Writing Non-binary MCs - Noble Nouns & Other Questions


#1

ETA: For ease of use, I’ve decided to put a masterlist at the top of the thread of various gender-neutral terms that could be used in a fantasy setting (or other settings!).

THE MASTERLIST
"Your Grace" - alludes to a duchess or duke (or nb equivalent)
“The most honourable” - lower rank nobility
"Your Majesty" - equivalent of kings or queens
"Your Highness" or “Their Royal Highness” - princes and princesses (or princets or princexs or… you know. the royal heirs.)
“Ser” - a (new) popular gender-neutral word in place of sir/madam in recent fantasy novels and games.
“Lairde” - based on the sound of La in Lady and rd in Lord.
“Layde” - based on the sound of La in Lady and rd in Lord.
“Liege” - neutral, term of address for a Lord/Lady.
“Suzerain” - neutral, a feudal equivalent of Lord/Lady
"Potentate" - neutral, a Latin word for someone in power.
“Good Gentle” - singular form of “good gentles,” which is plural of ladies/lords
"Domine" - Latin term for “master” (good for vampires?!)
“Esquire” - suffix for higher social ranks without formal title
"Your Excellency" - ranking diplomats
"Your Worship" - mayors
"The Right Honourable" - Prime Ministers, Chief Justices,Governor Generals and those who granted with this honourific by a Governor General in Commonwealth countries
"The Honourable" - Members of Parliament, Privy Councillors, Senators, Supreme Court Justices and Lieutenant-Governor Generals in Commonwealth Countries.
“Hajji” or “Hadji” - refers to any Muslim that has completed the hajj.
“Sayyid” - refers to a descendant of the prophet Muhammad.
“Captain” - self-explanatory
"Kaiet" - gender neutral Ms/Mr
"Sai" - gender neutral Ms/Mr
"Milayde" - milord/milady

----Original Post-----

Hey all! I’m working on my first CoG, which is set in a fairy tale setting. I’ve included the option for the protagonist to be male, female, or nonbinary (with various options for pronouns, including direct input if the ones provided don’t work for the player). It’s important to me that this option exists in the game and I intend to keep it.

For the most part, this has been a fairly seamless integration into the story. However, I am about to write a character who I imagine would say things like “milady” and “milord” and whatnot to the MC. Is there a non-gendered version of this, possibly? A lot of the time I use “noble,” and occasionally “good gentle” a la Midsummer Night’s Dream, but they don’t quite translate into the same usage as “milord” or “milady.”

If no such word exists, would it be acceptable to have a scene where the knight asks whether the nonbinary protagonist wishes to be called milord or milady, and include an option where they can input something entirely different? It seems to be the simplest solution, but I want to make sure it won’t seem like a derogatory addition.

Thanks for the help!


"I don't understand it" is the new "I don't want to listen"?
Supernatural in New York (WIP) [update 26 December 2017]
A Certain Potential (WIP) (Mini Update 01/03/2017)
Death Interest - (WIP)
(W.I.P.) A Hag Called Fate(Update: May 17, 2018)
#2

How about something like “Your Grace”?


#3

Oh hm, that’s possible! The MC isn’t royal though, just from a minor noble house. I had planned to use that moniker for another royal character, but I can scrap that. It’s a very elegant solution. :open_mouth:


#4

Have you thought about all other nouns used to address a non-binary person? Just a title might not suffice in all situations. (not that I know much about it. I just remembered there was a topic with an avid discussion about it not too long ago)

Link, just in case you need it:


#5

In that same vein, Your Excellency, or Your Highness.


#6

@Malebranche I would be more comfortable with “Your Grace,” as those two allude to royalty directly. The MC is from a minor noble house, a merchant family.

@Cecilia_Rosewood Thanks for the link! I am trying to be thoughtful as I go. The pronouns I have handled as thoroughly as I am able (and I have done my utmost to allow customization in case the ones I’ve offered are inadequate). Though as I stumble through words, so far, it hasn’t been an issue. The nobility thing is the first one that has stumped me. :sweat_smile:


#7

You could also ask the player like you mentioned, I think the option to choose it is fine.


#8

Well, I’d say depending on it, why not just make up your own word for nobles that doesn’t allude to being male or female? New words come into existence all the time from someone.


#9

Oh, I just remembered, you can use laird? Take a look at the wiki page and decide for yourself.

I’m not sure how ‘milaird’ sounds to you, haha. It’s not exactly what you need, but it is gender-neutral…


Non-Gender Specific MC's and Romance Options
#10

I’d say it’d depend on the world, how common gender-neutral characters are, and also how original you want to make the setting.

If gender-neutral characters aren’t common, then you could just make the characters awkward about it, and mi’lmumblemumble, or mi’lard or mi’lordy, or automatically default to male pronouns (unless corrected).

There’s no reason not to Good Noble, Dear Gentle, etc them, You could even Your Grace, because nothing in your world says that Grace needs to be just for royalty now does it? Maybe even pick out a few other complimentary words and use those and you could create up your own titles,

Personally, I’d use it as an excuse to play with the setting though and have some fun. I’d likely strip away all gendered titles, and forms of address and apply the same set of rules to everyone regardless of their gender. That likely wouldn’t work so well if you’ve got a sexist society though, or one where there’s a strong gender divide.


#11

No idea if this would work for your world, but you could cheat and use another language? I needed a form of address for an NB superior, and the best I could find was borrowing Domine from Latin. Latin is a very gender-conscious language but any noun can be made masculine, feminine or neutral.


#12

All good points! I wasn’t intending for sexism to really play a part, nor really gender, so the awkwardness is something I’d like to avoid. First and foremost, I want this to be fun.

