Video Games as Transgender Escapism

      “It’s nice to be able to enter into an expansive world where I’m treated as female,” she said to me. I knew exactly what she was talking about, too. I was guilty of the same type of escapism as well as others.

     I had used games to escape before. When my classmates dropped the T-word and listed all the possible ways to spot a trans woman I came home and played Spiral Knights to distract myself. It kind of worked if you don’t count the rest of the time that evening that I was crying and angry. When a sneeze resulted in persistent headaches and dizziness and the worry wart side of me was worried it was something serious, I played puzzle games to keep my nerves calm.

     This type of escapism is very different. A couple months before my friend brought up the subject, I had been playing any game that let me make a female avatar. It feels really good to be treated as a woman even if it is through a virtual self.

     I relied heavily on escaping through games this way. At the time my girlfriend wasn’t being very accepting and my transition was progressing so slowly. I was trying to take steps but accomplishing nothing. So, I’d play games where I got to be a girl and no one told me I wasn’t. I even played some pretty awful games just because I could be a girl.

     It won’t come as a surprise that most of my WoW characters are female. I made a few males because people started getting suspicious. “Why are all your characters female?” one friend asked.

     “They’re not all female. Look, that one is male and that one,” I said, making random excuses to hide the real reason which is, for years, I wanted to be a girl but couldn’t admit it out loud.

     One time I entered a dungeon and someone said, “Oh, another girl tank.”

     “There’s nothing wrong with girl tanks,” I said, feeling proud of my gender and obligated to defend our honor.

     “She’s pro,” one of them said by the end of the dungeon as I was out-DPSing (damage per second) some of them.

     In that case, it was the players that treated me like a woman, even though not all female characters are played by women. It felt great. I loved it. But it wasn’t just in WoW. I enjoyed when NPCs treated me like a woman or even just running around with a female avatar.

     “Don’t really know,” another friend started as I asked him about this type of escapism, “though my Pokemon characters are boys. Even something small like that is kinda relieving.”

     As conversation continued I asked him, “Do you pick guys in all games if given an option?”

     “I tend to,” he answers, “hell, I did even as a kid.”

     Playing games to be treated as our true gender is a good way to relieve the anxiety of not being accepted that often comes with being trans, but it can feel like a trap too. Sometimes I think I relied too much on these games to get the acceptance I wanted. I’m glad I was able to stop it and enjoy games in a more pure way.

     It’s also an important step to go out and find acceptance away from virtual characters. It felt like I was hiding from my problems, but now I have found more acceptance. My girlfriend is trying her best to accept that I am a woman and I have found friends who are kind and caring and when I need a little extra, I can always play a game.

7 responses to “Video Games as Transgender Escapism

  1. I loved this article. Sadly though, males playing female characters are a common thing, so now almost everyone assumes that if you are playing as a female character that you are a guy. I played an mmo with a guy last night who played as a female character that didn’t hide that he was male and used male pronouns and treated every female character he came across as a “bro”. It left such a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Yeah, that’s probably more common now, but I’ve still had a lot of interactions with people where they just kind of assume female characters are played by girls. That “bro” guy doesn’t sound very nice, I don’t think I’d have liked playing with him at all.

  2. I’ve recently realized I’m genderfluid (there are times I feel mentally female, though overall I identify as male) and looking back, i noticed that when I played video games I would frequently pick female characters as my avatars. They always felt more “right” somehow.

    This eventually extended to my writing- my protagonists are usually women because I have an easier time empathizing with them.

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