Trans Inclusion Means More Than Just Adding Potential Gender Options To Hogwarts Legacy

Trans Inclusion Means More Than Just Adding Potential Gender Options To Hogwarts Legacy
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Upcoming Harry Potter game Hogwarts Legacy will feature some customisation options related to gender, according to a report by Bloomberg. It’s a step toward trans inclusion in a game mired in controversy, even if it still shows the limitations of video games’ handling of trans people.

Hogwarts Legacy players will reportedly be able to choose a “masculine” or “feminine” voice regardless of their character’s body type. They can also select “witch” or “wizard” for their character, which will affect their Hogwarts dorm and how other characters address them.

Hogwarts Legacy has faced controversy since its announcement in September 2020, largely due to Harry Potter’s creator J.K. Rowling. Rowling has expressed transphobic views, which led publisher Warner Bros to announce that she is not involved in the game. Recently, an anti-social justice YouTube channel run by a lead designer on the game came to light, reigniting fans’ worries about the game’s politics.

“Some members of the Hogwarts Legacy development team have fought to make the game as inclusive as possible, pushing for the character customisation and even for a transgender character to be added,” Bloomberg wrote. “There was resistance from management at first, the people familiar with the project said, but currently the character customisation is included in the game.”

Hogwarts Legacy is aiming for a 2022 release, so the customisation options, along with the rest of the game, are subject to change and further iteration.

The possible customisation options are similar to those used by Cyberpunk 2077, which linked player characters’ pronouns to their voice while allowing for a range of body options. It’s an approach that makes sense for the limitations of video game character creators, but it’s also a retrograde one. A “mismatch” between someone’s voice and their appearance has long been played for transphobic laughs against trans women in movies and television, relying on a tired, offensive stereotype of a feminine-appearing woman with a deep voice as a way to convey transness.

Games’ recent explorations into expanding gender identities seem to rely on contrasts as a model for transness before funelling trans characters back into a binary view of gender in the game’s world. In this instance, the game sorts players back into binary gendered dorms. These design choices can make transness meaningless and leave out non-binary players. They feel like a nod to the existence of trans people, without fully exploring what it means for a character to actually be trans (something having an actual trans character, as Bloomberg reports the Hogwarts Legacy team pushing for, could address).

Speaking as a trans man, my voice and body “match” due to hormones, making gender options like this functionally useless in creating a trans male character. (In this regard, Cyberpunk was able to bring in another layer by adding genitals into the mix, something I would certainly not expect a video game about teenagers to do.) I don’t think of my gender as a bunch of pick-and-choose options — my body is a trans body. My voice is a trans voice. A video game character creator could make space for me by just letting me click a box that says “trans guy” from a range of gender options. That’s not necessarily the answer — a scrolling list of genders would be unwieldy and inherently limiting, for starters — but these options continue to remind me of all the ways many video games haven’t yet figured out how to fully imagine trans people. I don’t personally need them to, and I’m in no way a Harry Potter fan eager to play this game. But I can’t help sigh a bit, even as I admire these steps forward.

I appreciate video games trying new things to acknowledge trans players, especially Hogwarts Legacy, a game whose source material means a lot to the fans who’ve fought to hold on to it. It’s heartening to hear that members of the Hogwarts Legacy team are fighting to take the project in a more inclusive direction. Decoupling players’ voices from their bodies isn’t the best answer, but it’s a start.

Comments

  • What would be the ideal then? What could the developers do to be more inclusive?

    Not to sound ignorant but isn’t a trans man someone who looks and sounds like a man? That’s pretty easy to cater for, that’s a big part of the normal game playing population.

      • It offers no answers just weird criticisms.

        “Decoupling players’ voices from their bodies isn’t the best answer, but it’s a start.”

        Righto. Then what is a better step?

        Seems like I read the article more thoroughly than you did.

          • Woah. Wait one sec. Which one of you was either banned, or forgot to remove his socks this morning?

          • Couldn’t reply to you, Angora, so replied here
            It’s me
            PURELY COINCIDENTALLY, I still have my socks on from this morning

        • “A video game character creator could make space for me by just letting me click a box that says “trans guy” from a range of gender options.”

          It’s pretty simple. He doesn’t want to be forced to pick between M and F. He would quite like a trans male voice to sound like an actual trans male, not some He-Man with a few left over girl bits, or vice-versa. Not Arnold Schwarzenegger with the body of Gal Gadot. Not Gal Gadot with the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

          You say “Not to sound ignorant but isn’t a trans man someone who looks and sounds like a man?” except he quite explicitly contradicts this in the article “I don’t think of my gender as a bunch of pick-and-choose options — my body is a trans body. My voice is a trans voice.”

