Introducing a Trans character when your initial meeting would colour your impression of their gender

Okay, this is a bit of a tricky question. I have been adding a bit more representation to season two of UnNatural. Making a few of the newer characters non-binary.

Well, during her feedback @Cecilia_Rosewood asked me a question about trans or non-binary witches and warlocks.

In the UnNaturalverse witches are female but not in the sense only witches can use their kind of magic but that they only teach their magic to women with magical aptitude. Likewise, warlocks are male as in they only teach their magic to other men.

Well, one of the witches in the story is being set up for a cross-magic training experience and I thought that it could make sense if the reason why the witches wanted a warlock to train a witch is that the witch “Astrid” is transitioning into a man and Astrid wants to learn the warlock magic, not the witch kind which she feels wrong using.

The issue is, when the player meets Astrid they are in a camp of witches so the MC would consider them female. However, I don’t want the MC to misgender them but at the same time, I don’t want to just have an explanation dump during her introduction.

Has anyone got any suggestions on how to introduce this information that is 1) natural and 2) inoffensive?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thank you.

5 Likes

Why not start them in the Warlock…hm, camp? and they can tell you about the Witches since that’s where they were before.

3 Likes

That could work it would just require some rewriting because Astrid’s training exchange is originally one of the deals the witches ask for. But I think that might work better overall.

I’ll have to think about it, thank you for the helpful suggestion!

1 Like

You’re welcome! Good luck with your writing! :grin:

1 Like

You could introduce them in the witch camp as looking out of place (appearance, socially, both? Maybe everyone else is happy to be there but they seem sad?) and then have them voice a simple complaint in dialogue about how they don’t feel like they belong there? There’s some info dump inherit but it adds sympathy for the character and sets up the transition as a somewhat obvious future action.

4 Likes

Couldn’t Astrid say it directly sometime during the first conversation with the MC, so that it is clear for any reader? I remember testing a demo which I later found out included a character like Astrid, and I never learned this about the character from anything I had read in the demo, I only found out much later when I read a post by the author on a separate website, where the author was saying that there were subtle hints made, but I guess whatever the hints were must have been too subtle. If you want any reader to know something, it is better not to rely on hinting at whatever it is.

2 Likes

Comrade, you wrote the story, you made the rules. Not even rules, but social conventions. It seems to me that the solution is blindingly obvious.

3 Likes

When the character is a trans man, I would not introduce him with his deadname, I would give him a male name. I think when He already talked to the other witches he could just be presented as male via Name, Looks and clothing.

If the player meets the other witches before him, and even gets the request for the warlocks before Meeting him everything would be easier.

But that is just what I would do

11 Likes

Agreed, if the character is out as a trans man and uses he/him, there’s no need to introduce him with she/her pronouns. If he’s not out, you could have a scene where he comes out to the MC and the narrative change how he’s described afterwards - the way Faye’s name and pronouns change in The Sea Eternal. (The binary nature of the magic in the setting does exclude non binary people though, and it’s worth thinking about how important that is to the setting.)

12 Likes

Does everyone in a witch camp identify as she/her? There could be femme non-binary people, for example, who go by they/them. In that case, you could either give the characters a little nameplate with their pronouns on it or make them introduce themself right at the beginning with all the essential knowledge about them. (Only if it would make sense in this universe!)

Unless Astrid is still undecided about his name or definitely wants to keep it, nobody should refer to him as such. Also, do not refer to or let other characters refer to him as anything but he/him unless he goes by those other pronouns as well. She/her is definitely misgendering towards a trans man and they/them is also often used as a TERF dog-whistle in order to not acknowledge a (binary) trans person’s declared identity.

Sidenote: If the witch/warlock camps strictly divide between “men/women” and allow little room for in-between, it might come off as a little terfy to some players. Definitely binarist. Only mentioning that in case it might be of interest to you.

3 Likes

Thanks for all the thoughts and suggestions. It is appreciated.

This was one of the things @Cecilia_Rosewood was asking. I am currently trying to come up with a third group for non-binary magic users.

One good thing about the magic in the UnNaturalverse is that the magic is actually a lot more fluid than it is explained in the lore.

All magic be it witch, warlock or animators all stem from magic taught by the fae. So it would make sense that someone who didn’t consider themselves either witch or warlock could work with another branch instead.

Witch magic is tied to runes.
Warlock magic is tied to earth.

So I am considering the NB magic branch be air/wind based.

2 Likes

I agree with many of the above suggestions, it could just be a common understanding that he is transitioning, that whilst he remains in the group, it is understood that his place will soon be with the warlocks. I wouldn’t go into any of the emotional or physical transition in-depth as this can be triggering for a trans audience. I don’t know if you’ve ever played dragon age inquisition but they introduce a guard called Krem and whilst there’s an initial confusion about him, the leader of his group states “Krem is part of the gang, and he is a guard. End of.” I guess it’s about showing representation without speaking for trans people. I love him already, it’s ok to make a character trans and I love that you’ve checked in with trans people about what to do, just treat us with sensitivity and respect and you should be fine! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any other questions, my pronouns are he/him or they/them.

2 Likes

You could have the other witches mention the character using he/him pronouns before the MC actually meets him. This dialogue could be tied in with the cross-magic training thing.

That could work as a solution. And putting in my two cents, I can also see the possibility that some people will practice the kind of magic that “runs counter” to their gender. It might be because they’re naturally better/more inclined towards it, or because certain types of magic are more suitable to their line of work.

So to use your example, you might have female warlocks, or men using wind-based magic because, let’s say, they’re sailors and wind magic is easier to access at sea. It would be interesting to explore that.

Best of luck with your writing ^^

3 Likes

I agree that you should spend some time thinking about “Astrid’s” character, how he feels about being misgendered and being placed in the witch’s camp when he knows he belongs more with the warlocks. How is he acting and how is he treated? If you plan on introducing him as Astrid (maybe by an intolerant older witch who treats him cruelly), I’d recommend having him meet up with the MC soon afterwards, if the MC is amenable, and telling the MC his actual name and circumstances, and what the MC can do to help.

What are his plans? I imagine, in a fantasy setting, gender confirmation could be done quickly and magically instead of slowly, medically and surgically like it is in the mundane world. As the author, you get to decide how hard it will be for this witch/warlock to find acceptance.

3 Likes

I’ve been thinking of this a lot today. I think the best course of action is to have “Astrid” (Not sure of his true name yet, although currently leaning towards either Dante or Astorius. From this point I’ll use D/A for him)

To have D/A only recently transition and his Coven respond by trying to arrange the exchange program so D/A can be taught Warlock magic. This way the witch who is introducing everyone can introduce him as D/A more naturally.

I’m going to follow this thought for now and see how it progresses before getting some more feedback. Thank you for all the responses so far, they are all appreciated.

6 Likes

That’s good that you have decided what course to take with D/A. i hope it goes well and you could get more feedback on this.

Thinking about the third group of arcanists/magic wielders/whatever you call them, i’m curious if they are more open to teaching everyone who interested in learning their ways or if they adhere to the same criteria as the warlocks and witches.

2 Likes

Back in one place I lived for a while there was one guy I encountered a few times who had long hair and dressed somewhat feminine. Had a very nongendered nickname, but a very masculine birth name I don’t think anyone actually ever used. Apparently, it was something like Bruce.

Then they transitioned to female, much to no one’s surprise. And we just kept calling them by their nickname, even though they had a completely feminine legal name when they transitioned.

1 Like

Maybe water cause it’s fluid?

2 Likes

I won’t oppose a water-air base for the nonbinary wielders, since there is water in the air (as ATLA showed me)

1 Like