Diamonds on the soles of my shoes... (dfotw) wrote in little_details,
Diamonds on the soles of my shoes...
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Questions about genderqueer fantasy character

First of all, apologies if somewhere along the line I say something that can be misconstrued as offensive. I am absolutely out of my depth here and most of the time I never even know which (PC) expressions to use.

Setting: 'standard' fantasy world, sort of Renaissance Italy equivalent in terms of technology/political organisation.

Background: the story is told from the PoV of Character A, a young man who joins an adventuring party, where he meets Character X, who is genderqueer.



On their introduction to my PoV character, Character X dresses as a man and holds a traditionally 'masculine' job, but they wear their hair in a traditionally 'femenine' way, have a sweet voice they don't try to disguise, and occasionally use make-up. Their face and what can be seen of their body shape through their clothes are perfectly androgynous. This causes no end of confusion for my PoV character, who doesn't know what to make of this and has his tactful questions not answered by other memebers of the team.
The society in which they live has a fairly strict gender division, so Character X can count on getting quite a (negative!) reaction most of the time, as people will assume they are a) a man wearing female accessories and doing a high-pitched voice on purpose, or b) a woman cross-dressing and acting -mostly- as a man, both of which are considered unacceptable.
In my notes -which, to some extent, don't matter, because Character A doesn't have access to them and it's his PoV that gets told-, Character X is biologically a woman, but identifies and acts as genderless and asexual -though not in those terms, of course. They have consciously built an identity for themselves with the traits that appeal more to them from both genders, while firmly refusing to identify with either of them. *crosses fingers this sounds at least mildly plausible*

Questions:

a) How can I have my PoV character refer to Character X? So far, I have him refer to X as 'he' when they are performing traditionally masculine actions and 'she' when they are doing something that can be described as feminine, but I'm afraid this might confuse the reader -although, I think it reflects my PoV character's confusion well. Should I go with the singular 'they' instead? I've been told that is confusing too. Obviously, given the level of social development in the story, I can't use any of the gender-neutral pronouns in use today -which, besides, confuse the stuffing out of me.

b) Besides clothing/hair-styles/posture, what are other gender clues that I can throw in to further confuse my poor PoV Character? I need both things that can be easily identified as male and things that say 'female', so I can sprinkle a few of both around. Body-language hints would be most useful, as I'm particularly bad at reading those, but all ideas are welcome.

c) What are things in the portrayal of genderqueer characters in literature/fanfiction that make you want to hunt down the author and beat them on the head with their book? Please tell me so I can avoid the same mistakes! I, as you can see, have no idea what I'm doing!


Research: started on the Wikipedia article for 'genderqueer', which led me on a merry chase through 'gender roles', 'androgyny', 'sexual identity', 'cross-dressing' and so on. When I emerged from the jungle of Wikipedia, I then branched into Google searches for 'pronouns for genderqueer persons', 'male and female body language', 'androgyny' and related terms, but most of them are concerned with the here and now, which aren't very relevant to my story.
I also tried searching for historical evidence of genderqueer characters, but I mostly got bogged down on eunuchs, two-spirit people and characters like the Chevalier D'Eon, so if you have any links or search-terms you think I might find useful, I'd be grateful for those too.



Thanks in advance for your help!

(I'm so lost I don't even know if I'm using the right tags...)
Tags: ~transgender
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