Stablehand: MB Gender System

Recently I’ve been thinking about the fact that no matter how hard I try to call Yanha “it” and “they”, I keep accidentally thinking of them as “he” for some reason. On one hand, it felt wrong because nothing about them is really all that “male”, but on the other hand, I just couldn’t stop myself, and I thought that was really weird. I wondered if it was just the fact that as a human, I was just too used to everything being forced into the categories of “male” and “female” or what.

Then recently, when I was kind of messing around trying to think of new MB ideas, I realised that in my task of trying to create an MB that looked like each of the attribute logos, one I hadn’t gotten to was Esteem, so I tried to think of what would look like the Esteem logo. A hexart, duh. But it has to be surrounded by flame, I thought, so maybe it’s a phoenix. Actually maybe it’s a firebreathing phoenix-dragon-unicorn that’s ‘maaaaaaaagical’. A Flaredrakeicorn. Haha, that’s such a ridiculous idea, why don’t I go ahead and do it. (The thing is, I’d already had the idea that in-universe, people would still imagine fire-breathing dragons, flaming and/or reborn phoenixes, and magic unicorns even though none of those specific things exist, and I realised it would actually be pretty funny if there was a thing that had all those qualities but it was just one really incredible creature.)

Then, unexpectedly, after deciding Arkturuse would probably ride one of these things around since it would probably be a fairly flamboyant and majestic creature, and realising that by accidentally calling that creature “Sir Flaredrakeicorn” I’d kinda made an accidental Adventure Time parody, I made the odd realisation that once again, I was thinking of an MB as male even though nothing about it was male (other than the bright colours technically I guess :p) so I really had no reason to.

Eventually I started to think about MBs and gender a bit more, and realised that oddly, some of them I thought of as being gendered and some of them I didn’t, and some of them were in an odd middle ground where I thought of them as being sorta-gendered, but only in the most abstract way, like “Sir Flaredrakeicorn”.

So, eventually I came up with this gender system for MBs:

Male Female Other None
“Cis” None
Zeta Xai Zed Neutral Zeta
“Trans” Male Female

Basically, every MB starts out as “None”. That is, no gender at all. But from there, depending, they may end up identifying as something else.

“Trans” genders, that is, male or female, are extremely rare because most MBs would have an extremely hard time wrapping their minds around what “male” or “female” even meant even if somebody tried really hard to explain it to them; it’s just not a concept they have in their conceptual vocabulary. However, a very, very select few (like, five of them or so period :p) have managed to sort of more or less get it. (Vergozsya in particular actually identifying as female is actually pretty important for the story.)

For most MBs, the more likely option is Zeta genders. Zeta genders are more abstract; they don’t really have specific definitions the same way male and female do, though there are still distinctions between them.

Zed, a lot like my own gender, means “sorta female but not really”. (Zeta genders take their name from Zed, obviously, as it was the first one I came up with.) Zed creatures tend to be formidable and threatening, not to be messed with, but also reflective and curious, and above all, mysterious. For a long time I’d thought of Observers as often being basically this gender. I don’t know if this will make any sense but they could be said to be “dark”, kinda like a yin/yang thing.

Xai (pronounced “kai” like the Greek letter, though leaning a teeny bit toward “ksai”) is the opposite of Zed, meaning “sorta male but not really”. For a long time I’d felt like there had to be a “male” opposite to my own gender, so… this is my name for it now. Ssiassi is Gender Xai, as is Xera Flaredrakeicorn (Xera is the Xai version of Sir :p). Xai is sort of… open and candid. Xai creatures can be strong but they don’t really radiate strength and threat the same way Zed ones do. Instead what they radiate is more like… maturity, or dignity. Calmness? Restraint? Purity? Something like that; they’re like, deferentially cultured, a very teeny bit like Esteem but not really prideful or confident in the same way. They’re oddly suited to being exemplars though they also tend to be like but why do I deserve this, I’m not all that special. Alternatively, they could be more like Ssiassi and be oddly friendly in a kind of “bro”-like way, sort of treating everybody as worthy equals and messing around like there are no rules. Anyway, if Zed is “dark”, Xai is “light”.

(I feel like both of those definitions were pretty incomplete and perhaps a bit skewed as far as describing the genders Zed and Xai as a whole, because given that this is kinda new stuff I was basically just describing specific examples of each: The Ingenious for Zed, and Xera Flaredrakeicorn plus this big cat thing I’m tentatively calling “Commander” for Xai. But, that’s the best I can do right now.)

Neutral Zeta is a more nebulous Zeta. Basically, something that’s Neutral Zeta is not genderless, but can’t be pinned down as male, female, Zed, or Xai. It has personality in a way that suggests it has a gender, but… it just doesn’t fit anything. I’m tentatively thinking Xzhyrxiel (the angel thing of Faith) will be Neutral Zeta. In a way I guess it’s pretty close to nonbinary in meaning though I feel like it’s much more narrow, as “nonbinary” could include things like Zed and Xai but Neutral Zeta doesn’t. Also, Ssivyin is nonbinary but not Neutral Zeta, and kinda leans toward Xai but isn’t necessarily quite Xai either. (I’m not really sure what Ssivyin is honestly… gender-mixandmatch with Xai as the base piece and other gender-lego-pieces fittable to it as needed? That’s as close as I can come to describing it. :p)

I might end up adding other Zeta genders to the canon later, given that with more abstract standards to them there could potentially be any number of them. A power of two would be good given that almost everything about Stablehand is about powers of two, but as this isn’t something that’s super necessary I won’t really be rushing to come up with new Zeta genders the way I did with more central things like attributes, attitudes, and attunements.