This story is not-so-subtly about the treatment and value of autistic people and the importance of autistic community. The protagonist, Owain is from a race of aliens that implant their offspring into other species to learn more about them called the zibizheng.
The zibizheng (autism in Mandarin Chinese) lack gender unlike humans and use ta/tade pronouns when referring to each other. Through Owain’s childhood, we see that his distinctly “zibizheng” traits (including tade gender identity) are erased through behavioural modification and surgery because of the expertise of certain doctors who’ve had contact with the zibizheng. When Owain finally discovers other zibizheng as an adult, ta discovers zibizheng community and a desire for better treatment. Ta and other zibizheng find that when they’re fighting for their rights, humans are reluctant to give them space. They are harassed, denied academic publication or voice. And that’s where the story ends because that’s where we are right now in the fight for autistic acceptance. At present, the majority of leaders in autism are not autistic people. They are psychiatrists, psychologists, and parents who are invested in trying to cure autism and impose their gender and behavioural norms on autistic people. Autistic youth and adults are trying to organize and gain recognition over their own bodies and experiences yet it’s an uphill battle. This is a call to bring attention to this and to educate others on how what autistic experience looks/feels like.