Baby showers often declare blue or pink party favors. What those colors denote of sexes, have evolved back and forth over the centuries. Like color, gender identity and ideas are becoming more fluid, more colorful.
Writers addressed gender in literary art. These stories reflect broad perspectives from around the world — gender stories that color outside the boxes with more crayons than blue and pink.
The following are based on the April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender.
PART I (10-minute read)
Two Cents Worth Sense? by JulesPaige
Our eldest child was almost three years old when the second one was due.
A soft baby doll resembling our eldest was bought for love practice.
Changing the cloth diaper, singing lullabies, ever gentle hugging.
crabby old lady
said what good was it for him
to have a dolly
Our eldest is now a Daddy; he’s got one of each a peach, a plum.
crabby old lady
may not have had children or
a dolly to love
He’s changed diapers for both, sang lullabies and gives gentle hugs with love.
The world is a better place with gentle love.
Third Gender by Abhijit
“Boy or girl Sakharam?”
“Dr Saheb wants to see me?” Sakharam answered, “I have cleared dues.”
“Sakharam, your baby is a third gender,” Dr Sahai head of obstetrics and gynecology informed “we can make her a girl by surgery; it will cost money.”
“What is this third gender, brother?” a confused Sakharam asked.
“Bhai looks like your baby is a hijda,” a better informed Dayaram explained.
Sakharam, a daily wage laborer, was found hanging from a tree next morning. Hoping for a son, after three daughters, Sakharam lacked money and conviction to face the reality of fathering an eunuch.
Why Choose? by Charli Mills
The conference held at the UCLA campus thought of everything to address gender identity. The bathrooms were resigned, and attendees could declare their preferred pronouns.
“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”
“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”
“I am he or she.”
A line piled at the registration table. The woman seated, and we’ll call her a woman because a petunia pink ribbon beneath her conference Volunteer badge declared such, tapped her finger. “Look, organizers are sensitive to your identity. But you gotta tell me – do you want a blue ribbon or pink.”
Her Story by Joanne Fisher
She had grown up as a boy, but never felt like she was one. Her outward form never mirrored what she felt like inside. She developed anxiety, depression, and tried to kill herself multiple times. Then one day after losing hope of ever being herself, she finally talked to a therapist about her secret. This led to hormones and testosterone blockers, and changes. Her body became more curvy, her skin softer, and her breasts grew. When she looked in a mirror now she began to see herself. For the first time her body felt like it was hers.
It’s a Choice by Reena Saxena
“Gender roles are assigned based on biology. A man cannot give birth.”
“Sure! But he can raise a child.”
“Why did the caveman not do it? There must have been a reason.”
“They had no feeding bottles and breast pumps. We live in a different age.”
“Is that your condition for marriage?”
“Marriage is a choice. You are an artist who paints in a home studio. I am a civil engineer who has to be on the site. Who do you think can manage home and kids better?”
“Well, I’d prefer being child-free.”
“That is a choice – fully acceptable.”
Gender Comrades by Bill Engleson
“In my day, there weren’t no genders. Just men and wimin. Pretty sure that’s the way it were. Hard to remember, though.”
“Well, Luke, I’ll tell ya, your day was my day. I recollect it different.”
“Ya do, do ya. How so?”
“That time I sailed over ter France, daddy told me, ‘neither a borrower nor a gender be.’”
“What the heck did he mean?”
“It befluxed me, too. Said it were from Shakespeare’s Piglet… or Cutlet…anyways, it meant, be yourself, and keep your hand on your purse. Or your person. Somethin’ like that.”
“It’s a headscratcher, alright.”
The Greenhorn by Ann Edall-Robson
The greenhorn was getting his ranch introduction under Tal’s tutelage. The kid, as Mrs. Johnson called him, was an exchange student. He would be with them for a couple of months.
Hanna leaned on the fence listening to Tal explain the difference between the horses found on the ranch.
“Mares are the females. They get bred to stallions. Most of the horses here are geldings.”
“What’s a gelding?” The kid asked.
