperm and eggs can't fit together, or their genitalia can't fit together, or there's a number of like biological reasons why they can't produce offspring. Sometimes, they can still produce offspring, but a lot of those times, the offspring is sort of maladapted to the environment. If you think of something [for example] take an extreme case [where] one species has specialized to the cold mountain tops, and another species has specialized to the dry desert, if they have offspring, that [are] half and half, they might not be very well suited to either of those habitats. Now, there are times when that works out really well, because now if there's like intermediate habitat, sometimes those hybrids can be very successful. But generally, if you mix two pretty divergent things the intermediates are not going to be able to be better competitors than either of the kind of divergent parental populations. So we don't necessarily see more interspecies mating or things like that in hermaphrodites; but that's really interesting to consider the possibilities of what might happen in a circumstance like that, I guess I would say my recommendation, although I'm happy to go down different tangents because we have so many different like biological systems that are possible. I would say maybe at least we could start by thinking about the more standard situation of hermaphroditism, that's a little bit easier for us to wrap our minds around, which is [having] both sexual systems in the same individual at all times, which I think is probably the first thing people kind of tend to imagine. And then we could talk about whether we want these individuals to be self-fertilizing or not. I mean, if they're self fertilizing, it's interesting, but then we also lose the need to find a mate and we might have a lot more maybe isolated society for some reason -- or not. I don't know. I would guess the easiest thing for us and our listeners to imagine might be both sexual systems in all individuals at the same time, but they still find another partner to mate with, which is what a lot of hermaphroditic animals do. Some can't even self-fertilize, even though they have both male and female parts.


Moiya 24:59

Got it. I would actually love it if they could self-fertilize, but [that] you could also fall in love.


Jimmy 25:08

Sure. I mean, that does happen, definitely. It's in a lot of hermaphroditic animals -- tapeworms, for instance, that's the group of hermaphrodite animals [that] I know the best. Yeah, they can mate with themselves or other individuals and they have both male and female organ systems at all times.


Moiya 25:23

Okay, then let's go with tapeworms. I want to think about a world full of of tapeworms, sentient, intelligent fallen in love tapeworms.


Jimmy 25:34

I should say there's lots of other animals besides tapeworms that do that too. It's just I'm most familiar with tapeworms when I think about hermaphroditic animals.


Moiya 25:42

Yeah, I absolutely love this. My first question about our tapeworms who can self-fertilize? What happens when they masturbate? Can they accidentally impregnate themselves? That's what I need to know first.


Jimmy 25:55

Hmm.


Alison 25:57

I really hope not.


Jimmy 25:59

That's really kind of interesting. I've never thought about tapeworms masturbating. I will say they have lots of different ways of doing it. Their bodies [are] made up of multiple segments, and each segment has a penis called the "cerus", but basically the same thing, except it goes inside the body inside on itself. So that's kind of bizarre, but a segment could mate with itself. So like the penis, the cerus could come out of the segment and into the vagina of that same segment and fertilize it or that segment could mate [as] you know, tapeworms are kind of like a chain of segments; [and] that segment could also mate with another segment on the body. So the worm could kind of fold up with itself, and then have the penis from one segment go into the vagina of another segment, or they can mate with another individual.


Moiya 26:47

That's so cool.


Jimmy 26:48

There [are] so many options in tapeworms [and] so it gets pretty complicated because they're not just hermaphroditic, they're like a chain of hermaphroditic segments. So maybe we should think of it more like earthworms or something where every individual has testes and ovaries. And I guess the question was then, "if an animal like that masturbated, would it run the risk of self-fertilizing"? It is possible. So if we want selfing to be a possibility, I would say that is very likely possible. Some animals have built in things to prevent self-fertilizing. So even though they have sperm and eggs, it just doesn't work. And that's kind of to avoid inbreeding and things like that, because if you're always just self-fertilizing, you could have the same sorts of issues where you have, like inbreeding in humans and built up of, you know, negative or deleterious, genetic mutations. But if we're allowing self-fertilizing, I think that they would run the risk of potentially fertilizing themselves, then if they were masturbating.


Alison 27:48

I have a question, which may be silly, but if you self-fertilize, [aren't] you just creating a clone of yourself, like a little mini me? Or is it a totally different person?


Moiya 27:59

I don't think that's silly at all. That's a real question.


