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Captain Bel Thorne ([personal profile] hellsbel) wrote2015-11-13 11:04 am

The Brig

Magnetically locked cells, force-shielded and minimally but humanely laid out, are used for secure prisoner transport and quiet time-outs for the occasional misbehaved crewperson.

Note on Canon Terminology


Bel Thorne first appeared in The Warrior's Apprentice (1986), then a first officer serving with slovenly, prejudiced Captain Auson. A sardonic foil to the other mercenary captains and the first of the Ariel's crew to openly endorse Admiral Naismith's takeover, Bel advanced to Captain during the course of the book and grew from the author's expected oneshot character to a Dendarii regular with key roles in several subsequent books. While far from the only canon non-cis character in the Vorkosigan Saga, Bel is one of the most prominent recurring ones, identifying equally as male and female and using terminology pertaining specifically to Beta Colony's "third sex".

In-universe, Bel's people are referred to as Betan hermaphrodites. Conceived in an attempt to make the gender binary obsolete, they were "invented" 200 years before present continuity during a boom in genetic engineering, and have remained a minority on Beta Colony ever since. Born with complete reproductive organ sets from both sides of the binary, they reproduce naturally among themselves and via genetic engineering with "monosexuals". The accepted pronoun on Beta is "it," which Betans insist does not have the inanimate-object connotations it has in the rest of the galaxy. A good chunk of galactics encountered in the books fail to respect either their pronouns or their persons anyway; reactions to Bel, a traveler far from Beta Colony, are almost universally riddled with ignorance, microagressions, and outright prejudice. Though frowned upon by the text, such encounters represent systemic problems throughout the Wormhole Nexus. Things are only marginally better back home, where, despite near-militant egalitarianism, familiarity leads as much to fetishization and othering as to respect. There are no perfect worlds in the Vorkosiverse, only individuals in varying stages of progress.

The use of "it" and the term "hermaphrodite", chosen in 1986, did not hold up over time. The author, though unsatisfied with the pronouns, let them stand when republishing her works, and Bel, in canon, insists on them, in rightful refusal to be misgendered within the narrative. However, as the terminology used for Bel and other nonbinary characters is damaging and unacceptable to rl nonbinary people, the version of Bel written here will use the singular "they" instead, and "hermaphrodite" will be avoided until a more appropriate term is found.