Of Half-Orc Paladins and their Transgender Wives

I'm going to buy the hell out of this adventure path.I’ve spent a lot of words ranting this week about DC’s decision to nix Batwoman’s marriage and the fact that they claim to be inclusive but really only pay lip service to the LGBT community. But here at the Screamsheet, I make it my goal to always follow up a negative experience with something positive.

Okay, that’s total BS. Usually I just scream and kick my feet until Sarah reigns me in and tells me I’m being an ass. But sometimes it works out that there is some interesting positive stuff to counterbalance my complaining. And a good chunk of the time, that positive mojo seems to come from Paizo Publishing.

Paizo, creators of the rapidly-growing Pathfinder RPG (and novel line, and comic books, and upcoming videogame and stuffed toys and collectible card game and…you get the idea), released the first book of their Wrath of the Righteous adventure path last month. This adventure path introduces their new Mythic rules, which I don’t have a lot of interest in, but I’m hoping to adapt it to form the basis of a post-20th level campaign at some point. So I’ve been looking in its general direction here and there, and I just found out that last month’s release features the first transgender character I’ve ever seen in an RPG product.

One of the NPCs in Wrath of the Righteous is Irabeth, a half-orc paladin. This in and of itself is pretty cool, since I have grown to love half-orcs and I like the concept of a half-orc paladin in general. She has a lover named Anevia, who is a human rogue. Now, a homosexual relationship in Pathfinder isn’t all that unusual – while rarely featured, they’ve shown up here and there dating back to the very first adventure path (not to mention that fey creatures like nymphs and dryads are depicted as universally bisexual). But Anevia is a slightly different case because she used to be a man. She drank a potion of gender reversal and willingly went from male to female. She is an ass-kicking transgender heroine, which I think is pretty groundbreaking.

If you don’t want to have a transgender person or even a homosexual person in your game, it’s easy enough to eliminate. Just change Anevia to a normal woman or even make her a man if that suits your preferences. As for me, it gets me thinking about fantasy gender politics for the first time in a while.

I never really considered how homosexuality would be dealt with in my game up until I got into college, when my friend Beth joined a D&D game I was running. Beth is a lesbian, and so was the character she played. At one point in the game she went out of her way to pick up a random barmaid. Said barmaid became a major NPC, and that got me thinking about how my fantasy setting would deal with that. I went back and forth on whether I wanted the pseudo-medieval world to have an authentic medieval outlook on such things (i.e., “Burn the harlots!”), but eventually decided to say, “Screw it,” and just have homosexuality accepted in the setting without discrimination. It was a fantasy setting and I wanted to tell stories about dragon slaying and heroics rather than bog things down in pseudo-political bullshit. Just as I didn’t need a black PC forced into slavery because of some warped adherence to historical accuracy, I didn’t need to waste time with discrimination against gays.

Thinking about it now, I think it would have made even less sense had I gone the other way and made it a political issue. First of all, that kind of discrimination in a Pathfinder setting doesn’t make a lot of sense. In a world where humans are the dominant species, it’s logical albeit sad that we would break ourselves up in little groups that could be labeled as superior or inferior depending on where you’re standing. But in a fantasy setting where there are immortal elves, brutish orcs, and deadly dragons – not to mention literal demons and devils that want to steal your soul – there would be many other concerns beyond where Farmer Bob is sticking his penis.

Going further, one of the biggest hindrances to gay rights throughout the years, at least in my uneducated view, has been church dogma. And the default Pathfinder world is one with several dozen different gods. So if somebody says, “God hates gays,” the probably answer would be, “Oh? Which god is that? The one who takes the form of a magical butterfly or the one whose holy symbol is a mug of ale?” My own setting is closer to having one supreme deity, but her natural form is either a gigantic silver dragon, the sun itself, or an infinite plane of blinding white light. I don’t think she really gives much of a damn what those weird two-leggers do with their genetic material.

