Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Questions on Fictional Genderqueer Character

In the book I just finished drafting, The Moon Etherium, shapeshifting is trivial, and many people in the setting change their appearance casually, including changing their gender. Gender is mostly about aesthetics, but gender differences are considered a fun thing to play with.

One of the major characters, Jino, likes to present variously as either male or female. Jino has a mild preference for male forms; let's say Jino has historically chosen to present as male about 75% of the time.
When Jino is present in a scene, the narrator and characters interacting with Jino use the pronouns appropriate to Jino's current gender presentation. When Jino presents as a woman, everyone uses "she", and when Jino presents as a man, everyone uses "he". I'm reasonably happy with the way this part works.

Jino is the parent to one of my main characters, and that character variously calls Jino either "Dad" or "Mom", as appropriate.  I'm a little squidgier on this one; I am concerned that it will confuse the reader, especially since the character's other parent, Ele, is also a significant character and consistently presents as female. (Ele is never called "Mom"; she's referred to as "mother" or by title).

There are a number of conversations that take place where other characters are talking about Jino while Jino's not present, and the characters have not particularly consistent in what pronouns they use for Jino.  I haven't come up with a good solution for this issue.  Is the character who only met Jino once while Jino was presenting as female going to consistently use 'she'? Or 'he' because the son usually calls Jino "Dad"? I don't really want to use "they"; I've been using "they" for characters using nonbinary gender presentations, and Jino presents unambiguously as either male or female. Moreover, it wouldn't get me out of "should the son call Jino "Dad" when Jino isn't around, even if Jino was female the last time the son saw Jino?" issue.  I don't think there's a good gender-neutral parental nickname? If someone knows of one, please let me know!

Anyway, looking for thoughts on the topic, particularly from folks who identify as genderqueer themselves. Thanks!

Edit: Members of this society learned relatively recently how to shapeshift. Their language still has words for gender and still has pronouns for gender, and people still use these. Because seriously, reinventing a language that has gender-based pronouns to not use them is painful. You think getting English speakers to accept a non-gendered third person pronoun is bad? Try getting them to ditch "she" and "he" entirely. Distinguishing pronoun antecedents becomes twice as hard. Yes, it's a stupid arbitrary way to categorize people, but from a language standpoint, arbitrary categories are better than no categories.

Also, my book is written in English, so I am going to use English pronouns, regardless of what the characters in the story are used to.
Tags: the moon etherium, writing about writing
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