Will you make transsexual Elves canon in your games ?

Mercurius

Legend
As I explained to [MENTION=6879661]TheSword[/MENTION], there's a difference between playing a transgender person in the world and the DM making that happen, and bringing in real world issues relating to gender. I won't be having these elves in my game due to the real world issues and the escape from those issues that the game represents, but I will be allowing a transgender PC should a player ever want to make one.

But that is the distinction I'm making: for transgender people, this isn't a "real world issue" that you follow in the media; it is who they are, and it is still not fully accepted and embraced by large swathes of contemporary culture and, in some areas, met with violence. BoG is, I would imagine, an appealing option for trans folk to feel more at home in the otherwise binary gendered default mode of D&D. And as I said way up thread, it is a rather clever way to both present an open hand to transgendered folk, but not do so in such a way that is threatening or overly political.

That said, it isn't inherently bigoted to associate transgenderism with "real world issues," because for many (most?) people, it isn't part of their day to day life so only experienced through the media, and thus as a "real world issue." This is why I said what I said that you quoted: for those well-meaning folk who might not have this in mind. What for some is a "real world issue" or an abstraction out there in the world, is for others part of their living experience.

My suggestion is that we naturalize/normalize it as much as we can, and one way to do that is through rules options like BoG. This is, like anything else, merely an option.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
A tangential word of warning from an amateur philologist: this reasoning is treacherous. Our wonderful language is full of word pairs which, from their prefixes, would seem to be antonyms, but aren't: "access"/"abcess", "concern"/"discern", "compute"/"dispute", "incite"/"excite", "inspect"/"expect"... See if you can find some of your own! It's fun! ...if you're a very particular kind of geek.

EDIT: And even in the case of antonyms, well, an "ingress" may be an entrance, but an "egress" is not "anything that is not an entrance". Antonymy is not always exhaustivity.

More topically, it seems weird to apply this binary logic of "If not X, then Y" to, y'know, nonbinary people. Granted, logic is logic, and a binary is impossible to escape at some point -- "nonbinary" itself could not be more explicitly a binary term -- but still.
Sure, but none of this changes the fact that trans is an umbrella term and anyone who is not cis falls under the trans umbrella. That's just the way those words are used in LGBTQIA spaces. I speak from experience in this matter.

It also sounds like they may be sequential hermaphrodites (I know nothing of the game other than what you have described). If so, the "concept at least roughly analogous to gender" may simply be biological sex, or tied to biological sex or reproductive function. Or the pronouns could be assigned by the human translators on that basis -- would hardly be the first time. They might not make the gender/caste distinction in their own grammar at all. (Which is not to say that they can't make the distinction very heavily in other areas. Turkish is a genderless language, but Turkey is hardly a genderless culture.)
Oh, that is almost certainly the case. But (and?), there are also strict societal roles tied to those sexes. Presumably, Mothers are translated as female-analogues because they give birth to Larvae. They are also culturally expected to act primarily in a child-rearing capacity by Krill society, and in Hive society*, they are referred to as Witches and are the only caste that performs magic. In other words, the Hive have a cultural association between the ability to bear children and magical capability. We see through magic that Oryx (a King morph) performs that magic must not be exclusive to Mothers/Witches, so we can only assume that this is a cultural norm, and it is certainly linked to sex. If a Knight or King found they had a talent for magic and desired to serve in the Hive armies in a sorcerous capacity, how would Hive culture respond to that? We don't really see it happen, outside of Oryx, who transgresses Hive cultural norms in a lot of ways. But given that we don't see any Knights doing Witch magic, it seems reasonable to assume that such things are not generally looked upon favorably by the rest of the Hive. I would absolutely describe a Knight that wanted to do magic like a Wizard as transgender.

*quick aside: the Krill become the Hive by entering a symbiotic relationship with another species called Worms, which feed on entropy. The Worm provides the Krill with an extended lifespan and metaphysical power, and in exchange, the Krill engages in constant darwinistic struggle to live at the expense of other life, thereby feeding the Worm. In this way, both symbionts can theoretically live forever, their mystical power increasing exponentially all the while, unless their growth ever exceeds their capacity to kill, at which point the Worm consumes the Krill from the inside out, and seeks a new host.

