Riley & Dera’s Fav LGBTQIA+ Characters in Geekdom
As most of you know, June is Pride month, a time when we remember the struggle faced by the LGBTQIA+ community through the years, commemorate the Stonewall riots, and gather to celebrate together with what are arguably some of the most fun parades you’ll ever see. In honor of the community, we here at Word of the Nerd would like to highlight some of the favorite LGBT characters in geekdom of two of our writers, Riley and Dera, who are not only gamers, cosplayers, and comic fans, but also members of the community.
“Ladies and Guns. And sometimes dudes.”
Borderlands 2 is definitely one of the most inclusive video games on the market, clearly showcasing bisexuals, pansexuals and homosexuals with minimal flair and maximum acceptance: Hammerlock discusses an old boyfriend as normal as he speaks about hunting beasts; Moxxi has multiple ex-husbands, flings and ex-girlfriends, and seems indiscriminate about who she involves herself with; Torgue, arguably the most macho character in the game is openly bisexual and goes off on tangents about how “badass” it is to respect women. While there is no dating mechanic in the game, there is a bit of banter and flirting between playable characters. This is where Axton became an icon for open sexuality in the game. When the Commando helps up Maya, the female, and token playable siren, he has a chance to flirt by saying “soooo do you work out, or…?”, while with the men, Zer0, Salvator, and the later added Krieg, he’d say something along the lines of “on your feet, soldier!” Or at least he was supposed to. When the game was in testing, they found that an error in the coding allowed him to use any line on any character, regardless of gender. Axton was just as likely to hit on one of the men as he was Maya, but when Gearbox noticed their mistake, they ran with it. They confirmed the Commando as cannonly bisexual and even added a line to cement it decision. When asked in the “Assault on Dragon Keep” DLC what he’ll buy with the money they’re earning he replies “Ladies and guns. And sometimes dudes.” This was the first time one of the playable characters in the Borderlands franchise has been confirmed LGBT and even though it stemmed from a coding error, Gearbox’s handling of the situation and continued representation is so very important to the community.
“Selfish, I suppose. Not wanting to spend my entire life screaming on the inside.”
One of the first things I noticed when I began playing Dragon Age: Inquisition is that Bioware is all about representation. Not only can you be a human, elf, dwarf, or qunari of any skin tone, but you have your pick for what way you’d like your character to be oriented. Female Inquisitors have their choice of Cullen, Blackwall, Iron Bull (a pansexual qunari who is into bondage), or Solas (female elf only) if they’d like to be in a heterosexual relationship, and Sera or Josephine if they would like to be in homosexual one. Men can choose from Cassandra or Josephine (she’s our bisexual lady) to be with the opposite sex, and either Dorian or Iron Bull if they’d like a same-sex relationship. To talk about all the romantic options and what they mean for representation would take pages and pages so I’ll just pick one to talk about for now: Dorian Pavus. The Tevinter Mage struts into the story like a proud peacock; confident and well groomed, citing his many amazing qualities while subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) flirting with the inquisitor the whole time, male or female. If you choose the mage quest he follows you on a harrowing adventure through time to help you save your friends and prevent a terrifying future from coming to pass, all while proving he is more than just empty boasts. When the day is saved (albeit temporarily), he offers to join the Inquisition full time to help make the saving stick. If you accept his offer (and I recommend highly that you do), you can begin getting to know him.
That is when the walls start coming down. He starts with his normal upbeat while still nihilistic attitude, talking about how horrible his homeland can be and how he misses it dearly. He continues to flirt with you, and though his is more receptive to men, he doesn’t betray his preferences until you have a high enough approval from him to trigger his personal quest. That’s when you learn what he keeps beneath that perfectly quaffed hair and neatly trimmed moustache: rejection, betrayal, and a lifetime of empty physical affection. He has suffered for his preferences, and his father even attempts to change him with forbidden magic to make him “acceptable” since Dorian refuses to live his life in a sham of a straight marriage for the sake of his family’s honor. It’s easily one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the game and it serves to endear Dorian to the player for good. Once met, he is not easily forgotten. Gay or straight he is a favorite character for fans of the series, for being lovable, cocky, and still so very vulnerable, and a role model for living your life as you desire no matter what society says. “Living a lie…it festers inside you, like poison. You have to fight for what’s in your heart.”
