Okay, I'm game, let's play with this idea a little
I read this article: https://ninelivesbook.com/genderless-main-character and it's been bugging me ever since.
I took screenshot of the article, you can read the original post by clicking on the pictures below:
So, what is Androgyne?
According to Wikipedia:
"Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Usually used to describe characters or persons which have no specific gender, gender ambiguity may also be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle.
In the case of gender identity, terms such as genderqueer, or gender neutral are more commonly used.
An androgyne is a person who does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. Androgynes may also use the term "ambigender" or "polygender" to describe themselves. Many androgynes identify as being mentally between woman and man. They may identify as "non-gender", "gender-neutral", "agender", "between genders", "genderqueer", "non-binary", "multigender", "intergendered", "pangender" or "gender fluid". A person who is androgynous may engage freely in what is seen as masculine or feminine behaviors as well as tasks. They have a balanced identity that includes the virtues of both men and women and may disassociate the task with what gender it may be socially or physically assigned to. People who are androgynous disregard what traits are culturally constructed specifically for males and females within a specific society, and rather focus on what behavior is most effective within the situational circumstance."
Okay, this is clear. But let me play with the idea of writing genderless characters in fantasy and children's books.
What if I would rewrite my fantasy story with genderless characters?
Altona, unaware of her fate, gave her horse a gentle squeeze with her knees, to run faster. Willow zigzagged between the jurtas that were lined up in a semicircle, leaving a broad plaza in the middle. Altona glanced up at the tall wooden pole that stood in the center of the square. It had intricate designs carved into it and was painted with brilliant colors. On top of it was a giant carved falcon, standing with wings open wide, as if it was getting ready to take flight.
Oh, I’m so late; my mother is going to kill me, she thought, and prompted her horse to run faster. An old woman who was carrying firewood stopped and shook her head in disapproval. “These youngsters are riding like demons,” she mumbled, looking after Altona.
Altona reached her home. She slid off the mare’s back in a hurry and fastened the horse’s rein to a wooden pole. Her breaths came in short puffs, and her rosy cheeks glistened with perspiration. She patted the horse’s neck, gave her an armful of hay, and poured fresh water from a leather bag that hung on the pole into a clay bowl. She whispered, “I have to hurry, but I’ll be back soon, Willow, promise.”
She hurried up to the entrance of the tent-like building, called Jurta, with a few long strides. She parted her kaftan-like dark blue overcoat, pulled up her baggy trousers, and smoothed over it her white tunic that her mother had adorned with delicate flower designs. Altona pulled the leather entrance cover aside with a heavy sigh, and she braced herself mentally for the long lecture that she knew she must endure.
As usual, she was late for her herbal lessons with her mother, a beautiful, statuesque, dark-haired woman who slowly rose from a curved sofa-like piece of furniture. Soft light coming from the opening at the ceiling shone on her green, delicately-decorated calf-length tunic that she wore with loose black trousers. Her hair was braided with thin leather thongs and hugged her shoulders.
Altona took off her boots and placed them by the entrance. She winced when Mara’s high-pitched, angry voice hit her like a whip. “You are late, again, young lady! Didn’t I tell you to be home by the time the sun reaches the head of the Falcon? Look!” she pointed at the pole through the door.
Altona quickly let the leather curtain slide back to cover the door, dutifully bowed, and whispered, “Yes, Mother. Sorry Mother.”
She always wanted to please her mother, she really did, but she could rarely live up to her expectations. Luckily, Mara’s anger and lectures were as brief as summer storms, so Altona obediently stood by the entrance and lowered her eyelids to hide the playful twinkle in her eyes. Her long, black hair, which was braided in two rows, slid off her shoulders as she bowed her head, and she adjusted her delicately-woven horsetail headband that kept the stray hairs out of her face. Altona took a hesitant step forward on the thick, wool carpet that covered the dirt floor of the Jurta.
“Where were you?”
