open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- For a story-within-a-story version, the protagonist of Yamaji Ebine's Indigo Blue is a (closeted lesbian) writer who has written a short story about a romantic/sexual interlude between two characters, one of whom is female, while the other's gender is unspecified. Apparently, pretty much everyone assumes the second character to be male (except for the woman who eventually becomes the writer's lover).
- Attack on Titan uses this as the standard, with author Isayama Hajime very rarely making any reference to the gender of characters. Since Gender Is No Object, he even invited fans to determine for themselves the gender of the ever-Ambiguous Hange Zoe.
- In Assassination Classroom it is mentioned that someone in Class-E has higher bloodlust than even Itona the pronouns used are gender neutral despite the shot seemingly focusing on Nagisa, the protagonist. This is used to hide that it's actually talking about Kayano. In this case many translaions, including the official one, were fooled and used the pronoun appropriate to the person the shot seemed to be focused on.
- Chris Claremont's Sovereign Seven had a character named Indigo, whose gender nobody could work out. This was another example that turned out to be gender-neutral.
- In With Strings Attached, the Baravadans never refer to an individual's sex via pronouns; all persons are “sars,” and gods are “godsars.” This is because rebirth is common (or at least it was when the Baravadans were actually having children), and how do you refer to a woman who is reborn in a boy's body? Also, the Dalns gods are sexless, so it would be inappropriate to assign gender to them.
- Notably, when referring to the individual noted above, George at first tries to remember to use “sar,” but gives up and refers to sar as “she” for the rest of the book. And when the four use gender-specific pronouns, one Baravadan notes how archaic their terminology is.
- Before Blaise Zabini from Harry Potter was established as male, there was fanfic with male!Blaise, female!Blaise, and either!Blaise, which avoided specifying.
- Edel, the Series Mascot of Puzzle Hunt Precure, is agender and written as such. This isn't true of all fairies (Nono, Miu's fairy, is a girl) and seems to be about as common for them as it is for humans.
- In Soul Eater: Troubled Souls, the author has made it a Self-Imposed Challenge to not settle on a gender for Crona, meaning he’s going to write the story using gender-neutral phrases and descriptions for him/her. Whenever he writes himself into a corner, he settles on "it" and averts "It" Is Dehumanizing.
- Done in The Dark Knight Rises when referring to "the child". This helps to conceal the fact that the story is about Talia Al'Ghul and not Bane.
- Every single character in Alien was written to be gender neutral, creating a lot of freedom in casting the film and setting the stage for one of the best-remembered action heroines in cinema history.
- Practically ubiquitous with the Choose Your Own Adventure genre of books, as mentioned above. Although there are exceptions, illustrations tend to make it obvious what gender "you" are, as well as about what age.
- The text itself often makes gender very vague or eliminates it. One example specified a character entering "the bathroom for the opposite sex" and gave a potential romantic interest a gender-neutral name.
- The Finnish language has no gendered pronouns, so writing gender-neutral text isn't hard. A good example is the novel Pimeästä maasta by the Finnish fantasy writer Maarit Verronen, where the protagonist has a made-up name and it's impossible to infer their gender from anything they do. It turns out the protagonist lives in another world where gender doesn't even exist the way it does in ours.
- Bone Dance by Emma Bull manages (in part by virtue of being written in the first person) to avoid mentioning the main character's gender for half the book. The character turns out to be genderless.
- The original Kino's Journey novels were written so as not to reveal the gender of the protagonist (until a certain point, anyway), although the English translations throw that entirely out the window since it's a lot harder to do in English.
- The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler manages to avoid mentioning the eponymous character's sex for the entire book while convincing us very cleverly that Tyke is a boy, until we see the principal call, "Get down from there, Theodora Tiler, you naughty girl!"
- As a fictional example, Bradley does a book report in There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, and only realizes as he's writing the report that the narrator's name and gender are never mentioned.
- Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky: Rod meets Jack, and doesn't realize her name is short for "Jacqueline" until someone else tells him she's a girl. Up until then there had been no explicit reference to Jack's gender.