I’m basically playing with “Beauty & the Beast” so there’s no real hard and fast rules on what the world has to be, even though I’m swiping a lot of French names just because I enjoy the sound of them. :smiley: That’s absolutely true, though, fantasy allows you to build a world of your own design. The more you include the elements you want your world to have, the less invasive or necessary traditional language has to be. No reason to let the box be small, if we don’t want to!

These are all good and very helpful thoughts. Thanks everyone. <3 I think I’ll do some world building and see how to incorporate this better. You forget sometimes how much power you have as a writer, haha.


#13

@SwanMaiden

/smacks through a window/ DID SOMEBODY SAY NON-BINARY!?

yo… “your grace” alludes to a duchess or duke (or nb equivalent); nobility, but not royalty. you have a lot of “the most honourable” at lower ranks; “your majesty” is for kings or queens, and “your highness” or “his/her/their royal highness” is for princes and princesses (or princets or princexs or… you know. the royal heirs.)

ser is a (new) popular gender-neutral word in place of sir/madam in recent fantasy novels and games. sir is used neutrally in the modern military, though. looking back through an old resource:

  • Lairde; based on the sound of La in Lady and rd in Lord.
  • Layde; based on the sound of La in Lady and rd in Lord.
  • Liege; neutral, term of address for a Lord/Lady.
  • Suzerain; neutral, a feudal equivalent of Lord/Lady.
  • Potentate; neutral, a Latin word for someone in power.

you could also use just “noble” or “honourable”? but fantasy is vast. a lot of games and books have made up their own gender-neutral words, i don’t see why you can’t!

good luck! i am always available for transgender/nonbinary and medieval weaponry/medicine resources!


#14

For members of higher social ranks without formal title, the suffix of Esquire(Esq.) would seems appropriate. For example, the modern day manager of National Theatre in London. Not gender-specific.

‘Sir’ for men with knighthood and ‘Dame’ for women with knighthood or the spouses of the men with knighthood, which can be substituted with ‘Madam’.

‘His/Her Excellency’ for ranking diplomats, i.e., a plenipotentiary(ambassador) or a minister plenipotentiary(minister).

‘His/Her Worship’ for mayors.

‘The Right Honourable’ for Prime Ministers, Chief Justices,Governor Generals and those who granted with this honourific by a Governor General in Commonwealth countries.

‘The Honourable’ for Members of Parliament, Privy Councillors, Senators, Supreme Court Justices and Lieutenant-Governor Generals in Commonwealth Countries.

Hope it helps. :smile:


#15

Ooh, you guys are fantastic! Bookmarking all the things. :heart_eyes:

And @Bagelthief, that’s very generous of you! I may take you up on that.


#17

There are other honorifics based on accomplishment that could be used as well “hajji” or “hadji” for instance is gender neutral and refers to any Muslim that has completed the hajj.

“Sayyid” is another that refers to a descendant of the prophet Muhammad. Your could have the honorific of the lesser noble who is your MC simply be the same as their dynasty like “Sayyid.”

Yet another is to refer to their position like “Reverend” or “Imam.” You could also you a military rank like “Captain.”

Pronouns would remain and issue in any of the above cases however.


#18

How about trying one of these. I think Kaiet or Sai would be perfect for writing nonbinary or androgynous characters of noble origins.
http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Gender_neutral_titles


#19

Oooh, Sai is such a gorgeous word, @Alexandra_Reilly. I feel anyone called Sai would have be pleased. That whole list is actually just wonderful. I also especially like ‘misser’ and ‘mistree.’ They flow so nicely.

(I was also googling and stumbled on this massive list of some ranks and titles from various cultures. While a lot of them are gendered, it’s definitely been a good place for word inspiration!: http://heraldry.sca.org/titles.html)

I hope other people are reading this thread and getting good ideas for their own work, too! :smile:


#20

@cascat07, @Alexandra_Reilly There are many gender-neutral titles in other cultures, like Native American “Chief” or Japanese “Sensei”, but since @SwanMaiden’s game is supposed to be based on Beauty & the Beast and other European fairy tales and the characters will have French names, using non-european titles or ones borrowed from other fiction would sound weird to me.

@SwanMaiden I’m in favor of using “Milayde” as the third-gender or gender-neutral form of Milady/Milord. “Laird” has been used as a male form, and I think “Liege” implies direct overlordship. The rest of @Bagelthief’s and @BEIC’s proposals sound good to me, I’m seconding them.

As to your idea to make a knight ask the MC, are people with nonbinary gender supposed to be common in your setting? If yes, than everyone should be used to non-binary titles and it would feel odd if they’re asking about it.


#21

“Milayde” would work! Fantastic suggestion.

I’d like being non-binary to be a normal everyday thing. Like, “Oh, look, Paul is a ginger.” Or, “Oh, Suzy’s a soprano.” It’d just be, “Oh, Cyrille does what ze does.” So yes, it’d be a common normal everyday thing. (Also since there are going to be a lot of people-turned-into-objects, it seems especially silly to make gender a particularly divisive force. Who wants to play a game with a sexist or transphobic teapot?)

I am debating making being non-binary particularly canon by having them called the ‘fae-touched,’ implying that non-binary folk are perhaps half-fairies (fairies being non-binary). I’m toying with that though and I don’t know if it’s necessary. Might be too much extra frou frou. Thoughts?

Really, I’d prefer the knight didn’t ask. Ruins immersion, I think. It was just coding-wise the only way I could manage thinking of a (graceful?) way to include an input option. :sweat_smile: So I’m quite grateful for the multitude of other options that have been presented.


Quill & Sword (WIP) - Sneak Peek pre-alpha (updated 7/7/15)