[image description: A chipper character wearing a red and deep blue plaid shirt and newsperson’s cap. They hold a bottle in their right hand and point at it with their left. The classic symbols for ‘Male’, ‘Female’, are entwined with a question mark — these symbols appear to be spinning differently on the bottle front than on its neck. Inside the thin golden bezel cameo oval that may (or may not) be shifting its orientation is an impressionist mix of magenta and blue. outside it, five colored horizontal stripes — Pink, White, Magenta, Black, and Blue.Text reads, “201, RIVER ALGOOD, the small god of the Gender Fluid”]
• • • • •
“Okay, kid, so you found the bar. Good on you. That means you need to be here. No, there’s no cover charge, and we don’t care how old you are—think of it as a public house or an inn as much as it’s a tavern. Or hell, go with coffee shop. That’s a modern way of saying ‘gathering place with drinks and plenty of chairs, where you can be yourself with other people who are also being themselves, and not need to worry about anybody seeing you.’ This idea that bars are only about the alcohol is a lot more recent. But then again, so is clean water.
“Huh? Yeah, I do talk about it like I was there, because kid, I always have been. Go all the way back to the creation, to the first people we’d recognize as humans, standing there all hairy and muddy and naked, and there were always the ones who felt like they were one thing when people said they were something else, or who were something different today than they were yesterday, than they’d be tomorrow. You’re nothing new.
“Honey, you don’t gotta look so scared. You’re here. That tells me you belong here, and that tells me you’re one of mine. If you weren’t, you’d never have found the doors. I’m not going to judge anything except that nail polish—it looks like you didn’t use a base coat, and it’s going to stain your cuticles. But you’re young, you’ll learn how to do your nails without dyeing your skin at the same time. Unless ‘necrosis’ is the look you’re going for. In that case, you’ve got a lead on the competition.
“Anyway, you’re nothing new, and you’re something valid, and no one gets to tell you who or what or why you are except for you. All those choices are yours to make, all those futures belong to you, and I’m just the lucky god who gets to guide you along the way.
“My pronouns? Kid, I’ll take any pronouns you’ve got. I keep ‘em in a bucket in the back. Some of them can get kinda frisky sometimes, but they’re all good. If you need new ones, you can fish ‘em out of the bucket.
“Oh, which ones am I currently using? I find that ‘divine/divinity’ works pretty well for me. If that’s too much of a mouthful, you can use my name—River—or ‘they/them’ is almost never entirely wrong. But really, anything’s good by me.
“I am the god of the changing and the questioning, the malleable and the multiple, the ones who don’t conform, and the ones who won’t, or can’t. I belong to all of them, all of you, and I will keep you as safe as I can. It’s not easy.
“Nothing important ever is.
“So you found the bar. That’s the first step. Now here’s the question of the hour: what are your pronouns? Speak, and we can know each other better.”
• • • • •
Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world: