GMH Social Impact
The pre-natal route involves the altering of an individual’s genetics and in-utero conditions before they are born in order to design the desired look or function. This can be as small as disease prevention or eye color, or it can be extremely radical body changes, limited only by humans rights laws requiring some features (like hands, legs, skull, brain, overall size, and sexual characteristics) remain within certain boundaries so that the resulting person can function in regular society. These laws and the morality of creating GMHs is hotly debated in universe.
Supporters view designer babies of this type to be morally allowable because no human consents to being born, being born with six legs isn’t an offense to a fertilized egg any more than being born with the regular amount is. Detractors cite the fact that changing a baby from the genetic default opens them up to possible discrimination and poor treatment wildtype babies do not face, and potentially increases the cost of their medical care both in giving them unique anatomy but because unforeseen medical issues later in a GMH’s life aren’t uncommon. There’s also concern from many activists about the interaction of GMHs and capitalism, where GMHs existing is seen largely as a result of late 21st century capitalism shifting the Overton window on human cloning for its own financial benefit at the expense of human welfare, and this kind of designer baby is only seen as acceptable in current societies because of the current existence of other humans who have already been altered in this way. Even GMHs themselves tend to have pretty varied views on the legality and morality of making more GMHs.
The whole issue is further confused by the fact some GMH groups are now established populations that can produce offspring the Regular Way with the same traits. Additionally some genetically altered traits, like non-standard hair, skin, and eye colors and patterns can be passed onto children with wildtype partners, and are now floating around in the ostensibly “wildtype“ human gene pool.
Do GMHs that don’t fit their “purpose” deal with discriminatory behavior (I.e. Gillie not being in entertainment or Shyam not working in space)?
Yeeeep, usually because getting a job in those areas is a free ride for them from birth, and the choice to not go down the incentivized career path can make outsiders suspicious of your motives or jealous in a weird “you could have had it so easy!” way. Going down the incentivized path just means weird jealousy behavior of the “you had it so easy!” flavor, and dealing with the fact that you were born to be a commodity for a company or government yet they still made you “choose” to work for them.
The situation with GMHs is, morally speaking, rather fucked.
GMHs are made for a lot of different reasons by people with lots of different goals and intentions. How they are treated varies wildly in RttS’s ‘present’ and in the past. Arguably, GMHs becoming more common has increased WT human prejudice, because they went from rare scientific/medical oddities to ubiquitous societal groups that have been around for centuries. Easier to form complex grudges and hateful ideas about them that way
GMHs are usually raised by volunteer parents, foster parents, or the family that commissioned them. Occasionally they are raised by a research group, but usually the people involved in their engineering are kept to the sidelines, as more of a doctor/medical assistant. There are some worse setups out there but they are usually pretty illegal
True for both fiction and real life, sapients looking to be assholes will pick targets who are more likely to be vulnerable. Someone who is visibly from a marginalized class, outside your social bubble, or culturally deemed “ugly” or “imperfect” is an easier target. People who are less openly rude but still bigoted will also treat you less favorably and won’t offer you the same opportunities they afford the people they prefer. By concealing the fact she is an “off-model” GMH outside of personal life, Gillie can dodge a lot of overt and covert aggression from these types.
Most of the bigots Gillie is avoiding are other humans. But, skimmer avians are more likely than any of the other aliens to harass GMHs, and not just “off-model” ones (as many cannot recognize the difference).
The reason is a little esoteric: There’s a cluster of old skimmer religions that states in doctrine that there was originally one avian species, and then after a fall from grace they were split into multiple imperfect species (the current lineup: skimmer, polar, pygmy, flightless, and diver). The story varies but usually the original avian was a skimmer or strongly resembled one, and the other avians are “pieces that came off of them.” This myth was used a lot on their planet to justify colonialism and treatment of the other members of their genus as lesser beings. Though avians in general have secularized during their space age, the story still has a lot of cultural power. For example, one of their biggest scientific controversies is whether or not skimmer avians “evolved first,” which on an ocean planet is very hard to find fossil evidence for one way or another.
WHAT does this have to do with GMHs? Well, in the eyes of a lot of avians, humans are falling from grace in real time– enacting the beginning of a mythic history that has created a lot of strife on their planet. Non-skimmers tend to be sympathetic to GMHs, some feeling as though they have a shared victimhood; and skimmers tend to see GMHs either as a Big Mistake that is going to result in major conflict (an opinion which they share with a fair amount of humans), and/or a place to project their racist anger at other avians that won’t get them in trouble (with other avians). It’s a mess!
Post-natal changes, or bio-modding, is a whole other kettle of moral fish. It’s almost always done at the request of consenting adults, and is close in spirit to modern extreme body modification. There are limits to what can be modded– most plastic surgeons are only willing to culture and swap out soft tissue, and gene therapy is usually required during the healing process for grafts to be accepted. Muscular additions are a bit of a crapshoot because there’s not telling how well the brain will adapt to and learn to control new muscle tissue. The feelings between bio-modders and designer GMHs are often slightly hostile… while a GMH doesn’t elect to look the way they do and can be at risk for prejudiced treatment, a bio-modder opts into almost the same situation for few reasons other than aesthetic preference.