I'm Changing A Character's Gender, Here's Why
 
One of the things I've been thinking about and periodically reassessing as I write is the character of Hui. Almost since the moment they were introduced, I've had them down as being non-binary gender. In my worldbuilding, I have five genders in this Khemetan culture: women, men, feminine males, masculine females, and dual-gendered people (who are often also intersex, though not exclusively). Hui has always been a feminine male--a person born with male genitals but whose nature is that of a woman, and so lives as a woman. I based this system on some existing gender cultural systems and on a few references I've found in my research on Egypt. 

When I completed the novella that ended up being draft 0 of the novel, I sent it to a couple of trans writer friends for feedback on Hui. It all came back pretty positive. Those of you on the Read Along level have likely noticed that Hui is emerging as a bit of an antagonist, at least for Ibi, and their animosity toward Ibi is going to drive much of what happens later. I worried that this representation might be a problem. No one flagged it, and I decided to make sure there are some other named characters who are also Hui's gender and masculine females around so that they wouldn't exist in isolation.

However, the deeper I get into this draft and into what I'm going to have Hui do, the more I feel like their characterization is going to end up being problematic, at least if seen in the most uncharitable light. 

In the book, the kinswomen serve as the ruling council of Egypt and control all administration that is outside of the purview of the Spirit Houses/temples (overseen by the Pharaoh). I want them to be a model of what woman-centric governance looks like--though in this book, the Heqa don't do it quite right. I will even have points where I contrast it to how the male-centric institutions run. I want what Hui does, which is disruptive, to be clearly a deviation and not how things are expected to work. If I do this with them as a feminine male, I don't want it to be read as: Hui can't do this well because Hui isn't a real woman. That's not how I would ever position it, and not how the characters would either, but could be the way it's read by others. I don't want to be the cause of a trans person reading that into this character when that's not what they're supposed to be about.

I know there is likely a way to write this dynamic without it coming off in a way I don't intend, I just don't see a way for ME to do that. It's a skill I'm going to have to build, which I will work on going forward.

Starting now, Hui's pronouns change to she/her and I'm going to tweak her backstory to reflect that she's a cis woman. That will mean some changes to why she acts and feels and fears the way she does, though no change to most of her actions. 

I'm still going to have characters from all genders reflected in the story and will find a way to work an explanation of the five genders in. I'd always planned for the next book in this series, which will center on Hashepsut, to be about gender and how it works in the culture. That gives me more time to read and talk to non-binary folks and do some research on gender across time periods so I can be more confident in getting it right instead of always worrying I'm bound to get it wrong.