“Everyday, I’d put on a dress, look into my father’s shaving mirror and just….hate myself.”
Dragon Age continues to please the LGBTQIA community with Cremisius Aclassi, the first transgender character to in a Dragon Age game. He serves as the Lieutenant for Iron Bull’s Chargers. Like Dorian, Krem is from Tevinter, but he is soporati, a non-magic citizen, which means his family was lower class. His parents tried to wed him to a wealthy merchant’s son to save the family from slavery, but he refused to live a painful lie and his mother threw him out, though he mentions she never turned away the money he sent to the family that he earned as a soldier. When asked by the Inquisitor why he decided to live as a man, he replies “I didn’t decide anything. I’ve been like this my whole life.” He even mentions pretending to shave along side his father as a child. When his father sells himself into slavery, Krem leaves and joins the Tevinter army, fully assuming his male identity. Krem hides his birth gender for years until a different doctor discovers “what wasn’t in his pants”, he faces a threat of slavery or execution for falsifying documents (which is illegal in Tevinter). He knocked the doctor out and ran, but when the authorities caught up with him in a tavern, Iron Bull steps in and saves him. Once they both recover from their injuries, he offers Krem a job in his mercenary band.
The best part about Krem’s story is what happens after he escapes Tevinter. Iron Bull treats Krem like a man, never questioning why he lives the way he does. When asked, Iron Bull clarifies that it’s not unheard of in Qunari society and they are called “Aqun-Athlok”, which translates in Qunlat as “born as one gender but living like another”, and he tells Krem that they are simply treated as the men they are. The Chargers don’t seem bothered by it either and simply accept Krem as a man and following the orders of their lieutenant. Iron Bull and Krem are shown many times ribbing each other, but Krem’s gender identity is never the subject of their mockery. They instead focus on stereotypes about their endlessly warring nations, something that hasn’t hampered the strength of their friendship a bit. Krem tells the Inquisitor that he lives a good life: “Bull helped me make a good life. Nice armor and a well-placed sock and I’m happy.” It’s comforting to see a transgendered person treated so normally.
Naoto Shirogane and her Shadow (Persona 4):
“I finally think I can accept myself…”
Naoto and her “True Self” were a big step in the direction of transgender/gender fluidity portions of the LGBT realm. Naoto’s Shadow presented as a personification of her wishes to be accepted and flourish in a male-dominated career and society with an extreme decision of operating on herself to become a man. This desperate mentality of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” is an incredible magnification of Naoto’s drive to succeed and to be taken seriously. Her acceptance and realization of what the true issues are being just as important and a lesson learned by many of those curious souls who wondered about themselves in the same way.
In Naoto’s case, she was posing as a man to be taken seriously in her field, but after her Shadow decides that she will continue to fight for justice as herself, however, that may be. She takes steps to become more comfortable with herself as she is, participating in the beauty contest she was signed up for by her friends (even appearing off stage in a bikini in the Persona 4 Animation), wearing a girl uniform if you romance her and appearing in more physique flattering clothes in the true ending of Persona 4: The Golden.
Nato herself and her teammates learn it is about accepting yourself, all sides of yourself, and thriving. I was thrilled to see all kinds of very real issues brought up and represented in the Persona in the form of the Shadows and feel they did a great service to the community as a whole spotlighting such realistic perceptions of the same questions and emotions we all faced at one point or another.
Kanji Tatsumi and his Shadow (Persona 4):
“I LIKE CUTE SHIT”
Kanji holds a very special place our hearts. Tough and abrasive on the outside at first, a cuddly teddy bear on the inside. As a youngster, Kanji learns to sew, which results in his being bullied, many of his classmates questioning not only his masculinity but his sexuality as well. When it comes to the LGBT community of gaming, he’s a major hot button. When Atlus introduced us to Kanji’s Shadow form (his “True Self”) they gave us a masculine yet flamboyant bleach blond teen who was looking for acceptance (among other things) from male companionship. The process in which Kanji accepts his Shadow is a kind of tribute to the kind of soul-searching that many in the community go through where we discover what we truly want.
