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

Okay, here is my first attempt at introducing Astorius, I’m not happy with it, it doesn’t feel natural to me.

  #The one in a hood.
    You start to walk over to the hooded person when Autumn stops you.
    
    "Astorius there is going through a transition at the moment, she explains. "Witch magic feels wrong for him, and he wants to learn warlock magic. It is one of the reasons Astorius is here."
    
    "Fair enough," you say softly. "Thanks for letting me know."
    
    Autumn steps aside and allows you to approach Astorius, he doesn't look up, but keeps staring into the flames. 
    
    "Astorius, we've got company!" Autumn says nudging him.
    
    Astorius mutters a curse and you watch an ember of fire dancing in front of him, and with a flick of Astorius' wrist, the ember pirouettes towards Autumn, who extinguishes the flame in a ball of water.
    
    "Careful Astorius," Autumn says, chuckling.
    
    "You were the one who broke my concentration," Astorius snaps. "I nearly had it dancing there."
    
    "I wanted to introduce you to $!{partner} and ${name}. They are the people Beatrix hired to oversee the treaty," Autumn explains.
    
    Astorius winces, then looks up at you, pulling his hood down to reveal short, dark, hair and very soft green eyes.
    
    "Sorry, I was lost in a spell there. I am Astorius, nice to meet you," he apologizes.
    *goto witch_one

So how does this sound? Again thoughts and suggestions would be really appreciated.

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Attempt number 2: thanks to @E_RedMark for the suggestion.

  #The one in a hood.
    You start to walk over to the hooded person when Autumn stops you. "Forgive me, but Astorius is going through something personal at the moment."
    
    "What do you mean?" you ask, concerned.
    
    "It is not my place to tell, I suggest you ask Astorius and it will be up to him if he tells you."
    
    "Fair enough," you say softly. "Thanks for letting me know."
    
    Autumn steps aside and allows you to approach Astorius, he doesn't look up, but keeps staring into the flames. 
    
    "Astorius, we've got company!" Autumn says nudging him.
    
    Astorius mutters a curse and you watch an ember of fire dancing in front of him, and with a flick of Astorius' wrist, the ember pirouettes towards Autumn, who extinguishes the flame in a ball of water.
    
    "Careful Astorius," Autumn says, chuckling.
    
    "You were the one who broke my concentration," Astorius snaps. "I nearly had it dancing there."
    
    "I wanted to introduce you to $!{partner} and ${name}. They are the people Beatrix hired to oversee the treaty," Autumn explains.
    
    Astorius winces, then looks up at you, pulling his hood down to reveal short, dark, hair and very soft green eyes. Up close, you can see how baggy his clothes are.
    
    "Sorry, I was lost in a spell there. I am Astorius, nice to meet you," he apologizes.
    
    "Are you a warlock?" you ask. "What are you doing in the witches camp?"
    
    Astorius glances over at Autumn who gives him a reassuring nod. Then he turns his attention back to you.
    
    "I was born a woman and raised in the art of witchcraft, but I could never attune myself to it. I always felt more comfortable using earth magic. So I wish to learn warlock magic, that is one of the reasons that Beatrix invited me."
    *goto witch_one

Opinions appreciated as always :slight_smile:

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i prefer the second one though i kinda wish that “I was born a woman” part was omitted or was implied. Personally, i don’t want to explicitly mention my assigned gender at birth to strangers. Though, Astorius maybe more comfortable in telling others about that part of himself than i am.

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Do you think it would be better to say “I used to be a witch?” Instead?

What do everyone else think?

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i’m alright with that, (in terms of whether Astorius would mention things about before he transitioned or not) but let’s hear what everyone else has to say.

Rereading attempt#2, the MC could show visible confusion but doesn’t outright ask those questions (ie “Are you a warlock? What are you doing in a witches camp?”) to Astorius. Astorius can mention that Beatrix extending an invitation to him with hopes that he is more comfortable with earth magic (and to an extent, with the warlocks) due to his dissatisfaction of using runes.

When i mean by visible confusion, the MC is wondering if the “rules/criteria” of the warlocks and witches are still as rigid as before or if they have become flexible/had changed over the course of time. There is also the third group but i’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

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He’s just met you; he doesn’t need to justify his existence to you. Here’s what I mean. Not saying you should use these lines, just providing some examples.

