A Note on Pronouns

I appreciate your respect; but please, if you do respect me, don’t call me “sir”; I am not and never have been a man.

I appreciate your solidarity; but please, if you do feel solidarity with me, don’t refer to me as your “brother”; solidarity is based on mutual respect, recognition, and truly seeing and appreciating another person’s existence, and if that does not include getting their gender correct, then it cannot be called true and actual solidarity.

I, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, am a metagender person. This means that I am not of a conventional, binary gender–I’m third, or fifth, or ninth, or thirty-seventh gender; in the gender binary, I am a conscientious objector. I personally don’t believe that there are only two genders; in fact, humans have at least nine possible biological sexes, so why wouldn’t there be at least nine genders possible? But, nine is too little…

Metagender is not “androgynous” or some combinatory gender (though those are totally cool!); metagender is not “neuter” or “neutral,” nor is it “non-gendered/agendered” or a negation of gender either (though those options are also totally cool!).

As an option for understanding these matters in relation to being metagendered, and more as a kind of rebus of both gender and sexual orientation, metagender can mean “I never met-a-gender I didn’t like.” ;)

[I understand that one of the great advances of the last sixty years is the understanding that sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing–a gay man does not want to be a woman, a gay man is attracted to men. That is fine, and I do not question that. However, I do think it is possible, in certain cases, for gender and sexual orientation to be of-a-piece, and the metagender identity, for me, is certainly that way. I cannot conceive of my gender outside of my sexual orientation’s ability to connect with any and every possible other gender, or same gender, as myself, as long as my “same gender” is understood to be a non-binary, non-combinatory, non-negatory gender.]

One very important aspect of being metagender, though, is that it is a social gender that comes into play in a spiritual and religious context. It is something that is part of my role as a spiritual functionary, not only on behalf of the humans I assist in my spiritual communities, but also on behalf of the Deities to whom I am devoted in my religious practices. Many cultures have had a gender-variant spiritual role for shamans, priests, or other specific spiritual functionaries; but, in my current human incarnation, I am not a part of any of those cultures which still have such roles, nor am I a direct descendant of any such cultures which have had or still have such roles. Thus, metagender is one possibility for a non-culturally-appropriative identity that fulfills such a gender-variant spiritual functionary role. While my alternative gender identity may be debatable to some people in my wider social life (though I am doing what is possible and safe for me in that regard to make it more visible and actualized in my wider life), it is not debatable nor negotiable when I am serving the Deities and other Divine Beings, or my religious communities, in specifically spiritual contexts.

As a result, my pronouns are different than the usual ones one might be used to with more conventional, binary genders. I prefer the Old Spivak pronouns, which run as follows:

subject: e (e.g. “E is a metagender person”; “E wrote a blog post”)
object: em (e.g. “I gave the book to em”)
possessive adjective: eir (e.g. “This is eir book”)
possessive pronoun: eirs (e.g. “The book is eirs”)
reflexive: emself (e.g. “E muttered to emself”)

For some further reading on metagender matters on the current blog, see the following links:

Gods, Magic, Myth, and Modernity
Gender and Sexual Orientation: Rarely the Twain Doth Meet…?!?
Paganism and Privilege: Visible and Invisible Privileges Discussed
Physicality and Trans-Ness
The Politics of “Manliness”
PantheaCon and Gender Matters
PantheaCon 2012: Transgender Inclusion/Exclusion
Justin Vivian Bond: You Are Awesome!


  1. […] A Note on Pronouns […]

  2. I’m in the habit of using singular “they” when I know a neutral pronoun is preferred, but am unsure or can’t remember what. If I forget the Spivak, you don’t mind that habit of mine, do you?

    I actually prefer the way that Spivak looks, in print, but it’s so uncommon that I just haven’t gotten into the habit of using it when a neutral pronoun is ideal (like generically speaking of “the teacher” or “the doctor” and all), but most people know singular-they, even though it’s fallen out of favour for formal writing.

    • Certainly, no worries–“they” is something I still use on many occasions, as it is a very good all-purpose “don’t know the genders involved” signifier. I know several folks who prefer it as their pronoun, and Panprosdexia prefers it as their pronoun as well (though they’re non-gendered…but anyway).

  3. […] A Note on Pronouns […]

  4. I appreciate that you put this information here.

    I think I might start using these pronouns in my own writing. When my room mate years ago started having treatments to move male to female transgender, I discovered that the Talmud actually talks of five biological genders. I was amazed that Rabbis knew of that so long ago.

