Trans Women and Gaming: Why We Should Talk About It
By Chelsea Ward
When we read about female gamers and diversity in gaming, we find that transgender women are usually left out of the conversation – and that sucks! First of all, transgender women are women, and all female-identifying gamers need to be represented in the discourse. Second of all, trans gamers have a unique relationship to gaming that we feel should be explored more often.
Gaming has anecdotally been stated to be a big influence in many transgender women’s self-discovery. In articles from The Guardian, Polygon and The Escapist, trans women have identified gaming to have played a big part in their decision to transition and live as their true selves.
According to a research article entitled ‘Virtual Avatars: Trans Experiences of Ideal Selves Through Gaming’, this is largely due to the fact that games allow you to control and often construct a virtual body that isn’t confined by the physical limits of our bodies. This gives transgender people a relatively safe way to experience life as their idealized selves and combat some aspects of gender dysphoria.
But when the anonymity of an avatar is peeled back, trans women are usually faced with a lot of harassment from the people they game with. This is partly why there are so few publicly trans women in esports – it takes a lot of fortitude to endure the kinds of treatment that they receive online and in the industry. However, some women have been able to make a name for themselves despite it, such as Ricki Ortiz and Sasha “Scarlett” Hoysten. Still, the participation of trans women in esports tournaments has been highly contested and even banned in some cases.
And when it comes to female gaming communities, we know that not all of them are accepting of transgender women, and that’s been something that we’ve wanted to change since the start. Femme Gaming’s community is comprised of women who come from all walks of life, and we proudly welcome and accept all femme gamers.
One such woman is Erika, one of our community moderators who has been with us since the beginning. The support that she provides for Femme Gaming is integral to the success of our community. Not only is she a lifelong gamer and skilled PC builder, but she’s also a great parent and good friend. You can often catch her playing Call of Duty, Fortnite and horror games, but she’s always on the lookout for her next favourite game.
Before finding Femme Gaming, Erika went through a number of communities and kept finding the same toxicity and transphobia in each of them. It’s a big reason why she doesn’t use her microphone when playing online. “When I’ve tried, it just always ends up either awkward or with me playing solo again,” says Erika. To avoid this, she’s learned how to use character emotes to her benefit by letting her character’s gestures do all the talking for her.
Thankfully, Erika eventually found herself in the Femme Army and says that she doesn’t worry about transphobic behaviour from our community members. She and our other community moderators also work hard around the clock to ensure an accepting and safe environment for all women on our social media channels.
Unfortunately, as transgender rights and acceptance are still being fought for worldwide, there has been little research or media about transgender women and gaming. Now and forever, we need to talk about transgender women in gaming, and we also need to listen. The anecdotal experiences of trans women gamers are the best resources we can learn from. Listen, learn and reflect on the ways that you, your friends, your league or your company can become more inclusive toward transgender gamers.
We hope that articles like this one can serve as a reminder that trans women gamers are women gamers. We’re all in the same fight for gender equality in gaming and Femme Gaming will always support this cause. Happy Pride Month, everyone!