Here at Paizo, we value and are proud of the many and varied perspectives that our employees, contributors, and community provide. Since March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility, we'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate and showcase transgender members of our community. Here are their thoughts in their own words!
Rigby Bendele, Venture-Captain: Gaming and queer experiences have always been tightly tied for me. After all, I've chosen to focus on the intersections of queer theory and gaming in my scholarship for a reason. RPGs offer possibility. Play is a way to try on new identities and explore areas of myself that I don't explore otherwise. Play has served as testing ground for me to decide what was and wasn't safe to disclose. I've found benefit in the failures I've experienced in RPGs. I learned what gender expressions didn't feel right for me through exploration in RPGs. These failed attempts at creating fantasized versions of myself helped me learn more about who I was and who I wanted to be. RPGs, particularly Pathfinder, offered me the opportunity of endless, unquestioned exploration. Without this, I wouldn't have been able to find a space for me that exists outside of the hegemonic gender categories we're placed into.
Since coming out publicly as nonbinary two years ago, I've found my role in my local gaming community a way to both educate others and provide support to other trans people. While I'll never claim that gaming alone can save us, it's important to me to ensure gaming communities are just. As a Venture-Captain, I've used my own standing in the community to create a more welcoming environment. As a result, I've had several members of my local area's organized play community feel safe enough to come out as trans. They've said that watching me live openly as trans made them see transition as a possibility for their own life. While being one of the first visible trans members of this community has come with rough spots, knowing that my visibility makes it possible for other people to be themselves has made all the challenges worthwhile.
Crystal Frasier, Author: Tabletop gaming was an important support for me when I was young and lonely and hurt by the world. I hated myself a lot back then, and RPGs gave me a brief few hours to not be myself and be someone I liked instead. In retrospect, it was pretty hilarious that the only times I felt like I wasn't pretending to be someone else were when I was pretending to be an elf or a superhero or a grizzled, postapocalyptic powersuit pilot. Now that I like myself and don't feel a need to hide, I draw on those same experiences of isolation, alienation, desperation, drive, and triumph to help inform my writing. While the circumstances of transitioning are unique to transgender and some intersex people, those emotions and experiences behind it are universal and powerful.
Melissa Guillet, Systems Administrator: I first began playing tabletop games in earnest shortly after 2nd edition AD&D came out back in 1991. I worked in the local small-town bookstore, and I met the man who would be my GM when he ordered the new books through us. He told me that I could play once I reached sixteen, and so when I passed my driver's test, I joined his group. I played with that group for about 15 years. They were mostly Army/Air Force guys, and they were my best friends who saw me through high school and a lot of other transitions in my life. I had a hard time at about nineteen when I was trying to figure out how I was going to make this all work, being poor and stuck in a small town in the Southwest. I hermitted away, and my gaming friends were the ones that came around, got me out of the house, and told me that whatever was the deal, they'd be okay with me. I didn't tell them during that time, but their kindness did put me at ease. That's when I began exploring more feminine aspects of myself in game; I started playing more and more women characters. One day, some friends asked me why I was starting to play more female characters all of a sudden. I played coy at first but couldn't quite bring myself to tell them—not yet. My best friend in the group, who was basically a brother to me, deserved to know first. If I could tell him and he would be okay with it, then, well, everything else would be okay. This was way back in the late 90s, I think, so things were quite a bit different. I wrote a letter and drove to his house and gave it to him, and then I sat in his living room while he read through the pages. I poured my heart out, and he told me that, no matter what, he'd always be there for me. And then one by one, I told my gaming friends. Not everyone was immediately supportive, but they all cared and loved me, and that was about as powerful a story for gaming and togetherness as I can make. Gaming meant having the support of people who loved me and wanted the best for me. So this story goes out to Gerald, Ben, Wade, Lanell, Mark, Keith, and some guy named GM (he's really named JD). I miss you guys. Thanks for being a powerful force in my life.
Sasha Lindley Hall, Venture-Agent: I feel that one of the biggest intersections between my gender identity and my love of gaming is in how I approach the details. Both of them are constantly evolving and changing and moving forward; as our understanding of gender and ability to extend our ideas grows, in parallel are the supposed limits of gaming (mechanically and culturally, both in game and out) pushed and discarded. At their core, gaming and gender are about freedom to me—the freedom to explore beyond myself and within myself. With them as prominent driving forces in my life, I am growing better every day.
Violet Hargrave, Author: While there were obvious-in-retrospect signs all throughout my life, what really made it click that I was trans was playing Pathfinder. I used to alternate playing men and women "for variety" until it sank in that all the women were fully fleshed-out characters I was really at ease inhabiting, while the men were all slight, shy, and weirdly prone to amassing magical and nonmagical disguises "just in case." Once you articulate to yourself, "I'm always a lot more comfortable as a woman," it's a lot easier to realize that it applies to more than just RPGs.
Isabelle Lee, Author: For me, roleplaying games and my trans identity are very closely linked. Gaming has been an outlet for that part of me for as long as I can remember, allowing me to experience the idea of life as a woman before I even knew I needed it and introducing me to the possibility of leaving one's assigned gender behind, while my transition has inspired a few of my creations in my time as a contributor. Accepting my gender identity gave me the confidence to decide that I wanted to be part of this game and this industry, and the friends I've made in the process (both of transitioning and of writing for Pathfinder) have enriched my life more than I can describe. I know I've been an inspiration to people, as both a writer and a trans woman, and I hope to keep on being one for a long time to come. ^_^
Jen McTeague, Author: Pathfinder was a large part of how I explored being trans in the first place. Komana Higgenstrom was my first female Pathfinder character, and I really enjoyed playing her more than the vast majority of my other characters. I didn't quite understand why at the time. After all, it would still be a year or two before I realized that I was trans. But when I started to question my gender and look back in my past for signs, those game sessions where I played Komana were a major clue that I was headed on the right track.
Nowadays, my trans identity affects a lot about how I play PFS. Since coming out, I've met a bunch of trans PFS players, and we've been supporting each other. In addition, while I'm no longer a VO, I still try to make the communities I'm a part of more friendly to trans people. This includes both talking with other organizers and pushing back against unfortunate words that are said at the table. After all, I had the great opportunity to use PFS as a jumping point for my transition, and I want other people to have the same opportunity.
Please join us in celebrating these incredible voices!
—The Paizo Staff