How should writers, role-playing creators and simple users behave when talking about non-binary people? Here's an in-depth look at the issue and some tips on using the asterisk!

Everything was born from this article su Game of Thrones: the person who wrote it preferred to stay anonymous, giving himself the pseudonym of Dodger. So when it was time to publish it on Facebook, we preferred to describe Dodger as "An * expert *", so as not to give indications on its gender and including non-binary people in the possible choice.

We had never done it. People have triggered more for two asterisks than for an article about the writers of Game of Thrones. Two asterisks create more flame than Game of Thrones. Let us realize. Asterisks> Game of Thrones.

We would have known 70 articles only on asterisks, instead of writing this rant on the ending e this rant on 8 × 03. Or to review all the episodes of the eighth season: 8 × 01, 8 × 02, 8 × 03, 8 × 04, 8 × 05 e 8 × 06.

So, let's remedy by writing an entire article on the use of the asterisk in and out of RPGs.

Purpose and audience of the article: let's make a premise

In this article we will explain the origins of the use of the asterisk as a strategy to create a neutral morphological genre in Italian, its potential and its limits. Next, we will delve into other strategies and how some RPGs talk about non-binary people.

As a result, the article was written with two audiences in mind:

  1. The curious and the curious who want to find out about the linguistic use of the asterisk.
  2. Role-playing writers and players who want ideas for writing about non-binary people.

As usual, you can always discuss civilly of the pros and cons of the asterisk, analyzing its limits and merits. But the comments of those who think it is acceptable to come to me, a linguist, to tell me that "the asterisk is ridiculous", without arguing further, should be avoided. Just as the flame, who will give you the free pass on deleting the message.

If you want to discuss it, you do it civilly and with arguments. It is not possible that I should hear linguists talk quietly about asterisks, snails and strategies for talking about non-binary people, while people on the web slaughter and feel free to shoot zero on everything. If we linguists can be calm and approach these topics with curiosity, you can do it too.

And, as usual, insults and defamations will not be tolerated in any way, as we previously communicated in this article.

The asterisk combined with the classic female symbol
The asterisk combined with the classic female symbol

How was the use of the asterisk born?

Let's start by talking about how and why the use of the asterisk was born.

But let's start from a premise: at the moment, there are no linguistic articles that deal with the study of the asterisk as a neutral suffix. The vast majority of Italian sources are of a journalistic nature and do not question much about the origins of this phenomenon, but prefer to focus on why the asterisk is used. Predictably, there are also articles that do little else besides shouting at the murder of the Italian, which deserve little consideration, having not been written by specialists in the sector.

As a result, it is difficult to understand exactly how and when the asterisk spread in some people's use. In fact, we do not have an official year of birth or a first certificate.

An all-Italian phenomenon born from information technology

It is quite logical to think that the linguistic asterisk derives from the computer language, in which it acts as a “wildcard” to search for the previous string of characters followed by any character. He speaks briefly there Italian grammar (2012) by Treccani, one of the very rare sources reporting the phenomenon. Therefore, we could define the asterisk a sort of "wildcard suffix".

Also, it appears that the asterisk used as a suffix is ​​one all Italian prerogative. In fact, in English it is not used precisely due to the lack of a constant and systematic presence of suffixes indicating the gender: whereas in Italian "expert / a"Will always indicate the gender of the reference person, in English"expert”Does not provide information on gender.

Notable exceptions can be found in "actor / actress“, With a suffix that specifies their gender. Another notable exception are words that are inherently masculine or feminine and were coined out of the need to refer quickly and clearly to certain people or animals. The couple are an example bull / cow, That sister / brother is that master / mistress (which we talked about here for Italian use!).

In other languages ​​without a neutral grammatical gender, such as Spanish, it seems instead that the asterisk is used, but the chiocciola (@).

The snail is actually also attested in the Italian context. In fact, the Non binary blog in its FAQ reports a whole series of uses to create the neutral in Italian by replacing the final suffix of the words. In addition to the asterisk, the snail, the "-u" and the Latin suffix "-Is", while as pronouns it proposes the "their"Used in the singular, following the example of "they”English singular.

