May242019

Researching Gender Fluidity & Representing it in Fiction – The 5th Gender by Gail Carriger (Custard Protocol, San Andreas Shifters & Tinkered Stars Behind the Magic)

Note: This resource is on going and updated, if a link doesn’t work or if you have other resources to offer (remember this is for fiction writers) please leave a comment. 

I’ll be honest, Gentle Reader, I wrote The 5th Gender, basically, in the space of one week without internet. So while I was writing it. I just let it come…

So to speak.

In it, I’m dealing heavily with a completely alien culture.

I wanted to represent Tris and his people as very different from humans in every way. That includes modern approaches to gender identity, but isn’t limited to them. I should add it’s not a utopia either. Like any culture the galoi have some positives and some negatives about their society.

Part of my reasons for doing this is the profound neglect early science fiction writers (particularly those of my youth) had for social structure.

SF is eager to embrace a future with advanced technology but frankly poor at conceiving how culture might change. When, in fact, social structure, languages, identities, syntax, and definitions shift almost as quickly (if not more so) than technology.

Before you jump down my throat:

Yes there are good examples of this kind of sci-fi, but statistically they’re the outliers not the norm.

You’ll have to read The 5th Gender to find out the complexities in biology, identity, personality, socialization, and restrictions that surround Tris and his people, the galoi. It’s part of the story. Tristol’s human lover, Drey, has a journey of discovery throughout the book that ties the murder mystery to the galoi social structure.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m not going into detail as to how I am playing with these concepts in the context of an alien culture.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t do research into modern human society in order to be aware of the now when dabbling in the future.

I’ve dated, loved, and grown up with gender fluid lovelies. But I don’t identify as gender fluid myself, and I’m an academic so… research!

Gender Fluidity Research

Here is a sample (updated and ongoing)…

Lists & Books

Historical & Anthropological

A quick word on gender and sexual fluidity in the historical record:

Without question historically verified presence of homosexual and gender fluid individuals exists in the past (and this archaeologists will FIGHT YOU WITH SCIENCE on this matter), but pan, bi, ace, grey, and queer+ are really hard to trace in the distant past and archaeology-only record. No doubt they were there, but it’s difficult to see given the imposition of researcher bias, physical preservation, nationalist agendas, and so forth. (I’m looking at you, Egypt. “Tomb of Two Brothers” my arse.)

Modern Reports

Podcasts

Further Fiction Reading: Gender Fluidity & Varied Sexual Identities (The 5th Gender – Special Extras)

Follow these wonderful humans!

Fantastic own voices and fashion bloggers:

Timeless and a 1930s Egyptian Revival teacup from my collection.

In the Parasolverse

MADAME LEFOUX/GENEVIEVE/VIEVE

I’ve blogged about Madame Lefoux extensively elsewhere, which is why I’m not addressing her in depth here. If you want a modern definition for her, I would call her a gender fluid butch lesbian. Her preference is for women, and she identifies as a woman, with a performative aspect to her masculine attire, so perhaps she might also identify with drag king on occasion?

Genevieve & Imogene by Ace Artemis Fanartist

Here be spoilers for Custard Protocol, skip to next section if you aren’t caught up on Competence.

ANITRA

Anitra is first introduced as a child in Timeless.

  • Anitra’s drifter parents refer to her as female. She’s gender identified as female by Alexia, but remember that Victorian children during this time period are already dressed and thought of with a kind-of gender amorphia.
  • Later Anitra is identified by Rodrigo as aravani. This is a word he picked up on his travels, probably on a mission to kill someone, it sort-of correlates to third gender.
  • However, Anitra identifies herself as a woman. She was raised within Drifter culture – that culture is essentially binary but in an opt-in way. (Remember Ay from Imprudence who tried to marry Primrose had a male identity. And yes, Ay’s brief appearance was absolutely a foreshadow for Anitra’s reveal in Competence.)
  • Anitra eventually ends up marrying (and reforming) Rodrigo Tarabotti. As is often the case, questions pour in about Rodrigo and his sexual identity as a result.
  • Under modern terminology: Rodrigo would likely identify as pan.

PRETERNATURALS

A brief segue into sexual fluidity (I KNOW it’s not the same thing as gender fluidity, but I’m forestalling questions). It is cannon in the Parasolverse that preternaturals are all pan, or at least bisexual. Alexia, Alessandro, Rodrigo, and… others. Why? Because it’s my universe and I WANNA. So there.

Seriously though? It ties into my thoughts on the fluidity and adaptive state of being soulless. Preternaturals are simultaneously very stiff and ridged in their emotions – practical and pragmatic, but also fluid in their morality and ability to adapt and change, not just in what they think is wrong or right, but what they think is hot. They are… flexible. It is the nature of their bond with the universe. They’re born this way.

(And for those of you who are wondering, at this juncture, if my use of the term progressive to define the political parties who accept the supernatural element in British society as a reference to the acceptance of queers… OF COURSE that’s what I’m doing. Sheesh.)

