Is there anyway to figure out Vaarsuvius's gender? I know the author has stated he won't give it away, but is it perhaps likely that there are hints, and indicators I may have missed in the comics.
Is it possible to tell? Or is it not?
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Q: Is Vaarsuvius male or female?
A: I will never reveal the truth! Bwahaha! Keep in mind that while certain other characters might refer to V as being male or female, that simply reveals their perception, not the actual reality of the situation.
The first time I heard someone question whether V was male or female was right after I posted my first strip. A friend of mine asked me about it; at the time, I simply answered. Luckily for me, that friend has not chosen to reveal what I said then to the world.
At the time of the lime green boots strip, there was a thread separate from the main discussion thread where someone said how nice it was to see two women adventurers who were so different from one another as V and Haley. Brief debate followed, but there were very few posters in those days. I don't think it made it to 12 posts.
By the comic with the belt, I was aware enough of the confusion that I had already taken a poll among an IRC gaming group I was in at the time and asked them what gender they thought he/she was, and the results were split: 4 thought V was a woman, 2 thought V was a man. So I decided to swing the perception the other way with my next strip.
Update 2023-02-02: much after this post, in 2020, the Giant posted additional information about this on his Patreon. A question in his 2020-03 Q&A post apparently refers to one of the author's commentaries in a book:
6.) Seth Aaron Hershman: Is there any chance V being genderqueer will be mentioned on-panel?
Rich: Not really. The reason being that V would never think of themselves in those terms—that was a word I used to describe V when discussing a scene’s real world subtext in a book commentary. But V doesn’t think about this issue at all (and in fact is annoyed by it when others bring it up), because not talking about gender is just culturally part of being an elf. They would have no reason to adopt the term as a stated identity. And if V wouldn’t use the word, no one else is in a position to put that identity on them. Except me, I can say whatever I want about V because I made them.
8.) Erin S.: Something that's been nagging me for a while; did you intend to make V "genderqueer" (quote marks because of the explanation from the first round of questions) from the start, or was it just a happy accident?
It was more or less a happy accident. I’ve told this story before, but it basically came about because early readers of the first few strips disagreed on V’s gender, and rather than correct anyone, I latched onto and ran with that. So if you define “the start” as the literal very beginning, then no, but if you definie it as “the first 5 or 6 strips” then yes. And no, it doesn’t matter what I thought V’s gender was before those readers said anything, because it turns out I was wrong.
Even though I played it for laughs at times during the early days, I always tried to make it so that V themselves was never the butt of the joke; it was always Belkar looking like a fool for caring so much, or Roy getting frustrated because he’s uncomfortable with ambiguity. I don’t know if I succeeded at that, but that was my intent. Generally, readers’ feedback on V has always been very positive, though I do think some of the jokes from those early days probably wouldn’t stand scrutiny today. At this point, though, it’s just become something that’s a fact about the character, who I think is far more defined by their actions during the story than their gender presentation.
Vaarsuvius's gender is intentionally ambiguous; it's a joke on/with the readers. Therefore, the question you asked doesn't have an accurate answer. Both? Neither? We may never know. Rich Burlew goes out of his way to preserve the secret, from the readers, and even other members of the party.
Ambiguity about V's gender is such a well-known joke that it has its own shoutouts, such as this other elf from Looking For Group whose gender is ambiguous (though only to the other characters, in this case).
Well, since the author has explicitly said that the gender is ambiguous, even hints you think you've found in the comics probably can't be seen as definitive, since Rich Burlew can retcon it away if he feels that he accidentally pulled the reader towards one answer.
I'm going with "impossible to tell", since that is the express and explicit position of the author.
It is intentionally kept a secret as a joke, however, there is one clue: EVERY SINGLE FEMALE has a special body shape, while EVERY SINGLE MALE has a rectangular body. https://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0186.html
It is true Vaarsuvius's gender has never been revealed, and is intentionally kept ambiguous. But I get the distinct impression from reading from the beginning that the dialog is merely meant to be wizardly, and thus didn't show a definitive gender. Because it was ambiguous, the author kept it that way as a joke.
My evidence is rather thin, but I conclude Vaarsuvius is a woman. Here is why:
Except Elan, much later
After that, the instances of gender are more thoroughly blurred. For instance, I get the impression Vaarsuvius is a mother from the interactions with the dragon about the family's children, but that is very far from conclusive.