In the Italian context in which it developed, the asterisk seems to be used mainly by people who frequent feminist circles or the LGBTQIA + community. However, its functions may change depending on the writer's intention.

The non-binary flag
The non-binary flag

A neutral gender: the asterisk used by non-binary people

Being inserted instead of the final word suffix (i.e. the suffix that also carries the gender information), the asterisk is a graphic strategy to give the idea of ​​a word of neutral gender.

More specifically, the asterisk is used to include the non-binary people.

Who are non-binary people? And why do they need a neutral?

Quite simply, non-binary people are people who don't recognize each other (or don't recognize each other only) in the male or female gender.

Small note on intersex people: difference between biological sex and gender identity

This lack of distinction in the two binary genres can be accompanied by biological characteristics (chromosomes, hormones, reproductive organs, etc.) which place the person in a gray area between the female and male sex. We are talking about people intersex, characterized by a great variety of physical differences that distance them from the female and / or male sex.

However, it must be emphasized that intersex people do not necessarily identify with a non-binary gender. Indeed, gender identity does not necessarily coincide with biological sex. Citing an article by Wired, the Italian Society of Psychotherapy for the Study of Sexual Identities (Sipsis) indicates as gender identity:

the overall identity of the person, the set of planes, dimensions and aspects - from the body, to the mind, to the way of presenting oneself to others - with which the person identifies himself, is identified and is identified by others. It is therefore a multi-dimensional reality, which never ceases to specify and define itself, from birth to adulthood and beyond.

Consequently, to be non-binary you don't necessarily have to be intersex, just as not all intersex people are non-binary. Being non-binary, in fact, is a gender identity, not a biological characteristic.

Example of a non-binary person from John Wick 3: Asia Kate Dillon, being a non-binary person, asked that her character, The Adjudicator, also be non-binary.
Example of a non-binary person from John Wick 3: Asia Kate Dillon, being a non-binary person, asked that her character, The Adjudicator, also be non-binary.

A non-binary suffix for non-binary people

As we said, non-binary people do not recognize themselves in either the female or male gender. It is therefore quite intuitive to understand that a language like Italian is not particularly equipped to adequately refer to these people, at least from a morphological point of view.

In fact, in Italian we only have two grammatical genders, masculine and feminine, therefore any name referring to a person can be declined only in these two genders. Therefore, if a non-binary person undertakes the study of surgery, they will be called a "surgeon" or "surgeon", even though this person is neither a he nor a she.

Now, certainly it can be said that non-binary people could shrug and carry on anyway: after all, it's just a limit of Italian, what will it ever be? However, the matter is more complex than that.

Invisibility also linguistic?

Non-binary people tend not to be particularly recognized / known in society (I would not be surprised if many readers / readers had never heard of it!) And are, basically, invisible. Tell these people to adapt to the current structure of Italian morphology e using a lexicon for binary force is a way to make them even more invisible.

A non-binary person who speaks or writes would be forced to choose between the two poles of the male and the female by force, at least from a pragmatic point of view. Doing so, however, would make their gender identity invisible, where cisgender people (= recognize themselves in the gender assigned to them at birth) and most of the transgender ones (= they do not recognize themselves in the gender assigned to them at birth, but we talked about it here!) are never so invisible.

I, a cisgender woman, can almost always claim my gender: I am "a doctoral student", "a master", "an editor" and "a linguist". A transgender man can define himself as "an engineer", "a minister", "a studio". A non-binary person cannot manifest his gender, and in this way he cannot nor express themselves with due precision, nor be recognized as non-binary by others at first glance.

Maybe, some people may not pay too much attention, but in reality this situation is not exactly optimal and solutions are legitimate. That the solutions are actually viable is another matter entirely.

But before moving on, keep in mind that some non-binary people use the male or female de facto for themselves. For example, Ethan, a non-binary person, in this interview claims to use masculine to refer to himself. Similarly, the youtuber of this video, not binary, she prefers to use the feminine for herself. Using a pronoun or a non-binary morphological gender for oneself is legitimate, but the important thing is to remember that it must be a free choice of the person, not an imposition!