Well, the greater implication of the question is "Will trans-ness still exist in our culture as trans rights continue to make strides?"
I certainly don’t expect it to reach that point in my lifetime. Most of our society is just not ready to discard our inbuilt assumptions about what things our bodies should determine about our identities. But, we could formulate a similar question on a different scale. If a family raises a child with the freedom to choose their own gender identity regardless of their sex characteristics, is that child still trans? The answer is yes, because the rest of society is still going to assign them a gender even if their parents do not. Like the eladrin who learns upon encountering humans that the way they dress and act is considered aberrant to humans because of their sex characteristics, that child is still going to face people telling them, "you're a boy and boys aren't supposed to wear dresses" and other such nonsense. If we could completely eliminate such constructs in society the world over? Then we can have the discussion of whether or not trans is still a useful term.

Hmm. It seems to me like you're still implicitly attributing them a gender identity, despite the stipulation that they don't have one.
No, they have an identity. Their culture has no concept of gender, but they still have an identity. Another culture that does have a concept of gender will assign certain aspects of identity to certain genders, and when a person's identity does not match what their society says it should be based on whatever criteria it uses to assign gender, there is going to be conflict.

The humans call them a "man", and if they don't line up with all the human norms for that label, so what? They don't line up with human norms in a lot of ways, and never expected to. But referring to themself as a "woman" in contradiction of the label assigned them implies they have a preference in the matter. Doing so to the likely confusion, consternation, and possibly even hostility of the humans implies they have a strong preference.
They may well have a strong preference for the aspects of their identity that human culture dictates are "for women."

Say a human enters, oh, dwarven society, and finds out that they have defined social roles for unak and khivud dwarves. When she asks what these words mean, she is told "right-handed" and "left-handed". Now, this human is right-handed, but her behavior more resembles that of khivud dwarves. It strikes me as more likely for the human to accept the translations and write off the social expectations associated with unak as a dwarf matter than it is for her to challenge the definitions of words in a language that is not her own and the norms of a society that is not her own for the sake of a concept that is not a part of her own identity and is unlikely to become one.
Depends on whether or not those dwarves try to assert their own cultural norms on the human. If unak aren't allowed to be warriors, and this right-handed human is a warrior, how do the dwarves resolve this dissonance? Do they write it off as "not our way" but leave the human to his own people's way? Or do they shame him for behaving in a manner unbefitting an unak, which he so clearly is? In the former case, sure, I'd assume the human would most likely live and let live just as the dwarves are doing. But if a dragon attacks and the dwarves don't want to let the human help because the other warriors refuse to stand beside an unak on the field of battle... Might be a different story.

A dwarf, acculturated to feel that unak and khivud are important, might well be motivated to carve out a place for himself as "right-handed, but khivud anyway, they're not actually the same thing". An outsider, though? Anything is possible, but I think dwarves expecting a human to care about whether they call her unak or khivud would be projecting their own attachment to those concepts onto somebody who honestly doesn't have it.
But it's about more than just what they call him. It's about the expectations that label comes with within their society.

(Corollary question: Are unak and khivud genders?)
I don't know. I'm inclined to say no, as its usefulness as a metaphor for gender in real life is pretty limited; it's a simile at best. But I suppose, if the fiction handled it in a way that made it useful to consider them genders, they could be.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
And, as I believe I said earlier, my eladrin (well, high elves) are tied to a Fair Realm* that possesses an "eternal now" nature, and in fact to specific Summer, Winter, Spring, and Autumn Courts. For them, the seasons don't change. Change is something that happens to mortals. So a blessing of physical mutability is especially unsuited to them.

*Tolkien Fact of the Day: Fair is Sindarin for... "mortal". Pronounced differently, though.

This is also the case in my version of the Faewild. I used the terminology "as naturally as they change seasons" rather than "as naturally as the seasons change" because I was referring to the mechanic where an eladrin can change personality traits and the bonus feature to their Fey Step after a long rest. The book refers to this as "[the eladrin's] season", so I did the same.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But that is the distinction I'm making: for transgender people, this isn't a "real world issue" that you follow in the media; it is who they are, and it is still not fully accepted and embraced by large swathes of contemporary culture and, in some areas, met with violence. BoG is, I would imagine, an appealing option for trans folk to feel more at home in the otherwise binary gendered default mode of D&D. And as I said way up thread, it is a rather clever way to both present an open hand to transgendered folk, but not do so in such a way that is threatening or overly political.

That said, it isn't inherently bigoted to associate transgenderism with "real world issues," because for many (most?) people, it isn't part of their day to day life so only experienced through the media, and thus as a "real world issue." This is why I said what I said that you quoted: for those well-meaning folk who might not have this in mind. What for some is a "real world issue" or an abstraction out there in the world, is for others part of their living experience.

