We want to wish all of our community a happy Pride month! As many of you know, during the month of June people across the world celebrate people in the LGBTQIA+ community being out and proud. The gaming community is full of wonderful queer folk who came to the hobby to find community with those that share their geeky interests and explore various identities through their characters and other characters who populate the worlds in which they play.
We here at Paizo strongly feel that gaming is for everyone, and staff and contributors have always worked hard to include a diverse cast of characters in our works to represent the reality of the gaming community. For this blog, I asked our staff and contributors to share some of their experiences being nerdy and queer, and we’re happy to share these voices and points of view from some of our community in their own words. Read along and happy Pride Month to everyone!
Roleplaying games gave me a chance to try on different identities when I was first figuring out my sexuality, and have provided me with a network of friends who have supported me as I came out and lived out as a lesbian. In fact, they’re how I met my amazing wife!
In my time at Paizo working on the Pathfinder and Starfinder RPGs, I’ve been so excited to see interesting and complex queer characters and deities multiply in our setting and broaden the range and depth of representation. It’s hard to pick favorites, but I have a particular soft spot for Kanya from Pathfinder Adventure Path #63, who…
[SPOILER TAG - click to reveal]...uses a zone of truth to interrogate her feelings for others. Wow, would that have been useful back when—for a lot of us, I bet!
Former Paizo Creative Director and frequent contributor James L. Sutter is bisexual and responsible for a wide variety of queer elements in Pathfinder and Starfinder, such as the gay romance of the Iridian Fold (best showcased in the novel The Redemption Engine and the web fiction story “Boar and Rabbit”) and star-crossed ex-wives Nib and Taeress in Starfinder’s Dawn of Flame Adventure Path. You can follow all his exploits on Twitter at @jameslsutter.
I am a gay game designer from Scotland. I was introduced to Pathfinder in my early 20s, and I’ve contributed to multiple RPG products as well as working as a designer on the Pathfinder Online MMO. For me the most powerful and impactful way Paizo supports the LGBQTIA+ community is in the casual and normalized inclusion of such characters in their products. It is a refreshing change from almost every other type of media, especially games media. These characters are simply living their lives in Golarion. They have hopes and fears and dreams and partners and jobs and debts and faiths and feats and classes and memorized spells, and their gender identity and sexuality are secondary to all of that. They are complex individuals, not tropes or tokens, existing in Golarion the same way LGBQTIA+ people do in the real world. They belong, and this helps remind me that I belong too; both in Golarion, and here on Earth.
Talking about being asexual is challenging for me; I’ve identified publicly as asexual/heteroromantic for about a year, privately for about two years before that, and have been questioning on and off since eighth grade. While I’m normally quite talkative, I spent well over half my life not having words to describe myself. If you had told me five years ago that I’d be writing a piece on being queer on Paizo’s community blog, I’d have called you a liar. The notion of being asexual was never really an option for me—I had a couple girlfriends, and while I never felt a drive to be in a relationship, I knew I could feel romantic attachment towards women. You see, I didn’t learn that sexual attraction and romantic attraction were different things until about three years ago, and once I did, I had my answer for who I was. Its why I think it’s so important to get good representation in everything from television shows to roleplaying games—the more places where ideas regarding diverse identities exist, the more likely it is that people who are questioning will discover words that make their personal identities feel valid. Otherwise questioning people are left feeling broken or worthless when nothing could be more wrong.
I think that Paizo’s work in giving voice to diverse people is so important because tabletop RPGs are often a place where questioning people can build characters that help them understand themselves. I don’t have a single queer friend who didn’t “playtest” a queer character before they came out IRL. For me, it was kitsune. Every one of my developers seems to know all about how much I enjoy playing and writing Pathfinder kitsune, but I don’t think many of them know why. For me, the kitsune ancestry is the perfect analog of being asexual. Here you are, this glorious, fantastic person living in a world where life is so much easier when you’re a socially accepted human. But you have an “ace” up your sleeves—it’s easy for you to pretend to be one of them, so you do it. Sure, people sometimes ask awkward questions, but you go through the motions and give generic answers. “I’m focusing on my career,” “I haven’t found the right person,” “I guess I’m in a dry spell.” You play off expectations, and they’re happy to assume you’re one of them. But keeping the secret from your party in a cooperative game is tough. Really, really tough. Eventually you tell them or they find out, and it becomes the party secret. It helps you realize that if you surround yourself with friends and family who love and respect you, they’ll love and respect you in both your forms. Human and kitsune, heterosexual-passing and ace. I don’t know if I would have had that without Pathfinder.