Tal thought for a moment before answering. “We classify them as being non-gender specific.”
Hanna couldn’t help but laugh. She had to agree, Tal was bang on.
Confusing by Di @ pensitivity101
Life was straightforward growing up, you had girls and boys.
Girls liked pink, boys liked blue.
Girls played with dolls, boys played with soldiers.
Or did they?
Suddenly pink shirts became fashionable, and from then on, the colour stereotype got slung out of the window.
There is no such thing as one or the other gender now.
It’s confusing, and the space on the job application form has multiple choice.
For security staff, it’s a nightmare, especially when it comes to body searches.
The world’s gone mad.
Imagine when asked
‘What gender are you?’ the answer is
Gender by Y. Prior
Ben placed me on hold.
Said he found my online stalker.
Exhaling with relief, I was eager to possibly have normal again. I could reconnect the wireless at home. No more power outages when I walked into the store or café. This stalker dude would sometimes get into my phone – so I stopped using apps. The airlines called me because someone unauthorized accessed my itinerary. And last year, he drove –
“Well Mrs. Jansu,” Ben said, “Your hacker is Lisa Hazel with the ip – “
“What? Lisa? Thought my stalker was a guy.
“Nope. Female. Thirty-three – from Boston.
Gender Bender by Deborah Lee
Jane holds up a flash card with a dress on it.
“La vestido,” Chelsea says promptly.
“El vestido,” Jane corrects. “It’s a masculine noun.”
Chelsea blows out an exasperated breath. “Women wear dresses! How is a dress masculine?”
Jane shrugs. “I didn’t invent the language. Try learning the article along with the word, and don’t look for male or female quality about the object itself. A pen may look phallic, but la pluma is feminine.”
“Well, it’s stupid.”
Jane picks another flash card. “The test is tomorrow. Be glad you’re learning Spanish and not Polish. Polish has five genders.”
Life’s Big Question by Anne Goodwin
“What are you having?”
“Isn’t it obvious? A baby!”
“Hah, right! Boy or girl?”
“Gosh, sorry, if you don’t want to tell me … I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind.”
“So, er, which?”
“We’ll find out when they’re born.”
“Didn’t you have a scan?”
“Of course I had a scan. Had to check they were okay.”
“They? You’re having twins?”
“Just the one. Thank God!”
“But you don’t know what it is?”
“Like I said, a baby.”
“But, but, what colour outfit do I buy for it?”
“Who cares if it’s chosen with love?”
Boys and Girls by Anita Dawes
My mother’s despair plain to see
At my unladylike behaviour
As I climb the conker tree
With my dress tucked inside my underwear
To beat the boys was my game
I take my brother’s double cap gun holster
Make my own bow and arrow
Dolls and frills were not for me
Until a daughter came to me
I dress her in silks and frills
As my mother would have liked to see
Quite the woman I turned out to be
My daughter never climbed a tree
No guns, no bows and arrows
Today’s boys and girls play the same…
The Guest Room by Luccia Gray
‘Alice, Billy’ll have to stay in the guest room, tonight.’
‘Mum, we’ll be up late, finishing our project.’
‘You can’t sleep together, not since…’ She nods towards Alice’s waist, ‘you were ill.’
Billy frowned. Alice didn’t look unwell.
‘It’s not contagious.’
‘You’re not a little girl anymore.’
Billy’s eyes widened. He stared at Alice. She looked the same to him.
‘So, you’re going to punish Billy because of me?’
‘Everything’s different now, Alice.’
‘Billy’s afraid of the dark. I’m grown up, so I’ll look after him, won’t I Billy?’
Billy’s jaw dropped and he nodded. Alice was always right.
Rainbow Futures by Norah Colvin
The children went around the circle telling what they’d be when they grew up: police officer, paramedic, teacher, doctor, prosecutor, influencer …
Laughter erupted when Rudii responded, “Mother.”
“You can’t be a mother,” taunted one.
“But you don’t have, you know, boobies,” said another, glancing at the teacher.