My suggestion is that we naturalize/normalize it as much as we can, and one way to do that is through rules options like BoG. This is, like anything else, merely an option.

That's just it, though. It really doesn't give trans folk any option that they didn't already have. In any game where the DM won't allow a transsexual PC, the rules for these elves won't be allowed, so no option is granted. I doubt they'd be playing with a person like that anyway. For the rest of the games, they already have the option to be a transsexual PC, and they aren't limited to being elves or needing a blessing to explain it. These rules don't give them anything new.

As for normalizing it, the rules don't do that, either, and for the same reasons above. The normalization should happen in the real world in real venues, where it actually can happen, not in the game where it can't. A bigot isn't going to spontaneously change his stripes just because there are now rules for some elves to change gender.
 

Mercurius

Legend
That's just it, though. It really doesn't give trans folk any option that they didn't already have. In any game where the DM won't allow a transsexual PC, the rules for these elves won't be allowed, so no option is granted. I doubt they'd be playing with a person like that anyway. For the rest of the games, they already have the option to be a transsexual PC, and they aren't limited to being elves or needing a blessing to explain it. These rules don't give them anything new.

As for normalizing it, the rules don't do that, either, and for the same reasons above. The normalization should happen in the real world in real venues, where it actually can happen, not in the game where it can't. A bigot isn't going to spontaneously change his stripes just because there are now rules for some elves to change gender.

I hear what you are saying and don't disagree - you make some really good points. That said, I do think there is something going on here that is worthwhile. I am not transgender and would not deem to speak for transgender people, but I imagine that the gesture is appreciated, and that BoG is a particularly appealing rules option for trans folk.

It is kind of like this: Maybe you have a group of friends that are getting together on Saturday night. You are 95% sure that you are invited, but there is a sliver of doubt. Isn't it nice to actually be formally invited? This isn't quite the same, but there is a similarity, I think.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That's just it, though. It really doesn't give trans folk any option that they didn't already have. In any game where the DM won't allow a transsexual PC, the rules for these elves won't be allowed, so no option is granted. I doubt they'd be playing with a person like that anyway. For the rest of the games, they already have the option to be a transsexual PC, and they aren't limited to being elves or needing a blessing to explain it. These rules don't give them anything new.

As for normalizing it, the rules don't do that, either, and for the same reasons above. The normalization should happen in the real world in real venues, where it actually can happen, not in the game where it can't. A bigot isn't going to spontaneously change his stripes just because there are now rules for some elves to change gender.

Normalization isn’t about getting bigots to change their mind. Most grown adults are fairly set in their ways and aren’t going to have their minds changed one way or the other, certainly not by something like an optional rule in an RPG book. Normalization is a long-term goal. The more popular media contains examples of trans people existing and not being treated as out of the ordinary, the more young people who grow up consuming that media will perceive trans people as ordinary. I don’t really care if some transphobe allows the Blessing of Corellon in his games or not. Nor, for that matter, if some trans ally does, or even if some trans person does. What I care about the kids who are just starting to get into RPGs for the first time, seeing this option presented as nonshallantly as the variant human rules. I care about the people who are going to grow up seeing nonbinary gender expression as a perfectly normal part of life.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
That's just it, though. It really doesn't give trans folk any option that they didn't already have. In any game where the DM won't allow a transsexual PC, the rules for these elves won't be allowed, so no option is granted. I doubt they'd be playing with a person like that anyway. For the rest of the games, they already have the option to be a transsexual PC, and they aren't limited to being elves or needing a blessing to explain it. These rules don't give them anything new.

As for normalizing it, the rules don't do that, either, and for the same reasons above. The normalization should happen in the real world in real venues, where it actually can happen, not in the game where it can't. A bigot isn't going to spontaneously change his stripes just because there are now rules for some elves to change gender.
It wasn’t written for the bigots or those merely uncomfortable with the concept. It was written for those in that subset of the community.

Seeing someone like yourself depicted (fairly) in the rules or paraphernalia of a game or hobby- or anywhere in culture- is a self-esteem raising event. It is inspirational. It draws you and those like you in closer. That’s why MLK lobbied so hard for to keep playing Uhura.