I started gaming when I was about ten, but my current gaming group has been going on for decades. It includes my first boyfriend, my sister, and a group of mostly gay men who are now my core friendship circle. We play weekly and have special weekend games too. We even played on a gay softball team together for years. They are friends who have become like family to me.
I’ve been a proponent of inclusivity in games for decades. For years I’ve been able to cite a whole list of queer characters in the Pathfinder canon, and I could explain why that representation was important. But when I started the Hell’s Rebels Adventure Path with my home group, I ran into the art and description for a fairly minor NPC: Zachrin Vhast—and something about it *clicked* with me in a way that I’d never seen before. It was a major step forward in a long, confusing process of figuring out my own nonbinary gender identity, and I went from understanding why representation is important to really *understanding* why it’s important—and that’s only made me more passionate about doing so.
I’ve been openly pansexual for as long as I can remember, but for decades I kept my gender identity under wraps. It wasn’t until recently, when I started working at Paizo, that I finally felt comfortable enough to start being open about being non-binary. This company and the gaming community has so many wonderful and creative queer folks like me, and it’s been the biggest relief to finally have the support that I have needed since I was a kid in order to embrace my identity, and as an editor and writer for Pathfinder and Starfinder, I’ve made it my mission to foster inclusion, both in gender identity and sexuality. HAPPY PRIDE!!
As a kid who felt the need to hide any sign of my interests, roleplaying was a useful excuse to open up. Before I started freelancing, seeing gay characters get some representation helped me feel more comfortable in geek spaces where I spend a fair bit of time. That made it delightful when I got the chance to channel bits of the gay bars I've loved into the Wicked Fork in Inner Sea Taverns. Both sharing secrets and using unexpected connections feel like natural extensions of gay life to me (especially before coming out), and influenced my contributions to Ultimate Intrigue, Spymaster’s Handbook, Inner Sea Intrigue, and other books that focus on skills and problem-solving. Recently, my contributions to Starfinder and especially augmentations have been fueled both by my partner (he was a fan first) and by transhumanism in the queer community.
As a gay gamer, I’ve always accepted that characters in sci-fi/fantasy are straight by default (after all, "farmboy swings in to rescue damsel" is a persistent trope of the genre), and while I’ve never been made to feel unwelcome in the fandom, it can be a little frustrating to have games and narratives constantly assume that all their players share the same viewpoint. Working at Paizo, I’m proud of the ways that we’ve tried to empower players to play whatever character appeals to them and add NPCs and background characters of various identities, often for no reason than just to have them exist in the story. I’m especially proud to work with my fellow editors, who’ve helped me find some of my own blind spots in my writing and who are always looking for ways our language can be more inclusive and welcoming to gamers of all strides. Happy Pride, everyone! PS, be on the lookout for an upcoming art piece that puts a hilarious LGBTQ+ spin on “swinging in to rescue the damsel.”
Hello, everyone. My name is Dave Nelson and I am a bisexual author who has contributed to some upcoming Paizo products. Bi men are not a group that tends to get a lot of spotlight in pop culture and games, so it has sometimes been a struggle finding myself represented by characters. This is part of what drew me to roleplaying games in the first place; the ability to take on an identity in a zone free of judgement or constraints. The genre allowed me to work out a lot of questions I had about myself and Golarion was the first fantasy world I encountered where I felt someone like me would not be out of place. It is my sincere pleasure to contribute to this world and add as much honest representation that I can.