“Dad said I can be anything I want,” retorted Rudii.
The teacher silenced them and the circle continued, punctuated only by an occasional half-giggle or nudge.
A rainbow of opportunity awaits, Teacher smiled inwardly, contemplating the question he and his partner were processing: who would be Mom?
I Fixed Your Car! by Joanne Fisher
“I’ve fixed the carburetor and the oil leak, and given the engine a tune-up.” I said. The man smiled handing over some money.
“Thanks miss. Remember to thank the mechanic for me.” He said walking to his car. I rolled my eyes.
“Hey I fixed your car!” I called out after him. He just got in his car and drove off.
I’m wearing overalls and I’m covered in grease yet still some people just think I’m a receptionist or something. What do I have to do to be taken seriously? I shook my head and went back to work.
Are We Not All One? by David Harris
“What an idea this woman wishes to preach a sermon. Not sure it will fly with some of the congregation though.”
“Did God not make man and woman?”
“Yes, but didn’t He make us before them?”
“The Bible, Pastor.”
“Yes what of it? I recite scripture everyday, young deacon.”
“Does it specify what gender can or cannot speak of it?”
“…..No…No it doesn’t?”
“If you know scripture, do you not recall Galatians 3:28 saying no matter the race or gender, we are ‘all one in Christ?'”
“Hmmm actually it’s been a while since I saw that one.”
Prince Charming by Papershots
The little girls, four to eight years old, form a line backstage, demanding a kiss from Prince Charming. Prince Charming, a gay guy, texts his fellow – “How did I get talked into this? Got to kiss all these girls! I’m an actor, for god’s sake!” Pay is good, though. Before the show, the little girls were restless already, fidgeting in anticipation, no idea Prince Charming is not who he is, no suspension of disbelief. PC hides his phone, flips back his golden locks, and his charming smile opens the door to his dressing room. The little girls fire up.
Transient by Kelley Farrell
Rian floated from one form to another. Ice to water, glitter to dust, male to female and back again.
Rian frothed, dissipated, cycled through the clouds to the ground again.
Every nerve was disconnected. Each sensation coagulated around the indecisive form.
Rian’s thoughts blitzed the sky above. The ground pulsed with a steady heartbeat.
There was understanding. Then it was gone.
There was breath. Then stone settled in its place.
There was anger, now blinding regret.
Rian slipped between fire and glass, remnant of overheated ash; a permanent in memoriam to the transition between football and a silver dress.
Alex by Saifun Hassam
Alexander and Alexandria were super-intelligent AIs. Like other AIs in the Zeta-Tau galaxy, their digital code was integrated with DNA code from the genius brains of humans and galactic races. The AIs could take on any physical form; as humans, they could be a woman or a man. Aboard their starship “The Tsarina,”,they would startle Captain Mira and her crew by dressing to the hilt, in full officer’s uniform, or a tuxedo or a ballroom dress, jeweled pins adorning blue flowing tresses; their voices exactly matched. You could not be sure which Alex you were really talking with.
PART II (10-minute read)
The Devil and Some Deals by H.R.R. Gorman
“You let me screw with Job,” the Devil said to God, “Let me take away any gender-determination.”
God nodded. “Go for it, man.”
The Devil clicked clawed fingers, and bathroom signs became unreadable. Gender reveal parties ended with green colors. Identification cards lost a few M’s and F’s. The ability to think that way didn’t come back.
But, to the Devil’s horror, long-seated problems went away. Men’s fashion finally eclipsed Beau Brummell, and women could finally choose the veil or not. The two sexes and everyone outside and in between no longer guarded their supposed uniqueness.
“Lol,” said God.
Gender-proof Names by Susan Sleggs
The proud parents of toddler twins, a boy and a girl, couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to see which child picked which “rocking horse.” Without hesitation, Taylor went to the black and white motorcycle shaped one and Devin went to the golden pony. The parents smiled.
Years later the gender argument arose when the twins got their driver permits. Taylor asked, “Dad, in this day and age do we really have to mark the Female or Male box on this application?”
