As commented by Timmi Duchamp in the discussion, Erotics of Gender Ambiguity,
“Pronouns, as I think I said a few months back, are red herrings. Red herrings aren’t just irrelevant, they distract. And an obsession with penetrating missing pronouns is partly what this story has to show us-as in a mirror.”
All through this discussion, (which I am coming to long after its inception), I get the feeling of pioneerism. I am not a young woman and I kept thinking uh huh I’ve heard all this before so many times over the decades. But I think it is important to continually explore the issue so that maybe in the next century people can simply live their lives without interference from anyone who thinks they *know* better how they should live. Trying to bring this around to an actual question, did you have some of the same mind set when you wrote “Strings”? In that story you hit on the big issue for me in my life, why the heck should another living soul tell you how to live or interpret life? Only the most real of my friends can bear to be around me because I won’t live falsely. That is falsely to myself, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all about gender as there are so many other ways to manipulate behavior that also attempt to inhibit people.
I don’t mind general rules about murder and rape and theft and traffic: rules help us to negotiate our differences with less misunderstanding, and give us some structured recourse when people do damage. (Social gender rules don’t fit this model for me — I can’t see much about them that lessens misunderstanding.)
Some folks take things a step farther, into the realm of “wouldn’t it be so much easier if we didn’t have to grub around with all these messy differences in the first place.” Maybe they do it out of fear, to minimize conflict and change. Or maybe to avoid having to think too closely about the choices they make. And some genuinely believe that their way of doing things is Right in some universal sense, and if the rest of us were just a tiny bit more reasonable, or mature, or community-minded… well, there’s no way to win that argument, is there? The scary thing is that some people are willing to legislate behavior if they can’t manipulate it any other way, and they are convinced of the rightness of their cause: they only want what’s best for us, and that gives them all the permission they need to improve us, in spite of ourselves.
But maybe I should answer your question instead of going on a rant about people who believe that there’s only one way to be a good human (grin).
It’s interesting to think about “Strings” in this context. It’s not where my head was when I wrote the story, but it’s not unrelated. The idea for Strad (the protagonist of “Strings”) came from a television profile I saw about a violinist named Nadia Sonnenberg (think I spelled that right). She was so amazingly passionate about her music: she vibrated the entire time she played. She was right there, inside the music. I found it attractive and I identified with it. I felt there were so many things inside me that wanted to come out (including writing), and here was a person who a) knew what was in her, and b) knew how to bring it out.
So that’s where it started: with a desire to let it all come blasting out. Music seemed like a perfect metaphor, and the best way to make the blasting-out point was to put Strad in a situation where she was required to keep it all in, and then examine what it would take to make it come out anyway. There’s not a lot of distance between that and examining why people are afraid of difference, because I think it’s the sense of being different that makes a lot of us keep our passions, our selves, reined in. I could be so much larger than I am. I want that. I’m working on it in life as well as in fiction.