Presentation of trans and nonbinary characters in pfs


Pathfinder Society

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Kate Baker wrote:

And while I'm here, I'll ask one! I'm thinking of making a nonbinary PC for PFS. Any particular pitfalls I should avoid?

Hmm. Our existence may not be recognized enough to have many negative stereotypes. On which subject, I'd personally appreciate making sure people acknowledge the character's gender, don't just let them use the wrong pronouns.

Nonbinary encompasses a lot of identities. In my (modern white american enby) experience, non-binary folks tend to have quite evolving ideas of their own gender. Eg, I identified as agender before settling on genderfluid, as I came to better understand both myself and the concept of gender (which is a very weird concept to a lot of NB folks). So in Golarion, I think it would matter a lot what the context of this nonbinary character is. If they're from a race/culture with a well established non-binary identity, it's likely to feel fairly natural to them, possibly the only confusion being why this seems so hard for other people to grasp. Meanwhile, someone from a race/culture without that background, or even without any kind of gender theory, is going to do a lot more fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what it means to be them.

Plus, magic opens up all kinds of new ways to be non-binary. I have a Kitsune PFS PC with no concept of gender as separate from biology. They use whatever pronouns people associate with the shape they're currently wearing. If anyone asks what gender they are, they look confused: "now I'm a boy... now I'm a girl... now I'm somewhere in between." I'm curious what would happen if the met someone with a well developed concept of gender, but it hasn't happened yet.

Basically, it's a huge umbrella where what "non-binary" means can very a ton. If you have ideas of a character concept, I might have more useful insight.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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Please, someone in the know correct me if I'm wrong here, but if you want to portray a non-binary character, and you don't have personal experience of the travails one goes through to represent as non binary, wouldn't the most respectful thing be, to portray that character choice confidently?

It would seem to me that if you portray the fact they are non-binary with some level of confusion or self-angst, that might perpetuate a stereotype?

Scarab Sages 5/5

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
nfelddav wrote:


These are not mutually exclusive. For whatever reason, they *are* centering themselves. And we're not saying that we think who apologize at length are being transphobic. But this thread is about how to be inclusive, and here's some advice on how to do it particularly well!

-Overcome a lifetime of social awkwardness and don't say anything anyone might consider harmful- is not a reasonable piece of advice to a group of geeks.

No, but it should be fairly easy to program yourself to respond appropriately. Just like saying, "bless you," when somebody sneezes.

"Sorry, thanks for reminding me, They..."

3/5 5/55/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

nfelddav wrote:

Basically, it's a huge umbrella where what "non-binary" means can very a ton. If you have ideas of a character concept, I might have more useful insight.

I'm making a samsaran occultist, and I was thinking that the character has been through so many different lifetimes at this point in their reincarnation that they feel like "man" and "woman" are sort of arbitrary and limiting. They/them pronouns. Anything problematic so far?

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Seems sort of like the Undine I've been running, who is very much genderfluid -- they change from day to day.

I've only mentioned it if there's extended journeys where it'd become apparent so the party doesn't have a panic attack in-character and assume the character is having other issues.

I think the fact they are becoming more and more draconic over time (Dragon Mystery Spirit Guide Oracle) is more jarring than their gender, to be fair.

They use they/them/their(s), and also tell folks in-character 'Hey, I change on a day to day basis, I'm not going to expect us to keep up and if we mess it up, it's something we can all learn from.'

If that characterization is off, please advise so I may adjust accordingly.

4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Southcoast

Serisan wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
nfelddav wrote:
. And self-indulgent explanations about how hard it is to get pronouns right are not better.

It is not self indulgent in the least. Its realistic. .

The difference between "he...sorry, they" and "she...sorry, they, I just have such a hard time with...(insert things and reasons)...and that's why I keep screwing up" is, in fact, self-indulgent and it doesn't help the situation at all.

Granted, I did tangent a bit back on page 1, but I feel that's the nature of the online forum posting.

My response the first one or two times I screw it up is to correct myself and simply say "I apologize, I'm bad at that stuff and I'm trying to get it right." Mostly because I don't want people to think I'm being deliberately callous. If someone wants to ask why I have a hard time with it, I'll gladly have a discussion. But I agree with the concept of not word vomiting all over someone when you get their pronouns wrong.

Scarab Sages 5/5

Kate Baker wrote:
nfelddav wrote:

Basically, it's a huge umbrella where what "non-binary" means can very a ton. If you have ideas of a character concept, I might have more useful insight.

I'm making a samsaran occultist, and I was thinking that the character has been through so many different lifetimes at this point in their reincarnation that they feel like "man" and "woman" are sort of arbitrary and limiting. They/them pronouns. Anything problematic so far?

Sounds kinda like the Dax (Curzon and Jadzia) character from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Scarab Sages 5/5

Joe Bouchard wrote:
Serisan wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
nfelddav wrote:
. And self-indulgent explanations about how hard it is to get pronouns right are not better.

It is not self indulgent in the least. Its realistic. .

The difference between "he...sorry, they" and "she...sorry, they, I just have such a hard time with...(insert things and reasons)...and that's why I keep screwing up" is, in fact, self-indulgent and it doesn't help the situation at all.