Gaming has always been an outlet for me: a creative outlet, an outlet for stress, a way to blow off aggression. But a couple of years ago it became about something more. It became about self-reflection and self-discovery. I had the opportunity to write an adventure, Pathfinder Society Scenario #8–99: The Solstice Scar, that featured a transgender woman as the heroine. In researching transgender people I found that their feelings matched my feelings. It wasn't long before I accepted that I was a transgender woman, and shortly after that I began my transition in earnest. Through roleplaying we can explore aspects of ourselves, learn about ourselves, and improve ourselves. It can be a guide along the path to find one’s self. For my full story of self-discovery and transition, see my blog post, Know Thyself.
Our world is scary, and that makes RPGs so important to me. Games like Pathfinder and Starfinder let me relax, escape reality, and enjoy crafting stories with friends. But they also do something even more important: they let me explore myself via my characters, be they NPCs like Sandpoint’s Ameiko, iconic PCs like Merisiel or Zova, or my own PCs like Shensen the rebellious diva or Zeru Zinzi the graffiti artist. It took me a while to notice there was more of me in my characters than I thought, and that helped me realize I was bisexual—the one thing all my characters have shared throughout various games, regardless of ancestry or gender or anything else. My own difficulty with groups and social gatherings in the real world would have made this sort of self-discovery a much slower (or even impossible) process without them. So, thanks to all the Ameikos and Merisiels and Zovas and Shensens and Zerus in my life, and even more thanks to the real-world friends I’ve been so fortunate to meet along the way as fellow players and GMs. You’re all so much more amazing and brave than the heroes in any game we play!
My name is Kendra Leigh Speedling and I’ve been a Paizo freelancer for a couple years now! I’ve written two Pathfinder Society quests, some sections for Player Companions, and an Adventure Path bestiary monster, as well as some 3PP work. I’m bisexual as well as demisexual, though I usually use queer as a shorthand. Realizing I’m bi took a while for me; sometimes I still wonder if I actually “count” enough since I’m happily monogamous in a relationship people tend to perceive from the outside as straight. (Being demisexual complicated matters since the number of people I’ve been attracted to is fairly small.)
I always enjoy finding LGBTQ characters in RPG material; this might sound a bit hokey, but it really does make me feel included (especially if they have an identity that isn’t exclusively gay/lesbian—though that representation is also important!). I feel like more and more have been appearing lately, which is awesome. I want people to be able to get that experience from the things I write, too, so it definitely informs my own work. That inclusivity is one of my favorite things about Pathfinder and Starfinder, and I’m glad to be a part of it!
I figured out that I was queer when I was 19, rather abruptly. I’ve been on a journey ever since, a journey I am just beginning to realize is far from over. As the U.S. loses so many of its protections for queer folks, that journey is just becoming more important.
But the wonderful counterpoint to the struggle and grief on the national scale is the incredible opening of the gaming community, fraught and tempestuous though it is. People are starting to realize that the queer community is pretty nerdy, and game companies are beginning to include so much content and hire queer people in a way we’ve never been included before, and it is marvelous.
At Paizo, I’ve had the opportunity to write and check some of the guidelines for the respectful inclusion and portrayal of marginalized characters and NPCs. This is an issue that has become increasingly important to me recently, as the backlash for companies explicitly welcoming queer people into their spaces has become vocal and relentless.
And every time I see a clearly queer character in gaming, or see a rule about respect and openness, it’s like another hand reaching out and inviting me into this space where stories are everything, and where bravery and honor change the world in big ways.
Hi, I'm Gabrielle Harbowy. I wrote the Pathfinder Tales novel Gears of Faith (and its short story, "Inheritance"), and the PFS scenario Grotto of the Deluged God (#9-22). I am an out bisexual, polyamorous person, and I loved being able to represent a loving, long-term female couple in my official Pathfinder fiction. Without the supportive and encouraging network at Paizo, my characters Keren and Zae, and their ferocious dog Appleslayer wouldn't exist, and wouldn't have touched the hearts of LGBTQ and allies worldwide. I'm proud to have had a chance to help normalize queer, nonbinary, and trans characters in Golarion, and in fantasy fiction. Representation is so important, and I love that Paizo celebrates it.
Paizo Wishes Everyone a Happy Pride Month!
Thursday, June 27, 2019