Disclaimer: This is mostly an opinion piece, but I have cited sources for factual claims.
Right here I am writing an article that for the most part, will fall on deaf ears. I get that a lot of people have made up their mind when it comes to LGBT characters, especially in our current political climate. However, I hope to at least encourage one person to speak up or to try to see things another way, because after all, rebellions are built on hope.
Lately there's been an influx of of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters, both heroes and villains, into geek culture. A lot of people have been proud of this, and a lot of people have been demanding to know why. Why did Blizzard have to make Tracer gay? Why is there a Transman in my Dragon Age game? Was it really necessary for us to learn that a character was not straight? Well, that's a question that has many answers. The short version is because art imitates life and there are many people who belong to the LGBT in the real world. However, that's not good enough for some people, which is why I am going to explain a few things
It all boils down to representation matters. People form public opinions based on the kind of people they see, if they don't see a particular kind of person regularly then their knowledge of those groups come from the media. Gamers themselves are no stranger to his. Once upon a time in the 80's, video games were seen as something for geeks. Back in the day, video games were mostly a pass time for geeks who would rather spend their days playing Dungeons & Dragons then meet with friends in the outside world.
Later in the 90's, we had things like Mortal Kombat and Doom which pushed Congress to make a decision, either ban video games or create a rating system. Still the damage had been done, Video games went from being this harmless hobby done by society's rejects to being a sinful corrupter of youth. This would only get worse once the Columbine Massacre rolled around and left many asking questions? The so-called "Moral Majority" asked whether or not pressing a button and seeing someone's head blow up made people want to see this in real life.
These questions proceeded to launch the careers of men like lawyer Jack Thompson who swore that Rockstar (creator of Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and Bully) was intentionally creating video games in an insane conspiracy to turn ten year olds
This is how much representation matters, Video games were represented as being a sign of immaturity and then all of a sudden, boom. Society turns on their television sets and all those old ideas get thrown out in favor of this.
What's presented here is the idea that the game industry is full of sick people who want children to pick up a handgun and ogle naked women. The M-Rating means nothing, despite what Market Research says. Gamers aren't adults in their 30's and 40's playing this to relieve stress after a hard day, it's little Timmy, and soon he'll be a groping, raping, shooting, cussing maniac.
You may be thinking that people who complained about this did not actually play the game. Well you would be correct, they did not. The only reason they raised a fuss is because they wanted to change the definition of what a video game is into something that could be used to not only attack the industry, but make themselves richer.
Why attack the industry? Firstly, works of fiction are often attacked for encouraging laziness and thus making people into someone who is "not a man", and anyone who is "not a man" is considered to be worthless and lesser of a human being. There's also the problem that if people are encouraged to watch and enjoy fiction that makes them ask questions about the society around them, they may come to conclusions that society needs to change.
One of the biggest reasons these people felt like they had to attack the Industry was money.. It's pretty easy to build power, all one has to do is find a platform and an enemy. A platform will let anyone stand up and shout whatever moronic thing they want to say while guaranteeing at least one person will listen. All one has to do to win you over is to convince you that there is an enemy and that the person who pointed out this enemy has the power to stop them. A lot of the same people who previously made the claims that video games would cause children to be violent and sexual are now saying that video games are being watered down to make women and gays happy.
The truth is, no one wants to water down your video game. The people in power merely want to change the enemy they get to control. The enemy needs to be changed because of how society has changed. No one thinks of gamers as that one sweaty guy who works for the CIA in a Captain Kirk Uniform in exchange for hot pockets, old Xena:Warrior Princess VHS Tapes, or a kiss from a cute girl anymore. In turn it's obvious that children can catch as many Pokemon as they want without abusing real world animals. Thanks to the continued growth of technology society has changed, a lot, it's normal for people to talk about their World Of Warcraft characters or their K/D Ratios in Counter Strike in public. You can't keep sounding the alarm on what evil things gamers are doing if your grandma is playing Doom 2 on her phone when she isn't in the mood for Solitare or Angry Birds.
Heck, this is even how Jack Thompson, infamous anti-video game lawyer, ultimately lost his license. At one point, Jack claimed that if people played the Rockstar Game Bully, it would make people want to shoot up schools. Being a lawyer, Thompson decided he could take Rockstar to court and look like a big damn hero for stopping the evil game or at the very least trying to get the rating upped from T to M. In one of the wisest decisions Rockstar made, they let the Judge play the game, who then said that it was not only harmless but a lot of fun. In response, Jack Thompson threatened the Judge's life resulting in Jack's disbarment. It's worth noting that during this case Jack listed the fact that the player character was bisexual and could kiss boys as one of the game's sinful faults, and was promptly laughed at for being a homophobic dick.
So what does this have to do with LGBT persons? Simple, corrupt and horrible people on the Right realized they can't win support by claiming that thing that young people like is evil. So how can they still continue to attack people in the Gaming Industry and attack the LGBT community who for the first time in American History are finally gaining equal rights? Combine the two problems. Start groups like Gamergate and sound the alarm anytime a gay or transgender character is added into a game, sound the alarm when you're allowed to be gay, and sound the alarm if developers cater to LGBT or Feminist groups in the slightest. The Right Wing has lost the cultural war, regardless of whoever the President might be, and they've gone nuclear trying to shove queers back into the closet.