          • You missed out on the very important follow up, in your first hand-picked quote. Riley goes on to say, “That’s not necessarily the answer — a scrolling list of genders would be unwieldy and inherently limiting, for starters.” When the trans community cannot come up with a definitive list of what the entirety of the trans label constitute, and when developers try to be inclusive, by including such things, it is seen as “limiting” and therefore harmful and non-inclusive, how does one fix it? Even Riley, a trans-person, cannot come up with a actionable way to do it.

            “He would quite like a trans male voice to sound like an actual trans male”

            Do tell, what does a “trans male voice” actually sound like? Go on.

          • Dude, you’re just being obtuse.

            Riley MacLeod clearly says that he doesn’t have all the answers and acknowledges that there are complications. “Not necessarily the answer” is not, however, at all the same thing as saying that’s not an option, he actually says that he’d really like it but understands that it’s not perfect.

            Ultimately, what he’d like is some trans options that are not binary male/female, or some combination of the two, and every guy’s voice sounding like a hetro-stereotype. Sheesh.

            Regardless, you can take on your culture wars somewhere else. I was just commenting on op’s claim that “isn’t a trans man someone who looks and sounds like a man” when the article clearly and explicitly says the exact opposite.

          • “Ultimately, what he’d like is some trans options that are not binary male/female, or some combination of the two…”

            Yet when people do what they can, with the limitations of technology we have, it’s not good enough and is ultimately “unwieldy and inherently limiting” and someone is ultimately left out. As Riley points out, you can’t just stick it in a drop down menu because there is no definitive answer to what constitutes “trans”. Technology works within parameters, the trans label operates specifically outside of those parameters. How do you define something that operates in the realm of infinity?

            “I was just commenting on op’s claim that “isn’t a trans man someone who looks and sounds like a man” when the article clearly and explicitly says the exact opposite.”

            Actually, Riley himself states that, “Speaking as a trans man, my voice and body “match”” So yes, a trans-man can be “someone who looks and sounds like a man”, so the OP’s claim isn’t incorrect, in any sense, limited perhaps, but in no ways is it incorrect.

            I think Riley sums it up best with this quote. “I can’t help sigh a bit, even as I admire these steps forward.” And that will never change.

  • I’ve personally never met a transsexual person who wanted to keep their old, dead voice (and I met quite a few in university) and they’d have paid good money for a working surgery to change their voice. I know the devs heart’s in the right place to offer the option (it’s extended customisation options, so it’s not really a big deal anyway), but I’m perplexed when my friends were always upset at being reminded that their voice wasn’t “right” for them after transitioning. I’m guessing I must’ve mixed in different circles.

    • Yeah, I don’t imagine for many people outside of the early stages of transition having a ‘male’ voice for a ‘female’ body or vice-versa would be very desireable, but being trans is all things to all people. Some wish to identify as trans [their gender] while others just want to be [their gender], some prefer transsexual labels and others transgender labels and some are fine with both and others hate both labels.

      Ultimately more options and granularity is always welcome – it’ll probably never be enough for everyone because our identities can be so impossibly diverse, but any attempt to include more people is always a good thing imo, though I do understand why trans people might be dissappointed or hope for more in whatever situation. God knows they deal with enough shit to earn any frustrations they have.

  • But even a lot of non trans people have voices that don’t necessarily “match” their Physique/Gender identity… So why does it NEED to be tied to that choice?
    the dorm thing though, seems like, were hogwarts real, that such an old british institution would be pissy about where “girls and boys” sleep, so I’d keep that aspect but maybe have someone in game have a convo about the school being kinda dickish and not meaning to…
    I dunno, I think groups of people will always be maligned or misrepresented for the shear fact that we are ALL SO VERY DIFFERENT from each other.
    I’m also getting really confused as to why movie/game etc roles MUST be played by someone of that race/gender/gender identity. I totally disagree with someone being refused a role based on those reasons, but, I thought the point of an actor was that they play roles that are not who they really are.
    Really not trying for an argument. Just confused as to how everyone will be happy and fairly represented and treated well.

    Have a good week everybody.

  • Easy solution for the wizards / witches thing. Magic doesn’t care for societal constructs such as gender, so its purely based on the baseline biological sex of the individual. Need a third term for hermaphroditic magic users though.

  • I wonder, what would being trans be in a society where polyjuice potion exists? Technically in the harry potter universe, you wouldn’t need surgery or pills. Just a polyjuice potion every now and then.

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