Reading Gender (Long)

Gender does exist in Epiphany despite the gender-neutral pronouns. There are just more genders. Most are based on a concept called hjathoma to the Sabaji Tveshi, hụkepli to the Hicịptụ, and yadokyozị to the Ịgzarhjenya. There isn’t an exact translation, but for the clan-based structures of these cultures, it means that someone has the right to stay in ler maternal family during a marriage. People assigned female at birth (AFAB) have natural hjathoma, and all other genders are viewed in reference to how they modify or affirm natural hjathoma. Gender classification matters legally for this reason. These cultures are traditionalist and defend their respective social mores. Marriage rights and matriarchal appointments are the two places where this comes up as a legal issue, and every gender has specific social roles.

Below, I have divided gender mores into cultural categories. For some linguistic fun, see the Language page. I’ve also delved a bit into linguistic gender markers here, but not with what I would consider full examples.

The Sabaji

The Sabaji have men, women, and jomela, with rigid distinctions between social and legal rights among the three genders.

  • Jomela were assigned male at birth (AMAB). Families assign the jomela gender to an AMAB child if le is effeminate. This means that the gender includes a spectrum of identities we may recognize as distinct. I won’t slice jomela up into American gender categories.
  • The word jomela may also be used to describe men who entered same-sex marriages and were granted hjathoma. These jomela-by-marriage-negotiation may be very masculine, may have completed men’s military service, and would call themselves men. People who are categorically jomela on their identity papers tend to avoid using that word to describe these people.
  • Transgender is not recognized by the Sabaji Tveshi and is considered an Ịgzarhjenya concept.
    • Historically, those who are transgender women have had to walk a fine balance between affirming gender and becoming “too suspiciously Narahji” for their Sabaji families. Most transgender women are classified as jomela.
    • AFAB individuals have no recourse in the Sabaji cultures in Tveshė for expressing another gender.
    • AFAB Sabaji on the Mena-Shēda Continent from whence the Sabaji came can express a different gender, takaju. The Sabaji Tveshi lost this concept at some point, and their relationship with the Ịgzarhjenya complicates re-adding it to their cultural repertoire of acceptability. It’s even in many 3000-year-old Mena-Shēda Sabaji religious texts as a real thing.
    • Because the nuamua run the medical schools planet-wide, Sabaji Tveshi doctors know the biological basis and will often treat people without family approval because they have sworn medical oaths to the gods.

The Ịgzarhjenya

The Ịgzarhjenya break gender down into men, women, ozkyev (similar to jomela), and yadzakma (genderqueer). There are specific word markers to denote transgender status, but they’re typically used only in archival pre-conquest legal documents, medical information, and in political pamphlets. Otherwise, transgender individuals are called men or women based on their affirmed gender. The Ịgzarhjenya pride themselves on “gender-richness” enforced by divine law. This means that gender is politicized in their struggle with the Sabaji because gender-richness is religious expression. Other gender classifications (pre-Sabaji conquest) were created in endemic pockets after oracular consultations, often based on intersex traits. These are well-documented and more and more common the farther from the Shallow Canyons one goes.

  • Ozkyev are similar to jomela. They are dedicated to the gods Yilrega, Kanuga, or Migäsra in a ceremony and typically retain strong relationships with those gods for life.
  • A yadzakma typically files for recognition with ler matriarch in ler teens. It’s celebrated with a party. Yadokyozị in marriage will be decided based on a sacred dice roll in a temple of Tsemanok.
  • Transgender men (ozev) primarily live in monastic communities as devotees of Narresan or Migäsra. They are suppressed intermittently by the Sabaji, and the treatment of ozev drives a lot of Narahji to the Narahji Separatist Movement. A small percentage remain in their families.
  • Transgender women (gesev) exist and are also dedicated to the gods Yilrega, Kanuga, or Migäsra in a ceremony. They’re recognized as jomela by the Sabaji state, and the Ịgzarhjenya introduce bill after bill in the Senate to have this changed. Transgender women have access to medical treatment plans in Ịgzarhjenya areas.

