Over the past 6 months especially, but over the past 2 years, I’ve been doing my part to learn about gender, pronouns, and how the body and mind work together or against each other. I won’t claim to own any authority of topical knowledge here, so take this as meandry musings through “The Story.” When these two characters – John and Trishna – appeared in my head before I left high school, they were male and female… but why?
Spoilers?: Minor [exploring some pronouns]
It would seem like the male/female dynamic is the most common dynamic.
Since I don’t know where these characters originated from or why they’ve persisted throughout my adult life as characters in my imagination, I can’t change them too much outside of how they present themselves to me. Throughout the week, I’ve imagined how Trishna might be struck with pains and be stuck in bed throughout a day or week. If Trishna and John conveyed “conventional” “gender roles,” then Trishna would be in charge of the house duties while John would be in charge of the work duties, or something like that, but in bed, Trishna could not do much of anything besides trying to feel better.
What are gender roles, even, anyways?
Is Trishna a female because of Trishna’s inhabitation of a body with female parts or because of Trishna’s broad or specific personality traits? Is John a male because of John’s inhabitation of a body with male parts or because of John’s broad or specific personality traits? If there is one truth regarding the relationship between Trishna and John, it is that early into their friendship, they deeply explored each other’s psyches through long, deep conversations about topics that might last years. These sorts of conversations and thoughts aren’t unique within literature or even reality.
I have years-long jokes with many buddies, so why not conversations?
When John and, originally Trisha, presented themselves as characters to me, I knew nothing about them other than their names and that Trishna had reddish hair. John is not often the name used by someone using she/her pronouns, but I know a John that uses they/them pronouns. Trishna is a feminine name, so the name would imply she/her pronouns, but as well this could be up for debate, too. I think when people don’t ask themselves these sorts of questions, they are only limiting themselves and their thought processes.
Are you your gender or pronouns because of your body’s declaration or your history?
When I think of my own gender and pronouns, I’ve defaulted to he/him because I was born into a body with male parts, designated male by birth, and so I was given he/him pronouns by proxy. I honestly don’t care much about my own personal pronouns. I have experienced full-body paralysis for nearly a day, post-surgery, which is as close to being separated from my biological sex as I could be, and when I think about my pronouns or gender, they’re more tied to this body than my personality. When I go about my day without interacting with anyone, I have no gender and no pronouns.
I now often think of how writers of the past handled pronouns.
Most writers defaulted to he/him pronouns when referring to readers, but, what I mean is more of the fictional interactions between two characters. It’s easy for writers to use pronouns for two characters when one uses he/him pronouns and the other uses she/her pronouns, but, what happens when characters share the same pronouns? The writers will shed the pronoun usage entirely and go in the direction of describing characters using other traits. Maybe that’s what needs to happen with pronouns? Ditch them entirely and figure out other ways to give short nicknames to people?
Most people online call me Zombie or ZP.
ZP is easier to write than he/him, and despite my own clear indications of this everywhere, I find some people refer to me – and everyone – using the singular they/them pronoun. I think that’s a good compromise. They/Them is useful, even for those who don’t want to believe in any of the sort of politeness that comes from meeting someone new that wants to feel comfortable in a body that is inhabited against choice or will, because then you don’t have to guess the person’s gender. It’s just one: They/Them. Linguistically, they “singular they” pronoun has been used since 1350, so the idea that it is grammatically incorrect is more out of a perhaps concern over being wrong than anything else.
I understand this concern over feeling wrong with people that might seem “uptight.”
During the livestreaming of my long-term art project, I used the wrong pronoun for two of my friends, one …multiple times. I didn’t do it intentionally. For my friend I made the mistake once, I was looking at their drawing and my mind defaulted to masculine instead of singular-they, and for my other friend, I hadn’t asked them for their pronoun choice. These are easy mistakes to make, and both friends have forgiven me for my mistakes here, but only because I’ve done what I can to navigate through my thoughts on why I made these mistakes. It’s not hard to do if you’re willing to be wrong and be polite toward others. It is hard if you’d rather say “that’s something for the wokes to do, but not me.”
That sort of attitude prevents your own inner growth.
Who are you and why are you the way you are? As a final component, I’d given my little Zombiepaper character the he/him pronouns because the square with limbs is an extension of me, right? Well, how much is Zombiepaper like the me that’s sitting here writing this essay? How different is Zombiepaper, that character, versus Zombiepaper, the writer, versus the government name of the person that writes under the pseudonym Zombiepaper? They’re about 80% the same, but, the Zombiepaper character doesn’t inhabit a male body…
Does the Zombiepaper character truly have he/him pronouns, or is that just convenience?
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium.|
|Inspirations: The Zdiscord #gender channel is a great place to talk about perspectives, and it’s been where I’ve been challenging myself and my perspectives of my own gender.|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.”|
|Written On: 2021 May 27 [11pm to 11:32pm]|
|Last Edited: 2021 May 27 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|