Transgender/nonbinary Protagonists?

Discussion in 'General Lounge' started by Atlas Rose, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. Atlas Rose

    Atlas Rose Jack of all trades Veteran

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    I've been thinking for a while on how to kind of branch out and make my character not so cookie-cutter, as well as trying to be inclusive with representation, when I realized that games seem to be lacking characters that leave a realistic impression out being outside the gender binary. Of all the games I've played, the only decent example I can come up with is Frisk from Undertale who, while is never explicitly stated to be nonbinary, is referred to as they/them throughout the game. Other than that, I can't really come up with nice representation from what is becoming a more well-known and included minority in many other industries.


    So, can you guys think of other trans/nonbinary characters? If not, why do you think there aren't that many?
     
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  2. Victor Sant

    Victor Sant Veteran Veteran

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    There is a quite long discussion about this already:
     
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  3. Emmych

    Emmych forever rotting in the shamecube, floating eternal Veteran

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    I use the word "cis" in this post which is short for the term "cisgender", which means you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, aka you were born and people said "ur a boy" and you have grown up as a boy and continue to identify with being male and a man.


    PentagonBuddy and I made a game that featured a transmasculine person and a transgender woman as the protagonists for the last IGMC! It's called Free Spirits and we actually got a prize for it, which was really nice.


    There are two reasons, I think, that trans protagonists are uncommon:


    1) Transphobia/discrimination against trans people coming from the creators.  This doesn't have to be the vitriolic bigotry that most people thinking of when they think about oppression and discrimination, but rather the viewing a trans character as something Too Different to be easily related to, and thus a poor choice for a protagonist.  A lot of existing trans characters' existences are also based around their gender and used to explain that gender to a cis audience, which is also indicative about how most games are made for cis audiences in mind.


    2) Trans creators having to deal with a lot of transphobic BS after releasing something starring trans characters.  Remember how I mentioned I was part of a team that made a game starring trans people?  Well WOW let me tell u, I have never felt so anxious getting feedback for something than I have when the possibility of someone sending me a literal zipped folder of all the instances of someone using the "wrong" pronouns was possible (spoilers: it was a folder full of the person misgendering the nonbinary character and also misgendering a trans woman NPC).  It is incredibly draining and nerve wracking to include stuff like this, ESPECIALLY when it is personal.  I am nonbinary, so YEAH this stuff super got to me and made me second guess ever releasing anything that could be so close to home again, since it is surprisingly a lot to cope with.


    But yup I would say if you are trans and wanna make games about trans people and are nervous: you are gonna get flak!  It is up to you to decide whether or not you are able to cope with that or not, but I would encourage you to do it regardless.  I would also encourage you to release your game in a more... trans-friendly place???  Aka not a gaming community, but probably something like tumblr to start out with.  That is my plan for future games, since YEAH it is a lot easier to put up with any jerks when you have a handful of nice messages already.


    If you are cis and you are thinking, "trans people are Too Different for me to understand!"  Look at the success of Undertale.  The protagonist is nonbinary.  Characters like Napstablook, the loveable ghost, are nonbinary.  People love and identify with those characters!  So it is possible to have trans people in the starring roles but still have mass appeal.


    If you are cis and you want to include trans characters in your game: go read stuff trans people have written!  Read blogs by trans people, especially if they're talking about representation in media.  Look up common tropes and portrayals so you can have an idea of what to avoid.


    Yup that's about it I think thank u for listening
     
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  4. Strashiner

    Strashiner Ambitious Veteran

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    Market wise. You gotta pull it off well. Or else people will nail you dead.


    Good luck...
     
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  5. Atlas Rose

    Atlas Rose Jack of all trades Veteran

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    Yeah sorry, I was tired and didn't think to search before making this thread. 


    @Emmych Wow, I know stuff like that happens as I deal with it fairly often (I am trans myself) and usually can just brush it off, but I don't know how I'd do if I got a file like that. I want to make trans/nonbinary characters more accessible to the gaming community without pushing in people's faces, if that makes sense? Make it clear they are of the LGBT community but not enough that it impairs the story or gets in the way. I'm gonna have to check out your game though. I've not yet been able to play any of the winning games. 
     
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  6. Nirwanda

    Nirwanda Procrastimancer Veteran

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    @Emmych I wouldn't scare him off of posting his game in gaming communities, specially here (I think we're open minded enough). But that's just my opinion, as I'd like to see what he comes up with.


    About the subject, I really don't have much to add, there's discrimination, there's marketing considerations (most developers write for what they believe the majority will want), there's also fear.... But, seriously, Emmych sums it up better than I ever could.


    Repeating what I've said in the thread Victor mentioned, I don't care about the gender/orientation of the characters in a game, I care about wheter it's meaninful/fun/amusing/etc.


    BTW, (I also already mentioned this in the other thread) you might be interested in I'm scared of girls, as it features a trans main character. http://rpgmaker.net/games/3427/
     
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  7. Pine Towers

    Pine Towers Knight Hospitaller Veteran

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    I don't see how this can even come up story-wise.


