Lower Ekuosian gender system
The Lower Ekuosian gender system (LEGS), also called the Qurosist, Adzo-Neviric, or Four-gender system, is the social gender system used in Lower Ekuosia. It is also culturally recognized in many nations with a large ethnic Adzamic, Osuri, or Neviran presence, especially those which were formerly under the control of the Adzamic, Neviran and Saruan Empires. The system is comprised of four genders in most traditions, but some practices incorporate a fifth gender as well. It is the legal gender system used in Tabiqa (with the traditional four genders) and Nevira (with an additional fifth). The genders are tied to specific social roles, personality types, sexual preference and behaviour, and to one of the Four.
Transliteration and orthography
In Old Adzamian, the genders were sena, ruk, lesþe, benþi (plurals seen, rukraan, leþeen, benþiin). In modern Adzamasi these became sena, ruk, lēŧe, benŧi /sɛna, χʊqχaχ, leθɛ, bɛnθɪ/, with plurals śēn, ruqrāŋ, lēŧēn, benŧīn /çen χʊqχɑŋ, leθen, bɛnθin/.
The Neviran terms are son, kukko, yexaj, faji.
(In English/meta, the most common forms are: sena, śeen; ruk, rukraan; lethe, letheen; benthi, benthiin. The (English/meta) pronouns generally used to refer to member of these genders are: she/her/hers (sena), he/him/his (ruk), le/lem/leir (lethe), ve/vem/veir (benthi), and qe/qem/qeir (qurosh). He and she may also sometimes be used for letheen and benthiin respectively.)
The four genders are, in Adzamasi, sena, ruqrar, lēŧe, and benŧi. The plural forms are śēn, ruqrāŋ, lēŧēn, and benŧīn. Sena and ruqrar are commonly translated as woman and man respectively, but they are not direct equivalents. Many foreigners, however, tend to assume a perfect likeness and refer to the genders as female, male, lethe, and benthi. The fifth gender, recognized by some groups but not all, is referred to as quroš (pl. qurošōm ; /qʊʁʌʃ, qʊʁʌʃom/).
A highly simplified understanding of the gender system can be displayed in a table:
AFAB and AMAB refer to those who would, in a two-gender system, be assigned female/male at birth (respectively). In short, AFAB people are born with a vulva and vagina, and AMAB people with a penis and testes. In that respect, LEGS is similar to binary systems, as it recognizes two main sex groups. Children with intersex variations are usually placed in one category or the other at their parents' discretion, or into the fifth gender group (qurosh).
"Feminine" and "masculine" refer to gender expression, but are not entirely accurate terms, especially since, within the four-gender system, each gender has its own specific role, personality traits, appropriate attire and expression, and expected behaviour.
The gender distribution of the population is approximately 40% śeen, 40% rukraan, 10% letheen and 10% benthiin. In the last few centuries, especially when under rule of other empires, the number of those openly identifying as benthiin and, to a lesser extent, letheen, have greatly reduced. In five-gender traditions, the number of śeen and rukraan is roughly equivalent, while a few letheen and benthiin go to a small 5% or so of quuroshoom.
Traditional duties of each gender revolve around the nomadic way of life that was traditional to the Adzo-Neviric peoples, and is still practiced among nomadic groups today. In urban areas, the same generic ideas apply, although some of the roles are not applicable to everyday life; some have been modified to fit with the expectations of modern city life.
Śeen, meta-pronouns she/her/hers, sometimes translated as "(cisgender) women," are 'feminine' of personality and AFAB. They are linked to the goddess Amet, and therefore with her other associations: the south, life and fertility, the colour red, healing, and forests. Śeen were traditionally seen as non-combatants, but may have roles as armourers and healers. In modern Tabiqa, śeen are conscripted to the army with all other Tabiqiri, and are permitted to have combat roles, but most choose other duties.
Among caravanners and other nomads, śeen are responsible for setting the price of goods, and keeping and distributing payment among members of the group; they claim ownership of livestock, and are also tasked with herding, breeding, issuing pedigrees, and purchasing new stock; they oversee and participate in foraging along the road; they own the tents and furniture; and they determine living arrangements of families and others.
In urban areas, shopkeepers and other businesspeople continue to let śeen set prices and organize payment. It is most likely for the sena to own her home, or to co-own it with her spouse, and she is usually in charge of banking.
In sedentary farming communities, śeen have the same tasks with regard to livestock as their nomadic sisters. They are also responsible for potting, planting, and harvesting.
Child-rearing, basic education, and cooking are also the realm of śeen of all walks of life. In the arts, śeen were traditionally encouraged to focus on fashion and jewellery-making, but are now welcome to practice whatever they like.
Rukraan, meta-pronouns he/him/his, sometimes translated as "(cisgender) men," are 'masculine' and AMAB. They are connected with the god Hasþur/Hasthur, whose associations are the north, fire, the colour white, war, and the desert. Unsurprisingly, their traditional roles are largely as warriors, as well as weapon forgery, the organization of war, patrolling, guarding, and raiding hostile settlements.