Jimmy 28:02

Yeah, that's a great question. I started thinking about this just before we got started. So it's not exactly the same as cloning. There are species that are called "parthenogenetic", where they reproduce without any sperm, and so the egg can just develop into an embryo on its own. That is truly a clone, because there's no input of you know, genetic material or any mixing. But there can be mixing when you have sperm and eggs mixed, even from the same individual because we have, you know, two sets of chromosomes, one from one parent and one from the other. And you get recombination when sperms and eggs combine. So you get some shuffling of genes. So all the genetic material is coming from the same individual, but the offspring aren't going to be exactly identical.


Moiya 28:58

That's so dope. There's also like random mutations that can be passed from one generation, or that happened between generations, right?


Jimmy 29:05

Yeah, that happens too. But that happens on a super low frequency, [at about] .0001% where recombination actually happens pretty frequently. So [for example] if you think about whenever I produce sperm, as a male, my sperm only has half of my genetic material. So that's like some combination of the chromosomes that I got from my mother and my father. And the same thing when females produce an egg that's half of their genetic material. So if I'm an individual and I'm producing eggs and sperm, I'm taking a random half of both of my genetic material and shuffling them together to produce an embryo and so there will be differences between embryos that are produced that way so I would say that offspring won't be a clone, but it would be more similar to the parent than a sexually reproduced child's. It would [pretty much] be the same genes with a little reshuffling.


Alison 29:57

Okay, almost like fraternal twins or something? I'm just trying to like wrap my head around that.


Jimmy 30:01

Yeah. And I guess even closer than fraternal twins, so like pretty, pretty close. Yeah.


Moiya 30:08

Any other questions about the biology? I feel like we're getting way deeper into this than we usually do on Exolore, which I love. This is just such a fascinating subject. Any other questions about bio?


Bri 30:20

So much of human history of sexuality has been like, "how do we avoid getting pregnant"? [However], if they could self-fertilize, it becomes a [matter of], "how to talk [to] your child about [not] impregnating themselves". It [then] becomes birth control for ourselves instead, and it's a lot different than what we we're used to. But birth control was still exist, right? It must have to.


Moiya 30:45

Yeah, for sure, and abortion, probably on this world.


Bri 30:48

Self abortion.


Moiya 30:49

Okay, I love this. Let's take a little break, and then when we come back, we're going to talk about the culture on this world.


Moiya 30:58

A few housekeeping notes before we get back to the interview. One, Exolore now has a subreddit page, which is very exciting. Listener Brianna, reached out to me asking if I would want to have a subreddit or a Discord channel for the pod. And I said, "yeah, but I don't know how to make that happen". So Brianna, very graciously set up a subreddit page for the show, you can access it by going to "Reddit.com/r/exolorepod", I will put the link to that page in the show notes. You can connect with other listeners there, you can talk about the worlds we build, maybe some of the skills you pick up in these interview episodes, or even some of the art that you create based on the show. I would really love to see you all interacting there, it would make me so happy. The second note is about the survey that I'm putting out right now. The survey is to gather your thoughts and opinions on season one of Exolore, and then I can use that to work on season two. I'm planning out season two right now, and I want to make it the best version of itself. So if you head on over to "exolorepod.com/ survey", you can fill out the survey tell me what you think about the show, and when season two will be a blast. I will also be putting that link down in the show notes. And third, I want to take this moment to thank Emma, my new patron, thank you so much for supporting the show. If you want to join Emma and my other awesome patrons head on over to "patreon.com/goAstroMo". Your monthly support would really help me continue working on this passion project of mine, but I also understand that times are hard so you know just do what you can. Alright, let's get back to the conversation.


Moiya 32:32

My first culture question is about family. What do we think the family unit would look like on this world? I know there are so many different possibilities, because there's self-fertilization -- selfing. I love that new word. Thank you, Jimmy. [So] what do we think families would look like?


Bri 32:56

Like I said [earlier], when someone says gender sexuality is [all about] "how do we control babies", but also inheritance and property. If class still existed, and [there was] worm nobility, they would want to control how many other worms would have the ability to inherit.


Moiya 33:15

They're like real person sized.


Bri 33:25

I guess if it's an earthworm -- [that's a] patch of ground, so property. That kind of works, right? So if it's an earthworm, there's earthworm nobility then they're gonna want to limit the number of families.


Jimmy 33:36

I love where this is going.


Bri 33:37

...families were much smaller, and way more interbred until they started figuring out that that was a really, really bad thing.


Moiya 33:46

Do you want there to be worm nobility?


Bri 33:49

I kind of do.


Moiya 33:50

Or would you prefer a world without it?


Bri 33:52

I just want to imagine a little worm with a crown on his head.


Moiya 33:57

I was thinking the same thing and in my mind, I was like, "does the crown go on like the end? Or does it go on top? If the worm is like horizontal"?