The Iturji

The Iturji are a blend of the Sabaji and Ịgzarhjenya, but there is a quick anecdote that I can share. They have men, women, jomela, and a lot of gender tolerance for Ịgzarhjenya practices. In the 100s Standard Count, while Iturja was self-governing, the Iturji queen brought several takaju from Kakmejė and a few sselē from Īpa and Bisa to go on lecture circuits, and the monarchy revived the takaju practice. This is what the queen delivered to the Iturji Senate in 149 Standard Count:

A matter has come to my attention while my jomela-sibling traveled on the mother-continent, and ler letters told me about a world that Liķra has revealed to lim. A human family is like a tree, deep-rooted in the ancestors, strong-trunked in its living body, and many-branched. From the two main branches, one leads to men and jomela, the other to women; this is how the Shiji rule themselves, and it is how we have self-governed ourselves for generations. What disturbs me about these letters is that the Sabaji outside of this continent have symmetrical branches: men and jomela, women and takaju. The Shiji have cut one branch off of the tree, and it is no wonder Shija is chaos from that pollution. How, then, can a family be strong — when it has fewer branches to greet the sun with its leaves? My proposal is that we graft on a new branch for the prosperity of our families and the glory of Liķra, undoing the sin against our ancestors, our people, and the goddess who has blessed our liminal country with so much happiness. The Oracles have affirmed my task, and I now put it before this governing body for you to execute as you see fit.

It’s now called kaju. There are giant parades in the autumn.

AFAB who affirm being kaju do so in their teens, when they begin participating in the religious festivals that only kaju perform. The Sabaji Tveshi tolerate this practice, but barely — kaju retain some hjathoma rights within the Tveshi state.

The Hicịptụ

The Hicịptụ recognize men, women, and hụkna.

  • Hụkna may have been assigned any gender at birth, but are inducted into their new gender status during prepubescence.
  • Because we’re talking about a large tribal region, some other genders exist in very specific locations. Many Hicịptụ in the Shallows have gender categories that look more Ịgzarhjenya due to cultural contact, for example. The three above are common to all.
  • The Hicịptụ do not care about Sabaji-enforced gender laws because enforcing those laws in the Deep and Middle Depths of the Canyons would not be scalable.

Gender is encoded in other words, such as man, woman, jomela, ozkyev, girl, or boy. Salus will often mention gender as a descriptor in this way. Gender is also culturally encoded — an example being, if I asked you to picture a lawyer in your mind, most of you would picture a man, but most Tveshi would picture a jomela.

Gender in Social Expression

A key idiom in Tveshi culture, present in all of its languages, is the idea of a family matriarch as an archer, ler strategic vision as the bow, and members of a family as ler arrows that fly straight to their targets. Men in Tveshi culture are very much associated with those arrows, and women are associated with the strategic vision it requires to aim. Many other genders are seen as liminal spaces that can move between these extremes. The core cultural idea is that a matriarch is both the ruler of a family clan and the master of its strategy. Everyone in a family, regardless of gender, must submit to that authority. Tveshi cultures are just as conservative as any traditional culture on Earth.

In Tveshė, people would code domestic politics as a feminine field and foreign politics as a masculine field. Domestic politics and policy is seen as an extension of the household, which is run by women, and having a large number of women in civic service and politics is a status indicator for Tveshi families. Women are seen as well-suited to theoretical scientific positions, while men are seen as good engineers and applied scientists. Other genders are seen as good team leaders and managers. The medical profession is gender-neutral. Men have mandatory military service and free passes to gymnasia where they are required to keep up — the standing military is small, and Tveshė prides itself in being able to raise an army from all adult men. Women and jomela/ozkyev are seen as good candidates for upper-level command positions in the military, and there is a taboo against women using weapons that are not ranged. Women and jomela/ozkyev are seen as naturally good snipers and archers. Men are seen as superior in military combat that requires muscular force. The Progressive Movement is unique in that the gender balance for its political offices is 40:30:30, women:jomela:men. That is the highest rate of men in any political party.

Jomela and ozkyev tend to work in liminal occupations, such as negotiation, high-ranking diplomatic offices, trade, law, and navigation. Jomela and ozkyev are seen as a blend of masculine and feminine traits that are all “lucky” in those industries. Other jomela and ozkyev occupy key religious positions in the priesthoods of Likhera, Yilrega, Kanuga, or Migäsra.

The Tveshi Cultural Coalition (TCC/Coalitionists) has problems with people who defy traditional gender roles — some prominent Progressive Movement lawyers are men (Shuyesė), and Salus’ boss Kara is a man in a high-ranking political party office. Traditionalists in the TCC would decry jomela and ozkyev in high-ranking (adviser-level lifetime appointments) domestic political positions as a sign that the monarchy is failing and thus needs to resort to drastic measures. The idea of high-ranking jomela is also associated with Iturji nationalist philosophy, which Tveshė discourages. If this were 1365, that would be true: Jomela were used as crisis counselors for the monarchy, and they do have significant religious roles in the worship of Likhera, the goddess who was the patron deity of Iturja while it was an independent country. However, in 1865, strict gender roles are loosening their grip.