“I am in the witch’s camp because I am welcome here.”

Or, if the MC is not a witch:

“They didn’t turn you away at the entrance, did they? I am allowed to walk in the witch’s camp for the same reason you are.”

Another possibility:

“You chose those labels, not me.”

All of these are for a character that seems more assertive than what you’ve described. For a character that’s a bit meeker:

“Autumn, am I welcome here?”

“Always.”

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Just a heads up that “born a woman” may be seen as a distortion of trans identity. The trans people I know certainly don’t believe they were born as one gender and transitioned to another. They were born feeling the same way they feel as adults, but they were assigned a gender by doctors or parents that didn’t fit their identity. Sort of a “I know exactly who I am! It’s the world that’s confused” situation. Gender confirmation is not changing yourself from one gender to another, just helping your outsides match your insides.

It may feel like splitting hairs, but the way we depict the experience matters a lot. You may want to consider interviewing any trans friends or family or requesting their feedback on the character, and try to compensate them fairly for their consultation.

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As a reader I think it is something that needs to be carefully handled. It sounds as if you are using an unestablished character so it should flow more naturally than an instantaneous appearance of a trans character to replace a formerly introduced non-trans character. In my opinion the biggest flaw in introducing trans characters is the fact that there is no adjustment. It is just accepted at face value. I had a trans client once and it was very difficult to end the habit of calling him (in a biological sense) sir and start calling him ma’am. While the character in question goes through a journey it should be balanced for the reader as well if you want to create a more immersive experience. Allow the player to be reactive so that the reveal feels more real and less forced. Transitioning affects more than an individual, it affects those around them as well. Heed that and it’ll have depth. Let the character come across as female at first and allow the player to react to them as if they are female. Note perhaps their expression when referred to as such. Then later when you reveal their intent to transition it feels more real and the situation then feels as if it was naturally spawned and not forced.

The simple truth is that we can’t simply intuit trans intent. So don’t even try. Reveal it in steps over the course of that story arc. Such shouldn’t be offensive since it is how such things occur in reality.

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Yeah that isn’t what I want I’ll rewrite that bit.

Edit: I’m on my way to work atm but I’m thinking that I may focus on the magic itself how he was learning witchcraft but he never felt right and felt manipulating the earth magic felt more natural to him. Maybe that would work better? I’ll give it some more thought!

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If this is important, you should take care to develop it in the best possible way. In that case, you shouldn’t worry if someone understands It or not, since if you develop it well, even if someone doesn’t understand when read it the first time, they’ll end up understanding when play again.

But if that’s just something you want to show about the character, you should do the most obvious thing which is a scene with someone getting confused by the situation and questioning Astrid about it.

Most hosted game / choice of games authors don’t do scenes like this. Usually they make the MC already understand without them explaining(Which can make the reader stop feeling like he’s the MC, since the MC has information that he doesn’t.)or they make the character say this when they introduce themselves to the player.(I don’t think this is really bad, but for some reason when I read scenes like this on a wip they seem to have been written in such a superficial way that it makes me sick)

I think there are two reasons why things are like this.

1: they think someone in that situation would be uncomfortable with someone asking about it.

Yes, but there are also people who would be willing to talk and answer any question someone had about the situation, it depends a lot on the person’s personality. That’s why I think a scene like that would be great, because in addition to looking like something that would actually happen, it gives an opportunity to show Astrid’s personality. And even if there are trans people who for some reason feel uncomfortable with scenes like this, I think most can have a feeling like “man I know how it is” and empathize with the character.

2: Most authors are cis gender people.

Many of the authors are cis genders and even though they put trans and non-gender characters in their stories, most don’t want to delve into the subject and make scenes like the ones I say. I don’t blame them and understand that they might not feel confident to address this type of subject in their stories.

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A possible way to reword it is Assigned Female at Birth if that would fit in with the story line. Or something similar along those lines

Trans male here and my doctor often uses that term when her office deals with my insurance company.

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Do witches and warlocks wear different outfits in this setting? Is this how the MC can tell Astorius is a warlock, or is it because he passes as male so the MC assumes he’s not a witch?