The asterisk has also been claimed and used by feminists
The asterisk has also been claimed and used by feminists

A quick and cheap suffix: the asterisk for feminists

For the sake of completeness, let's talk for a moment about how the asterisk is used in feminist circles, where it is not always preferred to include non-binary people.

In general, in these environments the asterisk is used to be inclusive of the female gender without making the sentence too heavy with other strategies. In fact, the splitting of the form (the student) or the insertion of two forms, one masculine and one feminine (all and all) in the long run can become heavy in long texts, especially on the part of those who have to produce them. So, someone prefers to use the asterisk where they can.

The asterisk used in the video of the Parity in pills series. The explanation of its use is not as thorough, but okay.
The asterisk used in the video Series Equality in pills. The explanation of its use is not as thorough, but okay.

A difficult genre for the Italian morphology: is the asterisk a good strategy?

Now that we've explained why an asterisk is used, let's move on to how to use.

However, we emphasize that the asterisk as a neutral suffix it is not a form belonging to standard Italian (i.e. the variety of Italian described in the grammars). So, at the moment this wildcard suffix is ​​used without following precise rules and is not covered by grammars. Ergo, it is not at all said that it is accepted by everyone as a valid form and many people may not like it, even if only aesthetically.

This does not mean that those who want cannot use the asterisk, but only that resistance is to be expected by the community of Italian speakers and writers. It is normal and happens to all forms perceived as new: as long as they do not enter into use, exceeding the acceptance threshold of most Italians, they will have a difficult life. We also think only of mayor e minister, two perfectly acceptable forms, but which many people reject.

Anyway, let's get back to the question of how to use the asterisk. In fact, although those who actively use it tend to substitute it for suffixes that indicate the gender of a person, there are many individuals who, instead, for goliardia, parody or lack of familiarity tend to insert it everywhere, at random. So, let's get some clarity on where the asterisk would go.

The "rules" of the asterisk: where does it go?

Since it is used to make a person's gender linguistically neutral, the asterisk should be inserted instead of the suffix that, in a word, indicates its genus. Let's go deeper into the matter by making some examples from the Non-binary blog, in which a non-binary person tells their experiences, using asterisks.

This includes the adjectives, the names, the pronouns and past participles referring to a non-binary person:

Since I participated in the TGEU in Bologna as volunteers * I have wondered * why [...]

Of other * professionals * who face assistance [...]

If we don't begin to imagine ourselves as an alleat * instead of a rival *, nothing will ever change [...]

In particular, the asterisk is used especially to make the collective indefinite pronoun neutral "all / and“, In the famous form "all*":

Hello everyone (my example!)

[...] a waste of energy and money that not everyone * has the ability to deploy [...]

So, a sentence like "a master sat all annoyed"/"a teacher sat all annoyed"Would become, if referring to a non-binary person,"a * master * sat down * all * annoyance *".

So far everything should be clear, right? Asterisks may or may not like you, though the logic behind replacing the “-o / -a” suffixes should be fairly straightforward, Right?

Here, why now i come problems.

The words in "-e / -essa" and "-tore / -trice": a problem for understanding?

How should we deal with words whose final suffix, bearing the information on gender, is made up of more than one letter?

If we follow the language from which the asterisk was borrowed, namely that of computer science, we should replace the entire final suffix with the asterisk. This would mean that "Professor / -It", If referring to a non-binary person, it should be"Professor *", while "facilitator / -trice"Should become"facilitat *".

This means cutting off part of the word, which it could cause confusion in those who read and, therefore, may not help the language in its main task: to communicate information clearly.

Articles and pronouns: a big problem!

But the situation becomes even more complex when they take the field Articles e pronouns.

Of course, in cases like "she / it"Or with i demonstrative pronouns "this","that"And"he / she”Replacing the asterisk is quite simple. In fact, we would have "ess *","quest *","that*"And"cost *". Similarly, also the singular indefinite articles as "one / one"The asterisk is easily replaced, forming"a*". But already when you have "of / for / of“, Their already short form is further reduced to "De *", which may be ambiguous or difficult to understand.

The situation is even more problematic with the definite articles. In fact, if "him / her"In"the * unknown *"Would have a simple substitution, how to behave with"the master / teacher“? The couple "the / the" in fact it makes it unclear where the asterisk should be inserted: we should write "l* Maestr *"Or"*L* Maestr *"?

