Transcending Flesh: Magical Potions and Gender Belts

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.


Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings

Essay #9: Magical Potions and Gender Belts (a Dungeon Master's Guide)

So you're a dungeon master (or a story teller or a game master or just a cool cat with a gaming screen) and you have a player who wants to play a trans character in your world. You want to be sensitive to their needs and the needs of their character so, surprise!, you give them a magical body transformation potion in their inventory at game start and now they never need to face bigotry or adversity again. Well done you, right?

Well, maybe.

Some players want their escape into a fantasy world to not be marred by the same bigotry they face on a day-to-day basis. Other players want their time in your fantasy world to allow them to explore bigotry in a safe setting. The key to being a good dungeon master to your players is to talk to them about what they're hoping to experience and accomplish with their character. It's also important to understand what your limits are as the creator of this world, and where your comfort levels lie.

One solution I've found is to craft a world which does not have systemic bigotry against trans people, but wherein small subcultures such as families or small towns or religious groupings may have pockets of prejudice. That way, Yolanda can play xer trans character over in the main plot without having to experience bigotry, but Zanadar can play ner trans character over here in a side-plot and work through bigotry with the power of persuasion or charisma or fireballs to the face. (Whatever floats your and the Zanster's boat, really!)

I will also make body modification spells, potions, and wearables available as part of the setting, but players can decide whether they want their character to start with those items already in their possession or whether they want their character to work towards those items as a goal. One player decided that her belt of gender confirmation had been pawned prior to game start because she was strapped for cash. This gave her a chance to work through dysphoria while understanding that a solution was still available to her once her character had earned enough money on the main plot quest.

What I absolutely will not do is make a world in which bigotry is pervasive and unavoidable, and players have to accept that in order to play. Nor will I make a setting in which there are no options, either mundane or magical, to allow them to transition. Every society I know of has had pockets of "safe" folks who accepted trans people among them, and had transition options of some kind available to people who needed them. Why would I craft a setting which doesn't include these parts of the human experience? Why would I make a game where people have to agree to let me hurt them in order for them to play?

Be a responsible dungeon master by talking with your players, understanding their goals, and minimizing the harm they will have to endure in order to play your game. Find out if they want to experience bigotry and, if so, what kinds and how much. Work out exactly what you're willing to portray, since you will be playing the villains--you're allowed to have boundaries, too! Respect yourself and your players as you create an enjoyable experience together.


Post a Comment