What words can I use for gender in hermaphrodite aliens? I need your views.

I have started work on a new Sci-fi novel. My aliens are hermaphrodite (they have both male and female sex organs). The problem I have is how to use non-gender specific words. I do not want to use words such as he or she, him or her. I have attempted to create words that reflect the hermaphrodite condition.

he and she = hes

him and her = hir

The problem I have is that the words I have created seem clumsy to me and interferes with the flow of the language. While it removes the gender and the world is not divided into male and female characters (although there is most definitely a gender tendency) I’m not sure that this works.

This is a short example:

‘Jrrred slipped out of hir dormi, placed hir feet apart on the floor and stretched hir body out to their fullest extent, hir limbs felt delightfully sinuous and digits exceptionally supple as hes flexed them back and forth. It felt like it was going to be a good day. Hes arched hir back and yawned deliciously. Hes extended hir respiratory tubes and took three deep breaths. It was hir morning ritual. There was nothing like eight hours of weightless oblivion, soothingly massaged by a pulsing throb of energy to restore a sense of well-being.

It was a new day and Jrrred felt ready to take on the universe.’

Any ideas as to how I might degenderise the language. Or should I simply genderise my characters?

6 thoughts on “What words can I use for gender in hermaphrodite aliens? I need your views.

  1. Iain M. Blanks dealt with the problem of a three-sex species thus (p. 99 of “The Player of Games”): “I have chosen to use the natural and obvious pronouns for male and female, and to represent the intermediates – or apices – with whatever pronominal term best indicates their place in their society, relative to the existing sexual power-balance of yours.”

    Another way would be to invent one new pronoun, say “id.” Then your “hes” (which I find confusing, I read it as he’s) would become “id,” and your “hir” (which I also find confusing, I read it as her) becomes “ids.” This would have the additional advantage that English “he’s in the bathroom” would become rather “id’s in the bathroom,” not “hes’s in the bathroom,” which gives a pronunciation problem.

    1. You’d also need to invent an accusative case to replace “him,” and to replace “her” as the object of the sentence. There aren’t many consonants that work after “id,” so I’d probably go for something like “ido.” “She gave him a pen” would become “id gave ido a pen.”

    2. Thanks Neil. I like that. It is very helpful. I could see that he’s and hir weren’t working but could not see a way forward. Your suggestion makes sense to me.

      1. That’s the amateur philologist in me at work. I did actually design a language for a hermaphroditic species (but didn’t get as far as using it in a novel). “id” in that language did mean “he, she or it.” But they used gender suffixes when they needed to distinguish between males, females and things.

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