He answered, “It’s only good for statistics these days, each of you pick one, but make them different.”
The Shadow Show by The Dark Netizen
“Mommy, what is happening here?”
I looked at my child looking confused.
“This is a shadow show, my darling. It’s just like the movies we watch, but this is done right in front of us, in real.”
“So there are heroes and heroines here also? But I can’t tell which ones are boys and which ones are girls.”
My child was too young to understand this. This show was made so that the artists and the story is highlighted. It aimed to show genders are inconsequential. My child was too young to understand. I smiled.
“That’s what’s special here.”
Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills
Simon’s best friend Frank had crashed his bike, breaking his ankle. Simon’s mom suggested he make his friend a card. But Simon couldn’t draw the lines right and this made him sad.
“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”
Simon brightened. Standing before rows of cards, he finally found the perfect one. The words described what he tried so hard to draw and couldn’t afford to purchase.
“But it’s pink.”
Simon smiled. “I like the words.”
That day, Frank grinned from ear to ear when his best buddy delivered a card that read, “I’d buy you all the flowers.”
Girlie by D. Avery
“Do you get picked on?”
“What do you think? Two moms? My style?” She twirled a finger in the long snarly part of her hair.
“You could change your style.”
“I could.” Jamie stroked my hair, “Long hair would look good on you.”
When I chickened out on one of Jimmy’s stunts he’d call me Girlie.
I knew I’d be following Jamie to edges and dangers unkown, knew I’d man up in ways that only this wild girl would appreciate. School wasn’t going to be much easier, but it would be some easier. I’d no longer be sitting alone.
This Diwali by Rupali Banerjee
Walking back home, little Riya asked Aunt Sarla why she didn’t buy her crackers for Diwali while she bought them for her own son. Aunt replied “Girls don’t burn crackers. They are meant for boys“.
After returning home, Riya went to her father and asked if what her aunt told was true. Her father replied “Absolutely not, my dear. Girls can do every task that boys can do and even more. But burning crackers pollute the environment. Even your brother shouldn’t burn them.”
Her father then took the children to the market, returned the crackers and bought lamps instead.
The Basketball by Tien Skye
She was puzzled when her seven-year-old girl left the counter empty-handed. “Where’s the basketball?” she asked.
“The man at the counter said I should play with dolls instead,” her little girl replied. “It’s ok, Mama. I don’t like the ball anyway.”
Furious, she grabbed her daughter’s hand and marched straight to the counter, pausing long enough only to get the basketball on the way.
“Here, we’re getting this basketball. For my girl! And don’t you dare tell her what she can and can’t play.”
Both the man at the counter and her daughter learnt a valuable lesson that day.
Heading South by Joanne Fisher
Aalen and Ashalla traveled southwards. Aalen could hear Vilja ahead bounding along.
“In my village we do what we’re best at. If you’re good at protecting the borders then that’s what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male.” Aalen said.
“Where I’m from it tends to be the men that are the hunters and use bows. When I told my parents I wanted to be a hunter it raised a few eyebrows.” Ashalla responded.
“Why do you only let men be hunters? Do human bows need penises to operate them?” asked Aalen.
Ashalla laughed out loud.
East to West – Which Gender is the Best? by Ritu Bhathal
“Hmmm, what is it?”
“Not what. Who!”
“It’s the scan picture! There. That’s your grandchild right there!”
“Looks like an alien.”
“Well, we all know where the weirdness will have come from, Dad!”
“So, a he or she?”
“Does it matter?”
“No, not to me. Just as long as the child is healthy and happy, that’s all that matters. But you know what the rest of the family will be like…”
“I know, they’ll all want a boy. Typical Indian families.”
“Gender doesn’t make someone right or wrong, it’s their actions. Teach your child well. Make me proud.”
No Place for Friendly Men by Roberta Eaton
Sannie and I spent an anxious night locked in the house with the four children. Earlier in the day a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon. As it drew ever closer, we could make out a great crowd of horseman and ox-wagons.