- The novel Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson is written in first person, which makes it easier for the reader not to notice that there are no explicit indicators as to the main character's gender.
- Fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote "The Secret of the Blue Star", a Thieves' World story about the heroine Lythande (a female wizard in a world where wizards are always male). She attempted to use gender neutral writing until the big reveal in the last two paragraphs, though she slips up and refers to her using male pronouns at one piint in the middle.
- The four Hilary Tamar whodunnits by Sarah Caudwell (starting with Thus Was Adonis Murdered) are narrated by the legal scholar Dr Hilary Tamar, of undefined gender (and only a slightly unreliable narrator).
- This was done in Dragonlance for the Blue Dragon Highlord, who is later revealed to be Kitiara uth Matar, the half-sister of Caramon and Raistlin, and Tanis's former lover.
- Markus Zusak has said that he left the gender of Death, who narrates The Book Thief, open to interpretation. He also refrains from describing what Death looks like, though the character does say once that if the readers want to know, they can look into a mirror.
- In the Coldfire Trilogy, the Master of Lema, the first book's Big Bad, is a woman. This is revealed dramatically after the Master captures and tortures Villain Protagonist Gerald Tarrant — he's a vampire who preys almost entirely on young women, if given the choice so being at a woman's mercy is particularly galling for him.
- The Heyoka stories of the Whateley Universe, mainly because Heyoka's gender is not constant. Jamie Carson was born female. Her mutation made him mostly male. He has the power to absorb spirits to gain their powers, but he shapeshifts at the same time to look like the spirit figure. So he's been a very male part-bear guy, and an agendered snake-person, and a very female earth-mother figure with green hair, to name but three forms.
- Done very well by Vonda N. McIntyre with Merideth in Dreamsnake.
- Sam Berlant, a minor character in The Android's Dream by John Scalzi, never has a specified gender. Sam's partner is definitely male, but Sam could be any gender as long as Sam's sexuality involves being attracted to men.
- Chris Shane, the protagonist of Lock In by John Scalzi, never has their gender revealed.
- In the Honor Harrington series, the rule seems to be: When discussing non-specific people in the generic, use your own gender as the neutral pronoun. So women like Honor use "she", "her" and "hers", while men like White Haven use "he", "him" and "his".
- This character profile from Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Gorer's 1955 "Modern Types". The illustration is ambiguously gendered as well.
- Optimus Yarnspinner from the stories of Walter Moers once wrote a novel where he doesn't reveal whether the protagonist is male or female for several hundred pages. The answer BTW is: Neither nor - volterks are sexless.
- For the first few books of the Malloreon, David Eddings avoided using pronouns when writing about Zandramas. Once the heroes found out that Zandramas was actually a woman, he started using female pronouns.
- In Simon Brett's How to Be a Little Sod and its sequels, the gender of the infant protagonist is never explicitly stated. However, a 1995 TV adaptation portrayed the child as male.
- The similarly themed Autobiography of a One-year-old by Rohan Candappa is also written in the first person from the perspective of a young child whose gender is never revealed.
- Used until the reveal in Let the Right One In when written from the POV of any character that knows Eli is a boy, at least in the original Swedish version. The English translation slips up two or three times though.
- An interesting example occurs in Slavic languages with translation of the title of Agatha Christie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans?: if translated literally, it will immediately give away Evans' sex, which the reader is not supposed to learn until the end of the book. Thus the translators either modify the wording to "Why Not Evans?" or "Evans Knows The Answer" (which allows to retain the ambiguity), or even change the surname itself to one which remains unaltered regardless of the gender of its bearer (namely, "Wilby").
- The protagonist of Green Boy by Susan Cooper is named Trey, which is usually a boy's name, but their gender is never actually specified. One adult asks (in French) whether they're a boy or a girl.
- One supporting character in Cherry Wilder's The Luck of Brin's Five is described without gender-specific pronouns. It's done subtly enough that the reader is unlikely to notice unless they come across the short story Wilder wrote later elaborating that character's backstory, which establishes the character as being of the opposite gender from what most people assume in the novel.