Indeed, in the triad "i / him / her" replacement is almost impossible, as there are no elements in common between all three articles. If we wanted to use the non-binary version of "the others“, We should completely skip the article so as not to pull out gender information. In fact, the non-binary person who writes about Not binary tents use the single asterisk instead of the entire definite article "i / the"

[...] a considerable saving for * contributors * [...]

Conclusion: the asterisk is applicable, but on some words it is not very effective

In short, if on "an * expert *"It is quite simple to infer the suffix replaced by the asterisk and reconstruct the meaning of the word, when the asterisk replaces longer morphemes or gives rise to excessively reduced forms, problems of understanding and legibility may arise.

This leads us to ask, therefore, whether we should resign ourselves to using asterisks only in some context, or whether we can resort to other strategies.

Ruby Rose, who will play Batwoman in the upcoming TV series, is a non-binary person.
Ruby Rose, who will play Batwoman in the upcoming TV series, is a non-binary person.

How to refer to non-binary people without the asterisk?

Do you know this article? Here, this article basically does not use asterisks to talk about non-binary people, but uses other systems. These strategies are important to know also because they are listed among the recommended approaches to avoid sexist language, which makes too much use of the “neutral” masculine.

  1. Use the epicenes, that is the words which, despite having a grammatical gender, remain unchanged in both the masculine and the feminine. They are, basically, the closest thing to neutral we have. "Person"Is one of these, but we can also list"fellow worker","dean","teaching","spouse","user","character"And the like.
  2. Use relative pronouns o undefined, such as "Who wrote the article" (instead of "author / writer"Or"the writer"),"Those who want to comment" (instead of "commentators / commentatrici").
  3. Use collective terms, such as "the user" instead of "users"And"the editorial office" instead of "Editors / editors".
  4. Focus on the action and not the one who performs it. It can be done using both constructions impersonal ( "Note this" instead of "users notice this"), be passive ( "comments should be moderated" instead of "moderators wander the comments").
  5. More neutralizing periphrases, such as "playful associations" instead of "associations of players".

In general, it is a good strategy for non-binary people to use periphrasis "Non-binary people". Indeed, "person"Is an extremely neutral term in our language and its feminine is uniquely grammatical, just as the masculine of"human being". To speak of non-binary people in general, the term "non-binary community".

Furthermore, one must take into account that these periphrases, however heavy they may become after a while, are perfectly acceptable in standard Italian.

Jonathan Van Ness, in the limelight thanks to the Queer Eye series, recently came out as a non-binary person.
Jonathan Van Ness, in the limelight thanks to the series Queer Eye, recently came out as a non-binary person.

Speech: what strategies to adopt?

One of the criticisms that are most often heard against the asterisk is its specific nature as a paragraph sign. After all, the asterisk is a punctuation mark that has no corresponding sound: how to pronounce "an * expert *"?

Now, the non-binary community has come up with some strategies. For example, the asterisk could be pronounced as a "u", Mimicking the strategy of using"-u”As a neutral suffix. So, we would have "unu espertu".

Or, the asterisk could be pronounced with the most neutral vowel in our repertoire: la schwa, which is written in IPA / Ə /. THU an informative video about schwa in English. But keep in mind that if you read this text aloud, a good part of the vowels you pronounce will be schwa, which your brain will perceive as the classic vowels of our alphabet. So, actually the schwa is a very typical sound of Italian, although it is not reported in our alphabet. So, we can pronounce "an expert".

However, if asterisks are already triggering so many people, how likely is it that your interlocutors won't understand you in speech? If you say that the non-binary person your friend is "Unu espertu", are you sure that you will make yourself understood?

That is why, in many ways, using the periphrases and the methods mentioned above may be more appropriate for speech.

The manual of discord: the one with genderfluid elves!
The manual of discord: the one with genderfluid elves!

Asterisk and other RPG strategies: what's the situation?

Board role-playing games are not new to non-binary characters: whether they are managed by the players or are part of the PNG, it can happen that you are dealing with non-binary people.

