Introduction to Neopronouns
S. Qiouyi Lu
æ/ær/ærs, e/em/eirs, or they/them/theirs
By appointment only
This course, led by nonbinary writer, translator, and editor S. Qiouyi Lu, defines neopronouns, demonstrates how to write with them, builds a toolkit for students to analyze how a work engages with gender, and provides participants with a welcoming space to draft their own work that uses neopronouns.
As a result of this course, you will be able to:
- Broadly define the terms “gender” and “nonbinary.”
- Explain why research helps to create richer narratives.
- Define what a “neopronoun” is.
- Recall at least three sets of neopronouns.
- Demonstrate how at least one set of neopronouns is used in a sentence.
- Define the terms “high-context” and “low-context” in reference to narrative and worldbuilding.
- Analyze whether a story’s engagement with gender and presentation of neopronouns is high-context or low-context.
- Write a 100-word passage using at least one set of neopronouns.
Selected works available free-to-read online that use neopronouns. You may choose work from my Neopronouns in Speculative Fiction page as well, or provide your own texts.
Chu, John. “The Law and the Profits.” The Revelator, vol.139, no. 1, 2016. 4,400 words.
Lu, S. Qiouyi. “Curiosity Fruit Machine.” GlitterShip, vol. 1, no. 33, 2017. 700 words.
Anders, Charlie Jane. “Love Might Be Too Strong a Word.” Lightspeed Magazine, vol. 1, no. 27, 2012. 5,400 words.
Takács, Bogi. “The Handcrafted Motions of Flight.” Stone Telling: The Magazine of Boundary-crossing Poetry, vol. 1, no. 7, 2012. 500 words.
Course Philosophy and Code of Conduct
I am approaching this course with the following assumptions and ground rules:
People in this classroom are here to learn. I am assuming good faith of everyone in this space and expect everyone to assume good faith of each other in turn.
“Good faith” here means that we practice compassion for each other and interpret each other’s words and actions generously.
Learning means making mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are frustrating to witness, but this is a space for us to grow, and growth only comes from making mistakes and studying how we can improve and iterate over those mistakes to do better next time.
Practicing compassion also means practicing self-compassion. Beating ourselves up only robs us of the energy we could be investing in learning. Forgiving ourselves will carry us far further than shaming ourselves.
We are also here, fundamentally, to write about people. Don’t forget that this isn’t an intellectual exercise about aliens or insect people, but about living humans who share this space with you. Extend your compassion to the subjects of your writing.
This statement still applies to the nonbinary writer writing about nonbinary characters: Extend your compassion to yourself that you will not represent all experiences, and that it’s not your duty to. You are just here to write your own stories, and that is enough.
On the other hand, no one is here to give you permission to write outside of your experience. No one person can speak for an entire group, and “permission” is not the core issue of this course. We are not here to ask whether it’s “okay” to do something, because the entire purpose of attending this class is to expand our understanding to realize that the answer is more often than not, “it depends.”
We’re here to consider how context influences our choices and how to make better choices in our writing that allow us to more accurately represent actual human experiences.
I understand that neopronouns are new to most people and can be difficult to grasp, but only practice changes that. So this is a nonjudgmental space for you to practice using neopronouns.
If you make a mistake, simply correct yourself and move on. But also remember that not all spaces—particularly when you are a cis person entering a non-cis space—are spaces where you can expect people to do the emotional labor of letting you practice. Be mindful of people’s needs in a space.
Attendance Policy and Workload
This course does not have set meeting times. You can access class material and discussion and participate in class at any time, day or night, from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.
You may also save the course for offline use, to print, to transfer to your devices, to distribute, and to make derivative works. However, any derivative works that are shared must be done so under a license compatible with CC BY-SA.
I want this course to be as accessible as possible to people. If you encounter any difficulties, please feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to accommodate.
I would also like to take the time to highlight two particularly underserved groups when it comes to accessibility in the classroom.
The first is neural allomorphs. I am using “neural allomorph” broadly here to describe people with mental illnesses, personality disorders, neurological disorders, developmental disorders, and other similar experiences. Our learning styles, academic needs, and interaction norms are often ignored, or worse, invalidated.
The other group is first-generation students, people who, because of differences in opportunity often rooted in institutional oppression (race, class, gender, immigration status, etc.), have not had or have had limited access to higher education, online classes, or other formalized education, and so may be less familiar with navigating academic situations.
I want to be mindful in particular of these two groups, and in acknowledging them I hope to create a safer space for people to ask for accommodations, though anyone can ask for accommodations for any reason.
If you are ever unsure of expectations or are struggling to keep up with the course, please feel free to email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org> to ask for additional resources and clarification, or any other accommodation that would help you get what you want out of the course. This includes redesigning elements to be more engaging or presented differently. You can also book office hours appointments.
If I cannot provide the accommodation, I will let you know. Please do not self-reject: ask first and I’ll see what I can do about it. You do not need to disclose why you are asking for an accommodation; I will assume good faith on your part.
Course Requirements and Roadmap
There are no grades for this course; you are here for your own edification.
You can also do the coursework in any order. However, the course order as listed in the course overview and course outline is my intended order for concepts to properly build off each other.
Syllabus last updated on October 14, 2022.