    • Glad you found it useful!

      One thing Judaism has always done well, even after becoming (supposedly) monotheist, is diversity. ;)

  5. Insisting on one’s own personal pronouns is a whole new level of megalomaniac narcissism.

    • Thank you for demonstrating your privilege and bigotry. I appreciate knowing who my enemies are.

  6. […] A Note on Pronouns […]

  7. PSVL, this is very useful to know. I have felt for a long time that our language needs a set of genderless pronouns which can be used to refer to persons (as opposed to the impersonal “it”). Interestingly, some genderless English pronouns were created decades before Spivak by David Lindsay in his wondrously surreal gnostic fantasy VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS (1920). In the novel, there is a brief segment about a being called Leehallfae — a human who is of a third gender. In referring to this character, Lindsay created and used the pronouns “ae”, “aer”, and “aerself”. While it is just a small part of the book, it is probably the first introduction of genderless personal pronouns in modern English literature. I’m not familiar with the history of Spivak pronouns, but do you think it’s possible that Spivak had read VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS and was inspired by it to create the newer pronouns?

    • Thanks for this information! I wasn’t aware of Lindsay’s use of third-gender pronouns…It’s possible that Michael Spivak did know about Lindsay, certainly; he’s a mathematician, and likely as not has read books of that nature, so perhaps there was an influence, but I don’t know that for certain. In any case, awesome! (I have not read Voyage to Arcturus myself, but perhaps I’ll put it on my list!)

      • Thank *you* for your excellent blog, PSVL! By the way, turns out we have a mutual friend: About a week ago I recommended Aedicula Antinoi to my FB friend and Gnostic brother Michael, and he told me he already knew and admired your scholarship and work. Now I see that you’ve included his blog (Digital Enchiridion) on your blogroll too…. small cyberworld!

      • Our dear friend Michael has been holding out on you: not only does he know me, but we’ve collaborated on several things–he’s done art for a few of my books, he wrote a bit of A Serpent Path Primer, and he’s been a Mystes of Antinous since 2009. The cyberworld is smaller than one might think, especially when we all live near each other (though I used to live nearer, so saw him more often than I do now).

  8. […] weekend and discussed the issue.  Patheos blogger John Halstead and Lupus both discussed it in his/eir own articles, which you can read to get an idea of what actually happened.  I wasn’t there, so I […]

  9. Hmm, I didn’t know there was a NEW Spivak. Now I’m wondering which one I researched for my article on pronouns: https://suite101.com/a/genderneutral-spivak-pronouns-in-the-office-a90387

    • The differences between Old and “non-Old” are pretty slight, from what I understand…

      • Any system that resolves the fight over the “singular they” is all right in my book.

  10. […] are different from the binary gendered pronouns most people are familiar with.  For more info, see here.  Consequently, what looks like typos above is the intentional use of alternative pronouns for an […]

  11. […] Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender person, and the founder of the Ekklesía Antínoou–a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist […]

  12. I take it that metagender means “beyond gender”? Good stuff. I like the idea of being a conscientious objector to the gender binary, too.

    Also like the Old Spivak pronouns, they flow quite nicely. I was talking about you to my partner at the weekend, and it felt quite natural to say “e”, “em” etc.

    Did you know that in Danish, ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ are the same word, kæreste?

    • In a manner of speaking, yes: but more “beyond” in the sense that “three” is beyond “two,” and so on; it’s not that I am beyond gender, it’s just that my gender is beyond the current binary in our culture. If we had a culture in which there were five genders, and I happened to be a different one, I’d still be metagender in those cultures as well, etc.

      I did not know that about Danish, but that’s very cool! I’ve met some cool Danes in my time, so this is all the more reason to think they’re awesome!

      • Ahh… So it’s like non-binary but taken a step further to “Non–Whatever-The-Normative-Genders-Are-At-This-Time-and-In-This-Place?”

        Like fringe-gender (i like making up words)

      • To some extent, yes.

        I’ve also seen two other things to be pretty important to my understanding of metagender: 1) it is a spiritual role, and if nowhere else in my life (though I am making in-roads in various circles that aren’t specifically spiritual/religious or amongst friends from those contexts), it can, does, and must function in that capacity–so many other cultures have 3rd/4th/etc. gender roles with spiritual functions, but since I am not a part of any of those cultures, not culturally-appropriating their terms is a priority for me while still attempting to actualize such a role in my own white Euro-American culture; 2) sexual orientation and gender, while generally considered distinct (and, in many cases, rightfully so!), are not in the case of metagender, and thus what could be called “pansexuality”–but understood as being that I’m a *different* gender to anyone/everyone I might be involved with, except perhaps for other metagenders.