And often, that drive towards inclusion is a revenue driver. It’s why companies like Mattel have slowly but surely expanded their range of non-Caucasian dolls. It’s why smart marketers don’t just focus on white males 18-24.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I hear what you are saying and don't disagree - you make some really good points. That said, I do think there is something going on here that is worthwhile. I am not transgender and would not deem to speak for transgender people, but I imagine that the gesture is appreciated, and that BoG is a particularly appealing rules option for trans folk.
Speaking as a transgender person: it absolutely is.

It is kind of like this: Maybe you have a group of friends that are getting together on Saturday night. You are 95% sure that you are invited, but there is a sliver of doubt. Isn't it nice to actually be formally invited? This isn't quite the same, but there is a similarity, I think.
It’s not a bad analogy. People like media better when it includes characters they can identify with. It’s one thing to “allow trans characters in your games,” it’s another for the game to feature trans characters. It makes the difference between feeling tolerated and feeling invited.
 

It wasn’t written for the bigots or those merely uncomfortable with the concept. It was written for those in that subset of the community.

Seeing someone like yourself depicted (fairly) in the rules or paraphernalia of a game or hobby- or anywhere in culture- is a self-esteem raising event. It is inspirational. It draws you and those like you in closer.

I like to think that it is also part of bringing the game into the current century. I think it is a pretty good idea to update the game in its representation of gender as we understand it today.

Are trans-elves the way to do it though? I'm probably the wrong person to ask, because I hate elves with a fiery passion. But sure, if you're going to pick any D&D race, then I'd say elves are the best candidate. They were always pretty gender-fluid. Now make them less dull.
 

Charlaquin said:
Normalization is a long-term goal.
Quite. A societal and therefore political goal.
Charlaquin said:
The more popular media contains examples of trans people existing and not being treated as out of the ordinary, the more young people who grow up consuming that media will perceive trans people as ordinary.

There are 2 kinds of ordinary. There's "ordinary" as being a human being, deserving of love, respect and a chance at happiness. For me, all people born of an human being are thus ordinary, and are my fellow humans: gay, bi, transsexual, heterosexual, black, white or green, hermaphrodite, with Down syndrome, etc.

And there's a different king of ordinary: ordinary as being in the majority.

Transssexual individuals are a tiny minority of the global population, and so there's nothing ordinary about them, in that meaning of the word.

I'm aware that since the dawn of times there have been human beings who didn't fit within the mundane biological/sexual framework. And the society of their times had a place and roles for them - by the way, we all have a place and roles in our society and I don't see anything demeaning about that. For example, I'm a straight husband, with a wife and a kid, and that's a part (only a part) of my role within my society.

So I don't deny transsexual individuals a place in society. I want them to feel welcome, at my table and in other parts of the world. And I will play with transsexual individuals as I play with any other fellow human beings. I'm quite sure (without being able to prove it) that there's an overwhelming majority of gamers, in the western part of the world, who would accept transsexuals at their table, like I do.

But I won't pretend to their faces that they're ordinary - ordinary as in mundane, ordinary as being in the majority. Frankly, I would feel like it's vaguely insulting to them. Being transsexual seems to me to be hard living, and I bet it's not solely because of the intolerance and the ills of the society around trans persons. Being or feeling different is always (often) hard by itself.

Let me clarify: if I had a trans at my table, I wouldn't treat him/her differently from the way I treat any other gamer. Specifically, I wouldn't present him/her with an option like Corellon's Blessing which has been carved to pander to his/her specificities by some well-meaning/deluded "progressives" in the rpg industry.

Charlaquin said:
I don’t really care if some transphobe allows the Blessing of Corellon in his games or not. Nor, for that matter, if some trans ally does, or even if some trans person does.
Good. To each table its own.
Charlaquin said:
What I care about the kids who are just starting to get into RPGs for the first time, seeing this option presented as nonshallantly [sic] as the variant human rules.
Yes, I too care. Soon I will introduce my 10 years old kid to 5th edition D&D, and there's zero chance in Hell that I will present transssexual-glorifying material to him in a nonchalant way. Nope.

To me, transsexuality is not "a way of life" or a choice. I don't subscribe to the post-modern "gender identity" baloney theory, and I don't believe in a future where - whether we are bi, hetero, trans, gay, green, white or black - we all choose our identity "a la carte" while chanting kumbaya together like in a happy-hippy weirdo leftie family (though I dig hippies :).

Charlaquin said:
I care about the people who are going to grow up seeing nonbinary gender expression as a perfectly normal part of life.
Not at my table. And not in my rpg of choice, if I have any choice in the matter (and as a customer and gamer, I have).
 
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