The two dwarven genders are miner and blacksmith.
Gender is among the first ways we describe someone, along with age, name, and where they're from. "My new boss is this woman from Texas." Most of the time you don't even have to say whether someone is a man or a women, since the pronouns do it for you.
Dwarves do the same thing. "What's their name? What's their craft?"
So it will come as no surprise that dwarven have pronouns indicate profession.
Gender and Profession
Of course, miner is used in both the literal sense (they literally mine ores) and the general sense, as in anyone who collects raw goods might also be referred to as a miner. (The word is unfortunately ambiguous when translated.)
And literally translating blacksmith is also misleading, too, since it can also refer to anyone who transforms raw materials into a more unfinished state.
Human: "So your mason is also a blacksmith?"
Dwarf: (Rolls eyes.) "They don't work with metal. I told you they work with stone. But of course, yes, they're a blacksmith."
That's what they put on their tombstones. Instead of "devoted mother and wife" you'll encounter "diligent mason and bondholder".
Some parts are non-intuitive. Warriors are usually considered to be miners, except for cavalry, who are considered blacksmiths. Of course, in a war, everyone fights. It's just that miners are expected to fight, while blacksmiths are not.
Which seems a little bit silly to humans. "Surely you still need miners during a war, and surely a blacksmith can fight as well as a miner?" It's a cultural norm, not a rational decision.
Gender and Names
Human names are gendered. You can usually tell someone's gender just by their name. Tabitha is a girl. Scott is a boy.
Dwarven names are the same. Oskerval is a miner. Gathron is a blacksmith.
Dwarves give themselves their own names when they are young. It is considered important for dwarven children to have good role models of both genders.
Gender and Language
Dwarven pronouns are also built around the same divide. They don't have he/she. Instead they have a different set of pronouns based on whether you are talking about a miner (raw material collector) or a blacksmith (manufacturer of finished goods).
Even dwarven nouns are gendered in this way. (It's a bit like German in that way.) It doesn't always make sense.
A pickaxe is a miner, but a shovel is a blacksmith. Rubies are miners, diamonds are blacksmiths.
Birds are neuter.
Is Gender Even the Right Word?
Not really. It's not quite like how we use gender, but "gender" is the closest thing that we have for the dwarven concept. It's probable that the roles for blacksmith and miner evolved out of the types of gender roles that humans are familiar with, so it's possible that dwarves were like us, once.
Dwarves see the world in a certain way that makes them want to put everything and everyone into these two fundamental categories. A person is either a miner or a blacksmith. Even animals and objects have associations as one or the other.
Humans do the same thing with gender. Cats are kinda feminine, dogs are kinda masculine. "Don't be catty." "You dog!"
Among dwarves, snakes are kinda minery and goats are kinda blacksmithy. If a dwarf calls you a snake, he's not accusing you of lying--he's saying that you have a lot of the negative traits associated with miners.
There is a little bit of prejudice against miners. Most fathers desire blacksmiths.
How Dwarves See Humans
Imagine a man who goes to a faraway place to visit a new people.
The foreign men there are a little odd, having characteristics of both men and women. That's fine, though. The man can handle people that are a little genderfluid.
But then half of them AREN'T LIKE THAT! HALF OF THEM ARE JUMBO-SIZED CHILDREN WITH TUMORS ON THEIR CHESTS!
That's how dwarves see women, with their high-pitched voices and smooth chins.
A dwarf goes to visit a human city. The men are easy enough to interact with. A lot of them shave their faces (which makes them look like children--like someone wearing a diaper in public) and most of them of genderfluid (they transition between miner and blacksmith all the time--not even like transitioning once in their life, but they switch back and forth daily.) That's okay, though, the dwarf can handle people that are a little genderfluid.
So even human men tend to make dwarves uneasy. Younger dwarves tend to be cool with it. They'll just smile and say "That's fine! That sort of thing doesn't bother me at all! If a human wants to shear a sheep and then weave it into cloth himself, that's fine! I don't judge him. I'm not a bigot!"
Dwarven elders tend to be more conservative. (This is an understatement.)
Women are a much stranger concept for dwarves, and if a dwarf hasn't been around humans for very long, expect lots of staring. Dwarves are also more comfortable talking to men, especially men with beards, and especially men with beards who fall neatly into either the miner or blacksmith category.