Jimmy 34:08

No, I think that's a great question. There's a whole niche of science Twitter that's like, "how would an octopus wear pants" or "how would a dog wear pants. Would it be like this or like this"? So I think we should maybe ask Twitter, how would a worm wear a crown?


Moiya 34:25

So yes to worm nobility because we want to picture them wearing crowns. So there is this need to control how many people there are in a generation. Do we think the worm nobility would go so far as to forcefully control this?


Jimmy 34:48

That becomes really interesting, right? This is totally outside my area of expertise and I'm going to need Bri to probably bail me out as I open my mouth here, but I'm thinking -- in terms of the inbreeding, you could have nobility that tells their offspring, they can only self-fertilize, but maybe they would want some sort of cross breeding in terms of diplomatic marriages and that sort of thing; [and] how those two kind of conflicting things would impact each other?


Moiya 35:19

There are also just so many more combinations now and possibilities for those diplomatic marriages because anyone is a viable mate.


Alison 35:28

If you all remember, Jennifer Lopez has this movie called "The Backup Plan", where she is looking for a partner [and is] really struggling, [and] decides to go to a fertility bank and get pregnant. And then she meets a guy, when she gets pregnant. Coming into this, I was thinking about, "family of choice", and how beautiful that could be. [It's where] , you really can choose who is your partner, but also who gets to parent your kid. We don't have to, like, think about marriage in the same way, right? Because like, that just would look extremely different. And I know for myself, I just wish people had domestic partnerships so that if you needed to get into something with like a sibling, because that made the most sense for your family or a friend, because that made the most sense for like, both of your economic situations that you could do that. And I think on this world like that, that seems more possible, in a way that could be really nice.


Moiya 36:20

One of my main complaints about this world is that people don't value different types of love in the same way, like love between partners versus family versus friends. There seems to be a hierarchy here on earth. And do we think that there would be that same hierarchy here on that planet? You seemed to hint a little bit at that, Alison?


Alison 36:39

Yeah, I think we would have to think about relationships differently. It also makes me think that we probably would have a lot more polyamory, right? Because it's like, why not have multiple partners if you don't need to look to one to like help you provide economic stability or give you the sperm that you need. It's like you can actually build relationships with different people for different needs in a way that like, we're just allowed to think about in a whole different way from the get go.


Moiya 37:03

I love that. Bri, do you have any thoughts on that? You're nodding emphatically.


Bri 37:06

I guess my mind went off between these two different threads. Nobility doesn't want to have diplomatic merit, it wants to hold power. So I'm just imagining, like, nobility gets more and more interbred and the genetic material start getting all fucked up, I guess, to put it nicely. But then there'd be an overthrow, right? Like the worm peasants would finally rise up against the nobility and the communist revolution would actually finally work under worms and love would be all shared in equality. And I'm just like, down for worm communism.


Moiya 37:39

What would worm communism even look? Before we get into worm communism, I usually ask at some point like, what do the life forms on this world value and communism plus different types of relationships, and maybe more polyamory on this world makes me realize that we should talk about what they value. So what do we think that would be?


Jimmy 38:04

Well, I imagine that perhaps independence would be more valued on this world. I think we have a lot of push, especially from older generations, in some cultures that are like, "when or the grandkids coming", and that sort of focus on finding a partner and producing offspring, you know, a lot of that would be removed, if you have the option of you know, producing those grandchildren on your own. I don't want to imagine everybody being hermits, because I think that's also a little sad, potentially, like, in this time, when I feel like a lot of us are socially isolated. I don't want our world to be like that. But I do think that independence becomes, you know, much easier to achieve, while still building a family.


Moiya 38:54

I love that. I think you're right. But there's no reason that independence has to mean they shun other people, other worm contact. Any other ideas for what they might value in this worm society?


Alison 39:09

I feel like [this is] gonna sound ridiculous, but like makeup, you know, or just like, the ways that we think about gender performance on Earth are just gonna be completely different, right? [For example], I pay a lot of attention to people's eyebrows, and I can't help myself, I'm from Los Angeles, [and so] I think about those things. But I imagine just how beautiful it could be just to see all types of people like wanting to use makeup or wanting to do their hair or wanting to wear certain types of clothes. And that it's not like dictated by how people perceive your sex because instead it's like something totally different. [Instead], you just have the freedom to express yourself in a whole different way. And I would hope that related to that because I feel like there's so much value [placed] on people's reproductive abilit[ies], that maybe we would allow folks to have different futures. That folks can be whatever they want to be, and that it's not dictated by the ridiculous toys that you have growing up, and then how that ends up just shifting your entire life into adulthood.


