Yesterday I read a fascinating blog post from Sophie Houlden about why she has never written a Transgender character in one of her games. Because of this, and some comments from friends about their view that a strong female character being trans hurts the cause of advancing womens representation, I decided to get my thoughts down on the topic of Trans status and game characters.

Vena, the protagonist in You are the Reason, in my mind has always been a Trans woman. This isn’t something that’s made a big deal of, it’s not a core plot point and it’s not a reveal that’s used for shock. The character I wanted to write is a young adult who’s very used to keeping secrets. She’s had to do that on a fundamental level from a young age and is good and keeping aspects of her life hidden from those around her. She’s shy, introverted and fearful of being too open with new people. I knew that much about her from her inception, it just took me some time writing dialogue for her to realise where those aspects of her personality were rooted.

In my mind, Vena is Trans. She has grown up with a personal plot related secret to keep, the fact that in a world where magic users are all power hungry and manipulative she has found herself born able to use magic. She has an obvious plot related reason to be secretive, to be selective about who she opens up with and to get used to keeping fundamental parts of herself buried deep away from those around her. Still, I wanted some additional subtext to be present for why she’s so convinced that people around her won’t accept her.

Vena’s father is notably absent in the demo for You are the Reason. You see her sister, you see her mother but you never see or hear about her father. My own reasoning for this internally is that her parents separated when she came out as trans. Her father refused to accept a core aspect of who she was as a person, her parents fought and she found herself without a father any longer. Her mother accepted her for who she was, but Vena ended up with a strongly held belief that if she revealed to those around her that she could use magic, that rather than being heard out or accepted, she would once again find herself losing the support of someone close to her.

I suspect a lot of the reason for Vena being trans and the ways that manifests in her fears surrounding announcing her ability to use magic draws from my own experiences. I came out as Trans and found family members who refused to accept me for who I was. I lived a childhood terrified I would get found out. I lived a life with a big buried secret. It has made me a more secretive person than I would like to be, someone who sometimes keeps secrets for no reason. I have nothing to fear but I hide the most pointless things. Having to hide a key part of my identity has affected my personality in a number of ways that I saw manifesting in Vena. I guess that’s why I realised she had to be Trans.

Vena being Transgender is only ever alluded to in You Are The Reason. It’s something that is part of her story, it in itself is not a character trait. There’s a scene in the game that will heavily allude to it when she has to go and seek the help of an old family friend who hasn’t seen her for many years, but even then it will never be outright said in the game. The clues will be there, but it’s never used as a way to advance any of the plot, it will be there purely to explore her own reluctance to open up to those around her.

I want to write a kick-ass Trans Woman Protagonist. I want this to be a character Trans Women can look up to in games. I don’t want this to be “A game about a Trans Woman struggling with being a Trans Woman”. It’s an aspect of her life that impacts on who she is now, but it’s something that’s accepted by those around her. Being Trans is not what You are the Reason is about. Being Trans is not who Vena is. She is so much more than one aspect of her life.

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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  • Drjimbo32

    Nice article. I’m looking forward to giving You Are the Reason a try.

  • While not exactly topical, a lot of people don’t seem to realize that in science fiction being transgender is very often written about in a very blase way and has been for a really long time. It may not speak to the experience of trans- people at all, and sure may be that way to some degree for shock value, but the nub of it is in an advanced society gender can be something that people play with switching on and off and everywhere between like trying on different clothes, and in a less neurotic society or species people _literally_ trying on different clothes might not even bat an eyelash. I guess what I’m trying to say is anything is perfectly plausible within a fantasy setting, and doesn’t have to be life affirming at all. Gender is pretty fluid in depictions of ancient Greece and Rome, whether it was really that way or not. Nice sprite BTW, looks better than anything in any Final Fantasy games since back in the WonderSwan days.