Almost all yadzakma are priests. Tveshė, because it is ruled by the Sabaji, does not recognize yadzakma or transgender individuals, especially transgender men, despite the Ịgzarhjenya coalition for cultural sensitivity in the Senate. Transgender women can easily take ozkyev status, but the hjathoma rules for ozkyev/jomela mean that their position is still precarious. Part of this is driven by the historical suppression of the Ịgzarhjenya: Most transgender men are part of the warrior cult to Narresan or the art-cult of Migäsra and live in monastic communities. To the Sabaji Tveshi, the idea that one would voluntarily give up hjathoma or submit to the dice rolls that govern hjathoma for yadzakma is insane. Also, everyone in Narresan’s monastic cults has been training in assassination and military strategy since age 10. These men are scarily good at martial arts. There are periodic raids of monastic communities in Narahja and Nasja to root out Ịgzarhjenya nationalists. One of the main points of the Ịgzarhjenya coalition is that people seeing their relatives hurt by the government just drives more families into the separatist groups. Yadzakma and transgender individuals are 100% supported by their families, and many families will even bribe officials not to notice if Tveshi hjathoma legal codes are not enforced. The political situation between the Sabaji and the Ịgzarhjenya is a constant issue in The Seven Papers, and it veers into identity politics because these cultures are so different.

Women wear headdresses, and Narahji women wear veils over their hair before marriage. It is taboo to touch an unmarried woman’s hair even in areas where veiling is not practiced. Men cannot get away with wearing headdresses because there are cultural taboos. Jomela and ozkyev can wear headdresses if they are high-status, but might be called haughty if they do. Women wear braided and/or dreaded hairstyles. Men wear a variety of unbraided buns, upsweeps, or ponytails (single-bound). Women, jomela, and ozkyev all double-bind their hair (braids/dreads that are then put in braids, buns, or upsweeps), but women are the most elaborate. The marriage ritual involves shaving a woman’s head in a “rebirth,” so a large percentage of married women choose not to grow their hair out again. Deo’s not-designed-to-look-natural fabric wig is one example. 

Men wear knee-length dresses in summer, and women’s summer dresses are shorter. Men cannot wear aniku, but jomela/ozkyev can. Among the Sabaji, yellow, green, silver, black, and gray are considered masculine colors, and women won’t wear clothing using those as the main color because they view it as demeaning. Men also wear face paint in vertical or horizontal stripes and lines. Women only paint their faces as part of religious rituals, when it’s typically patterned henna or just coating one’s face with ash. Jomela/ozkyev and yadzakma occasionally wear face paints, but in dots, never in lines — lines are masculine. In Ịgzarhjenya and Hicịptụ cultures, colors are not associated with gender, but specific sets of colors are associated with gender. The Sunset Pattern and Dawn Pattern are two examples: They mean that a person is powerful enough that ler will rules over day and night, and few non-women would have the audacity to wear them.

Yadzakma, unfortunately, are targets outside of majority Ịgzarhjenya areas because they practice the sacred violation of gender norms in clothing — but their families and towns protect them if possible.

Note that this is just in Tveshė. Ameisa has many more cultures than just the Ịgzarhjenya, Sabaji, and Hicịptụ. The other worlds also have many cultures.

Gender in Language

In many languages spoken in Tveshė, gender is encoded via name endings. The complication here is that jomela, ozkyev, and others are not really pressured to use specific name endings, and many will often use both masculine and feminine endings either alone or at the same time. Jomela and ozkyev are typically identified between the ages of 5-8, which is after they are named by families and in front of their ancestors. Methods for changing names exist in the legal system, but for less problematic names, people are more likely to just drop name endings entirely or go by a different name except on their official documents — which will already indicate them as male, jomela, female, &c. The reason for this reluctance is religious, as it’s seen as unlucky to change names — it confuses ancestors. Some priests perform renaming ceremonies solely so that one’s dead ancestors understand the name change, and these rituals’ popularity is steadily increasing. 

Gender in Language: The Sabaji Tveshi

Linguistic gender based on social gender appears in Sabaji Tveshi names through a series of honorific suffixes that were once standalone words and titles appearing after the names of powerful people. Over several thousand years, these all became standard ways to end names. I have pointed out the origins of many of these below.

Men’s names typically end in -(h)au, -(e)tvi, or -(h)ao. -(h)ao comes from the word for single-bound hair, haoptị. -(h)au comes from the word aulatha, traveler/married spouse who moves, and reflects that most men will join a wife’s family on marriage. (I translated this as husband in the TL;DR version because the term aulatha usually applies to men.) The word for man is jotvị.

