So, this is an interesting time to be an out and proud trans woman attending Gen Con.
For those of your not keeping up: there have been some incredibly gender progressive things happening in a couple of major game systems lately. First is the fantastically progressive gender entry in the new D&D Player’s Handbook. The key passage is this one:
Admittedly, it isn’t a perfect statement. For one thing, it’s under a heading called “Sex” instead of “Gender”. But for a game that in prior editions had almost nothing to say about gender, a game that tended to embrace Western Medieval fantasy stereotypes that cast men as heroes and women as damsels … this is a BFD. I checked the four editions of the Player’s Handbook that I have on-hand [4E, 3.5E, 3E, 2E] and found nothing like this in them. Mostly, they’re silent on the topic. “Sex” is a box on the character sheet that players get to put something into.
Here, the game is actually suggesting that players think about the impact of that choice and their gender role in the game world, and even suggest that a player might experiment with nonbinary expression of gender. Now, this already happens at the gaming table – my regular gaming group routinely features parties made up mostly of female PCs, despite the fact that there are only two female players at the table – but to see it in the rules as an “official” suggestion is pretty cool.
And then there’s Paizo. As if they wanted to one-up WotC in the realm of gender expressions, the publishers of Pathfinder announced recently that their new Advanced Class Guide, debuting at GenCon, would be featuring a transgender character. Named Shardra, she is the new iconic Shaman class character. [Wayne Reynolds’ awesome art is to the right.] Moreso than just having the character, though, is the great backstory they’ve given her. I’m so pleased with how her transgender nature is a part of her story but not the focus on it. She’s an interesting character irregardless of her gender identity.
Incidentally, here’s an utterly amazing interview with the Shardra’s creator, Crystal Frasier. You should read it.
Gaming has always been a counterculture sort of hobby. Gamers tend to be the freaks and geeks of their high schools, and so they’re often far more tolerant of a wider range of personalities, quirks, habits, and identities than the general population. In fact, before the comments come in — yes, I know that there are other games on the market by other manufacturers that have already made strides in recognizing the gender spectrum. But to have the two big names in RPGs, WotC and Paizo, take such open and forward-thinking steps is a big deal. It’s like in 2012 when the President and Vice-President came out in favor of gay marriage; they weren’t the first, but theirs was a particularly important endorsement. It carried authority.
So my first Gen Con “out” should be interesting. Large crowds tend to make me nervous; there’s just no telling when someone will react negatively or even violently to the presence of a trans person, even if said person has nothing to do with them. And while I’m not naive enough to think that I won’t experience microaggressions over the four days of the con (funny looks, snarky comments, misgendering, these never go away), I’m hoping they’ll be less than they might have been in years past, given that the two largest RPG systems on the market today have embraced the entire gender spectrum rather than the old gender binary.
[There is a companion article to this one posted to Ali Finds Her Self.]