Gender

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Gender is a system that associates sex and modes of expression with the social roles and norms of men, women, and other categories. Many people consider themselves to have a gender identity, an internal sense of their gender, which may or may not correspond to their assigned sex.

Toki Pona mainly specifies gender with the words meli, mije, and tonsi. Content words including personal pronouns are not inflected for grammatical gender, animacy or number. There is only one third-person pronoun, ona, which can refer to any number of beings of any or no gender. The distinguishing function of gender is supplanted by other grammatical features such as headnouns.

More gendered language has been created as Toki Pona evolves. Due to the minimal impact of gender on the vocabulary, this mainly involves content words relating to queer experiences such as attraction and non-binary gender. There is debate over whether Toki Pona ought to include gendered language at all, with some speakers avoiding it, a style of speech called gendern't.

Translation[edit | edit source]

As with any word, there are many possible translations of gender into Toki Pona. It is preferred to think critically about what gender personally means and use as many sentences as needed to describe the concept. With that said, some words and phrases have developed to describe the greater concept. Some common translations include:

kule kon

color (used metaphorically as "intrinsic attribute") of the soul

nasin

way

poki

box (derogatory; used metaphorically as "extrinsic attribute". Compare English "put someone in a box")

meli anu mije anu tonsi

femininity or masculinity or non-binarity

Widespread gender words[edit | edit source]

meli in sitelen pona
meli in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /ˈme.li/
Usage 2023: Common4, Widespread6 (82% ↘︎ )2022: Widespread (89%)
Book and era nimi pu
Part of speech Content word
Codepoint 󱤳 U+F1933
mije in sitelen pona
mije in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /ˈmi.je//j/ sounds like English Y, as in "fjord" or "hallelujah".
Usage 2023: Common4, Widespread6 (82% ↘︎ )2022: Widespread (89%)
Book and era nimi pu
Part of speech Content word
Codepoint 󱤵 U+F1935
tonsi in sitelen pona
tonsi in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /ˈton.si/
Usage 2023: Common4, Widespread6 (83% ↘︎ )2022: Widespread (86%)
Book and era nimi ku suli (post-pu, "honorary nimi pu")
Part of speech Content word
Codepoint 󱥾 U+F197E

meli describes girls, women, and femininity; mije describes boys, men, and masculinity; and tonsi describes nonbinary genders and people, or gender non-conforming people. As these concepts overlap, the words can modify each other. For example, a masculine non-binary person may self-describe as tonsi mije or mije tonsi. A bigender person may self-describe using both mije and meli, or use tonsi to describe the duality of their gender.

This method is not perfect, as it makes it easy to fall back on gender words rather than describing masculine and feminine traits in more meaningful terms. Additionally, tonsi has several other meanings, like gender non-conforming or transgender, which not all non-binary people identify as.

Transgender[edit | edit source]

There are typically two ways to specify that someone is transgender. The first one is using the word kule with the alternative meaning, "of or relating to the LGBT+ community". The second one is using tonsi, which has a less common meaning of "non-cisgender". This way is riskier, as it might suggest that someone is non-binary when they are not.

gendern't[edit | edit source]

gendern't is a nasin (style of speech) that avoids the use of mije, meli, and sometimes tonsi altogether.

Sex[edit | edit source]

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The words for gender may be used for describing sex and sexual features, both when referring to human and non-human creatures. However, this is often dissuaded due to the complexity of sex and to avoid making assumptions about personal identity.

tenpo unpa la soweli mije li utala 

tenpo unpa la soweli mije li utala.

In the breeding season, the male animals fight.

For example, a penis may be described as palisa mije ("male stick"), but avoiding the gender word, it may be described as palisa unpa ("sex stick"), palisa mama ("reproduction stick"), or palisa jaki ("dirty stick").

Orientation[edit | edit source]

Romantic and sexual orientations are often discussed through phrases that use gender words. The obscure nimi sin melome and mijomi have also been derived from the gender words to refer to sapphic and achillean orientation, respectively.