But at this point, who writes or translates manuals which language strategies should be adopted to refer to these characters? Also because if it is quite simple to say that "X is a non-binary person“, When we have to refer to this character with a pronoun, an adjective or a participle, how do you do it? "X is a non-binary person and is often seen busy with potions”Is a somewhat incomplete solution, since the masculine is used in the second sentence. Should asterisks be used, i.e. a non-standard form?

It's a big problem, so in the meantime let's see how it behaves in the already published Italian manuals.

PLEASE NOTE: in this article we will take only a few role-playing games and some specific cases as a champion. You don't want to claim universality. If you have titles, examples or cases to propose, write to us!

D&D e Pathfinder: British originals without too many problems

As a player of Pathfinder, Paizo has always given me many satisfactions, including many trans or non-binary people among the pngs and iconic characters proposed. An example is the Shaman Shardra, transsexual woman, or the Ninja Reiko, genderfluid / genderqueer which uses feminine pronouns. Even the lord empire Arsheafor example, he is an androgynous being, neither man nor woman.

In Star Finder it has gone even further, including many "alien" Races that have more than two biological sexes, such as Shirren. In other cases, there are Races that have no biological sex and can choose to identify themselves in a specific gender, or in any gender. This is the case of the Androids, which therefore would sometimes be considered as an agender.

More recently, the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons opened to many non-binary PNGs. Certainly, the introduction of the possibility caused a sensation for some elves devoted to divinity Corellon Larethian, to change gender later in the day.

Usually, in English it is not too difficult to talk about non-binary people without imposing a gender on them, even if only grammar. D&D tends to use the pronoun "they”In its singular form (which, I want to clarify, is a correct use!), while Pathfinder e Star Finder they usually just avoid every pronoun, repeating the name of the character.

The Shaman Shardra, canonically trans. Illustration of the one and only Wayne Reynolds
The Shaman Shardra, canonically trans. Illustration of the one and only Wayne Reynolds

Italian translations that do not depart from the standard "neutral masculine": the case of Arshea

But how were the paragraphs relating to non-binary characters translated into Italian? Using the standard "neutral masculine", which however ends up imposing a genre on these PNGs.

For example, in the Italian version of PathfinderWiki, Golarion Insider, the Empire Empire Lord Arshea sees one all male description, where in PathfinderWiki the writer takes care to avoid references to gender in full. However, Golarion Insider's voice is a direct translation of PathfinderWiki's description and, if in some cases Arshea has as description "a champion" or "androgynous", in other cases she receives the nickname "a guest", which is very neutral.

We solve the case of Arshea: we eliminate past participles

The big problem is found in the use of past participles, as in "is represented". Past participles, if not referring to neutral terms such as "person“, They necessarily have a very marked genre. In these cases, my advice is to avoiding passive forms in full. For example, in this article I have not used terms such as "was / * described / a / *"Or"was / a / * called / a / *", But other forms:"has [like / a] description"Or"receives the appellation x".

With regard to "a champion"And"androgynous“, Also in this case alternative solutions can be adopted. For example, "androgynous”Can be replaced by "an androgynous being" (speaking of a semi-deity, "be"Fits perfectly). Instead, "a champion”Can be rendered with periphrasis "Arshea plays the role of champion", which makes the term more neutral.

These are all perfectly correct solutions, in standard Italian, very acceptable and even more sustained than the passive. And they have no gender marking referring to Arshea. Of course, they are less immediate to write than "has been described“, But any Italian writer, thinking about it for a minute, can get there. I am absolutely confident in the skills of our translators and I know that, with the right stimulus, they can do it.

The big problem that remains is that "Lord Empire”Initial but, being in many ways a technical description, I believe it can understand "Sir”As an honorific, relatively neutral. It is not the perfect solution and requires turning a blind eye, but I believe that at least the technical lexicon can be overlooked a bit.

Elf designed by elves georg, non-binary artist
Elf drawn by elves georg, non-binary artist

We name the pronoun "them", but the masculine continues to be used: the case of Fala Lefaliir

In Waterdeep: Dragon Heist compare Fala Lefaliir, herbalist of Elven race and non-binary person. Fala, in the English version, is referred to without the use of pronouns, but by repeating its name several times, in a way that in Italian would be pounding, even. Furthermore, in one passage it is noted that Fala prefers the pronoun "they" to "he / she".