Moiya 40:11

Yeah. What you said about makeup made me realize that maybe this is just because I don't spend enough time looking at worms closely, but they seem to all look very similar, which in my mind [means] that they would have other ways of distinguishing themselves. And I love that, like makeup and wigs and clothing could be that way, and that they wouldn't be constrained by gender norms in what they wear. That's nice. I'm thinking a lot about Disney movies, that kind of genre of movie that I at least grew up watching. And in so many of them, the story is, [that] at the end, the girl and the guy get together and they live happily ever after. And like that's where the story ends, as if what comes after that doesn't matter, because the whole point of life is to find a person of the opposite sex that you can be happy with. What types of stories do we think the worms on our world might grow up with?


Bri 41:05

It won't be like the Genesis story, like worm religion wouldn't be like, "in the beginning, there was the one worm. They met the other worm and made all worms," right?


Jimmy 41:16

It could just be the one worm. It was just this Eve that self-fertilized, and everybody is related directly from that founding individual.


Bri 41:27

That would get rid of patriarchy pretty fast.


Moiya 41:30

I feel so bad for the geneticists on this world because there are just a lot of different ways that the genetic tree can branch off into, [and] it's probably gonna be really hard to trace backwards your lineage.


Jimmy 41:41

Yeah, and Moiya, I'm thinking of something you said about families. And I started like drawing some little sketches, because I was realizing the family composition is going to be so much more variable on this planet, too. So we can imagine the simplest case where you have like a parent that self-fertilizes, and has an offspring, but then you can also have couples or polyamorous situations. Let's just take a couple for instance, I mean, you could have individuals that are related by which parent was their birth parent, you know, so I'm thinking of like this idea of like, sisters, daughters, you know, in some languages, I think, and maybe Bri can correct me, there's like different terms for your cousins, if it's like your mom's sister's daughter versus like your father's brother's son. So I'm imagining you could have these family units where you have siblings, but they're like, the different parents gave birth to each one. And that can possibly make a different relationship with one parent versus the other, or a family where three offspring were carried by one parent and three offspring were carried by another parent. Would that be totally equitable? Or would that create some sorts of differences in these family compositions? There'd be so much more variety.


Moiya 42:54

Oh, yeah. That's an interesting linguistic problem. [No] it's an interesting many things problem, but that's really cool. That's a good point, Jimmy.


Alison 43:03

It makes me think too, about parental rights because sometimes marriage and parental rights, [are] hand in hand, not always but oftentimes they do. And so how do you develop contracts for who is responsible for the kid [especially] if you did this all on your own right? Then I guess, [in many ways] you [are the] primary parent. [This] just makes me think of legally, how different everything would be as well.


Moiya 43:26

Yeah, imagine a common scenario here on Earth, like trying to figure out who the father of the baby is. Imagine adding in an extra wrench into that, where like, another possibility was that the person just self-fertilized. First you'd have to prove that self-fertilization didn't happen, and then you have to prove that you were the other person.


Jimmy 43:45

Yeah, it's like a big upset in the "Maury" episode, where they're like, "just kidding, none of that are the father".


Moiya 43:50

Yeah. Exactly.


Bri 43:52

There are so many rules around what is right and wrong in sex, right? That's a huge concern in the history of sexuality is like, "is this type of sex good"?, "Is anal sex okay?" "Is masturbation okay?" So there might be more or less of that, because maybe [there's] less of the stress of like the father... there can only be one, but there might be more rules about who you were able to fertilize with?


Moiya 44:16

Yeah, do we want to think about that? I like to imagine that all of the sexual hang ups that we have in our society would be gone in this world, but that doesn't mean that they don't have their own. So can you think of any hang ups, or any rules, any norms that this world might have that we don't have?


Jimmy 44:34

I like the idea that sex would probably be a lot more equitable. I think about this as a gay man. I feel like I'm able to understand what my partner is experiencing because I have experienced sex in that way. And I think that that's something I've always sort of been a little flabbergasted by straight couples because I feel like they don't have that same understanding of what is sex like for the opposite sex? So maybe in this world, I mean, they wouldn't have that question, right? Because I would imagine that, you know, each individual in every sexual encounter has the opportunity to experience sex in both ways.


Moiya 45:14

That's so interesting. That's such a good point, Jimmy.


Bri 45:17

Yeah, Cosmo just went out of business, because all sex is good sex now.


Moiya 45:25

I've run out of specific questions about this world. And I've gotten to the point in my notes, where I just have like, different words, written things that I think would be different on this world. So sports, I think, would probably be very different on this world, there's no need for men's and women's leagues, and instead can probably be based on, you know, brackets of skill and ability. Can you think of anything else that would be different on this world?