    When playing Chrono Trigger, never I asked myself if Lucca was a lesbian or if Glenn loved Cyrus more than just a brother-in-arms. When playing Earthbound I never stopped to think if Ness was into girls or guys.


    To bring this kind of subject into a game, either the core of the game must revolve around this, or it must be really, really, really well executed to not just be a forced dialogue so the game "have X type of character".
     
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  8. trouble time

    trouble time Bearer of the Word Veteran

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    Or they could just have a romantic subplot (I think bringing up that you're trans in a relationship wouldn't be clumsy, it might be awkward but I imagine it could be awkward in real life..)
     
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  9. Emmych

    Emmych forever rotting in the shamecube, floating eternal Veteran

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    @Nirwanda I say this because it happened to me in a community very similar to this one.  I also sat in on an LP of the same game where the LPer made a lot of weird comments about the nonbinary character, and the LPer actually contacted Penta and myself through this community.  I'm not trying to scare anyone off, but I'd be being dishonest if I pretended this sort of thing just didn't happen.


    @Atlas Rose There will always going to be someone who is going to tell you you're shoving a character's minority status in their face, because bigots are uncomfortable with the idea of groups like trans people even existing.  The unfortunate truth is that there is no avoiding this!  And this is why I say: reframe who your audience is.  Do you WANT to make a game about trans people and then give it to a bunch of cis folks?  Do you want to waste a bunch of time in your game going over Trans 101 so that people can understand what's going on and then get mad about how much time you take talking about trans stuff?  The answer to that is up to you, but I personally decided "no way am I doing that" and started making things with an audience of my LGBT+ peers in mind.  I will include trans characters in my work and I won't try to justify them being there or take a huge amount of time explaining why this person who uses she pronouns also likes to be addressed as Mr., because my intended audience is just gonna get that it means she's nonbinary without me belabouring the point.  If people DON'T get it, they can do outside reading so they can get it, because I'm not making a game so I can become the Trans 101 encyclopedia.  


    And like, you will get flak for that!  I have gotten flak for not taking a bunch of my precious time and explaining every minute thing to people who can't even go into google and look up basic stuff.  But honestly?  I don't care anymore, because I have had trans people play the game I helped make and say "WOW it was cool seeing someone like me in a historical setting/in any setting at all!", and that meant a heck of a lot.  This is what I would encourage you to do, as well!  Just make a trans person.  Have a trans guy offhandedly mention that his binder is itching, or a non-binary person use pronouns like "they/them/theirs" or "ze/hir/hirs".  Draw your trans characters as being visibly trans!  Don't draw people as obviously passing. 


    Yes, if you do these things, you will get the "but they is a plural!!!!" and "she looks like a man lol!!!" and "what is a binder omg is that a GIRL does she have BOOBIES???" and blah blah blah.  But it is up to you if you want to address these things and answer these questions, and I am warning you now: you will absolutely have to decide how to deal with these things if you release a game featuring transgender characters in a primarily cisgender space.  Remember that there are trans gamers out there who will LOVE your game and be really excited to play it!  This audience is just as valid and wonderful as the more mainstream one, many of whom will still enjoy your game, even if they don't get it.  I had a lot of cis folks play the game we made and say "yeah the genders stuff was kind of confusing but I related to a lot of the other stuff and that was really cool", which felt really good!


    Anyway I could literally ramble aimlessly about this for Years And Years because I have a lot of Feelings about it!  At any rate, I'd be really interested to see whatever you come up with, and if you ever wanna talk "how 2 introduce character as trans without having the Very Special Coming Out Episode happen", feel free to shoot me a PM. <3
     
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  10. Amy Pond

    Amy Pond Veteran Veteran

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    RPG protaginists are usually written for two reasons: the first is to immerse the creator themselves into the game, creating a representation of themselves. The second is to create a character that the audience can identify with and play through them. I think it's because of this that there is a lack of such a character. The same reason there is a lack of other minorities, I guess.


    There's also the fact that transgender is the T in LGBT - but the LGB is all anybody really pays attention to - the media often thinks if they satisfy the LGB part they're playing their part and filling the quota.


    It's also extremely rare to see a transgender character who isn't going through a journey of transformation, or used as a humour device. There's never just a person who happens to be transgender. It would be like if every black character in a game ran around doing a black and white minstrel show.


    That said I do have a kind of Wizard of Oz storyline in the back of my mind of a typical RTP protagonist who goes through a journey of discovery and such. But that breaks my own complaints.
     
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  11. XIIIthHarbinger

    XIIIthHarbinger Part Time Super Villain Veteran

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    As I understand it the Final FIght turned Street Fighter character Poison was originally intended to be female, but was made trans because while people objected to the idea of the three male protagonists hitting a female gang member, no one saw a problem with them hitting a trans woman gang member. (facepalm)


    As to why the T in LGBT characters are not more often included in games I would say it largely comes down to three concerns focused on one consideration, namely money. 