Granted, I did tangent a bit back on page 1, but I feel that's the nature of the online forum posting.

My response the first one or two times I screw it up is to correct myself and simply say "I apologize, I'm bad at that stuff and I'm trying to get it right." Mostly because I don't want people to think I'm being deliberately callous. If someone wants to ask why I have a hard time with it, I'll gladly have a discussion. But I agree with the concept of not word vomiting all over someone when you get their pronouns wrong.

That's kinda the point though. You got it wrong (whether its a first or second or more time, doesn't matter), the attention shouldn't be on if you are bad at that stuff. It might be assumed you are bad at that stuff simply because you got it wrong. Even that small amount of explanation is too much. Just say sorry, maybe thank them for reminding you, and correct yourself immediately.

Another thing about explaining yourself. It puts a further spotlight on the fact that trans and non-binary are not yet fully in the social norms. And the less you show your discomfort (and explaining yourself does that), the more normal and less spotlight on the difference.

1/5

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Kate Baker wrote:


I'm making a samsaran occultist, and I was thinking that the character has been through so many different lifetimes at this point in their reincarnation that they feel like "man" and "woman" are sort of arbitrary and limiting. They/them pronouns. Anything problematic so far?

Oooh, interesting. I would explore the character's relationship with their gender. Maybe they've found that the strict categories don't work for them anymore, and they tend to move between them. Or maybe they've come to feel their own gender is apart from both male and female. Or maybe they've come to the conclusion that those categories are really meaningless to them. And so on. (For a cis person, I wouldn't have a character who aggressively rejects binary gender as meaningful, but it makes sense for the conception of one's own gender)

Tallow wrote:

Please, someone in the know correct me if I'm wrong here, but if you want to portray a non-binary character, and you don't have personal experience of the travails one goes through to represent as non binary, wouldn't the most respectful thing be, to portray that character choice confidently?

It would seem to me that if you portray the fact they are non-binary with some level of confusion or self-angst, that might perpetuate a stereotype?

So, I definitely agree on being confident with respect to knowing that they're non-binary, with presenting non-binary, and not having angst about it. But ongoing development of their sense of gender, and of their beliefs about gender, possibly reflected in changes in their presentation, is to me a significant part of being non-binary in a culture that doesn't have a clear role for it. It may be a stereotype, but I think it's a pretty accurate one, and I don't find it a negative one, as long as you're playing it seriously and respectfully. Gender is incredibly complicated, we as a society have been wrestling with it (with the advantage of scientific methodology) for several decades now, and we're still mostly left with more questions.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Martinsville

I find that over the grand scheme of things, what the character in the Scenario is specifically tends to not matter in the whole of the story that is told. It is nice to mention if a character asks, or it comes up in Role Play, but with Miss Feathers being the exception, the character has other things the characters need in interaction other than what they identify as or are.

I believe some of this subject, outside of the game, is being co-opted by lobbyist organizations and severe groups using the community for their own ends. When someone like me, raised in a typical family (Mom, Dad, siblings), goes to a table and others are flustered about things, from male players playing Female characters on to meeting Miss Feathers, I sometimes don't know what to say and do. Anything I say at some point is gonna be offensive, and nothing I do afterward is going to make it right. I try to be understanding about choices one makes and how others feel, but there is only so much one can do to appease.

Yes, we are inclusive and meet all manner of players as we play this game. I tend not to dwell on the subject, instead concentrating on the character or on GMing and getting on with the game. In the end, you are you, a person that loves the same hobby as I do, and I am alright with that.

Dark Archive 3/5

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As to NPC’s I think Maeda from 8-99 is the gold star example. She has a personality and goals, not just cardboard representation but she talks about it if it is brought up. Shardra is another great example in the setting, A character who is trans but not wholly defined by their transness is exactly what I want in representation. Azure from the recent scenario is a great example of the same idea for non-binary folks.

Also remember that this culture has at least one non binary god, Arshea, so the concept of non binary identities shouldn’t be that foreign to the culture.

As to PC’s I am a trans woman myself. I have 2 trans women pc’s and it has never come up in character with one of them in the 7 levels I have played her through. I also have 2 non binary pc’s the only time it has come up is when another player asked what pronouns they preferred, I said I wasn’t bothered. If it comes up it comes up I address it but I don’t introduce it more than discribing the non-binary characters as androgynous.

3/5 *** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro

Hillis Mallory III wrote:

I find that over the grand scheme of things, what the character in the Scenario is specifically tends to not matter in the whole of the story that is told. It is nice to mention if a character asks, or it comes up in Role Play, but with Miss Feathers being the exception, the character has other things the characters need in interaction other than what they identify as or are.