- In Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice series, the Radchaai language does not distinguish genders. This is done in the text by using female pronouns and relationships (eg she/her, mother/sister/grandmother) and male titles (lord/sir/etc) for every character.
- In the Sandra Brown novel Lethal, the criminal kingpin known as "The Bookkeeper" is never referred to by any gender, which hides the reveal that not only is The Bookkeeper female, but she's the seemingly innocent wife of one of the agents investigating her crimes.
- Played for comedy in 30 Rock. Jack sets Liz up on a blind date with "Thomas", not mentioning that the date's full name is Gretchen Thomas...
- An episode of How I Met Your Mother revolves around Marshall telling his friends anecdotes about a Crazy Awesome workmate of his; when it turns out she's a she, he reveals he carefully avoided specifying her gender so his wife wouldn't disapprove of his hanging around with her. All the Flashback clips show him only referring to her as "Jenkins", and never using any pronouns at all. Must have been difficult to carry on any kind of extended conversation like that...
- Marshall: So he just starts randomly pointing to people, and goes, 'Him! Her! Her! Him! Him! ...Jenkins!'
- In Babylon 5 "Sic Transit Vir" a Narn is hunting a Centauri couple for one whose hands are drenched in Narn blood. To avoid giving away too much, the Narn says, "I knew if I followed you long enough I would find the murderer."
- The character of Robin Wood from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally written as a "well-dressed African American" with no detail given to gender in his first episode (his given name allowing for gender neutrality). A man was later cast in the role.
Play By Post Games
- Some translations of The Bible, such as the New Century Version and Today's New International Version, use gender-neutral language throughout the whole text except in parts where the context specifically addresses a male or a female.
- In Third Edition, Dungeons & Dragons averted this by using gender pronouns but alternating which gender between sections. 4th Edition is pretty much entirely written in second person, using "you". Except for in the DM guide, where it alternates.
- Second Edition created the "Iconic Characters" to make things easier. If giving an example of a cleric doing something they could use Jozan the Cleric, a "he". If they were talking about a wizard they'd use Mialee, a "she". This edition also had a section explaining the use of the "he" pronoun as generic.
- All Flesh Must Be Eaten alternates between gender pronouns between chapters. When there are exceptions (for example, when a character type is almost always one gender or another and thus referring to them by the other gender pronoun would make no sense), it specifies.
- World of Darkness books tend to alternate between male and female pronouns.
- Ashiok in Magic: The Gathering is a genderless being. Although accidentally referred to as "he" in an early promotional piece, Ashiok has since been referred to with no pronouns at all. Instead, all references to Ashiok use "Ashiok" in place of a pronoun.
- Warhammer 40K: Slaanesh is the hermaphroditic Chaos god of excess, and while there's no set pronoun, "it", "s/he" or "hir" is often used (the Eldar consider Slaanesh to be female, using "she" or "her").
- Invoked in the playbills for most all professional productions of the musical Chicago with the character Mary Sunshine, who's actually a guy. In addition to the Gender Neutral Writing for his bio, the person playing "her" will always be referred to with his first name shortened, for example D. Sabella or M. O'Haughey.
- Likewise, in the first production of the Broadway play M. Butterfly, the actor playing the disguised character Song Liling was credited as "BD Wong", although he had previously gone by "Bradd Wong". He got so much acclaim for the role that he's listed his name as "BD" ever since.
- MMORPGs with lazy designers frequently make use of this due to the character creation almost always allowing for male or female characters. Most, however, will at least have a cipher that can alternate between the gender pronouns when necessary.
- City of Heroes uses this exclusively... and looks pretty silly in places because of it. One particular example of dialogue is, "A foolish youngster called [insert player name here] tried to stop me, but it was no contest. The nuisance was easily dispatched. If I had only known what was in store, perhaps I would have hoped to lose." Who honestly talks like that?
- It's been straight up phased out in the recent updates. The Mission Architect gives the option of using gender-specific pronouns.
- In the Knights of the Old Republic comics by John Jackson Miller, everything about Darth Revan is written without specifying a gender. This was because the character eventually becomes the Player Character in the game, and since the game allowed you to select your gender and there was no official stance from Lucasfilm on the character's gender at the time, gender neutral writing was necessary in order to avoid contradicting future developments. Since then, Lucasfilm have specified an official gender for the character (male), avoiding further use of this.