Though Kanji specifically says, “It ain’t a matter of guys or chicks…I’m just scared shitless of being rejected,” when he finally accepts his other self, there is still major speculation on Kanji’s true sexual preferences. Many argue that he is gay but as a longtime fan of the boy since the beginning, I see this as a great impossibility given that he continues to have feelings for his teammate Naoto Shirogane. Regardless of what gender he perceives Naoto to be, Kanji remains interested. This coupled with his self-questioning and Shadow (taken with a grain of salt as they should be), leads us to lean Kanji in at least the bi-curious direction. The controversy behind him and his orientation will likely be argued until the end of time, but that’s my personal take on it.
Tracer (Lena Oxton, Overwatch):
“Wonder if I have time to visit Emily….No…Better stay focused.”
Blizzard’s hit title had a ton of speculation and rumors revolving around it the moment they confirmed that there was an LGBT character among the roster. Who could it be? Many turned their sights on Zarya, the Russian bodybuilder beauty. To many, she was a shoe-in as a representative of the LGBT populous. A number of fans were counting on their ships advancing one more step towards reality, banking on McCree, Hanzo or Reaper. Per his storyline, it could make sense that Genji, the previous Shimada playboy, to perhaps prefer anyone attractive that fit his bill. Despite the endless churning of the rumor mill, Blizzard stuck to their guns and made a huge move in favor the community, dubbing their poster girl Tracer as a lesbian.
This is cemented in with the Overwatch comic as the readers are introduced to Lena’s girlfriend Emily (who is an adorable redhead for those of you who haven’t seen her). Though it was an unexpected twist to many, the fact that the face of a title as huge worldwide as Overwatch is actively involved in a same-sex relationship and unapologetically so is just outstanding. Now there is a line mentioning her precious girlfriend live in PTR as you read this! We were super excited to see the confirmation from Blizzard and commend them for adding such a bubbly, lovable young woman to our digital ranks.
Varys (Game of Thrones):
“The absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.”
The spymaster for the king of the Seven Kingdoms is definitely worth talking about as he is a bit of a controversial and debatable member of the community. At one point during the incredible story of Game of Thrones, Varys speaks to Oberyn about his preferences, or rather lack thereof. When the Spider denies interest in either sex he is confronted with the idea that “everybody is interesting in something”. His response is quite interesting, “Not me. When I see what desire does to people, what it’s done to this country, I am very glad to have no part in it. Besides, the absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.” When he is asked “Such as?” by Oberyn, Varys turns his gaze to the Iron Throne. As a joke at his clear desire for power, he can called Powersexual. In a more serious manner his response can be a sign that Lord Varys is asexual, a part of the community that does not receive nearly enough representation in media. With no particular fancy in the pleasures of human beings, it would make sense.
Now here’s where the controversy comes in; Varys is a eunuch. For anyone who didn’t learn about this in health class, this means he was castrated. So why does this change anything? Well, some argue that without his bits and pieces, there is no way that Varys would be physically capable of desiring another person, which should put him in a league of his own. Meanwhile, others argue that the topics of love, lust and physical attraction and need are much more complicated, that the mentality behind them can overcome his lack of…equipment. What do you think?
While we wish that the asexual aspect was cleaner cut than this, the fact that his feelings are known and describe to an extent what a forgotten percentage of the LGBT population feels is a step in the right direction.
A few more LGBTQIA+ characters we also love:
Harley Quinn: bisexual
Poison Ivy: bisexual
The Question/Renee Montoya: lesbian
Green Lantern/Alan Scott: gay
John Constantine: bisexual
Mystique: bisexual (gender fluid?)
Jughead (Archie): asexual
Kevin Keller (Archie): gay
Willow (Buffy): bisexual
Todd (Bo Jack Horseman): asexual
Yuuri and Victor (Yuuri on Ice): in a same-sex relationship
Karanomori Shion (Psycho Pass): shown with another woman
Hikaru Sulu (Kelvin-timeline Star Trek): gay
Ruby and Sapphire (Steven Universe): in a same-sex relationship
Steve Cortez (Mass Effect): gay
Erica (Catherine): transgender
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death (Magic the Gathering): transgender
Maya (Borderlands): asexual, though finding confirmation can be tough
Fenris (Dragon Age 2): bisexual
There are so many more we could have listed here, too! If you have any favorites that we’ve left out, please comment and let us know.
If you’re looking for some LGBTQIA+ comics to read, check out our 15 Queer Comics to Keep Things Gay After Pride Month.