Sexual orientation in Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Telling is a very divided subject between new and old. Overall, Le Guin seems to have a positive position in regard to homosexuality as the main character was involved in a lesbian relationship. She focuses not so much on the subject of sexual orientation, but on monogamy. The novel is split between those who are down to earth (the Akan) and those who are by the books (the government a.k.a. the Corporation). The Akan do not have any strict beliefs on whether or not people should be heterosexual or not, whereas the Corporation has strict views that are completely against homosexuality. Despite these opposing views, none of the actual characters in the novel appear to have the same strong views as the Corporation against homosexuality.
The opinion that everyone should be involved in heterosexual relationships is only carried by the Corporation itself for the reason that no children can be born. When Sutty is talking to the Yara, a Monitor of the Corporation, she says, “I know you think that’s wrong.” After a hesitation, he said, “Because no children can be born of such union, the Committee on Moral Hygiene declared–” (p. 237). This reasoning, which is also held by the Unists Fathers on Sutty’s homeland of Earth. Although the groups in power believe there should not be homosexuality, none of the actual characters in the book express this opinion. Even the Monitor, who is the most prominent face of the Corporation that the reader sees, does not challenge Sutty’s personal preference.
Sutty’s story of her relationship with Pao is the most intimate story told in The Telling. I think this story further puts the focus on genuine monogamous relationships over strictly heterosexual relationships. Le Guin is using Sutty’s story along with the acceptance of her preferences by the Monitor as a social criticism that monogamy and true love trumps strict sexual orientation.