I have a character that's nonbinary. I'm more looking into a good mechanical way to change the pronouns for the character every time they change their presentation.

The (fictional) language they speak in technically doesn't have gendered third-person pronouns, but there's no way for me to actually communicate that smoothly (I asked that question and was told no). I did put into the manuscript something of a note on that. (Yes, I did use linguistics for this)

But... since I have to "translate" the thing into having all of these third-person pronouns and a bunch of second-person pronouns, I figure I could lean into it.

So, since this character is flux/fluid about their gender, I thought I could reinforce it to the reader by changing the third-person pronouns.

So is there a good way to indicate it will happen, so the reader doesn't get confused?

So far, I've set up the character before their introduction as more nonbinary, by having them change their gender presentation. They've introduced themselves as nonbinary. But I'd like to change the pronouns to reflect their stated presentation without the reader losing who I'm talking about.

More mechanics to get the reader to accept it without betraying the set-up rule that this language doesn't have gendered third-person pronouns.

TT This is why I wanted to drop them. This is a pain to get through.

BTW, I know the corner of the internet that says nonbinary people all should use "they" in fiction. Ludicrous. About 30% use open third-person pronouns.

BTW, Gender Fluid is not the same as "open pronouns". Conflating the two in Nonbinary identity and saying that the answer to the question in the other one is exactly the same as someone who is CHANGING THEIR presentation so you visually can see it is not the same thing as "Doesn't change their presentation" like the answers are addressing where the character "doesn't care" but has the same pronouns.

Gender Fluid and gender flux people are more than likely to change their presentation so that people outside of them can see it. Presentation means the clothes they wear, the way they wear their hair, the make up, voice, and physicality. If you dislike the idea that people can do this, then maybe this isn't the question for you to answer.

The answer on the other question constantly being shoved at me explicitly says that the character "doesn't care" about their presentation. This is entirely different from Gender fluidity, where they do care about their presentation and it would be visible.

Therefore, the grammar treatments should be different. How to introduce it would be different.

I explicitly said this in the line: by having them change their gender presentation and then I was accused openly of "not reading the other answer" and the following answers which explicitly say they won't change their gender presentation so other people WON'T know. This makes it different trans issues. Being upset that NB are different and need different things isn't going to help and frankly comes a little transphobic? Binary trans needs different things from someone gender flux from demigender, from gender fluid to agender. And treating the character with respect to their presentation, culture and language means I also respect those people in the real world.

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    Are the answers to this question of any use to you?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Feb 6 at 19:55
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    Please read the whole question that F1Krazy linked and its answers before you decide there isn't anything of use in there. It's about the equivalent of one, maybe two pages of text in total.
    – Divizna
    Commented Feb 6 at 20:29
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    Is this just in dialogue or do you also have a third person narrator who would also be doing this? Is this intended for a general audience or would it be "LGBTQ fiction"? FWIW, I have seen dialogue where characters use (for example) "he/they" at least somewhat interchangeably for someone (NB, not fluid), but I forget how they set it up. I do know that I would classify that work as "LGBTQ fiction"—I don't think that a general audience would "get" this, no matter how it was set up.
    – Laurel
    Commented Feb 6 at 21:19
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    Re your long and ranty edit: You may have missed that this is not a site dedicated to detailed analysis of the nuances of nonbinary identities. This is a site dedicated to writing. (Considering how pre-primed you seem to look for transphobia regardless of whether there's any to find, I now kind of expect you to flag this, but I trust the mods will be with me.) The general principles of approaching a character's gender identity as an author stay the same. It's the terrain the author needs to navigate that makes a difference in the resulting text, not a different approach on their part.
    – Divizna
    Commented Feb 7 at 10:01

2 Answers 2


The solution to your puzzling problem is simple.

Does your character have a name?

Whenever you need to tell or remind the reader who you're talking about, use the character's name. Same as you do when you're writing a scene with multiple characters, especially if they're of the same gender and can't be diferentiated with pronouns if you tried.

If your character doesn't have a name, give them a label that, for all intents and purposes, works as a name in the text. Same as you do whenever you have a character whose name hasn't been revealed.

If the character uses two different names for their male and female persona, make sure the reader knows the names belong to the same character, and then use the character's name (the one appropriate for their current presentation). That will even tell the reader both who you're talking about and what gender they present as at the moment at the same time.


If you want your readers to understand that somethingone that is different each time theyit appears you need to explain this to them in the beginning of your narrative or when it happens the first time and remind them of it each subsequent time it happens.

How you do that is up to you and dependent on your skill as a writer.

There is no ready solution for this case, as changing gender is not something that has happened often enough in language before. It is a recent development, and everyone is still trying to figure out how it might work. Your efforts are part of that.

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