TRIGGER WARNING! Transphobia and Not Quite Safe For Work.
Being a Transsexual, I pay a bit of attention to Transgender inclusion in the media. It’s only natural that I want to know how we are represented. This is what led to me finding the video “Top 5 – Transsexual Characters in Games” by Zoomin.TV Games on YouTube. At first I thought “Oh, cool. A video that celebrates the inclusion of Transsexuals in games. This will be worth a watch.” Oh how wrong I was. It was poorly researched, misinformed and had a fair bit of Transphobic language. So where do I begin?
Well lets begin before the video even starts. Here is the thumbnail, lets play spot the issues!
Firstly an issue that isn’t specific to Trans* people. It is blatantly clear that Poison’s ample assets are being use to do what I call “Click Bait.” Using a scantily clad woman (or women) for the Thumbnail will obviously attract straight men (check out this awesome article on the the “Male Gaze” by my mate Mitch on Gay Gamer.net) as they will want to see more. Zoomin.TV Games seems to use this a lot. Misogyny at its best. Now about that text. “Dude looks like a lady” is an insult to Male to Female (MtF) Transsexuals such as myself. It does this by maintaining the idea that MtF Transsexuals are men who simply look like woman, not that we in fact are. So what on earth is it doing here!?! As I said it would seem that this video is celebrating Transsexuals, so why insult them? I can only assume it was a poor attempt at a joke, so perhaps all the other thumbnails poke fun at their subjects.
It would appear not. What could be taken from this? Transsexuals are funny, funnier than funny games, even funnier than toilets (yes, they have a video on toilets).
Now, lets actually talk about the contents of the video. Obviously it includes five characters, but does it include five Transsexuals? Short answer: no. What I will now do is go through the five characters and discuss what my issues are with them as well what is wrong with how Zoomin.TV Games conducts the video.
5. Poison: Final Fight & Street Fighter. Ok, Poison is a Transsexual, at least to a large enough amount of people, including those who make the games she appears in, for me to accept her as such. She also doesn’t follow the horrible stereotypes seen in Grand Theft Auto 5 (again, check out Mitch’s stuff). Of course Zoomin.Tv Games mucks up by focusing on her genitalia, and even imposes a little bit of Trans-misogyny. The Trans-misogyny is basically the suggestion that we MtFs need to tuck away “our business” to look like woman. We should not have to do anything to look like woman as we are woman, and woman come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes, intersex woman may also be insulted if they have a penis. Focusing on Poison’s genitalia also objectifys her, and completely avoids a very important talking point. You see, the reason not everyone accepts Poison as Transsexual is that she originally wasn’t. She was Cis-Gendered (not Trans) but this didn’t sit well with Western testers as the main character of Final Fight was a man, so we had a man beating up a woman. Of course the best way to deal with it was to make the woman a man, so let’s make her a transvestite, and later a Transsexual. It is an unfortunate view that a man beating up a Cis-Woman is a no-no but a Trans-Woman is acceptable, or even funny (Bad Trans Jokes covers this here). Thankfully, Poison has moved on from this as she appears in the Street Fighter games alongside other women.
4. Bridget: The Guilty Gear Series. This is where we learn that Zoomin.TV Games has done little or no research into Transexualism or Transgenderism as Bridget is a Transvestite not a Transeexual. As Zoomin.TV Games points out, Bridget asserts that he is a guy, becoming angered when anyone claims he is a girl. He of course wears girls clothes but that is not Transexualism. I think the issue here was not that Zoomin.TV Games is confusing the word Transvestite with Transsexual, but confusing the word Transgender with Transsexual. Why? Well Transgender and Transsexual are commonly confused with each other. As Transgender is Umbrella Term that would include both Transsexuals and Transvestite it would have made more sense for it to be used to include them. If that had been the case Bridget would have been fine. However Bridget has served to show that Zoomin.TV Games has failed to research even the basic terminology, suggesting that this video was based upon personal understanding and a flawed personal understanding at that.
3. Naota Shirogane: Persona 4. Naota is a girl who creates a male persona to become accepted by the police. Whilst it isn’t perhaps common knowledge, there is an actual medical condition Transsexuals (and others in the Transgender community) are diagnosed with. It is called Gender Dysphoria (formally Gender Identity Disorder) and explains that it stems from someones Gender Identity (a persons internal perception of their sex) is not aligned with their Biological Sex (whats between your legs). It also contains some reasons that someone is not Gender Dysphoric. An important one here is that someones Gender Identity must not be based on any perceived advantages of that sex. Well that is what Naota is doing as she has seen that men are more readily accepted by the police so she acts like on to also become accepted. She is not Gender Dysphoric, so she is not a Transsexual. She is actually rather damaging to the Transsexuals as her character suggests that it is done for purposes beyond our mental wellbeing, that we are all deceitful. If we do accept her as a Transsexual, she can also be talked out of presenting as male. This is highlighted as positive, despite major Psychological groups condemning attempts to change or remove Transsexual thoughts and feelings. So either way she really does not belong here at all.
2. Kaine: Nier. Zoomin.TV Games actually acknowledges that Kaine is a Hermaphrodite, not a Transsexual. I don’t agree with that either but more on that later. Kaine has a penis thanks to a demon possession. Now, I haven’t read much on this as I am playing Nier and don’t want to spoil plot points, but a possession suggests it wasn’t Kaine’s choice. Transsexuals are not forced into Sexual Reassignment Surgery, though they may be coerced. So Kaine is not a Transsexual either (I think we are one out of four so far). I am actually confused as to whether Zoomin.TV Games thinks she is Female to Male or Male to Female. As previously mentioned Kaine is described as a Hermaphrodite, really the correct term is Intersex, although really I don’t think this should be how she is described. This is magic, and to claim that she is a good example of Transsexuals detracts from the reality of the experiences of those who actually live with it through their lives. Kaine is cursed, that is the best way to describe her.
1. Birdo. Argh, Birdo annoys me (and Mitch) terribly. She is often billed as being the first Transsexual, and I suppose that is correct. However lets look at the manual description brought up by Zoomin.TV Games:
Yep, the best Transsexual character according to Zoomin.TV Games is misgendered in her official description. Yay! If this represents good inclusion, do not show me bad Inclusion. Birdo also looks sort of like a Dinosaur Drag Queen,. Pink with a bow? Seems very stereotypical of girly, and not all Transsexuals want to be girly (my favourite outfit includes a tank top with a pair of skulls squaring off, some knee-high black goth boots and a black skirt). Her Transsexuality has also been dropped so it wasn’t really seen as a good enough thing to remain part of her character. That is likely as it was really all there was to her and probably really for the best. However Zoomin.TV Games gets bad again by stating “We all know her little secret.” This is really the worst issue, Birdo’s Trans* past is a cool little fact, it’s a secret she doesn’t want you to know and so forth. It goes right back to objectifying Transsexuals and suggesting we are deceitful. Why is that the best Transsexual character?
So, Zoomin.TV Games may have attempted to be accepting, but they fall at the start line. Between the Transphobia and lack of research this video is a two and a half-minute insult to those they would appear to celebrate. Perhaps that is actually the intent, it wouldn’t be the first time that a group has acted as an ally to diminish others. It certainly seems to have worked if that was what they wanted as the comments are full of insults to Transsexuals, or reminding us that we are objects of sexual desire, nothing more.
So as to make this fair, here is the video so that you may watch it and draw your own conclusions. I wouldn’t recommend it obviously.
All the images for this post have been taken from YouTube and the Video in question. I do not own any of them.