Jimmy 45:53

Well, I was wondering, [and] this might derail some of this, but I'm wondering if there's still variation in this world so that maybe you have some individuals that have more of the male reproductive system than female. If we're imagining there's individual variability between all individuals, [and] it's hard for me to use even the words because we're so engrained with this whole concept of masculine and feminine, but, there might be individual worms, or whatever these creatures are, that are, you know, not exactly like 50/50 both sexes, but are like 60/40, and have maybe more masculine traits, or male reproductive system or something than females. So you might still have some variation there. I was thinking about that, even when Alison was talking about like makeup, or how these individuals would present themselves -- they might even just choose to accentuate one element of their sexuality, even in a totally 50/50 split hermaphroditic world just out of, you know, personal preferenc. Maybe those individuals would be the sort of odd individuals that are aligning themselves with one gender more than the other, or something.


Moiya 47:12

Yeah, that makes me think that before we were talking about what would be kind of taboo, [and] what are the rules around sex on this world? I like the idea that everyone has preferences, but I'm imagining a worm person on this world who just like, refuses to engage sexually, in one way or another, like, they refuse to use their worm penis or their worm vagina, like either one. I feel like that would be a kind of taboo on this world -- the idea that you would disregard or neglect one of your parts.


Bri 47:49

Yeah, absolutely. And the teenage rebellion would be like, "Mom [and] dad, I'm an asexual". And so if you can reproduce everybody [then] there's a world of excess. But what is being held back? Is there that tension?


Moiya 48:03

There also can be asexual worms.


Alison 48:06

It also made me think that just because everybody can reproduce doesn't mean that we're all equally fertile. So maybe you're like top dog, if you can get so many people pregnant. Or [maybe] you're able to reproduce like 100 kids by yourself, but [maybe] just the ways that we give people value might look really different. Or maybe you're more valuable, if you are less likely to reproduce, right? Because then having sex with you is more safe? Then we would have to really think about who's fertile or not or what that means.


Moiya 48:38

Yeah.


Jimmy 48:38

Yeah, that's a great point, because I realized I already like projected this kind of more human sexual system where like, the reproducing individual was having only a single offspring. I mean, I think I was kind of thinking about human like life. So I was imagining it that way. But that's really the exception in the animal world. Even in the mammal world. You know, it's not like your dog has puppies and only has one puppy every time. Most of the time they're this fraternal twinning situation where the female releases multiple eggs. And in invertebrates that can be like crazy, that could be like thousands of eggs, or at least hundreds of eggs. I was sort of thinking more like human like reproduction with smaller numbers of offspring. But now that Alison brought that up, I'm like, "yeah, it could be that two individuals, maybe they both get pregnant one has one child and one has 10".


Moiya 49:27

And is that just based on genetics? Is that based on situational factors, like how hot it is, when you are mating or something?


Jimmy 49:36

Um, that's a good question. I think in the animal world, a lot of times it has to do with like, overall body condition and health and a lot of times also age so if you're an older individual, you've had more time to like acquire nutrients and build a bigger body and then you can afford to like release and nourish more eggs in a reproductive session. That's often the case in the animal kingdom; that the first time an individual reproduces, when they're young, they will have smaller clutch sizes, or like smaller number of eggs. And then later in life, that number can increase and increase. And that's true even for like vertebrates, like, it's definitely true for fish. Big, older fish can lay way more eggs than like a fish that's only a couple years old and just reached sexual maturity. So it could be an age thing, and also possibly a genetic thing. I know in humans, like how many eggs a woman releases can be, I think there's at least some genetic element to that. So these people that have six twins at a time -- very unusual, [but] some of that can have a genetic component, and I think runs in families.


Moiya 50:40

That's really cool. I also am remembering this rule of thumb that I once heard for mammals, you tend to have half as many offspring per pregnancy as the number of nipples you have. So like humans have on average, one child per pregnancy, we have two nipples. Some have more, some have less. And that is a trend that you can follow through most mammals. So I don't know if our worms have nipples. But if they did, they would have to have like, hundreds of nipples for all the babies they're having.


Jimmy 51:14

I guess, at the most basic level, when it comes back to is like how much parental care is needed to bring this offspring to adulthood, or at least to the point where they can sustain themselves. If a lot of parental care is needed, you know, say an individual, even in the best circumstance can only bring five offspring at a time to like adulthood, then there's no point after that to being able to release 10 or 100, or 1,000 eggs, if only five of them are able to be like cared for at a time. So there's that main constraint, I guess, like how many resources can a parent provide to their offspring?