Women’s names usually end in -(h)añi, -(h)ar, or -(e)ti. Women’s names may also begin with the prefix añi(h)-. Añi comes from the Tveshi name of the avatar of Enakhiavoshei, Sehet Añi, and it’s seen as auspicious to have Añi’s name in a daughter’s name. The -(h)ar ending comes from the extinct Ịgzarhjenya people of North Tveshė and was used similarly to how it is used in Narahji and other Ịgzarhjenya languages. Powerful Ịgzarhjenya typically wear the Sunset Pattern or Dawn Pattern to denote their authority over day and night. The word for dawn in Narahji is älhar. In the extinct language in North Tveshė, it was alar. Powerful women were called “[Name] at Dawn,” e.g., Sugafi alaro, which is emphasized on the final syllable before the -o ending. (People are lazy. They will drop syllables, and pretty soon, you have a suffix.) -(e)ti is the same and corresponds to the Narahji -ta, which is a generic honorific suffix for women whom one respects that turned into a very common name ending. It comes from Narahji reta or that extinct language’s reti.

Jomela with names ending in -(e)tvi usually have renaming ceremonies. The Tveshi -(h)au name ending is retained by jomela more often than the other masculine name endings. Whether -(h)ao is appropriate depends on how conservative a family is: Coalitionist families would say yes, and others would point out that few jomela single-bind their hair. Jomela will use any women’s suffix, but will avoid the añi(h)- prefix and -(h)añi suffix. There is also the suffix (h)ejo.

Shiji and Iturji have similar name ending rules, but they’re different languages. Shiji male names may end in -(e)dyei, -(h)au, or -(h)aoḥ. Feminine endings are -(h)adyi, -(h)ar, and -(a)til, with the prefix adyi(h)-.

Iturji men’s names are -(g)u, -(ị)twị, -(g)wa. For Iturji women, many names end in -(g)(un)awi, -(g)ur, -(ị)twe, or -uris. The prefix (un)awi(g)- may also begin a woman’s name. The gender-neutral name ending is -(g)ayi. The Iturji have a second set of suffixes, -urwa-(t)umị, and -kra, that have been used for jomela since about 200 Standard Count. Renaming practices in Iturja are an industry.

In any of the Sabaji languages, nouns or adjectives are also used as names without applying a gendered suffix. The name Nita, for example, does not encode gender! The suffix -(h)ah can also be given to any gender. This means that there is room for ambiguity. The names Hekeva and Hekevahah, for example, could belong to anyone. These come from old articles that Tveshi no longer uses — standalone words morph into suffixes all of the time as a language evolves.

Many people also use the root, or a shortened form of the root, without the ending for nickname forms of their names. Karatau becomes Karatị or Kara, for example. Heivenau becomes Heivenė or Heivė. Thassañi becomes Thassa. In addition, because Tveshi is the privileged language of Tveshė, Shiji and Iturji individuals may use Tveshi name suffixes.

Gender in Language: The Ịgzarhjenya

In the Ịgzarhjenya language Narahji, many women have names ending in -us, -ta, -is, or -ar. Some women in cosmopolitan areas (e.g., Menarga) will add Sabaji suffixes, or they will name family members in the Sabaji style using Narahji and/or Tveshi names. They may also use Tveshi words with feminine Ịgzarhjenya endings, or they may add either or both Tveshi and Ịgzarhjenya endings! Other genders generally have names that are a noun or adjective with a prepositional suffix, but women can also have names formed like that. Further, several suffixes (-tis, -mis, -xus) can be mistaken for honorific suffixes in Narahji. Thus, gender is a bit more ambiguous.

The suffixes -ta and -ar have already been explained in the above paragraph about Tveshi name endings. -us comes from asubus, a term used to describe women who work outside of the home. -is comes from kabis, which describes a woman who conducts the business of the house (but who is not necessarily the matriarch). Asubus and kabis are related to the Narahji particles asub* and kaäb*, which mean “same-status” and “higher-status” respectively.

All of the above about Narahji is true for Khessi and Nasji, but those two languages have sound differences that make the suffixes a bit different.

Gender in Language: The Hicịptụ

Hicịptụ languages don’t have masculine or feminine name endings, but may apply the Ịgzarhjenya name endings for women in areas where there is close linguistic contact. I have focused far less on the Hicịptụ than on the other cultures of Tveshė because the Hicịptụ are in the Canyons and fairly isolationist — the government takes a hands-off approach to their tribal groups unless national security is at stake. The Hicịptụ instead have gender in adjectives, with four markers: man, woman, child or person not in the man or woman categories, and objects/animals.

Children and people not in the man/woman category exist in the same class because manhood and womanhood are defined by coming-of-age rituals. Non-Hicịptụ are sometimes, but not always, referred to with the same genderless category. But let’s say that there is a high-status immigrant to one of their territories whom they want to impress. Here’s how that might play out in Hụkacu, one of these languages: Raḥuma leranom, friendly man immigrant. Raḥuma leranam, friendly woman immigrant. Raḥuma leranum, friendly immigrant of indeterminate gender or a child.