I wonder how much of the fact that it doesn't come up in regards to NPCs is the fact that only until recently has Paizo been doing anything in regards to non binary cultures. Its weird to say that when canonically there are groups within Golarion that have no cultural understanding of gender that its not necessarily relevant.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

I think in order to address things like this in your campaign materials it has to be done organically so it doesn't feel "forced." Between Kyra's and to some extend Merisiel's sexuality and some of the transgender characterizations they have been addressing these issues for quite some time. That perhaps it may take longer for a specifically binary representation is not necessarily that they haven't done anything about it, but more they haven't had an appropriate opportunity to do so without it being unnecessarily layered on top of a character lacking meaningful context. Also, if there is an entire culture with little to no understanding of gender than haven't they already addressed it at least a little bit? Course I guess it depends on your assessment of "recently."

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

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MadScientistWorking wrote:
Hillis Mallory III wrote:

I find that over the grand scheme of things, what the character in the Scenario is specifically tends to not matter in the whole of the story that is told. It is nice to mention if a character asks, or it comes up in Role Play, but with Miss Feathers being the exception, the character has other things the characters need in interaction other than what they identify as or are.

I wonder how much of the fact that it doesn't come up in regards to NPCs is the fact that only until recently has Paizo been doing anything in regards to non binary cultures. Its weird to say that when canonically there are groups within Golarion that have no cultural understanding of gender that its not necessarily relevant.

I think it's more that the gender of NPCs tends not to play a major role in PFS stories to begin with. In the vast majority of scenarios, you could change the men into women and vice versa and the story wouldn't change a whole lot.

When players encounter an NPC, the first question on their mind isn't gender - it's whether the NPC is an enemy, ally or neutral. Is the NPC going to help them with the adventure, or will they have to be fought or maybe convinced to stand aside?

3/5 *** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
MadScientistWorking wrote:
Hillis Mallory III wrote:

I find that over the grand scheme of things, what the character in the Scenario is specifically tends to not matter in the whole of the story that is told. It is nice to mention if a character asks, or it comes up in Role Play, but with Miss Feathers being the exception, the character has other things the characters need in interaction other than what they identify as or are.

I wonder how much of the fact that it doesn't come up in regards to NPCs is the fact that only until recently has Paizo been doing anything in regards to non binary cultures. Its weird to say that when canonically there are groups within Golarion that have no cultural understanding of gender that its not necessarily relevant.

I think it's more that the gender of NPCs tends not to play a major role in PFS stories to begin with. In the vast majority of scenarios, you could change the men into women and vice versa and the story wouldn't change a whole lot.

When players encounter an NPC, the first question on their mind isn't gender - it's whether the NPC is an enemy, ally or neutral. Is the NPC going to help them with the adventure, or will they have to be fought or maybe convinced to stand aside?

Ehhhh.... No. Your absolutely and completely wrong on that matter. If they could force the issue of sexuality of NPCs year after year after year after year then they can definitely make gender relevant. And I'm not saying that they're not but just to point out your whole argument is dumb.

Quote:
That perhaps it may take longer for a specifically binary representation is not necessarily that they haven't done anything about it, but more they haven't had an appropriate opportunity to do so without it being unnecessarily layered on top of a character lacking meaningful context.

Its more that they actively have people on staff that know how to write LGBT people. Even I'm kind of flabbergasted at how badly they screwed up their attempt at the nonbinary iconic.

Silver Crusade 4/5

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MadScientistWorking wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
MadScientistWorking wrote:
Hillis Mallory III wrote:

I find that over the grand scheme of things, what the character in the Scenario is specifically tends to not matter in the whole of the story that is told. It is nice to mention if a character asks, or it comes up in Role Play, but with Miss Feathers being the exception, the character has other things the characters need in interaction other than what they identify as or are.

I wonder how much of the fact that it doesn't come up in regards to NPCs is the fact that only until recently has Paizo been doing anything in regards to non binary cultures. Its weird to say that when canonically there are groups within Golarion that have no cultural understanding of gender that its not necessarily relevant.

I think it's more that the gender of NPCs tends not to play a major role in PFS stories to begin with. In the vast majority of scenarios, you could change the men into women and vice versa and the story wouldn't change a whole lot.

When players encounter an NPC, the first question on their mind isn't gender - it's whether the NPC is an enemy, ally or neutral. Is the NPC going to help them with the adventure, or will they have to be fought or maybe convinced to stand aside?

Ehhhh.... No. Your absolutely and completely wrong on that matter. If they could force the issue of sexuality of NPCs year after year after year after year then they can definitely make gender relevant. And I'm not saying that they're not but just to point out your whole argument is dumb.

I completely agree with Hillis and Lau on this one, and I really don't understand your reaction.

PFS isn't like a longer campaign, where players might want to take the time to get to know NPCs for their personalities. In PFS, the players are only focused on what they need from an NPC for the mission, and rarely care about the NPC's details unless the GM really plays it up. Half the time, the players don't even remember the NPC's name, let alone gender or anything else about them. I can't even count how many times I've heard "What's the name of the mayor we need to talk to?" or "Who's the other guy we were supposed to see?" (regardless of the gender of the "guy" in the latter)

And when it comes to enemies, it's even worse. Those are just minis on the map. Generic thugs are always assumed to be male. Unless the GM specifically says otherwise, in which case they're assumed to be important NPCs, not just generic thugs, because generic thugs are always male (and usually light skinned humans).

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