Moiya 51:48

Yeah, we're also assuming that it takes a long time, [that] it takes a lot of effort to rear one of these worm children, like we are useless as humans when we're born, and so much effort and energy has to be put into bringing us to maturity. What if as soon as a worm is born, it's basically independent? That would really change the family unit on this world because there's no need for parents.


Jimmy 52:13

Yeah. So the best example of that would be like a lot of marine animals are what's called "broadcast spawners". They have zero parental care, they just shoot their eggs and sperm into the water. The water literally carries them around, and the eggs and sperm meet up with each other, and that produces embryos, and then the embryos go off and like drift in the plankton and eventually develop into something. I mean, they're even corals and lots of marine animals will just like shoot their sperm and eggs out into the water. Sometimes they time it. So they're like, "oh, full moon. Let's all do that, then so that our eggs and sperm find each other".


Moiya 52:50

Oh, I love this.


Jimmy 52:51

But that would be the case where there's no parental investment whatsoever. And these worms are crawling around and just like releasing their gametes, all of the time, and baby worms are forming. And you know, I don't know digging a hole in the ground and starting their life for themselves.


Moiya 53:09

I love that. I love that so much. We're nearing the end. So I want to ask briefly because we focused so much on reproduction. What do we think the the worms do for fun? Or how else do they spend their time when they're not not rearing children?


Jimmy 53:26

Well, I love the thing that you brought up earlier, Moiya about different types of love. That's something I kind of think about. And I've had trouble maybe articulating to some of my straight friends because as a gay man, I really appreciate that there's this fraternal-like, affection between other gay men that I'm close with, in a platonic way where like, I might invite them over to watch a movie and we'd like cuddle together on the couch. I think that that's something that like, my straight male friends don't experience very much, because there's not a lot of like, male to male affection, at least not in that way. And in my experience in American culture. So I'd like to think our worms are affectionate.


Moiya 54:12

Yes, please.


Alison 54:14

Yeah, that sounds so nice because I feel like it's true. I think it's only my gay male friends that I actually would like, hang out with that way apart from my partner, you know, or my mom, right? And so it's just like, the ways that we're allowed to be intimate with other folks could look really different [because] it's not tied to sex all the time, right? Like it can be tied to a lot of other things in a way that we're not allowed to do in our current world.


Moiya 54:37

Alison, maybe this is another too big psychology question, but what are the benefits of living in a society where you can feel free to be intimate and affectionate with pretty much everyone? I feel like that type of contact is so good for us and we don't always have access to it.


Alison 54:56

Yeah. I mean, whenever you look at like stress measures, one of the things that is supposed to be protective is having at least five people that you can rely on, that you can call when you get a flat tire or you can call like, if you just need something. And I think in this kind of a world, maybe our networks are even bigger than that. And I feel like for myself, like what I said earlier that, "I don't want to imagine myself as not gay". But part of that is because I think like, my community is everything. You know, it's like, they're my family. I'm very lucky that I am very close to the family that raised me, but I think that is huge. And I feel like it's something that I don't know that everybody else gets to have in the same way, you know, the way that you have to like struggle against society, or build relationships in this whole other way -- very intentional may not always be the case for everyone. But I think here, we could have that a whole different way, just the way that like we share intimacy. And I think that all of those things are super protective for our health.


Moiya 55:48

So more of that on this world, please. Bri, any thoughts on how they spend their time or intimacy and affection?


Bri 55:55

Yeah, I liked everything Alison said, and I think when everybody's able to reproduce with everybody, hypothetically, and everybody's more similar in that way, and they all understand that, then difference stands out even more and an asexual one [like] we've talked about a little bit would stand out a little bit more, or somebody who was deliberately choosing to not do that. So [then] would that be what an artist would look like? And there'd probably be more variation -- makeup, I think would be a really big thing for sure. And maybe not worm dancing, but there'd be a lot more individual representation?


Moiya 56:31

Oh, no, I would definitely want some worm dancing. I think that sounds great. Alright, so the next thing I want to talk about is bringing it back to our world a little bit. I don't really fancy the idea of turning all humans into worms. But there are lots of queer friendly organizations that are doing the good work of making our world just a little bit more like this one. And I want to know if you have any favorites. Jimmy, do you want to start?


Jimmy 56:56

Sure, yeah, well, a couple groups that I've engaged with a little bit recently are the "LGBTQ + Stem Cast", which is a podcast I found on Twitter that does like conversations with LGBTQ STEM people from a variety of different backgrounds and points in their career. And also, "We Rep STEM" is another one that people can find that's just about like highlighting diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math. And I think that those are kind of great groups for sort of breaking this mold of the like, "white older man wearing a lab coat being the only type of like scientist or professor or whatever". So I'' just give those to a little shout out.