In Italian translation, however, Fala is described as "an herbalist","a member","a friendly elf of the woods","amico","a druid","chaotic good". Furthermore, always referring to his person, we use "if someone gives him him"And"don't be fascinated". And nevertheless, the Italian description also inserts the paragraph on the preferred pronoun, which in this case is "their", To be used to refer"to his person".

This translation suffers from a certain indecision. Probably, it was preferred to adhere to the canonical translation with the "neutral masculine" also for fear that, by using periphrases, the text limits would be exceeded and the layout would be sent to cow. Which, let's be clear, are concerns that a publisher does very well to have.

However, I believe that Fala could have been described in a more neutral way without going too far. Let's see how!

We solve the case of Fala Lefaliir: neutral, but short?

Let's try rewrite the paragraph dedicated to Fala using unmarked language of its kind. The modified parts are marked in bold.

Fala Lefaliir, herbalist e guild partner dei Farmacisti e dei Medici, works in this elegant three-storey building, whose second floor has been converted into a greenhouse. The transparent glass walls allow everyone who passes by to admire the flamboyant expanse of flowers that grow inside.

Fala Lefaliir, friendly elf of the woods, ha a long braided hair. Such as the elven deity Corellon Larethian, Fala is neither male nor female. If anyone gives to Fala of "him" or "her", the herbalist he politely asks that his person be addressed by name or "they". Fala has a bond of friendship with a member of the Zhentarim named Ziraj, who saved his life in the past of the herbalist. From time to time he visits Fala, who keeps a room on the first floor ready for him.

The class of Fala is the Druid, with the following changes:

a. Alignment chaotic good.

b. Fala has the following racial traits: Has advantage on saving throws against Bewitchment e Fala cannot be put to sleep through magic. Has a base ground speed of 10,5 meters and darkvision within 18 feet. Speak the Common, the Druidic and the Elven.

Let's see how many more words and characters we used! Comparing this version with the original Italian one, the version without the marked gender has 54 more characters (spaces included), that is 3 more words.

Now, 54 characters are not very few, but I think, to correctly report the gender of a character, this may be a path at least to be attempted.

In this new version it has been left unchanged "wood elf", Since the alternative"belongs to the Race of the Wood Elves”Was deemed too long. In general, "elf"Could be seen as a relatively neutral term, such as"human being“, Although its neutrality is lower. However, I understand that limits of space and sensitivity have to meet a little.

Image from Dream Askew
image from Dream Askew

Dream Askew: a non-standard and interesting translation

On the indie games front, however, the Italian translation of Dream Askew, post-apocalyptic queer PBTA game, in which non-straight and / or non-cisgender characters will be played. We take this opportunity to remember that Dream Askew can be tried at Genderplay II Edition!

Dream Askew, created by Avery Alder (former creator of Monster hearts, of which we have spoken here !), was translated by a team from Geecko on the Wall. To make the characters non-binary and the fact that they often recognize themselves in completely new and "post-apocalyptic" genres, the team of translators and translators has chosen a hybrid strategy, non-standard and also quite chaotic.

Strategy that, if you think about it, goes well with the atmosphere of the game, so it shouldn't bother even purists. After all, if on M it is acceptable to hear about "aqua cola"And"Schlanger“, Here we can accept a language made of schwa.

So many schwa instead of asterisks, one for each situation!

And indeed on Dream Askew our beloved return schwa, which we talked about above! In fact, in the names of many booklets, instead of using solutions to the "neutral masculine" or alternating masculine and feminine, this team preferred to introduce names with "There". So, we have “lə Iris”, “lə Maestro”, “lə Sticher”, “lə Tiger”, “lə Torch” and “lə Arrival”. In general, these names are a direct transposition of the English ones (therefore gender neutral), with the exception of "Maestro", which has been translated into the masculine.

