Pros and cons of choosing a gender neutral pen name.

…but before I go, I just wanted to make a quick post about my reaction to the 55 Fiction ‘Greg Harlowe’ debacle. (Being listed with a masculine first name by ‘accident.’)

I’ll admit, I chose a gender neutral pen name because the bulk of what I wanted to submit to publishers was going to fall in the horror/sci-fi genre. It has been my impression that while the make up of the audience may be gender balanced, the bulk of all the editors I have been/will be submitting to are men. So I chose a name I thought was neither strongly masculine nor strong feminine in order to  avoid any anti-woman sexism I might be up against in this market.

(It was also about wanting to be as mysterious as possible; I wanted to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, too.)

However, being Grey Harlowe has resulted in not one, but three instances in which editors/typists mistook me as a man, instead of a woman. I think it’s interesting, and perhaps evidence of the kind of gender-bias I feared, that when people want to make assumptions about Grey Harlowe’s gender, they decide the pen name belongs to a man. This has happened even when I’ve submitted an author bio stating that I’m a woman, which is something I started doing not too long after I picked the name, regardless of how much ‘privacy’ I lost by using female pro-nouns.

I still can’t decide whether I did anything ‘helpful’ to my writing career under this pen name by going gender-neutral instead of something that made my gender more obvious. I’ve grown rather attached to this pseudonym, though, so I’m going to keep it.

ETA: The 55 Fiction people got back to me and updated my entry to reflect my actual (pen) name. Good on them.


One thought on “Pros and cons of choosing a gender neutral pen name.

  1. Confidential to those readers who seem especially interested in this question of my pseudonym here: it was chosen, quite spontaneously, as a pen name to use during National Novel Writing Month 2012. I invented it on the fly at 3 or 4 a.m. on October 25 of that year and happened to want to stick with it afterward. It is a *pen name,* not a fake name, fake identity or part of any attempts to cultivate same. Just an FYI.


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