I’m pretty up to date on my LGBT politics, and yet even I occasionally struggle with the wave of gender neutral singular pronouns trying to establish a beachhead upon the shores of the national discourse. I get it, I respect the people for whom “ze” or “sie” or even “they” better represent their identities than the him/her binary, and I want to be better at this, I really do. But it’s hard when these terms have neither standardized nor broken into common usage.


I want to be good about these things not out of any theoretical “political correctness,” but because mispronouning a person on the trans or genderqueer spectrum is an act of violence. Sure, it’s not a punch in the face, but emotional violence still takes a toll, and messing up a person’s pronouns taps into a whole host of nasty shit that, whether or not you intend it, will hurt the person you’re speaking to.


Side note: “political correctness” is taking a lot of hits these days, being a favored straw man of the neofascist Republican party in its current rageful incarnation, but honestly all anyone is asking for is for people to take a moderate amount of care to avoid inadvertently hurting others when possible. Being “politically correct” just means not being a raging asshole, and valuing care and kindness instead of brutish indifference. People are different. Responding to that difference with hatred and violence is a strategy that ends in extinction.


But there’s a bit of a chicken and the egg issue that perpetuates this old system of grammatically insufficient pronouns, and that’s the adoption by the general population. The style guides aren’t going to change until continued usage drags them into a change, the major publications aren’t going to buck the style guides, and the people aren’t going to broadly adopt language not used in major cultural institutions. That’s why the fight to establish a third-person singular nongendered pronoun is such an uphill battle.


Side note: if your response to all this is “hurr hurr what about it” you’re a dick. Even fucking ships get referred to with a better pronoun than “it”. “It” is literally dehumanizing, and we need an alternative that a person can look at, man, woman, or nonbinary, and think “oh, that’s potentially talking to me!” “He” doesn’t do that, no matter how many dudes argue about the classical use of the masculine in place of a more inclusive pronoun.


Magic cards spend a lot of space in the text box writing around this deficiency in our language, and it has struggled with it from the start. Let’s take one of the cards that will never be reprinted again: [casthaven]Amulet of Quoz[/casthaven]. (In my head, it’s pronounced Amulet of Cooze, but I have a filthy imagination). Its printed text is thus:


Is that even legible?


“Remove Amulet of Quoz from your deck before playing if you are not playing for ante.

Tap: Sacrifice Amulet of Quoz. Flip a coin; target opponent calls heads or tails while coin is in the air. If the flip ends up in your favor, that opponent loses the game. Otherwise, you lose the game.

Effects that prevent or redirect damage cannot be used to prevent this loss of life. Use this ability only during your upkeep. The opponent may ante an additional card to counter this effect.”


That takes up the entire card; it has one of the denser text boxes around. Here’s what it looks like in Gatherer:


Remove Amulet of Quoz from your deck before playing if you’re not playing for ante.

Tap, Sacrifice Amulet of Quoz: Target opponent may ante the top card of his or her library. If he or she doesn’t, you flip a coin. If you win the flip, that player loses the game. If you lose the flip, you lose the game. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.


Much shorter! Over time, Magic has been making a concerted effort to compress the text on its cards, with workarounds as simple as using contractions, or omitting extraneous information. But I think I can make the card a little shorter still:


Remove Amulet of Quoz from your deck before playing if you’re not playing for ante.

Tap, Sacrifice Amulet of Quoz: Target opponent may ante the top card of hir library. If ze doesn’t, you flip a coin. If you win the flip, that player loses the game. If you lose the flip, you lose the game. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.


So, in doing this I have shaved four words and ten characters off the card box. That sounds like nothing, but ink, toner, or whatever pigment delivery system Wizards uses to put words on cards costs money, and Magic cards are produced in incredible quantities. Minor savings can add up, particularly when it has the ancillary effect of promoting a social good.


Given the number of trans players and producers in the Magic world, it would provide more than just a theoretical benefit to many people who play.


“But think of the users! How ever will the minds capable of wrapping themselves around the intricacies of how mechanics interact with one another ever adapt to seeing gender neutral pronouns on cards?” While my sarcasm is a bit much, Magic players are some of the best people to figure these things out and run with them. Our game is basically built around the ability to synthesize language quickly, and then figure out how it interacts with other, known pieces of language. Sure, it will take a little while for people to get used to it, but once they do, that’s a massive group of people with more than a passing familiarity with gender neutral pronouns, the very beachhead we need to get them to take off nationally.


Of course, there are concerns. There’s always the chance that Fox News would turn such an intriguing decision into fodder for their perpetual outrage machine. Wizards follows the Chicago MLA style guide, and might be reticent to move off it. And Hasbro might take issue, given their broader market. It would have to be examined, tested on ancillary products (maybe the Commander precons, which seem to reach a more diverse population than some of the other releases), and then explained when it comes out. That’s work, and I recognize it.


As such, I am explicitly not pushing for this particular outcome. There are plenty of jaggers on that path, and the result of an unsuccessful push in this direction could be catastrophic to trans/gender variant people, whether or not they play Magic.


But it’s an interesting thing to consider. Someone has to take a first step if we ever want this useful grammatical tool to catch on. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Wizards were the ones to lead the way?


Jess Stirba is binary identified, but tends to present femmedrogynously.

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