1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Appropriate pronouns for genderqueer aliens

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Jabrosky, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    So I have designed this race of aliens whom I call the Soljuws. They're supposed to be these slothful and obese slug-like creatures whose excessively comfortable, futuristic standard of living depends fundamentally on the enslavement and exploitation of other races, most especially prehistoric humanity. Think of them as Hutts gone hi-tech and imperialist. Anyway, one of the Soljuws' unique characteristics is that they're "genderqueer", which in their case means that they really have only one reproductive sex. They even regard humans' two-sex reproductive system as disgusting and barbaric.

    The question I want to raise at the moment is what would be appropriate pronouns for a race of genderqueer aliens? I don't like "it" as that makes them seem like wild animals, but on the other hand neither "he" or "she" would fit them all that well. They speak with shrill voices which might sound feminine, but on the other hand they have copious hair on their necks which would give them a more mannish appearance. There is of course the option of inventing my own pronoun set (he-she? She-he?), but I think that could irritate readers.
     
  2. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    604
    252
    63
    He-she or She-he are offensive. Especially since they're used in an extremely derogatory way to refer to trans folk. It negates their gender identity to refer to them by the incorrect pronoun at worst and at best it says a person doesn't care to find out what their gender pronoun preference is.

    You have the option of using "them/they/their" which is what I personally would go with as it's a very common pronoun...but you also have the option of ze/sie which is a bit less common unless you're very familiar with the trans community and/or are trans yourself. You could go with "one"...which I do a lot, if I'm not sure about gender or if I'm sure that gender pronouns might be an issue but I don't know what the person prefers.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
    AWAbooks likes this.
  3. Smith

    Smith Minstrel

    66
    16
    8
    Have you looked at pre-existing gender neutral pronouns that have already been invented to fill this gap? A quick google search brought me here, which has a rundown of some of the pros and cons of some invented pronouns. You might find something there that feels right for your world.

    Having written a gender neutral species myself, I chose to make up my own, but I fear it falls into the trap of sounding too like 'his' and implying a certain gender, so you might want to go with something that's definitely not similar to him or her.
     
    AWAbooks likes this.
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,410
    2,412
    313
    I read a piece of text once where they used the Xe version. It was fairly short and it annoyed me no end. It may be that in a longer story I would have gotten used to it, but it would have given me a bad first impression of it.

    The main reason is that I'm unused to the word. Pronouns are used all over the place and having this weird new little word pop up all over the place got on my nerves.
     
  5. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    I've thought more about this and have decided that it would depend on whose perspective I'm writing from. The "them/they/their" system buyjupiter mentioned might work if I'm writing from the Soljuws' point of view, but I reckon their human subjects would prefer to think of them as "its" (the Soljuws are their oppressors after all).

    I must admit that I didn't make the Soljuws genderqueer out of a decision to explore gender politics in depth. They're meant to be a satire on modern civilization and certain trends within it, and I want to get back at all those social justice phonies that permeate certain corners of the Internet.
     
  6. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    604
    252
    63
    I'm trying to read this statement in a positive light, but I am really struggling to do so.

    There are people who identify as non-gender binary and have done since the beginning of time. It's why there are several societies with a gender neutral option in their language.

    I don't even know why you'd want to "get back" at anyone who is trying to advocate for a more diverse and beautiful world where people don't have to be afraid to be themselves.
     
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  7. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    I'm not poking fun at transgender or genderqueer people per se. I know a few transgender individuals whom I like as people, and by and large I don't see how genuine transgender people could harm me or society at large. Unfortunately I have this hunch that claiming to be transgender, genderqueer, "pansexual", or whatever has become trendy nowadays, especially among teenagers who are desperate to portray themselves as somehow special. It's these phonies I want to get back at (well, that and the whole obesity-positive movement).
     
  8. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    1,089
    246
    63
    Be careful you don't build them as a Strawman. Personally I would go with He. Yes, it's incorrect, but I think it would be the best choice. It tends to be the default pronoun for the English language, and.... would a human ever want to get close enough to be able to tell that they're wrong? o.0
     
  9. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    604
    252
    63
    Um...ok then.

    This is the same argument that I've seen folks make about how they're not racist, because they know black people and have a few as friends. Not buying it for that one, not buying it this time either.

    Your perception of someone's identity does not mean that their identity is false.

    I don't mean for this to get off track, but oy vey, if that's how you really feel about people who don't buy into the binary gender system, maybe you shouldn't write about it.
     
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    1,899
    1,053
    163
    I have to agree with Jupiter here. You're reasoning is on shaky ground. I'm really struggling with my reactions both to this discussion and to your extremely negative depiction of this species. I feel that, as a reader, I would be very offended and disturbed if I came across them in your writing and it would reflect negatively on you as a writer. If you had anything at all positive to say in this story, it would be lost, as would anything else you had to write. You would lose me entirely as a reader.
     