- In the computer game Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force, you can choose to play as a male or female. Either way, you are Ensign "Alex" Munro, with "Alex" short for either Alexander or Alexandria. Everyone addresses you as "Ensign", "Munro", or "Ensign Munro", so it works.
- This is done away with in the sequel, making Ensign Munro canonically male, in order to allow the game to have a romantic subplot without adding too many characters.
- During Jack's recruitment mission in Mass Effect 2, the writers were careful not to use any pronouns when referring to Jack (and they talk about Jack a lot) until The Reveal. It probably would have worked, too, if it weren't for the fact that she was featured in one of the trailers. Oops.
- The Pyro of Team Fortress 2 is intended to be ambiguously gendered, though a few people from Valve accidentally (or not) failed to do this once in an interview, and most of the player base now assumes that the Pyro is something.
- In post on the official TF2 blog, the phrase "when Pyro hears about this, she'll be inconsolable" popped up. It was quickly altered to "Pyro is going to be inconsolable now".
- This trope even shows up in "Meet the Pyro": the RED Heavy says Pyro is not a man, but a "thing/it" while according to the closed captions Scout says about the Pyro "He's not here, is she?"
- And according to the spoken version, "She's not here, is he?"
- In the Interactive Fiction game Jigsaw, the gender of Black, a Well-Intentioned Extremist and the PC's intended Love Interest, is never mentioned, and neither is the PC's - though they do seem to be of opposite genders (or at least capable of passing as such).
- In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, almost nobody but Roxas refers to Xion by gender. This is understandable, since while Xion considers herself female, she's a memory construct who everyone sees differently based on their connection to Sora. Xigbar, for instance, sees Ven...who looks exactly like Roxas. While Saix sees a faceless puppet.
- NiGHTS Journey of Dreams, in the English manual translations at least, never uses pronouns, always referring to NiGHTS as "NiGHTS".
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf mainly uses this for when NPC villagers refer to one another (i.e. "Thanks [player] for delivering that to [villager], I hope they enjoy it!"). It is unknown why this is done, though cartridge space and development deadlines are two possible inferences.
- Used very frequently in the Pokémon games in both the main series and some of the spin-offs, typically by always referring to the characters in question by name. The Japanese text has no such issues, but certain sentences in the localizations such as "My kid is called MAY! MAY is a Pokemon Trainer! You should go see MAY!" are a little disconcerting.
- Also comes up in the text for The Sims 2's memory system, though in this case it's just the designers being too lazy to make alternate text strings. They didn't even bother with names, so you'll see phrases like "I like this Sim and they are great!"
- In Dungeon Crawl, the player doesn't even have a Purely Aesthetic Gender, and the gods are all canonically genderless as well. In both cases, gender neutral writing is used to discuss them instead.
- The worms in Treasure Adventure Game use this due to being hermaphrodites. However, it is done strangely: instead of simply avoiding gendered terms altogether, they use the female term followed by the male term (the village leader is called mother-father, for example).
- Most of the time in Fallout: New Vegas, the Courier is not mentioned unless addressed directly, and in those rare instances otherwise (usually narration) the game will usually just use "The Courier" rather than a name or gender pronoun. An amusing example is the Gun Runners' Vendertron robot, which apparently has problems with identifying genders (the existence of Super Mutants may have something to do with this, as they all have masculine bodies and voices, even those who had been women). Rather than actually working to fix the problem, they chose the easier solution instead and just made it politely greet everyone with an awkward yet technically accurate "Welcome sir or madam."
- The player character from Undertale is consistently talked to and about as "them" or "they", and the sprite of them is very ambiguous. The same goes for the original Fallen Child. Most of the fandom continues this, though many interpret or depict them mainly as female. All of the game's ghost monsters (such as Napstablook) are also talked about with exclusively gender-neutral pronouns except for Mettaton, who, despite his original species and the androgynous design of his EX form, is always referred to as male.
