Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Fishy Identity Issues

I have a fish. Actually I have several fish, in multiple fish tanks, but I have only one fish that has lived long enough to establish a name and identity for itself, and that is likely to continue living long enough to potentially establish new names and identities for itself. Here is a picture of this fish of mine.

red devil cichlid

This fish is a red devil cichlid. I have had this fish since March 2009, when some neighbors gave it to me. I thought at first that it was a female fish, though it was too young for a non-expert to really be able to tell the difference. Susan named it Muffy, because she thought that sounded like the name of a mean girl, and the fish is quite an aggressive fish. (We quickly learned not to put any other fish in the same tank as it, because it will kill them all. It also follows humans from one side of the tank to the other and makes biting motions toward them.)

As the fish grew, it developed a bulge on its forehead that is typical of males of the species. I began to suspect that it was really a male fish. I said so to Susan, but she brushed this aside as something she didn't feel like questioning. I, however, became more and more convinced, over time, that the fish was male. Eventually Susan asked a science teacher friend of hers to settle our dispute over the fish's sex. He looked the fish over vaguely and ventured a hesitant guess that Susan probably knew what she was talking about.

Then we called a plumber to fix a pipe, and the plumber happened to notice and exclaim over the fish. The plumber told me that he and some friends of his made a hobby of breeding red devil cichlids. I asked the plumber his opinion on the fish's sex. The plumber first said that at first glance, the fish appeared to be male. Then the plumber took the time to actually inspect the fish's plumbing - its genital papilla - up close. After a close inspection, the plumber declared the fish to be quite definitively male.

Susan was not there during the plumber's visit. When I informed her about it later, she opined that her science teacher friend was far more educated than the plumber. Well, not about this breed of fish, he wasn't. But Susan could not believe her friend capable of making any mistake, and she declared that the fish would remain Muffy and would remain a "she," whether I liked it or not.

Then Susan left me, and I kept the fish. I decided, during the separation process, that the fish could keep the name Muffy but should have male pronouns now. Then a year passed, during which the only people who came to my house were people who had already been to my house before and had seen the fish before, so I never had occasion to use any name or pronouns at all for the fish.

Last weekend I finally had occasion to introduce the fish to some new people, my relatives. I did not use the fish's name, but I did use pronouns - and the pronouns that came out of my mouth, from force of habit, were female ones. I then immediately felt foolish because, in the unlikely event that my relatives happened to know how to identify the sex of a red devil cichlid, they would think I didn't know that my fish is male.

This is, of course, a silly thing to spend time worrying about. Still, I've now realized that if I don't change my fish's name, I probably won't remember to change my fish's pronouns, either. And if I do change my fish's name, I can give it a name that is more characteristic of my own naming tastes, rather than Susan's. (This is likely to mean that its name will be derived from a David Bowie song lyric, as Stardust's is, and as my former cat Spider's was, but, well, anything could happen.)

Of course, my fish has been living a genderbent life for so long now that maybe it's gotten used to this and prefers to maintain its existing identity. Also, cichlids do sometimes spontaneously change sex, even in adulthood, so I could change its name and pronouns and still have them end up being cross-gendered again. So, I don't know what I should do. What sorts of names or pronouns do you think my fish would like?

Poll #1989673 Solve My Fish's Identity Issues

Should my fish's name be changed?

No, your fish's name is already established.
Yes, your fish should have a male name.
Yes, your fish should have a genderfree name.
Yes, your fish should have a brand new name that is still a female name.
Yes, over and over, until your fish is thoroughly confused.

Should my fish's pronouns be changed?

No, your fish's female pronouns are already established.
Yes, your fish should have pronouns that match its male sex.
Yes, your fish should have genderfree pronouns.
Yes, over and over, until your fish is thoroughly confused.
Your fish should have pronouns that match the gender of whatever name you call it by.
Your fish should have pronouns that conflict with the gender of whatever name you call it by.

Would you care to suggest specific names or pronouns for my fish?

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