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Guest House

The Ten-Minute Guide To Becoming a RPG Transvestite

by Shanya Almafeta
Sep 02,2003


The Ten-Minute Guide To Becoming a RPG Transvestite

by Shanya Almafeta

Dragons! Kzinti! Drasalites! Boomers! Gnolls! Giant telepathic rocks! Intelligent shades of blue! Rolelayers have played as a dizzying number of things since the hobby's creation. But whenever your average roleplayer is asked to play a character of the other gender, they freeze. Half of the rest of the world (and half of the other worlds, for that matter) are filled with people with a different pair on chromosome 23, and it's a shame that we lose out because of nervousness. The XX-XY barrier isn't as deep as most people think; I've been roleplaying as the other gender almost since I started the hobby, and I've found it to be as fun as everything else I've played as. (In fact, my online pen name is taken from one of my first characters.)

There are those who believe someone intending to act as the other gender has repressed issues (which issues depends on how strongly the person in general feels about transgender roleplaying). However, it's been my experience that players who genderplay are no more or less stable than those who don't; curiosity and wanting to test or improve one's acting skills are the biggest reasons for it. So, ignore the naysayers; if you want to try it out, try it out.

This article is mainly intended for players, who have to spend all their gaming time as that gender; but any narrator should be able to make something out of this advice. Whenever I use an absolute in the following paragraphs, remember that nothing is absolute; this was done to make the article easier to read without having to add extraneous 'usuallys' or 'sometimes'.

Above all: Don't Panic.

People are the same. People want comfort, wealth, love, safety, and power. People like to eat, have sex, overindulge, and have control over their own life. People are stupid, but they can be dangerously cunning right when you need them to just sit there. In other words, the other gender works just like yours 99 times out of 100.

Consider where you're gaming

Online games via IRC or other online client are probably the best way to start playing transgender characters, because the fact that you're not the same gender as your character isn't so readily obvious.

Whether or not you attempt this in a normal game will depend on the maturity level and tastes of your fellow players. It can be done -- but it's best you clear this with your narrator and your fellow players first. There are people who don't want to be in a group with people playing the other gender. And that's alright, because that would detract from their enjoyment of the game. It can be worked around as simply as erasing and rewriting one letter on your character sheet.

LARPs are probably the worst way to play transgender characters due to pressure from being in character full time. It will take some incredibly talented and unbiased people to accept you as another gender in a LARP; so only try this out in a LARP group that you've been playing with for some time.

In any of these cases, a situation where the players are both men and women is ideal; that way, if you're a guy playing a girl for one game, you can have any points you were constantly messing up (or constantly doing well, for that matter) commented on by someone who should know.

Talk the talk.

One of the major signals used to identify someone as one gender or another -- besides reproductive characteristics and tone of voice -- is the way a person talks. Some phrases and wordings are biased towards one gender or another, and some phrases are used almost exclusively by one gender or another. Without going deeply into sociolinguistics, here's a few of the easier changes to make:

Pronouns are more often used by men than women -- a woman will use a descriptive noun or the person's name where a man will use 'he' or 'she'.

Men speak with more precise grammer, while women are more likely to take liberties with language.

Women tend to have slightly longer sentances than men -- about 10% longer. One or two more words either way will do it.

Know the world.

In a utopia, there would be no gender, at least in the social sense; everyone would be judged on their opinions and his capabilities, not what factory options they came with. But a utopia quickly becomes a boring setting for most gaming groups. So knowing the roles of gender in your campaign is important.

A historical or fantasy game, especially, can have different views on gender roles. In the dark ages, a woman was to help raise a farm and family, and it was much the same in the Wild West; however, while in 800s europe there were few women of note anywhere, the 1800s had women like Annie Oakley and Marie Curie earning 'manly' respect. Men were treated as equals of women in simpler times, lorded over women in the near-modern time, and are more and more being considered 'separate but equal' in the present day.

Will your game be historical (with gender prejudices) or heroic (modern mores in a medieval world)? It is up to your narrator.

Don't try to be 'perfect'.

Disregard any of this advice if it doesn't suit your character. You don't have to run your character using all of the advice given; indeed, doing this may make your character strike false. There are no 'perfect men' or 'perfect women' outside of The Waltons.

In addition, there will be some things you can't change. If you're a 180kg male boxer with a full beard and a gravely bass voice, it will be hard to pass yourself off as an unimposing Mara Hati. Don't worry about these things; just do the best you can, and your fellow players will respect you for it.

And finally, for heaven's sake... (minutae)

Don't 'dream date' your character. Try to act as you would act if you were that gender, not like how your ideal significant other would act.

Guys, if you're writing up a description for an online roleplaying, don't use the word 'cup' unless your character is an anthropomorphic piece of glassware.

If you're going to play a crossgender character for an extended length of time, get the internal anatomy right. It may never come up in your game, but considering that we're all human, it probably will.

Try not to be conscious of the gender of your character. Concentrate on their traits and their goals, just as you would a normal character.

We have standing stereotypes still for a reason -- they're the way we've come to expect things to work. You should conform to at least a few of these stereotypes. Someone who adheres to all the stereotypes is as interesting as Al Bundy or June Cleaver, and someone who breaks all the stereotypes would only work if you were playing Macho Women With Guns or as Ricky from ASB.

And finally above all... if you find you don't like acting as the other sex, don't do it. A game, is supposed to be fun, and no amount of horizen-broadening is worth it if you're not happy. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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All Guest du Jour columns

  • The Ten-Minute Guide To Becoming a RPG Transvestite by Shanya Almafeta, 02sep03
  • Gamers Who Rock by Jason Sartin, 03jul03
  • Play is Political by Johan Soderberg, 01jul03
  • Darren MacLennan provides The Ten Deadly Sins of GMs, January 23, 2002
  • Darren MacLennan provides Marching Goes Johnny Home, December 14, 2001, an adventure
  • Darren MacLennan provides a Wild Weekend at Turner's Junction, October 30, 2001-- our first adventure!
  • Kyle Voltti on Would I Be Gaming This Week? September 14, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • Eric Nail with Emotion in Role-Play July 31, 2001
  • JT Scott's gaming Renaissance June 1, 2001
  • Todd Downing on The RPG Player's Checklist May 2, 2001
  • The Hitchhiker, Head: the Floating April 1, 2000
  • Mark Strecker on Accurate Arthurian Gaming January 4, 2000
  • Joanne Ellem on From the Trenches- chicks in roleplaying and other stuff August 3, 1999
  • Bailey Watts on Portrait of Goob June 29, 1999
  • Eva on Eye of a She-Gamer May 11, 1999
  • Darnit Jim, I'm an Adventurer, Not an Exterminator! January 12, 1999
  • Paul Franklin on So You Want To Do Reviews for RPG.net? December 22, 1998
  • Shadow Sprite on The Economics of Gaming December 23, 1997 (or, "How to Dissuade Those Pesky Non-Gamers")
  • Mike Montesa on being an expatriate in Japan October 21, 1997
  • Lise Mendel on Coming of Age An insightful and personal look into what it means to be a gamer. September 30, 1997

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg