Open Thread: A Question of Pronouns

[Content Note: Dystopias, Misgendering]

I am currently in the process of slowly revising my old Claymore posts for compilation in a larger project. I have run into a problem with pronouns with I am embarrassed to have not contemplated before because Ally-Fail.

As many of you already know, the Claymore warriors are bought by the Organization when they are children, and they are bought according to their assigned-gender-at-birth: children the Organization deems to be "girls" are inducted as Claymore and children the Organization deems to be "boys" are not.

Whether the series acknowledges it or not, the adult Claymore warriors are not all going to be women. Some of them will be cis women. Some of them will be trans men. Some of them will be genderqueer. Some of them will be agender. Etc. Nevertheless, I failed to recognize this during the Claymore run of 2011-2012, and for that I apologize deeply.

There are currently 34 instances of the words "woman" and "women" in my old Claymore deconstruction series; there is 1 instance of the word "female"; there are approximately 70 instances of "girl" or "girls". Some of these refer to individuals, but they refer to individuals whom (to my knowledge and/or recollection) have not stated a gender identity. Claymore isn't a third-person novel (he/she/they) where we can assume the author knows the characters' identities; it's a first-person graphic novel (I/me/mine) where any instances of "she" or "he" could be assumptions by the other characters.

I'm struggling to understand how to address this issue of pronouns in analytical writing. The problem is that in a mandatory selection process which assumes a binary gender and where gender is assigned according to external forces rather than according to individual identity, there are going to be people in the "Girl Group" who are not girls. Regardless of whether or not the author realizes this, the Evil Authority has misgendered people already and I would prefer not to misgender them further. Yet there will be times when it is necessary to talk about the "Girl Group" as distinct from the "Boy Group".

So, to use The Hunger Games for example, Katniss isn't the First Female Victor for District 12, because we don't know about the gender identities of previous victors (and, indeed, we could make an interesting post about whether people in THG have room to safely to express gender identity since they've been shoved into assigned gender groups as potential Tributes for years), but she is the First Assigned-Female-By-The-State Victor for District 12.

I have asked some friends, and asked on Twitter, and so far I have received the following opinions:

1. I can continue to use misgendering words when deemed necessary but with an asterisk/footnote and a separate/opening discussion on this problem. (e.g., "First Female* Victor")

2. I could use new/recycled words to mean "assigned-female/male-by-the-state". The Latin terms Horum and Illorum were brought up, which can (apparently?) refer to This and That in a plural, non-specifically gendered sense (with the caveat that they also refer to groups of masculine things and groups of mixed things with masculine things in them because of the way Romance languages work).

I am now throwing this open for discussion because I know we have a lot of trans* and genderqueer readers, and I would appreciate any input they would be willing to give on this. I will also say that input from cis gendered readers is welcome here, because I don't want anyone to feel like commenting on this issue will necessarily out them -- essentially, if you have thoughts on this issue, you are welcome to share them here as long as you do them respectfully and honor the safe space guidelines here. Thank you in advance.


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