- Everyone in the universe of Minecraft is confirmed genderless. The additional Player Character added afterward is named "Alex", in case anyone had doubts about Steve.
- In Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location, Scott has taken the Viewer Gender Confusion that was Mangle and made it into a Running Gag with Funtime Foxy, Mangle's counterpart. The full voice acting either doesn't mention Foxy by pronouns, or if a gender is stated, it's immediately contradicted the next time Foxy is brought up.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All: everyone in court refers to Adrian Andrews this way while the assassin De Killer is listening to proceedings, because in one later testimony he refers to the (female) Adrian as 'him', thus revealing that he did not meet her in person.
- However, earlier, without being told, he refers to his client's manager as a she without being told, most likely an oversight or having never heard the manager's actual name.
- One Fan Fic plays around with this, having Matt go into long and mildly explicit descriptions of what he'd like to do to her, leaving Shelly de Killer rather unnerved by his client's flagrant display of gay.
- Done to infuriating effect in Episode 7 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni: that damn narration won't tell us if Lion is a guy or a girl. It is done subtly enough that you will only notice after a while that something is off. It is also used in Yasu/Beatrice's flashback; since Yasu is later revealed to be an Alternate Self of Lion.
- In Super Dangan Ronpa 2, the culprit of Chapter 3 (Mikan Tsumiki)'s motive is centered around their "beloved". The Japanese version never mentions said "beloved"'s gender, so the audience might be reasonably able to suspect that the "beloved" is a romantic lover. Turns out that said "beloved" is the female Junko Enoshima, which, Les Yay implications aside, means that Tsumiki likely intended to say that she "loved" her in a fit of despair. The English localization tries to use "their" in a way of covering this up, though it then trips the player's radar as to why it would be used for someone the culprit should most definitely know the gender of.
- When the student character appears in Koan Of The Day, they take the name of the reader. Therefore, all the pronouns are the gender neutral 'they.'
- In The Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius the elf, their spouse, and their adopted children exclusively speak of each other in gender neutral language, in part through Translation Convention. Other characters either acknowledge Vaarsuvius' Ambiguous Gender in speech or guess at pronouns.
- Required whenever characters speak about Riley from Sire. S/he makes guessing his/her gender a little game. Some characters use Riley's name whenever referring to Riley. Some specifically gender her a female or him a male. Only Riley and Susan know for sure who is right. Susan, enjoying the game, avoids gender pronouns.
- Paranatural has RJ, a silent member of Johnny's gang, who is never referred to by pronouns in the actual comic and whose face is obscured by a hoodie. This is lampshaded in the cast page where they "eschew[s] school rules, public speaking and the gender binary. Goes by they/them." All we know under that hood is that they have a mohawk.
- Monsterkind has Louise Spence, who is referred to solely by they/them pronouns.
- The character Angel in Sticky Dilly Buns is anatomically female but gender fluid, and often passes as a (probably Camp Gay) man. There was some deliberately induced Viewer Gender Confusion when Angel first appeared, with both readers and a lot of characters assuming that this was a guy. However, once hints about the truth started appearing, careful readers noticed that characters who’d known Angel for a while were a lot less casual with gendered pronouns; there’d been some fairly careful subtly gender-neutral writing going on.
- In one Epic Tales story, Diana needs help from a friend to hack into CODIS. While talking about this friend both Diana and John keep referring to this friend with the word friend, rather then using 'he' or 'she'. It's so noticeable that it's obviously intentional.
- A slightly less obvious example is when it's mentioned that Diana is going out with someone named Alex. No gender is mentioned for Alex.
- Parodied in Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs, in which the character the title refers to does not have a human gender and prefers to be referred to as "shklim" or "shkler" rather than him or her. Hermes, ultra-bureaucrat that he is, was particularly relieved to find out what pronouns to use.
- Parodied in The Critic with a joke mocking Political Correctness Gone Mad. Jay is a trucker in this episode, delivering a shipment of politically correct textbooks to a private school. In one scene, we cut to a student asking his father when he (Jay) is going to get here, to which his father replies, distressed, "He or she, son! He or she!