Moiya 57:34

I love that. Thank you, Alison?


Alison 57:38

Oof, there's so many. There's a couple of organizations that I partner with, like I have a community advisory board for my research team. One of them, Latino Equality Alliance does some really wonderful work in southeast Los Angeles or Boyle Heights, creating access and a community for really young LGBT folks, who oftentimes are Spanish speaking or undocumented, but also like really trying to fight against misinformation around COVID and other stuff, too. So I feel like they're just doing really great work, going, like above and beyond. I would give them a shout out.


Moiya 58:10

That's great Bri, what about you?


Bri 58:13

For me, it's always about the cultural memory and heritage and history. So like, there's a long history of our queer archives and queer resistance to patriarchy, and Cis -heterosexism. There's also Project Stand, which is focusing much heavily on black archivist information professionals, because it is a incredibly white field. So it is good to see a lot of these other organizations like Project Stand, and the other one is, "Libraries we Hear" on Twitter.


Moiya 58:41

Oh. I love how each of you picked ones that are so like, tied to what you do. That's really great. And I'm gonna include links to these in the show notes so people can check out the work they do. I've been thinking a lot lately about "The Okra Project", which combines food, which is one of my favorite things, and helping trans community, I think in New York, and there's also the "SNaPCO" -- "snap4freedom.org" is the website. They focus on solutions, not punishment, is what "SNaP" stands for, and it's [an] organization that helps black queer trans folks to build safety within their communities. I hope that people check out those organizations and those podcasts, [the] links are in the show description. And now unfortunately, it's the end of the episode. So I will turn it back over to my guests to tell us where we can find out more about them and what they're doing. So Alison, if people want to you know stay up to date on your work, where can they find you? How can they follow what you're doing?


Alison 59:42

I think if you just Google my name. Honestly, I think my work website comes out pretty immediately. I'm on Twitter @acerezo. I'm trying to think.You can check out research gate... no, that's so nerdy.


Moiya 1:00:01

Trust me, the listeners of this show are very nerdy.


Alison 1:00:04

I do actually have a very small private practice. And so I have that website too. So "dralisoncerezo.com".


Moiya 1:00:11

Thank you. Bri. What about you?


Bri 1:00:14

Um, as far as me @brimwats. That's my website, my Twitter, my Facebook -- my everything. So I managed to get the good branding. And I didn't get the gmail account though -- very tragic. I know. And I am working on a collection of all the queer archives and collections and digital books in bibliographies on "Queer Sexuality" at HIST like in history and sex at histsex.com or.org. Either one works. Yeah, and you can find me there.


Moiya 1:00:43

Awesome. Jimmy, what about you?


Jimmy 1:00:45

Yeah, I'm on Twitter and Instagram @JimmyBernot, and my website is also "jimmybernot.com" and I think this weekend, it's been my goal for a while to try making a TiK ToK. I have @JimmyBernot on Tik Tok too, but I haven't posted anything yet. But, you know, maybe coming soon.


Moiya 1:01:02

Do you have any ideas for videos yet?


Jimmy 1:01:05

Well, I had the idea because I've tweeted recently about like, why I study parasites and why I think they're so interesting. Even though most people think they're gross or weird. And a few people messaged me and were like, this would probably work on Tik Tok, you should try going on there. So I've been thinking about doing that for a while. I was like, "do I have to set it to music and dance"? And they're like, "I think this could just work". So I was like, "okay, I'll try that". I wish I had like an opportunity to do like a little green screen type thing. Because I think if I could like show video and then talk over it, that might work well, too. But it's hard when there's like very limited visuals for a lot of these tiny things that I study. So yeah, I don't know. Maybe I'll play around with it. We'll see.


Moiya 1:01:43

I know your pain, except I have trouble finding visuals for the very large things that I study.


Jimmy 1:01:49

Right? Yeah, same idea. I mean, telescope, microscope, same principle.