Nomadic rukraan are charged with the organization of goods and people in a caravan, and with its protection. They are expected to be skilled riders on horseback and camelback. A ruk's other duties include hunting, butchering, and drying meat; setting up tents, barracks, and armouries; and training children and newcomers in combat.
Urban rukraan transport their organizational skills to the staffing of shops or companies, and are the most likely gender to work in law enforcement and security. They perform household repairs and renovations, but generally do not own their home or its contents, unless it is a part ownership with their spouse.
Non-nomadic rural rukraan are generally in charge of rearing and slaughtering livestock, trapping or baiting predators, and milking cattle, goats and sheep.
All rukraan are charged with the protection of their families and loved ones. They are not generally expected to be particularly artistic, although they traditionally forged decorative weaponry and armour.
Letheen, meta-pronouns le/lem/leir, are "masculine" and AFAB. The term is not easily translated into most other gender systems, although some simplify it to "transgender men." (This understanding is inaccurate, as many letheen would, in other cultures, consider themselves cisgender women - most likely, but not definitely, butch lesbians.)
Letheen are associated with the deity Kkarne of the west, thought, dark green, dreaming, and the sky. In combat, letheen have similar traditional roles to rukraan, but are not generally expected to do the planning of war, and they are encouraged to tan leather for weaponry and armour.
Nomadic letheen help protect caravans, and have the responsibility to scout ahead and advertise its upcoming passage; they herd and milk livestock, and hunt and butcher game; they ride swiftly, and are tasked with training beasts of burden; and they set up tents alongside rukraan.
In other settings, most letheen have less clearly-delineated roles, and may simply do whatever is left over to be done, or pick tasks usually given to rukraan. Their traditional artistic pursuit is the carving of wood or stone.
The primary cultural role of a lethe is in religion, especially theological thought. Letheen are expected to provide religions guidance, and may ascend to the priesthood; they teach children and newcomers of cultural lore and values; and perform tasks associated with religious experiences, such as the brewing and distribution of alcohol, and assisting with dream interpretation. They share many of these tasks with benthiin (and quuroshoom).
Benthiin, meta-pronouns ve/vem/veir, are "feminine" and AMAB. Benthi does not have a direct correspondence in binary gender systems, but is sometimes simplified to "transgender women." (This understanding is inaccurate; some benthiin would, in another culture, consider themselves to be cisgender bisexual or gay men.)
Benthiin are associated with the deitess Taali, and therefore to the east, water, the colour blue, magic, and rivers and lakes. They were historically praised for their skills in combat "magic," and also occasionally served as guards or warriors.
Nomadic benthiin are responsible for helping to sell goods, keep an eye out for subtle theft, and entertaining prospective clients; they perform most food preservation, such as drying spices, pressing oils, pickling, and fermenting; they assist in foraging; they may own their family's livestock and tent, if there is no sena to do so; and they keep tents and clothing repaired and hut roofs thatched.
Sedentary benthiin of all types typically perform domestic chores otherwise associated with śeen, but sometimes of the other genders as well. Their traditional crafts are dyeing, beading, and tailoring.
The cultural realm of the benthiin is traditional magic and herblore, which is part of most Qurosist religions. They are looked to for providing protective and other charms, poisons and curses for weaponry, and to frighten off rival bands with displays of their magical prowess. Benthiin are tasked to pass on magical training and their family's oral history. Some of these tasks are shared with letheen (and quuroshoom).
Quuroshoom are recognized only by some traditions, although many youth from traditionally four-gender cultures are beginning to claim the identity. Traditionally, quuroxoom are those who have no gender identity, and may have been born with intersex characteristics; in popular usage, it may refer to any person who does not fit adequately into the other four genders, such as a feminine AMAB person who prefers sena, or a feminine AFAB person with physical dysphoria.
The deity Quuros is genderless, and associated with life and death, the colour yellow, children, and the underground.
Among the groups that recognize them, quuroshoom do not have quite as many designated duties and roles as other genders, and take a mix-and-matched approach.
Designated roles include those tasks related to the dead, including funeral rites and cremation or the grave-digging. They also often serve as midwives, and are sought out especially to deal with the placenta and umbilical cord. Another common duty is as diplomats.
Figures are unknown, but a decent number of the small quurosh population seek hormonal or surgical intervention.
Sexual and gender minorities
There are plenty of people, both Adzo-Neviran and of other cultures, who do not perfectly fit the four genders. In some areas, they are allowed to identify as they please nevertheless, or to take on the fifth gender (where accepted). In other areas, they are encouraged to change their identity, presentation, or behaviour to better fit the system. In general, it seems that younger urban people, and some specific nomadic bands, are more tolerant of deviation from the four-gender system.
Homo- and bisexuality
The terms homosexual and heterosexual are not entirely congruous with the LEGS, although they have correlates. In general, the genders are grouped as "masculine" (rukraan and letheen) and "feminine" (śeen and benthiin), and it is considered unusual or frowned upon for one "feminine" person to date another, or vice-versa. This is what is conceived of as "homosexuality." It is especially taboo for a ruk to be with another ruk, and for a sena to be with another sena or a benthi. Letheen enjoy slightly more tolerance for interest in "masculine" genders, including their own, and benthi-benthi pairs are somewhat less stigmatized than other same-gender pairs.