If and when I actually run Wrath of the Righteous, Anevia will be the first transgender character in my setting. I’ve had other characters who have changed gender through the use of a cursed item like the girdle of masculinity/femininity, but that was an unwilling change and one that caused quite a bit of trauma to the poor PC (sorry, Holly). I know there have been other gender-swapped characters in role-playing as well. The AD&D 2nd edition Rogue’s Gallery included Kerisis, a manly man who had been turned into a woman, and the Baldur’s Gate series not only brought in the aforementioned girdle but also had a lengthy subquest in which one of the NPCs became a woman. However, those were all cases of characters unwillingly going through a gender change, and once they got hold of a remove curse spell or its equivalent, that change was reversed.

Anevia is the first truly transgender person I’ve encountered in an RPG supplement – although I probably read less than 1% of all material in the industry, so there is likely somebody else out there who I don’t know about that can claim the “first” crown. As far as I know, Anevia identifies as a woman and is happy with her change. I think that’s kind of cool for a number of reasons, one of which is that it finally gives an answer to the question of, “Who created those damned gender-bending belts anyway?” that isn’t, “Some apprentice who wanted to play a practical joke on his master.”

If Anevia’s transgender status comes up in game, she will be joining an NPC cast of characters that has included a dark elf who spent 30 years as a ghost, a sword that used to be a lady, a possibly intelligent horse, and a toad that was secretly a lecherous old wizard. In that kind of setting, I’m not sure somebody casually saying, “Did you know I used to have a penis?” would even warrant a batted eyelid.

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6 Responses to “Of Half-Orc Paladins and their Transgender Wives”

  1. Did you forget Ben Lee, the transvestite detective I ran in …ummm…I forget what game. Although transvestite is a little different than transgender…

    Anyway. Yay for Paizo.

  2. White wolf had at least two trans* characters in the old world of darkness: Celeste, the vampiric Daughter of Cacophony (a clan that wiped out every male member, celeste was the “voice of a secret” and terrified that the clan would discover her trans past and destroy her. From…one of the Succubus club books I think? I just remember her card from the CCG) and Ocyrus Pristis from kithbook pooka, a sea bass pooka who’s female body manifested a male faerie soul. The faerie mien slowly transitioned to male while the mortal body didn’t.

    • Al-Haleem Says:

      There were actually even more trans characters than that. There was the incredibly tragic transwoman Drenis in Lair of the Hidden, and there was Zachary Sikorsky who transfigured himself into the very female Melinda Galbraith, and then there’s everyone’s favorite Tzimiche, Sascha, who simply discarded binary notions of gender altogether. And there’s an entire faction of gender-fluid vampires in the Kindred of the East spin-off called the Thousand Whispers. World of Darkness always seemed more progressive to me when it came to this kind of stuff. D&D and its ilk always came across as very unwelcoming to me, seeing as they appeared to be the domain of straight white men, and I only fit into the ‘man’ part of that equation. I played a few games of it though, and you will never BELIEVE the mayhem I caused when I insisted I was going to play a gay, Chaotic Neutral gnoll…

  3. […] And why shouldn’t it be? As one blogger characterizes this phenomenon (in a well-thought out essay): […]

  4. Being a fantasy setting, you are right, emphasis shouldn’t be put on roleplaying out one’s sexuality. Roleplaying isnt the draw of these games, its the mindless dicerolling and dragon slaying. Did you ever think that through roleplaying opposition to her character that she as a person would find some truth about herself? whether for better or worse, roleplaying allows us to create avatars to go through experiences we usually wouldn’t and grow in ways that wouldn’t be readily available to us. Sounds like you cut the balls off of a real roleplay opportunity.

  5. valberto Says:

    I heard just now this amazing set of secondary characters. Believe it or not I fell in love with the concept. For me love should come in all formulas, sizes and designs and should, therefore, be widely respected. Loved your text.

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