kais

Let's talk about pronouns!

14 posts in this topic

Hey Silk (unsure how to tag), could we maybe get this pinned for a bit? I think it's a discussion that needs to happen.

 

So heeeeeey everyone. Here is your place to discuss all things pronoun related, gender related, maybe a dash of #ownvoices or QUILTBAG dynamics in writing.

This is a safe place for questions, but expect honest answers. Debate is encouraged, but be respectful of those within marginalized communities. 

So, if the use of 'they' or 'it' bugs you, post about why. If you are having problems understanding why non-gendered or non-binary characters would be written, ask it here. If you write these characters and need guidance, post away! If you want to share stories, or offer your own expertise, please do so!

I'll start this off. I write both agender characters and non-binary characters with some frequency. I struggled for a long time with pronouns, but found this very helpful: http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Pronouns#Id , especially as I am non-binary but do use a female pronoun (cause gender is complicated, yo). 

There's been a strong movement recently in the non binary community to move to 'they', which, as a collector of languages, I'm not a fan of, but I can see where it would be an easier transition than introducing a new word entirely. 

What does irritate me is the knee-jerk reaction to dismiss new pronouns because they are 'hard to read'. If we dismiss everything that we find uncomfortable, we never broaden our worldview, and, whether intentionally or not, discriminate against underrepresented voices.

Edited by FeatherWriter
Please do not double post. Use the edit button if you want to add more to a post, please.
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I've got a strong personal preference for they in fiction, myself, (and I think we are in a similar boat genderwise (though I usually just plop into the 'female' box on account of it not being inaccurate, and not wanting to lay claims to a whole social knot that hasn't really been part of my experience)).

I have a few different reasons for it; among other things usage of the singular they is far, far more entrenched in the English language than modern hypercorrection on the subject suggests-- and while I don't believe in calcifying the language, I think it's foolish to dismiss that option as existing at all. The 'they is plural only' crowd is demonstrably grammatically wrong, and has been since they started doing that.

Singular 'you' used to be railed against, too, so whatever. I feel like standardization is important for grammatical forms-- I don't really care how that standardization shakes out, but grammar quite literally is a set of rules so some generally agreed-upon form is important, I think.

But honestly, my preference for it in fiction comes from my general feeling that grammatical constructs generally ought to be more or less invisible, and my general problem with neopronouns in fiction is that there are so many different ones (and the specific set chosen is often fairly arbitrary) that this is basically impossible. For me it is less about familiarity so much as that sheer variety makes them inherently stick out. (well, maybe the variety prevents people from growing familiar with any individual pronoun set, thus they stick out, but I'm not sure about that-- I feel like spivak is basically invisible, and if I was gonna use a neopronoun set that's where I'd go)

Of course, this visibility too is sometimes desirable, both IRL and in fiction. 

So yeah, 'they' is what I go for when left to my own devices; you can see it with Savae in mine, who is ungendered, which I am mostly specifically distinguishing from agender in that it is an n/a response to the question of gender, rather than 'none', though it's a fine enough distinction that I wouldn't object to the agender appelation by someone else. (and this too is why grammatical invisibility is what I'm seeking here; the question of gender is one they are not interested in answering). (The society I am writing too has somewhat of an odd relationship to the nonbinary too-- they have and use a full ungendered pronoun set, which is mostly apparent in the text in the form of ungendered honorifics, and people do not generally bat an eyelash at people who are nonbinary, but in the time between when the society started tightening up on women and the present, it has become somewhat awkward... they almost entirely treat gender as a set of social roles, and since they've solidified the binary, where the nonbinary 'fits' in society is a lot harder to find. And it is a society that is very big on conformity, so, yeah, it can be somewhat awkward in practice. But a lot of things are changing. And I could go on a lot more about its gender relations as a whole, but i kind of am already, heh)

But yeah, the conversation becomes a lot more interesting and a lot more helpful when it is about 'why this particular choice' and not 'why do this at all'.

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Lovely to see a nonbinary topic! For my writing, I intend to mix they/them with neopronouns, depending on the individual characters and cultures they interact with. I tend to lean more toward they/them, as those are my pronouns, but I think it's important to also be able to expand the language to include new pronouns.