It is generally expected that a "masculine" person will be interested in both "feminine" genders, and vice-versa. This may be seen as bisexuality by outsiders, but is not considered so within LEGS. Instead, they see bisexuality as the interest in both types of genders.
Those who are interested in only one gender are seen as peculiar, but not generally frowned upon (so long as it is in the other gender category).
Sexuality plays a role in gender determination, to the extent that those who are exhibiting "homosexual" tendencies will be encouraged to change their gender identity and presentation. If they successfully adapt to the new role, they will be accepted as a "heterosexual" member of that gender. If they fail to adapt, it is still seen as more acceptable than "homosexuality." (Bisexuals are generally encouraged to hide their attraction to their own gender type.)
Transsexuality and transgenderism
Many people understood to be transgender in other cultures are not considered "transgender" or anything out of the ordinary among Adzo-Nevirans; they are perfectly normal members of the lethe and benthi genders. However, there are those whose gender performance and identity are considered to mismatch, or those who wish to claim a gender not typically associated with their sex; for instance, an AFAB ruk or an AMAB lethe. Among those who do not recognize quurošoom, this group is also considered to have an abnormal gender identity. These people are considered "transgender" and are met with hostility and prejudice in many communities. In Tabiqa, these gender identities are not legally recognized.
Physical dysphoria is not considered important to one's identification as benthi or lethe, but those with dysphoria are not usually accepted as śeen or rukraan.
Advancements in medical knowledge and surgical techniques in the last hundred years have allowed for hormonal and genital changes to be made to the body. While these were originally frowned upon for "non-transgender" letheen and benthiin, they have been becoming more common over time and are now generally accepted. "Transgender" members of any gender are expected to undergo all surgeries and hormone replacement therapies in order to be accepted as their chosen gender - even though this may conflict with what other members of their gender are doing. (For example, an AMAB person may identify as lethe, and would be expected to undergo feminizing surgery and estrogen therapy, even though many AFAB lethe are seeking the opposite.)
Approximately 40% of letheen seek breast reduction or removal surgery, 25% seek testosterone therapy, and 10-15% seek phalloplasty or other genital surgery. Many letheen who do not get surgery wear binders to conceal the shape of their chests, and may pack.
Nearly half of all benthiin try estrogen replacement therapy at least temporarily; approximately 20% seek vaginoplasty or other genital surgeries, and around 15% seek breast augmentation. Some benthiin who do not have surgery wear padded bras and practice tucking.
There are no figures for surgery and hormone therapy among "transgender" individuals living in countries that follow the LEGS, including quuroshom, although it is assumed to be extremely high.
A sena may marry her ruk or lethe partner; all other couples are welcome to live with one another, and are accepted by society, but are not permitted to marry, traditionally. In Tabiqa, only sena-ruk marriages will be legally recognized, and only after the couple has produced a daughter or benthi-child. Sena-lethe, ruk-benthiin, and benthiin-lethe couples may receive a similar, but not identical recognition, akin to a civil union.
Divorce is always legal, although both divorce and marriage must be initiated by, or approved by, the sena partner (where one is present).
Gender throughout the life
Children and gender
The terms for children (singular & plural) are soor & soorün, unru & unruut, leyan & layaan, and benik & beniket. Most children are referred to as soorün or unruut until they are at least a few years of age and may begin to display personality traits best represented by the other genders. In some groups, all young children are referred to with the neutral term 'child' (tanan & tanaan). Those who recognize the fifth gender do not have a specific term for quuroz children.
Children are encouraged to explore and experiment with their gender (within the accepted framework). Although a child's parents usually correctly identify the gender the child will grow up to claim, and usually within the first four or five years of life, it is always up to the child to decide.
Names in Adzo-Neviric and most other Lower Ekuosian cultures are based on a root which is inherently gender-neutral, and children officially go by this neuter name until adulthood. However, most experiment with possible gendered forms of their adulthood name, especially as they grow older, and may ask friends and families to call them by it.
As early as the onset of puberty, and no later than age 16, children may have a coming-of-age ceremony in which they decide their adult gender identity and name. (This is not set in stone for life, but it is not expected to change.)
The ceremony is a religious one and ties into Qurosism and specifically to dream interpretation. The child must report having a dream in which one of the Four appears to them, although this may be in one of many guises. They are expected to take on the gender role associated with that particular god. Although it is frowned upon, it is expected that some children will, of course, lie about the dreams they may have had.
The new adult can then modify their neuter childhood name to a gendered one, although some choose to keep the unisex form.
Some other countries recognize a "benthi" and "lethe" gender as equivalent to trans woman and trans man, and may have legal gender options under those names.
Many countries do not accept the four-gender system and, due to homo- and transphobia, discriminate against letheen and benthiin; in some areas that traditionally practice the four-gender system, and especially among emigrants from LEGS-observant countries, people are much less likely to openly claim these genders, or to identify with them at all.
((Please feel free to add your country's official recognition or lack thereof here.))