[Editor’s note: I recently met Devin at a LARP (live action role playing game). After befriending her on Facebook, I was thrilled to find out that she was also a writer, and exceptionally honored when she asked to share her story here. It takes a lot of courage to be a woman in the world of gaming right now, and I can’t imagine what it must be like to face the discrimination that comes along with being transgendered on top of the fear and pressure women already sometimes experience in gamer culture.
Devin has already helped other members of our LARP community feel better and prouder about being who they are – whether that means also coming out as trans or just living an existence filled with less apologies. Thank you for reading her story. – TMC, Senior Editor, The Geek Initiative]
Perspective: Trans Girl in the Gamer World, by D. H. Torkavian
So, let’s talk, you and I. Every little girl dreams of growing up and being that special one-of-a-kind unicorn princess, don’t they? I know I did. Now I know that this won’t be every transgender gamer girl’s experience, and being how I have never met another transgender gamer girl, who can blame me for not knowing? I do however have the sneaking suspicion that if you are a male to female transgender gamer girl that you probably can relate even if it’s just a little.
This is my experience as a transgender gamer girl.
Now let’s get into the meat of this, or tofu. (I don’t discriminate against vegans.) Gaming. Gaming by my self is perfectly fine, but when you mix other people into it – and let’s be honest, gaming all the time by yourself is just boring – it can get a little complicated post-puberty.
Let’s examine this in a before and after process. From the time I was seven to around ten or eleven, video arcades were still very much alive and kicking in Southern California, where I grew up. My life was these arcades. It was the social function of my youth. All of my free time was spent playing fighting games – the king of arcade games before DDR – at home on my Sega, hoarding empty soda cans to take to the recycling plant down the street for money, and dressing up in my cutest little dresses to go mercilessly kick the crap out of grown men at Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, and the like.
This was all in the name of getting the sweet sweet recognition via said grown man’s friends saying something along the lines of “Haha, you got your ass handed to you by a little girl.” Post-puberty, it was “You got beat by a boy in a dress.”
Shortly after I hit puberty, arcades started to die out, so I had to find my social gaming through other forms. Enter MMOs. Oh awesome! I thought to my self, it was perfect, and in a lot of ways it was, and is. The best part was that my high school had a sort of unspoken EverQuest club – my MMO of choice at the time – and all I had to do was say “I play EQ.” Boom! Instant group.
It was awesome. We logged on my Shaman kicked so much ass. I even saved a few very popular – not to mention hot – guys. This was awesome. That is until the next day when we all met up. Them “why do you play a chick?” Me “because I am a chick.” Them “Oh, okay.” Me “Do you get it?” Them “Not really.” Well okay then. That is when I realized it. I needed to game with other girls.
Gaming with other girls. So after finding out that I was the only girl playing EverQuest in my school I turned to Myspace.com where I found other local girls around my age at the time playing EverQuest, Yay! I hoped on that faster then the Flash could hop scotch. They took me in instantly; apparently they needed a healer. So gaming with them was pretty awesome.
Then we did a meet up. Boy, were they surprised, and by that I mean they kicked me out because they only play with “real girls.”
I am a real girl, I thought. So then I told my self I didn’t need a group. Playing MMOs by your self is not fun for me. Look I can heal myself, how rewarding… Then it came to me. How brilliant? Find other trans gamer girls.
Remember when I said I wanted to be that special one-of-a-kind unicorn princess? Guess who got their wish? It was awful. Other transgender girls my age quickly turned on me the second I even mentioned the words ‘video games.’ Trans girls my age were more interested in cultivating an overly feminine image of themselves, and me and my video games were not welcome – ever. This point was driven home vividly at a transgender support group. When I brought this up, I was accused of actively setting the whole trans movement back. Like for real. They acted like the whole reason why the transgender movement was not as successful as it could have been was because I played video games. Um… really?
Thankfully I have older sisters who loved me enough to play video games with me. Even though they were more into table top games. This is how I got in to a little thing called D&D. This little bubble was my world! I isolated myself in this world where I could be and do anything, and everyone there understood me, and also didn’t give a shit about my trans status because I grew up with these people. It was a small circle, but then both my sisters found lovers, and that circle grew.
Then I started actually making friends, and they wanted to game and the circle got bigger! Finally I was accepted, and I could game without having to worry about others worrying about me being transgender. Life was bliss.
Now it wasn’t long before I found out what cosplay was…holy crap, you can dress like your favorite characters in a socially accepting environment? I duped my sisters into getting me my first cosplay costume ASAP! Xena, in case you were wondering. Then we were off to a convention.
I was the fattest, most trans Xena at the con! It was awesome! Then the guys came in droves, and promptly congratulated me on my “bravery” for cosplaying as a girl. Again… “I am girl.” They made the best OMG faces I have ever seen. At this point I was owning my isolation.
Then I found this little thing called LARP. LARP is so far the best experience I have had with gaming with others. Mostly everyone came up to me and simply asked if I was trans or not. Holy crap. Look how much easier that was than my previous experiences.
Now with time of course people are getting more open-minded, and with the Internet being so mainstream I plan on looking for transgender girl gamer groups. Hopefully I will find more accepting geek gaming communities like I have in LARP.
D. H. Torkavian usually writes in the realm of speculative fiction. You can view and purchase her work here.