Differences in Portrayal of NB/Trans/Cis Characters

It always bothered me that most non-binary characters in Choice of Games kind of rubbed me the wrong way and I felt so bad about that because I am non-binary, so shouldn’t I be happy for the representation? It just felt tacked on most of the time and didn’t feel like any of the interactions I had with real non-binary people. There are of course exceptions but there is this one character, in “Ratings War” I think, that always comes to mind when I think about this. The whole scene was like the MC couldn’t tell what gender they were and they got kind of defensive about it and it was just so weird playing a non-binary MC and not being able to tell them “Oh, I get it!”. Most of the time it also feels like a non-binary MC gets treated like a male MC and that makes me kind of uncomfortable.

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My experience and opinions as a nonbinary person is of course going to be very different from other NB people but here’s my take on genders like mine in CoG-

To me, it can feel a little bit like just checking off the diversity box sometimes. Part of the reason that I tend not to play NB characters even when the option is available is because it feels very “let me show you all these genders I know”, slapping on a different set of pronouns, and then calling it a day. It’s not that I necessarily want a huge amount of recognition for the character’s gender (that can get uncomfortable as well), but something acknowledging it in-game would be nice.

I disagree with the “cis people, am I right?” kind of talk because I’m not into that kind of conversation IRL, but maybe something like the option to either speak about it in a casual way (ex. in the game Dream Daddy, one of the characters mentions his binder) or show some sort of acknowledgement (with a R.O., maybe have them ask what the MC is comfortable with if they’re going to have sex). Actually, on that note- it might be interesting to have a time when the MC and a NB (or binary trans) NPC mention it and the MC has the option to mention how their experience is different (for example, I’ve had conversations with other NB people on why I don’t present myself in an androgynous way anymore).

Generally speaking (and I don’t think you’re going to do this but just for anyone who’s reading) I think straying away from discrimination is a good idea, since dealing with bigots isn’t a “dramatic in a fun way” kind of aspect of a game for me. Internal monologue is a bit different- showing some sort of discomfort with situations where gender is a dividing factor is fine.

I once read a book during which a character came out as trans and started going by a different name and pronouns. While I thought this was great, it felt clunky to have an extremely modern-day-progressive-conversation about it in a setting that didn’t fit it. Having a character come out/transition in-game/book isn’t the problem, it’s that it can sometimes feel shoved-in if it is implemented in a way that doesn’t take any heed to the setting or situation. Again, no bigotry needed, just be wary about the language and how much space in the story it takes up if it’s ‘unrelated’ to the main plot.

Also this is just a very personal thing, but the ability to identify as NB and then choose/enter in your pronouns would be great. I understand the difficulty with implementing they/them in CoGs because of how they’re coded, but I dislike a lot of default NB pronouns and would rather just have the option to do something else.

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thats just a exemple I used, it was basically saying this, about speak about it in casual ways, but also cause I talk like that but yeah that’s exactly what u said

exactly, that’s what I mean as just feeling like the enby character is just a cis person with they/them pronouns, its like “here u can be enby but no one will acknowledge it outside using they/them pronouns for u, and the game and environment wouldn’t acknowledge u either always using male female man woman ladies and gentlemen never mentioning other gender identity
it just feels hollow

yeep, and they’re always androgynous and without breasts, is just very tiring sometimes

I think when u’re writing a character don’t create write them just cause u feel u have to ur cause u want to be inclusive, write cause thats who the character is, if it makes sense, cause doesn’t matter how hard u try to make this character X if it isn’t who they’re if u forcing it on them, cause the reader will notice it,… urh man this is hard to put into words like, people say write a character independent of race gender and sexuality write first a character with goals defect likes dislike etc, and in part this is tru, write a character first and statement later, but also dont forget the statement the social commentary, don’t forget that what gender sexuality race nationality ethnicity they’re also plays a part in their characterization, that different background will affect people differently, like a character that’s orphan and grow up in the streets and didn’t go to school isn’t gonna talk behave as a literate person nor like the prince for example
urgh man words can be hard, I don’t think I’m expressing myself right, sorry english isn’t my first language so it can be hard sometimes to translate my thoughts process

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I have nothing to add except i love the maid from heart of the house.

That’s funny, because I feel like most of the time non-binary characters get treated liked a female MC, no doubt because I am much more sensitive towards forced feminity than masculinity in real life.

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As an individual, I rarely think about gender. I guess this is why I am struggling with the message that everyone pouring out their heart is trying to tell me.

I was given the following advice:

All of this is non-gender … yet in this thread it seems what is being said is gender matters. @hgbird claims:

and then describes a “steamy romance scene” as positive queer-concious writing a scene that seems to emphasis gender dysphoria and the growing understanding of that gender dysphoria from a RO.