This is why dwarves who emigrate to human cities tend to seek out blacksmiths or other crafters early on. (Cities are full of crafters.) And since most dwarves who emigrate are miners, in the few cases where a dwarf falls in love with a human, it's inevitably some sort of crafter.
Human: "So how come I never see any dwarf women?"
Dwarf: "Eh? What's a wimmin?"
Human: (laughs and points at a woman) "That's a woman. What are dwarf women like?"
Dwarf: (getting red in the face) "NO SIR! There are no dwarven women!"
So you can see how the confusion originally arose.
But the dwarf is right--there are no dwarven "women". Dwarves don't have a high degree of sexual dimorphism, and their society lacks any comparable role.
Do Dwarves Identify as Male or Female?
Once dwarves are introduced to the human concept of gender, nearly all of them identify as men. (They didn't realize that we sorted ourselves by gender, like farm animals or something.)
Most of them have a harder time relating to women in the beginning, mostly because they lack beards and have high pitched voices. To dwarves, they seem like mutant children.
And to humans, all dwarves look like men, so humans assume them to be male, and address them as such. To dwarves, the whole distinction is rather pointless ("why does it matter so much?") so they don't really care what gender humans assign them. They have more important things to do. Fool humans.
Gender Coding Among Dwarves
There's a lot of little behaviors that can make someone seem more masculine or feminine. Sitting with your legs crossed. Watching sporting events. Wearing tight pants.
Dwarves have even more of these than humans do. Once you've lived among dwarves for a while, you'll notice that there are hundreds of little things that miners do differently from blacksmiths. Miners tend to stack their fists when they sit at a table--blacksmiths almost always lay their hands flat. Blacksmiths wear pockets on their chests, but miners never do. This extends to how they hold mushrooms during meals, how they stack coins, how they hold shovels, how they braid their beards, how they laugh, and how they sneeze.
And when humans go to dwarven citadels, they fuck this up constantly.
Dwarves like to be clean, like anyone else, but miners are expected to be a little bit dirty. After a bath, a miner will sometimes apply a little black paint under the tips of their fingernails, so they look a bit dirty. Or a quick smudge of kohl on the cheek, enough to look casual.
Dwarven Sexuality and Romance
The primary engine for dwarven sexuality is labor.
Dwarves become attracted to other dwarves for a few reasons, but the largest one is their work. A blacksmith might be impressed by the quantity of a miner's ores, or by their skill in prospecting them. A miner might be impressed by a blacksmith's steady hand.
There are plenty of stories of a dwarf encountering a hammer, falling in love with the craft of it, and then seeking out the dwarf that made the hammer, already enraptured.
Dwarven gender and dwarven sexuality are closely linked. When two dwarves fall in love, it's always a miner and a blacksmith. When two dwarves move in together, it's always a miner and a blacksmith who are in love with each other. Dwarves have a hundred reasons why that's natural and correct.
Sometimes miners fall in love with miners, though. Or a blacksmith falls in love with a blacksmith. These unions are (kindly) regarded as misguided, or (harshly) seen as disgusting and bad for society. The two dwarves in question are usually shunned or exiled. In some cases they are killed.
Dwarven society is very repressive in its own way.
Dwarven romance is actually highly analogous to human romance. There is a large emphasis on gift-giving, though, and a weirdly high value placed on punctuality. When a couple exchanges money, they use envelopes, and the money is not counted by the recipient.
"Sexuality" isn't quite the right word, either, but they do have sex. Why did you think they were so eager to move in with each other?
I won't go into the details, but I will say that dwarves are not as obsessed with their genitals as we are.
The reason you don't see dwarves making out all the time is because most of the dwarves you'll meet outside of the citadels are all miners. Their blacksmiths are all at home (and their miners miss them dearly).
Additionally: dwarves are all pretty faithful in their relationships, but even if they weren't, why would a miner want to kiss a miner?
Dwarves also use possessives to refer to their partner. "my wife" "my husband" "my blacksmith" "my miner". This also causes misunderstandings.
Reproduction is something completely different from sexuality.
In fact, dwarves think it's kinda gross that humans think the two things are the same.