    1) At the end of the day higher level executives tend to be risk averse when it comes to creative endeavors, hence the disparity between the constant reusing of known intellectual properties (often rather poorly I might add) versus new intellectual properties (which are seen as more of a gamble).


    2) The fear of market backlash stemming from the bigotry towards LGBT people in general, causing the rejection of the intellectual property, especially given the perception the video games are for children. I.e. fear of offending consumers leading to the decision to go with "safer" character choices.


    3) The fear of market backlash if those who don't object to LGBT characters, object to how they are portrayed and level accusations of transphobia &/or homophobia. I.e. again fear of offending consumers leading to the decision to go with "safer" character choices.


    Now to be sure their are deeper factors at work, for example puritanical sexual hang ups, the fact that two of world's largest religions are very bigoted towards LGBT people, the cultural reinforcement of biological roles that resulted in higher offspring survivability in times past given preference over individual autonomy, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. However, for the purposes of this discussion and the parties in question (game development firms and the intellectual properties they "green light"), money is the chief reason why you don't see more T of the LGBT characters.          
     
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  12. Tuomo L

    Tuomo L Oldbie Veteran

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    Yup. Basically nowadays Poison is canon transsexual. However, in Japan she's post op and in America she's pre op. It's weird and really silly.
     
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  13. DamianFatale

    DamianFatale Chocobo Knight Member

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    The first party member you recruit in my game is a transgendered woman. My games motto is "everyone has a hero". 
     
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  14. Atlas Rose

    Atlas Rose Jack of all trades Veteran

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    At the moment I'm planning a project where the protagonist is a transboy. I'm going to make it where it doesn't come up until it becomes a practical issue (i.e. Fighting and his binder is slashed open), and afterwards he gets a new binder and it doesn't come up. While his gender isn't the focus of the game, a couple characters do ask questions when they find out. I'm hoping to try and provide a good way to respond if you find out someone you know if trans, and support them best you can, without making a fuss about it.
     
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  15. Emmych

    Emmych forever rotting in the shamecube, floating eternal Veteran

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    @Atlas Rose See, I would actually caution against a reveal like that, as that very quickly dips into the "gender is confirmed by violence" trope that a lot of narratives about trans people tend to use.  Something similar that comes to mind is a trans woman in the Dragon Age comics who is only revealed as trans when the other heroes stumble across her in prison, post torture, with her shirt ripped open and revealing her chest.  There are a lot of other ways to confim a character as trans, even stuff like a dude talking about his menstual cycle, or how his binder itches, or how it doesn't fit now that he's put more muscle on, or how he takes fantasy HRT.  Or, my favourite?  Put "they trans" in the out if game character info, and then never worry about having to beat people across the head with it in game.  You get to focus on the subtle nuances that come with being trans instead of tearing your hair out coming up with a method of revealing it, y'know?


    i mean alright, at the end of the day: it is your choice how you wanna do it!  And it's also all about the framing.  Basically I am cautioning against the "oh no...now u can all see my breasts... This is terrible..." framing VS the "Heck it is after a battle and my binder got ripped and now I can't get anything to sit right in my shirt???  Wow this is uncomfortable also I am distressed because this was my only binder"


    (also side note: good on u for having fantasy binders and not making all your trans masc people use tensor bandages, because FOR THE FOLKS WHO DON'T KNOW: bandages are Unsafe)
     
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  16. Touchfuzzy

    Touchfuzzy Rantagonist Staff Member Lead Eagle

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    If anyone ever gets crap on this forum for their game featuring a trans person, or any other type of person, (or for who you are yourself), please message me so I can make sure that person does not repeat that mistake on this forum ever again.

    (ugh I hate posting from a phone)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2016
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  17. Atlas Rose

    Atlas Rose Jack of all trades Veteran

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    @Emmych Gosh bandages are terrible. The setting isn't fantasy, and I was originally planning to have it in our world's 1920s because I did some research and found that they had things called brassiers which work kind of like a binder, and were pretty common in women's fashion, so easier access for the everyday trans kid. Ended up deciding on a more modern time for a few unrelated reasons, but nonetheless I learned something, which is always fun ^_^ And I planned on him not so much being "Oh no my breasts are showing" and more "Screw you, that thing was expensive!" because they are.


    @Touchfuzzy I find the best route to dealing with jerks like that is to overly kind. It makes them angrier, and you don't have to do anything bad. 
     
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  18. Touchfuzzy

    Touchfuzzy Rantagonist Staff Member Lead Eagle

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    I find the best response is to remove them from the forums. I can't do anything in a most of the world, but I can make sure that no one like that gets to act on their bigoted BS here.
     
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  19. Atlas Rose

    Atlas Rose Jack of all trades Veteran

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    Ah, I didn't realize you were the big cheese. Yeah, I guess you can do that. Props to you man
     
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  20. Touchfuzzy

    Touchfuzzy Rantagonist Staff Member Lead Eagle

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    Yeah, its hard to tell that I'm the big cheese when my big cheese badge is broken ;_; . I'm going to have to tell the tech admin.
     
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