In the San Andreas Shifter books

MANA

Mana, of course, required a bit of both the present and the past. (Mana = Manifest Destiny is a long lived kitsune drag queen in the San Andreas Shifter series.) She is trapped in an immortal body that repairs itself and cannot be changed. For someone born with male biological sex characteristics who identifies as female, that’s an intense burden. I believe, however, at this stage in her long life, Mana is comfortable in her own skin, even if it’s not the one she’d choose if she had the option.

You see Mana is very old and has lived in many places and times which has given her iron backbone and the ability resist perception while accepting what she cannot change.

Mana owns to the moniker drag queen because she feels an affinity to that identity in this time and place. I think her drag queen name, Manifest Destiny, is one one of irony and sublime confidence. She’s also sexually active and a dominant who is comfortable with her birth anatomy. Her lover, who identifies as a straight male, sees her as wholly female.

I’ve had a bit of a confusion from readers in how to reconcile this.

I’ll put it graphically.

Is a woman who happens to have a cock and use it (whether biological or strap on) any less a woman?

Is a straight man who likes to be pegged by his girlfriend any less straight?

Perception is a tricky beast.

Humans are complex, and complicated, and wonderful.

THE KITSUNE

Kitsune are tricksters and meddlers, wise but not entirely to be trusted. I’ve always written my immortals as capricious, possibly because I grew up with an over abundance of Greek mythology.

It is interesting to think about what immortality would ACTUALLY do to the psyche.

  • To watch everyone you love die?
  • To watch humans make the same mistakes over and over again?
  • To know humans as prey and to think of them as inferior?

This too effects identity, gender, sexuality, and beyond.

Mana is MANY things as well as gender fluid. She is power and unity and grace. She is the grey space and she embodies it. She embraces all parts of herself without care to what others may think. Especially not what piddly humans might think.

“She’d managed to shift from fox to human without anyone the wiser and was back to being fully clothed and entirely made up in a way that Isaac suspected had something to do with savage mage-craft because no one could just shift into false eyelashes like that. No one.”
~ The Omega Objection

The Omega Objection San Andreas Shifters

Also, here’s a fun little hint… pay werry werry close attention to Mana’s 3rd Form. For Kitsune, it’s all about the tails.

Final Thoughts

Before you ask, yes, I had Mana, Anitra & all of The 5th Gender read for sensitivity by self-identified gender fluid delicacy readers. Everyone, however, experiences gender differently whether now, in the past, or in the future. Time is, after all, also fluid.

My characters are written as individual examples unique to themselves, not as judgmental models of behavior.

I’m hoping they broaden readers minds, optimism, and willingness to accept all the glorious possibilities life has to offer us without constraint. I want to offer possibilities, not dictate certainties. Fluidity in all things… if you would.

Also, seriously, check this out…

Yours (trying to be better with pronouns),

Miss Gail

Other posts in this series

Queering-Up Genre One Akeldama at a Time ~ Why Gail Carriger Writes LGBT Characters (Important for Authors)

Queer Characters? Blame Mercedes Lackey, Behind The Supernatural Society (Special Extras)

 

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OUT NOW!

The 5th Gender (A Tinkered Stars Mystery as G. L. Carriger).

Amazon | Elsewhere | Direct from Gail
Audio is coming. 

Sci-fi queer romance meets cozy mystery in which a hot space station cop meets the most adorable purple alien ever (lavender, pulease!) from a race with 5 genders.

UPCOMING SCRIBBLES

  • Reticence, The 4th and final Custard Protocol book. August 6, 2019
  • Fan Service Omnibus, October 2019 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Soulless.
  • Need to know what Gail is writing right now? That’s in the Chirrup.

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(Interview with The Booklovers blog, September 2010)” ~ Gail Carriger

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!

“You didn’t want to come out to them?”
“I didn’t.”
“Nice to be bi.”
“Easy to be invisible. Not quite the same thing.”
~ The Omega Objection by G.L. Carriger

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Posted by Gail Carriger

3 Responses

  1. Rhiannon Lynn said:

    Love your pronouns in 5th Gender!
    Actually, this post is really useful! I’m trying to find ways of subtly hinting (or not so subtly; subtlety is…not my strongest suit in writing) that certain of the characters in my fantasy novels aren’t exactly binary, or at least don’t have an obviously-gendered appearance…not that their societies have an issue, it’s simply the lack of good pronouns to use!
    I’ve resorted to heavy use of “they” and hoping that it works. Still, it’s only 1st draft– maybe there’ll be better pronouns around by the time I redraft it! (it’s the third book of four, so plenty of time).
    Please write more Tris and Drey; they’re adorable!

  2. The WOL said:

    Seems to me that one of the main themes in the San Andreas Shifters series is being honest with yourself and with others about your sexuality. That’s one of the things I like about the series. There’s a lot of self actualization going on. There’s also a lot of communication going on. One of the greatest things is the way you model interactions/negotiations between consenting adults regarding the nature of and expression of their own unique sexuality in the context of a relationship, and the way you model acceptance of individuals by peer groups. Positive role models are in short supply.

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