Of course, dwarves understand that among animals, the boys hump on the girls and that's where babies come from. They raise plenty of domesticated animals; they are not stupid.
But the separation of sex from reproduction is one of the primary things that separates us from animals. And in fact, it's boggling that humans have so little self-control over it. It's as fundamental to society as using a toilet instead of shitting in your front yard. That's what makes us civilized. Why can't humans separate the two?
The reasons that a dwarf might want to have a child should sound familiar: it's to have (a) an heir, (b) an apprentice, (c) a family, (d) to give/receive love, (e) to give meaning to their life, (f) to fix the mistakes of their parents, (g) to give someone else a good start in the world, (h) someone to pass their debt on to, so their tomb isn't resold after they die, (i) their father expects them to.
All the same reasons that humans have kids for (except for maybe the debt thing).
When a dwarf wants a child, they prefer to adopt. Dwarves love adoption. You get to skip a lot of the unproductive years that way, and the kid will still be loyal to you when they grow up. (Maybe "loyal" is the wrong word. Adult dwarven children have a shocking amount of legal and financial obligations to their parents. Marriages can be annulled, but the obligation that a dwarf owes his father can never be discharged.)
When there are no young dwarves to adopt, a baby will be made the old fashioned way.
The father is the one who pays for the baby.
The father might supply seed, field, or neither.
Paying for seed is cheap. Paying for field is expensive. But when you're done, the new father gets a lovely baby to raise, and everyone is happy. So many tiny clothes to make!
Dwarves don't care much if their sons are related to them. It's seen as a little bit prideful if all of your sons are related to you. A dwarf will probably hire one or two genetic parents based on their rates and the quality of the expected offspring. The spouse may or may not be one of these dwarves. The prospective father may or may not be one of these dwarves.
If there is a dwarf you greatly admire, you may want to hire them to be a genetic parent to one of your sons. It's not rare for dwarves to hire their debtholders to be genetic parents for one of their children, but if their debtholder has a uterus, they probably can't afford it. Paying for field is so expensive because the dwarf usually has to take time off of work.
The dwarf's spouse is not especially involved in this process, although they are on the short list of dwarves that are considered when choosing a genetic parent. Most dwarves admire their spouses, after all. But it's also common for spouses to never father* each other's children, even when they have compatible genitals. Reproduction has nothing to do with gender.
Honestly, it's far more civilized than whatever humans do.
*In this sentence, it's still "fathering" even if you're the one supplying the uterus. Sorry if this blogpost is so confusing--English doesn't have a good vocabulary for dwarven gender and reproductive roles.
Mothers and Fathers
Dwarves don't have mothers. They only have fathers.
I would describe dwarven society as hyper-patriarchal, but without any women in society, the term is kinda hollow.
Dwarves don't deal well with the concept of shared ownership. "This baby belongs to both the mother and the father." Huh? That's all just dumb shit that humans say.
Dwarf: "So who owns this house, then?"
Man: "Well, I share it with my wife."
Dwarf: (rolling his eyes) "But who owns it rightfully? If you got a divorce, who would get it?"
Man: "That depends. We'd probably have to go talk to a judge."
Dwarf: (under his breath) "So the bloody judge knows who the house belongs to, but the man paying taxes on it has no clue. Fucking incredible, I swear to Gox."
Fathership is a type of ownership. The young dwarf has rights, of course, but they also have a great many obligations to their father.
Young dwarves dread their birthdays, because that's when their father usually presents them with the itemized list of parenting fees for the last year, and reviews their debt repayment plan.
However, dwarves do have uncles, which is a formal legal status reserved for the brothers of the father. It is also frequently extended to their spouse, close friend, or debtholder.
In rare cases, it is sometimes even extended to the other genetic parent.
Previous Dwarven Culture Posts
A Few Words on Dwarven Culture
A Few More Words on Dwarven Culture
The Dwarves of Mt. Doldrum
Dwarven culture is not monolithic (even though dwarves will insist that it is.)
This blog post mostly refers to the dwarves of:
- the Seventh Citadel and all its sons and grandsons.
- the Third Citadel of the Fifth Citadel, and all its sons.
- a couple of orphaned citadels in Tramaldea, part of the Cordyceps Diaspora
So if anything in my posts seems to contradict itself, don't worry! I was just talking about slightly different dwarves.