First off, does “queer conscious” writing mean writing that displays an understanding of a non-cis issue while writing (eg gender dysphoria) or the actual insert of that into a scene that would otherwise not have it?

The reason I am asking is this: I can write about gender dysphoria and I can do so very well … but are you expecting such in writing about romance and relationships?

I was advised to ask for clarification because I am asking as a writer and contributor that is seeking help in portraying nonbinary experiences.

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The thing about fallen hero which I am not sure many a fully aware of is that sidestep is inherently dysphoric. Sidestep always have issues with their body, which means that gender-dysphoria sort of slides into the tone of the work easily enough without feeling jarring.

Also gender dysphoria for non-binary people in particular is so many different things that I think the writer should be really, really careful about including it. It would in some way feel more immersion breaking for me with gender dysphoria different from my own, than just not having it included at all.

I definitly did have a moment due to genderstuff in fallen hero where my immersion totatlly broke. I actually had to do quite a bit of leg work to head canon around it.

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@DreamingGames It seems similar to why most bicurious/heterofluid people would prefer to be called straight rather than bisexual (or gay).

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I think the way to go is to treat it like any other customization. Hair, height, etc.
(Not claiming, of course, that it is the same.)
If the choice is there, make sure it gets at least references sometimes, and preferable have some NPCs respond to it, so it feels like the world recognise that part of the PC.
How much, or how little, is of course up to each author.

Like @DreamingGames I also tend to feel that they are too feminine, but as I’m male-leaning, and find the female body somewhat dysphoric, that’s probably mostly in my head.
We’ve seen it with the games that never specify the PC’s gender, half the complaint are that they feel like a woman, and half that they feel like a man. People have their own bias, and we are more likely to notice the things that go against it, than the things that affirm it.

I think this is probably a relic from an earlier thread, where the majority of enby and trans people responding, said they wouldn’t want to have to specify their character’s sexual characteristica in games.

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I think like with many things, this is an issue of personal preference. For example, I could not stand Loren from Heart of the House, though I know others love them, because certain things there rubbed very wrongly against my own personal experiences.

You can never please everybody, just try to write true to yourself. And I do recognize that if you don’t have those experiences, it becomes very hard since people will tell you different things depending on their own life. Nobody is wrong, but there is no single right for everyone.

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I can also say without a doubt that I do not want to have breast. The mere mention of that is very dysphoric for me and I would without a doubt quit a game which forced me to.

As @The_Lady_Luck says, authors doesn’t mentioned the sex characteristic because for a lot of people it is very triggering.

Which is kind of the proble with non-binary people as a whole. We are a broad group and it is very hard to encompass all. And the more people who are specifially mentioned, the more you take notice when your personal experience is not.

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This is one of many reasons why it’s good to have a variety of characters’ experiences shown in the game (not saying that I’m a good example for this btw). If there are a range of characters then it doesn’t fall upon one character to be The One Representation Of Non-Binary Experience which of course doesn’t exist!

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The problem is that most game have a range of three to four major characters, which mean that a wide range of experience is just not feasiable for most.

Don’t get me wrong @HannahPS I love your huge ensambe, but most writers (my self included) just can’t handle that many characters - which is why there is so much focus on the mc in these discussions, I think.

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oh totally same here, I was just saying that it played in the trope that to br androgynous u have to. be some what male presenting or can’t allude to any gender, but I didn’t know It was because it was already discussed and people preferred that way so all is good

i gonna disagree, because like @DreamingGames said it get complicated to the autor, and also it can end with just tropes, “this character has dysphoria this one doesn’t this one is femme presenting the other one is masc etc”, then we just end up with tropes instead of characters
maybe it can be helped in the characterization of the MC, I think is Greenwarden Wip that has it, correct me if I’m wrong, when creating the MC we’ve the choices to make them dysphoric or not, to have flat chest or not, and other ranges of choices like that, I feel like thats more than fine, and also has another enby character ij there, and when we meet them we notice their enby pin and the game acknowledged that “u would recognize ur flag anywhere”

tru, but it can be resolved without having to had lots of major characters which will make not only writing and coding difficult but can end up with characters without development screen time, is just have in the game in the society and world other enby Characters as well, and it doesn’t have to be even characters we interact with, like one of our friends is telling how she ended in a fight with the blacksmith cause ze didn’t want to make a dagger out of the obsidian she found, things like that sprinkle enby character in the world and also have the game and world recognize the MC gender, because yeah is fine don’t have to duel or anything in all the things it was talked here, the silence is fine better than nothing, but danm at least have “ladies gentleman and gentlepeople” or something

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I would also say that there is a difference between npc and mc.