You mentioned Astorius being in the early stages of transitioning. Being more specific will probably help you imagine how he acts, and how people will react to him in turn. Consider how far along he is, like maybe he’s transitioned socially (changed his name, came out to the witches, etc) but not medically. You don’t have to have him explain all of this to the MC; just something to think about in terms of characterisation :slight_smile:

Someone in this thread mentioned considering how transition would work in a setting with magic. You could make it that someone can cast a glamour spell (or something like that) to alter their appearance to look like another gender. If magic like this exists, then it’s possible for Astorius to pass as male and not have to go through misgendering; in this case the only way the MC knows he’s trans is because he tells them.

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The problem with using magic to swap sexes physically is that it would nullfiy the idea that Witches and Warlocks use different magical means. The author stated that they are separate in their magic. So if the magic is binary the ability to swap between male and female at will makes that very idea pointless. Why create a binary magical system when you can use magic to cheat it? Wouldn’t ever witch and wizard learn to use both so they can switch back and forth as needed? The simplest thing would be to simply restructure the magic system so that it isn’t locked to a sex but is simply a difference of disciplines that are generally assigned to a gender. A secondary problem then occurs where the idea of a structured society with defined gender disciplines being accepting of those who openly cross disciplines comes across as nonsensical. The Norse for example were very, very closed off to the idea of biological males dabbling in what was considered female magic and vice versa.

It sounds like I’ve not explained it clearly enough in the original post.

Magic in my series be it animators, witches, warlocks or the recently formed sages, comes from the same source of magic which is the fae one.

In theory anyone can learn any of the magics. It’s just that witches generally prefer to teach women and warlocks tend to prefer to teach men.

The newly formed sages actually are willing to teach their magic to anyone and everyone. The group is as fluid and open as the element they specialise in (water).

Also it is worth mentioning that the witch coven and the Warlock cabal in this particular case are both willing to attempt cross group teaching.

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I mentioned gender, not sex. I didn’t say the spell could be used to change one’s sex, which is different from simply making them look like a typical man or woman to make sure people will correctly assume their gender at first glance. Something like changing facial features to look softer or sharper and altering your voice pitch. That doesn’t require SRS/sex change, as even in real life that’s achieved by hormones and facial surgery.

If you’re referring to seidr, it’s true that it was mostly practiced by women and frowned upon as unmanly. But it’s not like that has stopped people from challenging social conventions; there were still examples of seidmenn, and Norse mythology even has Odin as a user of seidr.

I’ve had a go at rewording the last sentence to focus on the magic itself.

“I was raised as a witch, learning the art of witchcraft, but I could never attune myself to it like the others. It is always earth magic that feels the truest to me. So I desire to learn warlock magic, that is one of the reasons that Beatrix invited me.”

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This. Honestly, the magic only seems to really be affected by the biological factors, not social ones. Femme nonbinary people and transmen could still be witches in universe. They’d be edge cases and it would be really cool worldbuilding aspect if covens are either pretty accepting of both or there might be tension between older traditionalist (and sexist) witches who aren’t as accepting.

That makes more sense. So it is simply disciplinary and not tied to the magical rules of the world you’ve made. That certainly should remove most of the consternation, should it not? If it is based solely upon chosen discipline then there is no reason that the magic use should be tied to the trans identity of the individual. If it can be learned by all then why would anyone question their being there in the other camp even if it is typically against the social convention? It’d be kind of like seeing a male cheerleader, would it not? Unusual but not beyond the pale of what is acceptable.

In my opinion, it would be best to approach their gender reveal as separate from their magic altogether. Perhaps just have it be a question you can ask of the individual (perhaps some small talk while walking around or something) that way you can provide the background information you want to give without compromising the story or initiating an oversized exposition dump. It would better dilineate the social norms of the witch and warlock camps and the magic itself.

Although magic can be used by anyone the majority of witches won’t teach men and likewise warlocks won’t teach women. It’s a very archaic structure they follow although the coven and cabal in this scene are much more open to the sharing of knowledge. The MC doesn’t know this when they first meet the witches which is why they would be surprised.

Looks good to me. I feel most readers who have some knowledge of trans people will be able to understand that he’s trans because of the way he talks about his experiences. I’m assuming the cross-camp training thing is part of the plot, so it doesn’t feel irrelevant/like exposition that came out of nowhere.

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