Trans visibility in video games is so not-talked about. People toot their own horns about having queer characters in their games, but I can count on my hand how many well-known trans characters I've actually seen in gaming. It's a travesty! Gays and lesbians, while they do not have a lot of characters, at least have a good and growing amount. It's even the same for bisexuals (even though half the time they never actually say they're bisexuals).
So, what's the deal with trans characters in gaming? Are they just never going to have characters? Well, no, they do have a very small few. And honestly, except for a few examples, these characters are either inconsequential, villains, or played off as some sort of joke. It's hard, especially when you're part of a community that mostly consists of cis, straight, men who really don't like the diversity. (Hello, gamergate, anyone?)
Still, trans characters do exist - and I think they deserve to be showcased somewhere. And I'm only sticking to characters that I know are trans. So, characters that are genderless or androgynous characters are out of the running. If you know any other characters, please tell me as I'd love to keep updating list. To show the good and the bad, so we can see what works and what really, really, really needs to stop:
Birdo - Super Mario Bros. 2
Here's the deal with Birdo - most people can't really decide what they want her gender to be. Originally, she was originally named Ostro and her description said, "He thinks he's a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth," according to the Super Mario Bros. 2 handbook. And eventually, all mentions of Birdo's "gender confusion" was erased from the game. Still, characters in later series would mention how it was strange that Birdo had a male body. Oh, and she is also Yoshi's girlfriend in some games.
I don't know how to feel about Birdo. Part of me definitely feels like Ostro was originally supposed to be a joke - and in that game you did kill her. So, while that's not ideal, Birdo did appear in later series as a not-so-negative character. So, there you have it? I guess?
While it's not the best - Birdo is technically the first trans character in gaming. So, much like Vivian in Moonmist - she has to count for something right?
Poison - Final Fight
Poison is another character that is definitely controversial. Poison wasn't originally intended to be a trans character - she was supposed to be a female character. But, the developers didn't think it would look right to hit a woman - so instead they decided to make her trans? It's a really gross sentiment, and I don't like it at all. However, American gamers didn't see her initially, because she was later replaced by two male characters: Billy and Sid.
However, later appearances that Poison made seem to be much more forgiving. The character was definitely trans - but the language around her identity was still really gross. Yoshinori Ono, a producer of Street Fighter IV, said, "Let's set the record straight: in North America, Poison is officially post-op transgender. But in Japan, she simply tucks her business away to look female." And it just bothers me.
So, while Poison has been confirmed as being trans by the producers of the games she's appeared in - I don't feel like that's an incredibly good thing? Although, I have also never seen her in action? Perhaps her character in game is a lot better than the way she's talked about outside of the game.
Krem - Dragon Age: Inquisition
Krem! Kre-e-e-e-e-em! Krem is so unapologetically trans that I was just over the moon when I saw him. BioWare are rock stars in the queer world, and they're doing their best to do be as diverse as possible - and despite how terrible Andromeda was - I think they're doing a good job. Krem is the only trans character I've ever seen in a major video game (or any video game for that matter) that really went the extra mile.
Not only did Krem have a backstory, but he was given an amazing group of people that supported him. That's so important for trans people. I've said it before and I'll say it a million times, positive representations of LGBTQ+ people are so important. They impact people's lives in ways you cannot imagine. That's what makes Krem and the rest of Dragon Age so important.
So, that's all I have for now. Most other characters that I read about were either never stated outwardly as trans, or they were considered genderless. However, I am an imperfect human being and I would love to be proven wrong. So, if you have any more trans characters anywhere - I'd love to see them and add them to this list!
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played them since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust. If you have any games you'd like him to unpack, hit him up.
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