Moiya 1:01:52

Yeah, pretty much. All right. Well, thank you all so much for joining me on this world and helping me imagine what a planet with hermaphroditic reproduction might be like, I know that this conversation is not over. And I hope that the listeners will engage with this episode. We have a Reddit -- a subreddit. Now. It's "reddit.com/r/exolorepod". I don't know how Reddit works. But I hope that you will go there and continue thinking about this world and build it out even more than we had time to in this hour long conversation. Thanks so much. That's a wrap. A huge thank you to Bri Watson, Jimmy Bernot, and Alison Cerezo, for helping me imagine this world full of hermaphroditic species, and horny worms, kind of. I know that we just barely scratched the surface of this world In this episode, as we do with every world we build, because we only have an hour. But I hope that that means you'll spend some time on your own really thinking about this world and building it out. Especially if you identify as queer this exercise might be cathartic for you imagining a world where you would be safe and you wouldn't be othered. I've often found this very same exercise to be incredibly cathartic for my various identities. If you want to start a fun, creative project, but need a little bit of help getting those juices flowing. Here's a prompt inspired by the conversation we just had. We talked in the episode about how the kind of stereotypical Disney "happily ever after" ending usually involves, you know, like a man and a woman falling in love and getting together and at the end of the movie, they kiss and then it fades to black. And that's just it. I don't think that that type of story would be as common on this world. So I invite you to think about what a "happily ever after" ending would look like on this world. What stories do little worm children grow up hearing that influence how they you know, interact with other people in their lives. If you write a story or a song or draw a picture or whatever, if you want to share that work. You can do that by sharing it on Twitter and Instagram and tagging @exolorepod, that's "e x o l o r e p o d". You can also send it to exolorepod@gmail.com or you can post about it on the new subreddit that the show has. Thank you Brianna for setting that up. So you can go to "reddit.com/r/exolorepod". The link is in the show notes. And you can talk about the episode, [and] you can share any artwork you make based on this prompt. I would absolutely love to see what you create.


Moiya 1:04:37

And I promised you the story of me coming out. So here that is. I was 10 years old. It was a summer after fourth grade and I was at Girl Scout camp -- of course. My mom was a counselor at Camp Red Wing in Pennsylvania. I eventually worked at that same girl scout camp when I was a senior in high school, but my mom and I did not overlap because I think that would have been pretty weird for both of us. So I was 10 years old, and I was walking across the big field in the middle of camp and I saw this one girl. Usually I would say, woman, but she was a girl. We were both young girls. And she was playing soccer. And I thought she was so cute. It was the first time that I had ever felt something for a girl that I had, like, recently been starting to feel for boys. And I was so confused. So I went to my mom, and I said, "hey, Mom, I think this girl's really cute". And she got really excited because she's secretly kind of always wanted me to be gay. But she sat me down, [and] she was like, "you don't have to put a label on it. It's totally okay. You should love who you love". She's a great mom. And the funny thing about this is that the girl, I had a crush on the first girl I had a crush on, she was a twin. She had a twin who was very girly. And the twin that I had a crush on was very sporty. And I remember not having a crush on the twin. And I was just like a very interesting experience. It was the first time I realized that my attraction to someone isn't based entirely on looks, [but that] personality also has something to do with it. But that's how I came out to my mom, that's when I first realized that I was bi or pan. But I didn't come out in school until eighth grade. And I was on the basketball bus, we were on our way back from a game and one of my teammates, for some reason was on the phone with her boyfriend counting all of the lesbians on the bus, which I know is very strange, and also kind of scary, but I went to school in a strange and kind of scary place. And so she was counting all the lesbians and she got to me and she was like, "no, Moiya doesn't count" or "Moiya doesn't like girls". And I raised my hand, [as in] actually raised my hand because I'm a nerd. And I said, "oh, actually, I like girls too". And the next day, because I went to a very small high school everyone knew. And that's how I came out at school. So that's my story. Yeah, I hope that you had similarly non-traumatizing coming out stories. But if you didn't, I hope that you can also take solace in the fact that worm people on this world that we've just built probably don't have to come out at all. And so I hope you spend some time living in this world that is safe for you.


Moiya 1:07:18

If you want to support my roadbuilding work, there are a few ways that you can do that. The first is to rate and review the show on Apple podcasts. It's free and it really does make a difference. You can also tell me in your review, if you don't want to hear personal stories, like how I came out, it's up to you. It's your review, you can write whatever you want. The second way you can support me is to support me on Patreon. Your monthly support would make it possible for me to continue working on this passion project of mine so if you're able head on over to "patreon.com/goAstroMo", patrons do get some fun perks you get early access to episodes access to my research notes, so I put my notes after every episode on Patreon and some fun other things. So patreon.com/goAstroMo." Editing on this episode was done by Mischa Stanton. The music is from "purple planet.com", and the cover art is by Steven Reisig. Exolore is a member of "Multitude Productions", which is a podcasting collective of cool, smart nerds. If you liked this episode, please share it with your friends or your family or your acquaintance you know the person that you wave to across the street every day since you can't really leave your house. Share it with them. And that way you can catch me next time on another world.



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