Once upon a time, games like Shadow Of The Colossus and Enchanted Arms had gay characters and no one gave a damn, and this was back when gay marriage was illegal. They were too busy whining that I can blow people's heads off in Postal 2 or that I could run people over in Saint's Row. Now you can kill people in gruesome ways all you want, but if it's mentioned the person doing it is gay, then suddenly we're under attack.
I am a transgender woman, and I play video games, I have since childhood. When gay characters get added into video games, what's being said is that developers recognize that people like me are part of their customer base. The same people who use to say that you couldn't bash someone's skull in a video game because it might send kids the wrong message are now saying that your experience with cutting monsters up with a sword will be ruined if the chick who sold you that sword used to be a dude.
The real problem is that some people are buying this bull honky. These companies are not pandering, they're not shoving the gay agenda in your face, and there's no game that says that you aren't allowed to play if you disagree with the Left Wing. If I make a video game that stars a homosexual character, I'm not forcing you to play it. If a character in a game announces that they're gay or transgender, don't say that you don't need to know unless you're prepared to tell me that Mario getting a kiss from Princess Peach is disgusting because you don't need to know what his sexuality is. For the record, no one who has told me "WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW THAT TRACER IS A LESBIAN, IT ISN'T RELEVANT!!" has EVER told me that we "DON'T NEED TO KNOW THAT MERCY IS STRAIGHT!"
Somehow, people are convinced that if they even see a LBGT person, they are being oppressed or forced into an ideology. The reason is, because we are letting bigots control the conversation. All I am doing is providing you with some food for thought, I doubt I'll change any minds, but if I stay silent I've chosen the side of the aggressor.
When LGBT characters show up, there are people who scream about how it ruins the game or how it's all in your face. The above is a recent example. Overwatch, the 2016 Blizzard game, featured a comic with various Holiday themed stories in which the cast celebrated Christmas. The first story had Tracer shopping for a gift for her girlfriend and ended on a kiss. Really, that should have been the end of it.
What happened instead? People screamed that it was forcing the gay agenda into gaming, many whined that it ruined the game. There were those who even argued that it was pornographic and out of place. Heck, I had a kid sister at Christmas who liked the comic but had to hide it from her aunt and grandmother for fear that if they knew Tracer kissed a girl she would't be allowed to play Overwatch anymore. Poor little Leanne didn't even understand why it was a big deal or the specific reason why they thought this was so vulgar.
As I said at the start of the article, representation matters. The reason there are groups who get so angry when they see LGBT characters is simply because when you regularly see LGBT people, then LGBT people become more normal. If they lead with that, no one would support them. Instead, they have to convince people that gaming is either straight only or it'll be ruined forever. Overwatch did not get ruined forever, one lesbian kiss in a comic book didn't turn the series into a gay pride parade, none of Tracer's dialogue talks about how much she loves women, and everyone still forces on the player their blatant sexual fantasy of ignoring the objective point entirely.
We live in a society now where normal people play video games, there are people who feel that LGBT individuals should not count as a normal. When I see LGBT characters in games, I get happy because people like me fit the definition of what is considered normal a little bit more, and less the definition of what is considered taboo. This doesn't mean being heterosexual becomes taboo in LGBT's place, it's just normal for people to have varied sexuality, just as it's normal for there to be some humans who like onions and some who don't.
Thank you for putting up with my rant. One question many have is one that I have been asking every time in my life I receive either a defeat or glorious victory. Where do we go from here? Well in video games and comic books, it is said by many that in times the land is threatened by darkness we look to the heroes. If heroes don't come, then we must pick ourselves up off the ground and wear the title ourselves.
If you're a content creator, then I ask that you do your part in increasing LGBT representation in your works. I'm not saying you have to make the main character gay or bi or anything like that, but consider the possibilities. Maybe a side-quest in an Indie RPG involves helping a prince rescue to love of his life from a dungeon, when you complete the dungeon you've saved a man strongly implying the two are boyfriends. If have a webcomic of some kind, perhaps one of the minor recurring female characters who needs a little something to jazz up their character was transgender and only now feels comfortable revealing this. Even if it's just a character in the background holding hands with someone of the same gender, some representation is better than none. The below video has a few helpful pointers.
I must also ask these same people to try and be mindful of stereotypes or causing more harm than good. It is good to keep in mind people will take you far more seriously if your characters aren't limp-wristed, talking with a lisp, and obsessed with wearing mini-skirts despite being male. If you're showing a gay villain, try to make a scenario in which its somehow who is evil that happens to be gay, never try to imply that he's evil BECAUSE he is gay. Most importantly if you are going to have a trans character, please do some research on the transition process and all the barriers that involve it unless you're working with a heavy fantasy, heavy sci-fi based setting. I for one am tired of the "Easy Sex Change" trope in which a character just waltz into a Hospital and comes out fully transitioned, as a transwoman we WISH it was that easy.
For those of you who don't create content, you can still play a big help in this Call To Arms! If there is a series/book/film/game/etc, you like that sheds light on LGBT issues or features a gay/trans character then talk about it, recommend it to friends, do blog posts about it. If you know someone working on an LGBT Friendly series then give them feedback and positive reinforcement, they'll need it more than you'll ever know.
If a company or developer you know or buy products from makes a transphobic or homophobic then send them an angry letter, call their headquarters, or leave a post on their social media page. Boycotts work, money talks and sadly money is sometimes louder than humans.
This is a call to arms and the stakes are high, don't let LGBT people get put back in the closet because of the actions of some narrow minded trolls and the Right Wing leaning political groups who use them.