The Boer Commando* stopped in our yard and the commandant knocked on our door. He told us they would be resting at our farm overnight and asked for some milk. I was angry with the commandant. A lonely farmhouse inhabited by two women and four children was no place to rest with so many “friendly” men.
* – The Boer commandos or “Kommandos” were volunteer military units of guerilla militia organized by the Afrikaans-speaking farmers of South Africa. The term came into English usage during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902.
Benders by D. Avery
Marge drew the blanket closer, nuzzling Ernest, snuggled cozy together on the couch. She could smell bacon and coffee and hear Ernest in the kitchen.
Marge sat upright. Ernest was in the kitchen.
“Nard! Ernest? What’s going on?”
“You two kept drinking. When you passed out together the love-hate relationship was in love gear so I only had to spread one blanket. Don’t worry, I have pictures for insurance.”
“Mmm. Morning Mommy.”
“Morning Nard. Breakfast’s ready.”
“Ernest. And after I slept with your fiancée. You’ll make someone a fine husband one day.”
“I intend too, Nard. When she’s ready.”
A Question of Identity by TN Kerr
Jimmy and Nancy continued to go steady for about three more days after the party. A year after high school Jimmy managed to secure some venture capital and founded a software company in San Jose. There’s a scholarship fund named after him now. Nancy works at the Speedy Mart.
Tito never came back from Vietnam, still MIA.
Becky is the Assistant DA of Lincoln County and has been in a committed relationship with Samantha Christian since she got out of law school. Samantha is a stay at home mom, taking care of the two boys she and Becky adopted.
Sequins and Heels by Violet Lentz
“Poor little thing. She looks so unhappy. All sad, and overgrown.”
“Can’t you just imagine her with a fresh coat of paint, maybe change the dark trim to something a little more vibrant?”
“Heavens no. She is definitely not a seafoam kind of gal. I was thinking of something a little brighter. Maybe in between salmon and cerise?
“Gavin, dear, your crown is showing.”
“And that my darling Marcus, is exactly why you love me.”
“That being true, I’ll meet halfway, at rouge- if you’ll cut the grass.”
“Only if I can do it in sequins and heels….”
Room 112 by Nancy Brady
It’s an historic building where Julie worked, and according to some people, it was once a home for orphaned children. Some of her co-workers claim they still hear the moans and screams of children when the building is empty.
One office suite was unusual as it had been converted. It was the only one in which girls, women, and those who identify as female entered and exited with regularity. Julie, too, visited the office regularly and always felt better (perhaps relief would be a better word). Rarely was she not satisfied even with her short visits to Room 112.
Gender Fluidity by calmkate
Born a pretty blonde Joel’s mother decided to dress and treat her fourth son as the daughter she so desperately wanted.
Simone had grown into a lanky young man who desperately wanted to be a woman. He had long flowing locks and preferred slinky dresses.
Joel is happily married with three children of his own. He always knew he was a man but was comfortable playing the daughter for his mother.
Hormones meant Simone grew perky firm breasts and shrank his manhood. He decided not to undergo surgery because most men got excited to discover she was a he!
Charity’s Childhood by Kerry E.B. Black
Charity played football while wearing her tutu and tiara. Her Barbies explored sunken treasures, donned armor, and battled evil warlords. She named her bike Ragnarok and imagined charging into battle every time she pedalled, yet she stopped to admire flowers, searched for fairies in mushroom rings, and danced like Shirley Temple.
Deeana broke from a group of gossiping classmates, manicured hands on her designer jeans. “Charity, why do you think boys like you because you can hit a baseball?”
Charity’s nostrils flared like a wolf scenting prey or a doe ready to flee. “Why do you hate me because I do?”
Questions of Gender by Irene Waters
I was a girl. I wore dresses but I didn’t have those monthly cramps and pains my friends suffered. Lucky, I thought. Perhaps I was. Boys attracted me. I fell in love but no pregnancy happened for me. My friends all had babies, cooking and changing diapers. My husband cooked for me. My friends led a conventional life but I did what I wanted – no constraints were placed on me. Menopause came unnoticed. No mood swings or hot flushes unlike my friends. Lucky me I thought. Now I wonder as talk is of grandchildren – was I ever a woman?