NPCS we mostly see from the outside. Those the author have to rely on mostly descriptors such as clothes, names, visual clues and other stuff. - As long as we get some varity here, it is fine. I don’t think there is something wrong with saying this npc is femme presenting, this one masc etc.

Lovestuck is something of a guilty pleasure of mine and the two enbies we got has being very androgyne leaning towards femme. Which is why I have high hopes that we get Galen who is very broad-shouldered and squared jawed and just a bit more masc. looking but we’ll see.

Here in choice of games I actually don’t have the impression of what kind of non-binary person we most often get. I hear people saying androgynus and smug, but to be honest the only two non-binary NPCs who left an impression on me was Jude from werewolf and Min. So right now, I admit I just want more non-binary npc in general.

Fallen London also have a huge cast and i generally think there is diversity.

Outside of those three companies, though. I can’t recall anyone actually making an effort to include enbies, so I admit that I am still in the just fucking include some phase and don’t much care if they are stereotypical or not.

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English is not my first language, so I apologise if I didn’t really understand your questions.

I am nb, and when reading things about dysphoria, I think is best to first, give it as an option. For example, MC is walking past a mirror and we have a choice to think if we are comfortable with our body or not :slight_smile:

It would throw me out of the story if dysphoria was inherent to playing nb -since me and some other of my nb friends never experienced it- and it had text referring to it during the game.

If the players chooses to have dysphoria, then I think is good to add some flavour text when MC is doing things with their own body, like changing clothes and seeing themselves naked, or maybe dressing for a formal situation and struggling with the clothes to wear, and of course, when romancing someone and having sexual relationships. While I would expect cis players and non-dysphoric players to cut right to the chase, I would imagine someone with dysphoria to be much more weary of showing their body to their significant other. For these players, I would extend the scene, give options on if they want to tell their partner about it (if they haven’t already), if they can’t handle it and want to stop, etc etc.

If this wasn’t what you were asking for, sorry for the amount of text :sweat_smile:

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@Fujcog – thank you very much. You gave me a lot to think about and work with and I appreciate your willingness to talk about something that is not easy to talk about.

:two_hearts:

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I’m glad that it was helpful! It’s very sweet to see cis people putting so much effort into doing a good representation of nb and trans people <3

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I apologize if I’ve contributed to your confusion; that was definitely not my intent!

I’m not familiar with this Fallen London thread, but it seems to me that the advice is centered around writing for relationships. I more or less used the examples from Fallen Hero that I did because they resonated with my own personal experiences with sex and gender. I think it’s important that I clarify that good representation of trans characters doesn’t require romance or sex, or even gender dysphoria, for that matter!

In fact, many trans people are non-dysphoric and may not enjoy a dysphoric MC. As DreamingGames said, Fallen Hero has a semi pre-defined character who always experiences a degree of body dysmorphia regardless of their gender identity, so that naturally translates to binary trans MCs having gender dysphoria without it feeling entirely forced upon the player.

It’s always going to be a matter of personal preference of both author and the reader, and since our experiences are all so diverse, it’s likely that no one will ever be entirely satisfied. Allowing the MC to choose whether they’re dysphoric would likely be widely appreciated, and as Fujcog said, it would make it easier for the writer to know if the reader would enjoy flavor text (or even scene variations, extra choices, etc.) addressing it, as it would be an opt-in.

In my opinion, as long as the story doesn’t contain transphobic elements, it’s good representation, and honestly, that’s easily avoided when proper respect is given to the characters and when trans readers are involved with sensitivity checking and/or playtesting. I certainly don’t think a good story needs to absolutely have discussions of gender, gender dysphoria, or sexuality to be good representation.

This is well said! I’m with you and @DreamingGames. I tend to feel as if nonbinary MCs get treated like female MCs, but that could definitely be my own confirmation bias at play! If I’m playing an AMAB nonbinary MC or a masc-aligned MC, I could very well just be picking up on things that personally aggravate my own dysphoria. (This is especially evident when you consider the unfortunate tendency in the LGBT community to associate nonbinary identities with AFAB people and/or masculine androgyny–which is an oxymoron in and of itself but alas.)

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I love reading discussion topics like this one. I find them to be invaluable sources of knowledge, and I greatly appreciate everyone who’s willing to come forward and share their thoughts and experiences. I rarely leave a comment or ask anything, since I learn well enough just by following the conversation, but for once, a question has occurred to me.

How does one actively, visibly represent trans characters that fall within the binary? Men are men and women are women, regardless of whether they’re cis or trans; in an ideal world, nobody disputes this. Since we get to make ideal worlds when we write a story, we can treat all genders equally, but how would one show that a character is trans without alluding (in either the narrative or dialogue) to something like strapping/binding or dead names? I would dislike making no distinction if that erases trans representation, but I would dislike misrepresentating trans individuals quite a bit more.

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