In the descriptions of the booklets, they are preferred rather neutral formulas, as in "Iris is a disturbing individual". In the case of adjectives, oscillates between the masculine and the "neutral" with schwa: "It could be calculating, adventurous or opportunistic". This shows that only words in which the gender is expressed by a suffix consisting of a single letter have been neutralized (-o / -a). The terms in "-at / -trice“Instead, they were left to the masculine, avoiding the excessively narrow forms we had seen before, with asterisks.

I personal pronouns almost all were aimed at the first person singular, with the game he wants to make people talk in first person the character. For this, we will not have "lui / lei"Aimed at the characters, but we will hear them talking in"Decide what the psychic maelstrom told you"And in"How and when will I die". In some cases, pronouns are seen "lui / lei“, Transformed into "there", with the schwa who wisely takes the place of the "u" and of "e". Here is an example:

Whenever someone invites you to use your psychic powers on them, they gain a counter.

The asterisk in the poster of a themed event
The asterisk in the poster of a special event theme

Conclusion 1: asterisk (and other non-standard strategies) yes or no?

If you want to write in standard or neo-standard Italian, no. RPG manuals generally should be written in standard or neo-standard Italian, so if you want to adhere to these varieties, you shouldn't use the asterisk, schwa, la -u or the -x.

If you want to write a manual that makes you get out of binary genres in a post-apocalyptic world (therefore with an often whole new vocabulary), then Yup. In fact, the choice of a non-standard strategy, if well motivated, can easily be acceptable in these cases, since de facto helps to identify with the atmosphere of the game.

If someone created a role-playing game set in late 1400s Florence and used, also in the descriptions of the manual, some linguistic strategies of Machiavelli's Florentine, he would give a nice note of color, for example.

If you want to write a post on Facebook, where a more conversational language is perfectly acceptable, do what you want. Use or not use asterisks. Feel free *. Not all of them will appreciate it, but sticazzi.

Conclusion 2: periphrasis and reformulation of the phrase yes or no?

If you want to write in standard or neo-standard Italian, yes. Absolutely yes. Necessarily yes.

Of course, some small and isolated exceptions due to space and layout requirements they are understandable and acceptable. But if you want to talk about non-binary characters in Italian, you should use Italian to its full potential.

Italian does not have a neutral grammatical gender, but this does not make our language dull. Italian has other strategies for meeting non-binary people, and these strategies should be within reach of anyone who writes or translates role-playing games. There is no excuse for not using themapart from the isolated exceptions mentioned above.

The "neutral" masculine, in these cases, is just a lazy and easy solution, which however makes non-binary people invisible. If the non-binary person speaks of himself in the feminine ("I graduated") or in the masculine ("I was hired"), then it can be tolerated that his person is referred to in the masculine or feminine. But if the non-binary person does not specify their pronoun or, in Italian, their preferred grammatical gender, or if they use the "their“, Then the neutral masculine should not be imposed on her.

Periphrases and the reformulation of speech in neutral form are excellent writing exercises and allow you to reflect on the characteristics and potential of Italian. Those who are so frightened of the asterisk or who stand as champions of Italian should embrace these periphrases.

Conclusion 3: it is good that Italians address these issues

Finally, I close with a little reflection. Italian, having been written and spoken for a long time in a society that did not recognize the existence of non-binary people, he is obviously not well equipped to talk about the latter.

Does this make Italian a transphobic language? Nì. The society that used Italian was transphobic, but the language itself, being only a tool, is innocent. However, Italian must be able to refer to the reality that surrounds us, and if this reality includes non-binary people, then it must be able to talk about non-binary people.

As you have seen, Italian, although not having a neutral grammatical gender, still has the tools to refer to non-binary people in a precise and respectful way. We use these tools. We use our language by going beyond the final suffixes and restructuring their sentences.

Furthermore, the fact that Italian addresses these issues and tries to adapt to changing times is good. Also the fact that some people propose the asterisk, the schwa, the -u or the -x that's good. Because it means that Italian is alive and used by people who want to continue writing and speaking it, even at the cost of changing it.

It would be much worse if these people sought refuge in English: at that point, the Italian would certainly not be "soiled" by the asterisks, but it would not even be used anymore. And non-use is the death of the tongue. The asterisks, on the contrary, do not kill anyone at all.

The cover image is taken from this article on Medium.