There They Go Again by D. Avery
“Let’s git goin’ Pal, Shorty’s steerin’ us ta some delicate ranchin’ chores. Git it? ‘Steer’?”
“No, I don’t git yer meanin’, Kid.”
“We’s ta do some gender fixin’. Ya know, gelding the colts, deballin’ the bulls.”
“Kid, that ain’t what they meant when they said fixed gender.”
“They? Shorty said; jist the one Shorty. She.”
“Nowadays ya kin say they fer a singular pronoun; gives ‘em wiggle room. Fluidity.”
“Pal, yer nuts, an’ speakin’ a such, do we or don’t we got some geldin’ ta do?”
“No! No geldin’!”
“Ok. But there goes dinner. Was gonna serve ya oysters.”
“Okay, Pal, then what is this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as I do when a calf is born we look and’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see.”
“It ain’t about that neither Kid. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself and how it sees itself in the world an’ all it kin do in the world.”
“Pal, then what’s this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as me, when a calf is born we look an’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see. Innies or outties.”
“It ain’t about that neither Kid, ain’t about parts. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself , how it sees itself in the world.”
“Ain’t really ‘bout calves, is it Pal?”
“But folks is folks, kin be who they want, dress how they want?”
“World might be a more peaceful place if we weren’t jammin’ folks inta jist a couple a boxes.”
A wonderful collection… again. They all seem to be wonderful and each is better than the last.
Thanks for letting me play, Charli. Stay strong.
This bolstered my spirits, to see writers playing and making progress into understanding complex life issues through literary art. I’m hanging there, thanks!
It’s a great collection, Boss.
Sure wish I’d been more careful stuffing my Yarn into the catcher though. (Oh the terror of the error!)
I wondered. Didn’t realise it was an error, thought it was for effect. 🙂
I didn’t see the error of your ways. It’s okay — some days we spill a little grain when feeding the chickens.
Profound and brave and full of diverse perspectives.
Very interesting responses to the prompt. I enjoyed reading them.
Thanks for your robust responses, Joanne. Each one added to understanding.
What a great collection of contemplations and situations, Charli. The world is spinning with change – hopefully for the better.
Spinning rainbows takes rain. But I agree, hopefully for the better, Norah.
I guess the conversation here was at the front of my mind when I was with my grandchildren yesterday. 7yo GD asked what was the difference between nieces and nephews. 9yo GS responded, ‘Gender’. Foolishly (as a GP – I should have left the conversation for the parents), I remarked that maybe by the time they were adults, those terms wouldn’t exist. GS asked why. I said that maybe there’d be just one word for nieces and nephews by then. My daughter, who is visiting from Canberra and was with us has wanted that non-gender specific word ever since she became an aunt – another gender word – but she didn’t say anything. I botched my response, which is why I should have left it for the parents. I must discuss it with them one day, when I remember. I think it’s going to take a few generations to change something we’ve been working on for thousands of years. But that we’re thinking of ways to be more respectful of each other and inclusive has got to be a positive step.
The practicality of overcoming ingrained thought-patterns and cultural norms is difficult but still worth botching as we try to make sense of it in the terms and context as we understand it. I think you at least laid open the idea that gender is not as specific as are the words we yet use. Yet, right? I think you did your best on the spot.
[…] I submitted my first entry into Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch 99-word Flash Fiction challenge (here). I follow many bloggers who write for Charli’s weekly flash challenge (i.e. Sherri […]
A wonderful collection, Charli!
You’re welcome, Charli!
Finally got round to reading them all and commenting on those that resonated … great collection!
Thanks for making the rounds, Kate. It is a spectacular collection with a broad range of responses.
as suited for such a topic, glad everyone tackled it and shared their comprehension in so many different ways 🙂