1. Anaïs Rose
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    Anaïs Rose Member

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    Pronouns & Gender Neutrality; help!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Anaïs Rose, Jan 1, 2016.

    Hey guys; there are separate threads for the topic of gender neutral and nonbinary pronouns, but I felt that I'd rather get some personalized advice. I'm writing a story right now with a cast of aliens, who naturally may not subscribe to the human notion of genders. To give some context, these aliens adapt and "reprogram" neural waves to make others with more malleable brains see them as whatever they need to be seen as, and most often adopt a consistent human form. My little crew were captured when they were young, so they can't remember their true form and stick with human bodies, blah blah blah. One of them, Aten, messes with their form so often that I can't bring myself to pin them down with a he or she. The other, Farkus, has been traumatized by a life of military upbringing and bring hirself to take any part of the human race; I've given Farkus ze/hir/hirself pronouns in order to help hir cope. I feel like both of their pronouns though are too awkward and bulky, and I feel like I'm somehow trying to force "diversity" or something into what's really just a little novel about aliens. Like I'm trying to appeal to the "Tumblr-crowd" or cramming nontraditional values into an area where they're really just unnecessary. Should I just give up with the whole thing? Or just leave it alone? Or try a different route?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to the Washington Post, "they" is now an acceptable single person pronoun. Again.

    It still feels wrong to me, but it certainly has some practical advantages. And let's face it - the ze/hir stuff really never caught on.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed on both counts. They for the singular has never made me twitch though, but I think I can chalk that one up to the fact that the most common impersonal construction in Spanish that serves as a kind of semi-passive voice makes use of 3rd person plural (they) conjugations. Me lo dieron would be the most common way to hear someone in Spanish say It was given to me, though it more exactly translates to [They] gave it to me. It doesn't indicate an actual plural, but instead the impersonal construction.

    ETA: Add that to the fact that polite or formal modes of address in Spanish put everything in the 3rd person singular when referring to a 2nd person participant in a conversation and you get a pretty forgiving take on the idea of what pronouns refer to whom. :)
     
  4. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    Wouldn't their pronouns just be for whatever they appear as at the moment? When undisguised, they can just use the "it" pronouns.
     
  5. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I'd call them it, if they're unbound by gender. In English language, gender only applies to humans IIRC.

    English is pretty much a genderless language, and the gender of things in other languages is as arbitrary as it goes. In my native language for example, kangaroo is an exclusively masculine noun while snake is exclusively feminine, but there's no reason for that.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, we use gender for animals, too, if we know the gender. A single dog, if female, would be "she", or "he" if male. If unknown, we might use "it".

    But I'd be wary about using "it" for any creature we wanted to - well, to humanize. Or to show respect for, maybe? The neutral pronoun has been used as an insult too many times for humans with nonbinary genders, so I'd read it as an insult if I read it referring to nonbinary nonhumans, too. Or, maybe not quite an insult, but not respectful at least.

    It's a connotation rather than denotation issue, for sure, but I don't think it's one that should be ignored.
     
  7. Silvertide
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    Silvertide New Member

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    I had a character that constantly switched between male and female and I didn't reveal to anyone what their true gender was. When referring to them out of context, I'd say "they" but in the story, just to make it easier to write I would call them he or she based on how they were dressed.

    As for Farkus, I don't think you should mess around with the pronouns. Specifying gender doesn't just happen with humans, the majority of species on earth are either male or female. If for some reason it really pains Farkus to be specified by either, use they.
     
  8. Anaïs Rose
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    Anaïs Rose Member

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    This seems like the obvious escape route but in the context of the story, "it" is a terrible idea. Basically, these aliens are looked on as something lower than illegal immigrants; they have no basic human rights, and have basically taken the place of drafted soldiers, animal test subjects, etc. There are several points in the story where the main character (Amalie Fisher) reflects on how dehumanizing it is, how they treat them like animals, and for lack of a better reference, think Mad Max: Fury Road; "We are not things."
     
  9. Anaïs Rose
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    Anaïs Rose Member

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    exactly the central theme of the story; they're trying to find what makes them unique. Farkus has been referred to as a mad dog, kamikaze geek, and goxxer (derogatory word for the alien species) throughout hir entire life, and referring to hir as an "it" seems degrading. Not what I want to go for.
     
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  10. Anaïs Rose
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    Anaïs Rose Member

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    All this has given me an idea. The book I'm writing is first in what might be a series. The goal of all four of the main characters is to find themselves. They all want something, and as this wasn't the main goal when i started writing, none of them have reached that goal, and I'm pages away from the end. Maybe Farkus shouldn't get the pronouns ze deserves. Leave that for the next book. This book they are focused on helping their fellow outcasts find a home. Next book it can be their own goals. THOUGHTS???
     
  11. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Hmmm... It would be really troublesome. I honestly don't know how to get around this without "appealing to the Tumblr crowd", haha. :D

    So, Amalie is the "real identity" of the alien, right? You could go out of your way to reference the aliens by name instead of pronouns and make them prefer this way. After all, what really identifies us, at least to close people, is our name, not the pronouns used to refer to us. My language is actually advantageous here because our reflexive pronouns aren't gendered like in English.
     
  12. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    It all comes down to what pronouns the characters want to use, at least for dialogue. The characters themselves could have conversations about this. :p I'd recommend using it, or no pronoun at all outside dialogue though. The gender neutral pronouns such as ze are confusing or unfamiliar to a lot of people, and "they" can be deceiving. For example:

    I'd be more inclined to think that an alien using the "they" pronoun is some kind of fusion of multiple creatures, rather than one being that doesn't really have a gender.
     

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