“We were… I was… I got some herbs, too. Look!” Altona hoped that she could divert her mother’s attention, so she quickly opened the leather pouch that contained some flowers that she had collected. Lying wasn’t in her nature, but concealing the truth a little by trailing the conversation away from the sensitive subject was widely used in her tribe, especially by teenagers.
Nah, I wouldn't even attempt to rewrite this excerpt and replace she, her, woman, mother with genderless characters and words. It would sound totally absurd.
Alright, let's try it with a story written for teenagers
Queen Evila, dressed in a long crimson gown, watched with a menacing glare of her dark eyes, which matched her raven-black hair, as the snake slithered across the stone floor, crawling toward her. Guarding their white-skinned Queen stood the monstrous Mutanto and his werewolf henchman, Howler. Behind them cowered the three dull-witted Wolfmen: Boo, Goo, and Poo. They watched as the snake reached Evila’s red shoes, stopped, and coiled its body before her.
“Cute snake,” Boo snickered.
“Cute? How can it be cute? It’s a slithering, ugly rope,” growled Goo.
“Watch out you guys! It might be poisonous,” Poo warned the others as he took a step back.
Evila glared at Mutanto, her red lips forming a thin line. “Must those three cowardly idiots stand here in my royal presence?” she demanded.
“They’ll not befoul your chambers again, Your Majesty,” said Mutanto and then jutted his chin at Howler. Howler got the silent message and growled at the three Wolfmen. “Get back to the basement where you belong and wait for further orders, you knuckleheads!” He held his breath in disgust as the stench of the trio hit his nose. “And take a bath, Poo. You stink like roadkill!” he instructed.
“But I took a bath in March—and it’s only October!” Poo protested weekly.
“Get out of my sight,” Howler growled, feeling frustrated.
The trio of werewolves hurried toward the door, trampling each other.
“She scares me,” Poo whispered.
“Me, too,” Goo replied, pushing Boo aside.
“Don’t push me!” Boo hissed, conking Goo on the head.
Goo growled, ready for a fight, but when they heard Howler’s booming voice, “Out!” they scurried out the door.
Evila rolled her eyes and asked Howler, “Can’t you find better help than those idiots?”
“They’re loyal and follow my orders blindly, Your Majesty,” Howler told her.
“Well, it’s your choice,” Evila said. She reached down and picked up the snake that was coiled up by her feet and held it at eye level. “So, my lovely little Slither has returned,” she said, kissing the serpent’s head. “And what have you found out? What news have you brought me? Is everything I’ve heard true?”
The serpent hissed, “Put me down, Your Majesty, and I will tell you.”
With an impatient sigh, Evila bent down and set Slither on the floor. She watched as the snake began to change its shape, transforming itself into a tall, scraggly man.
“Your Majesty,” he said, bowing to his queen.
“Well, Slither—or shall I call you what everyone else calls you?” she asked.
“You may call me whatever you wish, my Queen,” said the dirty, disheveled-looking man.
“What have you learned, Tattler?” she asked.
Only Queen Evila and her most faithful servants knew that the gossip of Springdale, Tattler, was a shapeshifter. Turning himself into a serpent was his only power, his only magical talent. But unlike the Wolfmen, who were also shapeshifters and chose to stay in wolf form, Tattler had no desire to remain a serpent permanently. He had bigger dreams than that.
“What you have heard is true, Your Majesty,” Tattler said. “The baby possesses magic that has not been seen in Creepy Hollow for more than a hundred years. She is strong and powerful, and she could be very useful to you.”
“Excellent!” said Evila. “How shall it be done? What do you suggest?”
“Bats are not affected by her, my Queen. So, here is what I think should be done…,” said Tattler, and then he told her his plan.
When he had finished speaking, Evila rubbed her hands together. Feeling excited, she turned to Mutanto and Howler. “See to our prisoners. Tell them they will soon have company. Then prepare for the arrival of our new guest.”
“As you command, my Queen,” said Mutanto.
Howler bowed and smiled with glee. “As you wish, Your Majesty.”
Erika M Szabo
Author of urban fantasy, magical realism novels and children's books,
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