  11. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    579
    113
    Going along with the derail because it's a more interesting topic.

    I think the problem is that you're not connecting your villains enough to what you want to insult. If your goal is to mock people who claim a bunch of identities to make themselves feel more special, you probably should be focusing in on villains who claim a bunch of identities, rather than making your story about villains who're fat, greedy imperialists. It just comes off as weird.

    Given your background and interests, you might be able to pull off the same theme more effectively with a focus on culture rather than gender. You embrace African cultures, and you get angry when people ignore the contributions those cultures have made. Why not try out villains who pillage other cultures, taking their most valuable ideas for themselves, while at the same time denigrating those cultures and treating them as inferior? If you're positive towards the cultures being pillaged, this becomes a more nuanced message--not "people who claim certain identities are bad," but "people who steal other people's identities are bad." (You said that you know and like some queer people, so this can become a positive statement in their favor.)

    I should note that I've wrestled with something similar. I wanted to write a story condemning the concept of sin, particularly as presented in works like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I'm most familiar with the concept in terms of Christianity, so I was afraid the story would come off as anti-Christian. As such, I focused in entirely on sin and punishment--the villain is bad because she wants to punish people, not because of any more general aspect of her beliefs. I'm still not sure if I pulled it off, but I think the story was better for the effort.

    P.S. Strictly speaking, the aliens you're describing would be termed agender, not genderqueer.
     
    Ophiucha, A. E. Lowan and Jabrosky like this.
  12. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    Edit: please delete this post
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
  13. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    To be honest this actually sounds like a more interesting idea than what I described in my OP.

    I must confess that I probably suffer from latent transphobia. I wish I didn't, but somehow the mere thought of it makes me think of certain jerks with whom I used to get into fights.
     
  14. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

    149
    54
    28
    I was going to suggest "ze" too when I read the topic headline, but I agree with Jupiter and A.E. that there's an underlying more problematic issue than appropriate pronoun here. One of the things about gender identity that a lot of people misunderstand is that gender is more than sexual reproduction. Lots of standard forms that ask a person to check their gender instead of their sex reinforce the societal perception that there is no difference.

    "Male bodies produce more testosterone than female bodies" is mostly just about sex. "Women can't be good lawyers because they are too emotional" is a statement about gender. (I'm sure even this is an oversimplification that misses a lot of subtleties.)

    FWIW, my article on racial diversity is up on the Scribes home page today, and a lot of it probably applies to this topic. One of the links -- The Future Fire editors' blog: Guest post: Ways of Seeing -- is a great discussion about what "otherness" means when it's your identity.
     
  15. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,924
    163
    Regarding some of the opinions and related comments in this thread, please keep in mind that all members are required to discuss topics with respect. You don't have to understand, or condone, the choices or behaviors of another, but you must treat them with the dignity and respect deserved by another human being.

    When discussing opinions, try to understand how the expression of your viewpoint might be offensive to another member, especially a member who might be part of the group your unintentionally maligning. Even better, go into the discussion with an open mind...you might learn something.

    Your fellow scribes can be a treasure trove of information because of our differences. Please respect them as such.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
  16. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    I do apologize for any and all offense my posts may have caused in this thread. Jupiter is right that I am not ready to write about themes like those raised in my OP . I am sorry.
     
  17. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

    256
    74
    28
    Back to original question. For humans referring to the race we would default to He. For them the most popular pronouns would be I,Me, You, Us, and Them. When in need of a word similar to He,She or it I would imagine them just saying One.
     
    CupofJoe likes this.
  18. Greg Egan used ve/vis/ver, which I liked. "Ve went to the store to get ver favorite candy." "It's vis problem, not mine."

    Of course you could avoid the issue entirely by not using pronouns—maybe the Soljuws instead always use proper names, or use titles or styles or other forms of address. "Your eminence is correct," "The eminence wishes to see the eminence's clothes." If they're a sort of oligarchy slaveowning race, I can see this kind of excessive honorific working. Yeah, it takes longer to say, but the Soljuws demand it!
     
  19. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,410
    2,412
    313
    Personally, I find this annoying enough that I probably wouldn't even finish the book. In the end it's what the writer is comfortable with though. Some people won't have an issue with it and some people will.
    I mentioned in an earlier post that I might get use to it if I stuck with it - but I'm not sure I would.

    If it were me, I'd go with they/their - but that's me.
     
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,186
    3,505
    413
    It is from his book Diaspora​, which is quite worth the read if you want to try something different :)
     
    Benjamin Clayborne likes this.

Share This Page