        Anyway, yes, it’s certainly fringe-gender, and creatively gendered…though I had published on this term long before I ever heard of genderqueer and other such options (which, in any case, are different again from it).

      • Yeah, it’s the spiritual role of (I’m just picking a well-known example) “Third-gender” people that are given certain exclusive roles in their culture, but your gender is

        {[amount of this culture’s normative genders] + 1}-[ordinal letters “st”, “nd”, “rd”, “th”]-Gender

        Where g is the number of genders?

        So, metagender is “(g + 1)”{st, nd, rd, th}-gender?

        or do you embody an infinite continuum of genders beyond the normative ones? like in America, you wouldn’t just be Third-Gender,but you’d also represent 4 to infinity?

      • Interesting ideas…but no, I’ve always felt that my gender is fixed and singular, but just not binary.

        Depending on how many genders a culture has, then I think the algebraic expression you used could work, especially if a) they only have two, and/or b) one (or more) of their 3+ genders is a specifically sacred role. So, in many Native American societies, where they have a variety of two-spirit roles, I might be “two-spirit from a different tribe,” possibly…and so forth.

      • I get it now–

        Thank you for breaking it down for me. The algebra thing made it *click* and I’ll try my best to make sure to include metagender when discussing the complexities of gender…

        … uhh… F*** the Binary?

      • Indeed–fuck it until it can’t fuck no more (so that it will no longer reproduce itself!)…

        And thank you for your consideration! We (few) metagender folks appreciate it greatly! :)

      • I’ll fuck it so hard it’ll loop one end of itself to the other and create a gender circle, forcing it to see the complex non-binary reality that it so self-righteously denies.

      • So, it’s settled then: a date? ;)

      • It’s already happening. It’s a literal genderfucking orgy out there and I love it. People reconstructing a construct that people originally constructed. Imagine that….

      • I was saying that very thing to Jaina Bee on Tuesday, who was furiously agreeing…! ;)

      • It’s like the End Of Evangelion but with gender instead of giant Rei-world-absorbing-thing

      • I’ve actually never seen that series…have heard a lot about it for 20ish years, but still haven’t managed to see it. Would you recommend it?

      • Absolutely. Existential crisis anime #1 Rank S

      • Very interesting! :)

  13. […] referring to (just based on the favt that people tend to get offended by those two chaps and that Bearer of the Fabulosa Fez considerably less), and I find it at least a tad improbable that the phrase originated with Ganila […]

  14. Hey, I don’t mean to sound like a total spammer, but would you be at all interested in Spivak pronoun button/s in time for Pantheacon? I got a custom order request for “my pronouns: they, them, their” and it gave me the idea to do others.

    • Hmm…perhaps! How much would they run?

      Also, did your journal with the Nyx poem I wrote come out yet?

      • Not yet. My world kind of imploded for a bit, but hopefully I can make the time to edit and put it out, soon.

        The buttons would be $1.75 individually, or $50 for 100 bulk.

      • Cool–let me know when that comes out (as I’m sure you will!).

        As for buttons: I can’t afford a bulk order now, but I could perhaps do about 5 (one for myself, and I can give away the others, or sell them to the people if I don’t particularly like them–ha!). What would they say, and what colors would they be?

      • I did a They, Them, Theirs version, shown here: http://diary.oddmodout.com/post/107207489293/oddmodout-new-button-design-my-pronouns

        The photo isn’t very good, but the colours are a pale green over a dark purple with a subtle drop shadow. My normal price is $1.75/ea. You’re the only person I personally know of who prefers the Spivak pronouns, so I wanted to know if you’d be interested before I made many.

  15. […] The following page has information on PSVL’s preferred pronouns as well as some worthwhile link to read more about metagender matters: https://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/a-note-on-pronouns/ […]

  16. Apologies for commenting on an old post, but could you give a citation/explanation for the claim that “humans have at least nine possible biological sexes?”

    • I had heard there were five a while back in college (1994-1998); then someone told me a few years ago that there are now nine that are recognized. On various websites, I’m seeing that six is a commonly-accepted number these days. According to the current Wikipedia page on intersex, there are eleven intersex conditions, so plus the two typical binary genders, would actually make thirteen possible biological sexes in humans, even if several of these are considered abnormal in various ways.

      So, this is even more complex than what I had written earlier!

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