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In history writing and other forms of academic papers, it has long been the tradition to refer to your reader(s) as 'they', or to call a hypothetical person 'they'. While some people use a binary-gendered pronoun, it's not actually proper English in academia (so, if you're doing it for readers or a hypothetical person, don't do so) because you don't know who will be reading your book/article/paper and 'they' has been the 'go-to' since at least the time I was in middle school in the early 2000s.

For characters, though, I think in the end it should depend on that specific character. If it's in character for them to use 'they' as their pronoun, then they ought to do so, if it's in character for them to use 'xe/xer/xem/etc' or some other pronoun of their choosing, then they ought to do so. Use the pronouns that the character would use, know your characters well enough that you know their pronouns.

Leinton, you're not supposed to kill my thunder. xD

Edited by Kandra-in-disguise
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But Mare... how do you expect me to kill your thunder... WHEN I'M ALREADY HERE?!

Edited by leinton
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I recently finished Alastair Reynold's On The Steel Breeze, and I liked his use of the non-binary pronoun. There is one character, Travertine, who is never described but refereed to using the Keri Hulme  pronouns ve, ver, vis. I'm going to run into this same quandary in my novel or novel series at some point - in my future history, the more technologically advanced worlds have gotten to the point that changing to another fully-functioning sex is an outpatient procedure taking a few weeks of time. I may need something either totally neutral or have ones for each of n number of genders. The Hulme construct might be more to my taste than Singular They, but I'm unsure.

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1 hour ago, Wayne Ligon said:

 I may need something either totally neutral or have ones for each of n number of genders. The Hulme construct might be more to my taste than Singular They, but I'm unsure.

I've run into this, too. When you start working with more than one non-binary group, the need for pronouns outside 'they' increases exponentially. 

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I'll pin for now, as requested, probably only temporarily--only because I don't want to crazy with pinning things (or else there's no point). I'll make sure this thread is in there when I update the list of resources etc. we have going on in the "Welcome to Reading Excuses" thread though, so it will always be easily accessible. (Probably best to just send me a PM to make sure I see stuff like this, btw.)

Glad this discussion is happening though. Thanks for kicking it off!

Edited by Silk
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On 6/30/2016 at 3:27 PM, kaisa said:

I've run into this, too. When you start working with more than one non-binary group, the need for pronouns outside 'they' increases exponentially. 

And too, as I saw someone point point out on Twitter the other day (I forget who exactly), it's not like real world nb people all use the same thing, so there's no reason fictional ones have to use the same thing. At least in that sense; I think if you did a lot in proximity the text might get bogged down, but then so does a page full of he/she so it's liable more to be about how well it's written than a pronoun derived problem. 

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20 hours ago, Silk said:

I'll pin for now, as requested, probably only temporarily--only because I don't want to crazy with pinning things (or else there's no point). I'll make sure this thread is in there when I update the list of resources etc. we have going on in the "Welcome to Reading Excuses" thread though, so it will always be easily accessible. (Probably best to just send me a PM to make sure I see stuff like this, btw.)

Glad this discussion is happening though. Thanks for kicking it off!

Thanks, Silk!

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Can we play a 'list your favorite neopronouns' game? I'm trying to get a feel for which are preferred, or at least used most often, both in the nonbinary community and beyond. 

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It's pinned, so it's not thread necromancy, right? Have you been following the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary twitter? You should be. I'm posting this here to point out that "neopronouns" are not new. Thon is a neopronoun old enough to be most people's grandparent. :) (it's also really fun like "moose" in that it has only one form)

 

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This is a great article on how to be compassionate *and* a grammar stickler while navigating the sometimes confusing and quickly evolving world of neopronouns and the people who use them: 

Radical Copyeditor: Style Guide for Writing about Transgender People .

 

And while I'm adding links to this sticky post, here's Teen Vogue with an awesome FAQ on using the gender neutral pronoun they/them:

All Your Questions About Gender-Neutral Pronouns Answered .

Edited by industrialistDragon
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Thanks for the additional resources!

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