I'm Tia! I'm a thirty-something transgender female lifetime gamer and professional caregiver. I like MMOs, Saints Row, Mass Effect, and classic games. My favorite game character is probably Samus, and I wish rhythm games with guitar controllers were still being made.
So, I’ve read three comics issues tonight, all of which there’s deeper reviews of coming. Scott Snyder’s Batman was wonderful; the other two… not so much.
I know it’s Villain Month. I know the Nineties happened and The Dark Knight Returned happened and The Killing Joke happened and Watchmen happened and Villain Month means dark, dreadful happenings.
But when I read two issues, back to back, set in different realities, bearing no plot connection to each other whatsoever, and they both feature narratives built around horrific sex crimes against women - crimes that end in the deaths of those women - there’s something wrong.
I spend a lot of time defending DC. I love most of their work. I’d love to be able to defend them tonight, but I’m not sure I want to read any more of their books tonight, in spite of having a few on my queue that I’m quite sure I’d enjoy.
Teen Titans has Trigon come into existence, mystically rape a woman so she would give birth to him and allow him to escape an exile dimension, then go taking universes over and killing the men and raping the women, the vast bulk of whom die in short order from something related to the experience.
Earth 2 gives us Grundy’s origin story, which hinges on a moment where Solomon, as a living man, learns that his wife is being sexually exploited by his employer. She, after an indeterminate time dealing with that, kills herself, which motivates Solomon to murder his coworkers and his boss before killing himself. Solomon’s wife is, in other words, both introduced and fridged in less than a dozen pages.
There’s a problem here.
Star Trek Online posted a blog post a couple of days ago.
I felt a need to reply, because I saw a good bit of rose-tinted glasses, and if there's one thing I can't stand to do, it's not shatter people's rose-tinted glasses. I might be a little unpleasant that way.
Star Trek, especially in its early days, was a beacon of progressive thought in race and ethnic relations. The diversity of the crew of Kirk’s Enterprise was a breath of fresh air, and the only real problem there - apart from Mr. Roddenberry’s occasionally problematic ideas on gender - was that the core cast consisted of two white Americans and an alien.
It continued to do amazing things as far as race goes into its later series. Possibly the most poignant statement on race relations, and the continued fight for equality, that I have ever seen in a scripted series was Far Beyond the Stars, one of the finest episodes of television ever made. Avery Brooks’s influence on Deep Space Nine was a wonderful thing.
Unfortunately, the last two decades have made very clear that Star Trek has little interest in addressing sexual orientation in a way that was anywhere near as enlightened as its approach to race. Only a few times are questions regarding orientation and gender identity brought up - the episode with Riker mentioned by the blog, the first Trill story involving Crusher, and the episode with Dax and Kahn in DS9. This, during the rise of the gay rights movement to national prominence - during a time for the fight for LGBT equality that mirrored where the civil rights movement was during the run of the original series!
Even more troubling is the fact that, to this day, there is not a major Star Trek character, in the canon of the Prime timeline, of the Abrams timeline, or of Star Trek Online, who is explicitly anything but a straight, cisgender individual.
I love Star Trek, but, as far as sexual orientation goes, it has been anything but a shining beacon of progress and inclusion. It has been aggressively and deliberately exclusionary, through its entire history. It has been, at best, cowardly on the issue of sexual orientation, retreating from every opportunity to join the dialogue.
For a franchise that was so daring on racial issues, it has been disappointingly craven on LGBT rights, and Star Trek Online has been no exception.
I absolutely applaud Stonewall’s work, and intend to participate in their Pride celebration, but it was necessary to point out the rose-tinted glasses through which this blog post views the franchise.
The process of transition can be difficult, emotionally and practically. Even if one doesn’t intend to undergo physical transition through hormones and surgery, it involves legal name changes, paperwork to change the gender on one’s ID, and working one’s way through other forms of identification - including online identification.
I’ve worked my way through much of that process, and, in gaming, it has been remarkably painless. Nintendo and Microsoft switched my gender on my profiles with a simple email to their customer service departments, and Microsoft even waived the usual fee for changing user IDs (from the gender-neutral one I once used to a specifically-female one I’ve embraced since fully coming out). When dealing with two of the three major console developers, I felt embraced and understood, part of a shining moment of tolerance and acceptance in the often-problematic gender politics of gaming.
Then I contacted Sony.
Sony does not allow users to change the gender or display name on their account, ever, for any reason. The customer service employee with whom I exchanged messages told me, as if it were supposed to be a comfort, that they would not make that change even if I were requesting it because I’d clicked the wrong option during account creation. The suggested workaround was that I create a new account - one to which I would not be able to import previously purchased content or saved games, such as my DC Universe Online characters. The employee was obviously attempting to show empathy, which I deeply appreciated, but the policy is deliberately and senselessly hurtful.
This experience is made worse by another recent experience with my PS3 - I recently played Journey for the first time. A great deal has been written about Journey, and my three hours with it were among the best I’ve ever spent playing a game. In particular, the design and feel of the playable character - androgynous, vaguely feminine, spritely and agile - allowed me to feel myself in her robes, in a form that fits me far better than the body into which I was born ever has. It was a very nearly transcendent experience, one which moved me to tears of joy.
It leaves me baffled about how the same company that published Journey can be so thoroughly clueless about the issues of gender identity.
Sony must change this policy. It’s a simple, tiny thing, one that causes deep hurt to people already going through difficulty without creating a benefit to anyone at all.