Thursday, July 25, 2013

Swapping Out PCs - Embarrassment Over Gender Bending?

I am currently in the middle of a bit of a mental dilemna. See, a friend of mine runs a sporadic - roughly once a month -  Star Wars Edge of the Empire game and we're making the transition from the Beta rules to the official released rules. At the same time there is the firm possibility of adding another player to the mix, someone we haven't played with before, and this has me wondering if maybe I shouldn't swap out my character for someone else.

Why The Swap?
There are several reasons for it, but most of them are based around the fact that at present my Star Wars character is a gender-bend character. I am playing a female twi'lek pilot. I gender bend a lot. Lately a bit more than 50-60% of my characters have been female for some reason. Normally, like with the Twi'lek, I determine gender with a percentile roll (weighted based on other characters in play and other recent characters.)

So, if I gender bend so often why is this a problem? Well, for a couple of reasons. One, all my currently active characters are female. I have Ikoma Sasayaki in an L5R game, Priscilla Kallas in a Dresden Files game, and Talia Natan in this Star Wars game. This isn't problematic - though usually something I try to avoid - but it just kind of happened.  The second issue is the new person I've never played with.

Breaking In The New Guy
Why is the new guy important? This is likely where I am over thinking. However, in my life of gaming I've noticed that the concept of gender bending is usually a pretty binary thing with most gamers. Most gamers are either perfectly ok with it, or it kind of weirds them out. The fact that the "generally accepted" gamer population is mostly male, and the plethora of horror stories of fat, middle aged, and neck bearded geeks playing beautiful sex vixens and trying to make people feel awkward by hitting on them and acting slutty are more than enough cause for this.

Now, consider that I am fat, neck bearded, and in my thirties and that my characters are female and generally athletic, young, and pretty (who doesn't normally make movie star PCs?) and the concern that I may make the new person uncomfortable by thinking that is what is going on becomes a bit more apparent. Now, I know that the last part of the horror story isn't true. Generally the accusations against me have been that my female characters are more believable than my male ones (from both men and women, oddly enough.)

The thing is though, how much of this is actually me wanting the new guy comfortable and how much is it me being embarrassed that I might be mentally tagged as "one of those gamers..."

Personal Embarrassment
My issues with shame and embarrassment around the gaming table are odd. Out of game I am effectively shame less. Seriously, some of the crap that will come out of my mouth is down right embarrassing on the "I should ritually kill myself to cleanse my family of dishonor" level and I couldn't care less. Ever roll around on the floor in front of a group of friends moaning/calling out "BATMAN!!"? I have, and I'd do it again in a moment. However, the second I get at the gaming table that all changes. As a GM I have problems putting to voice the words in my head. As a player I falter and hesitate on doing things. As a gamer I want to be respected and have my characters liked.

See, I'm saying my issue is I don't want to make the new guy nervous, but how does me playing a female character do that? If I play the character true to the character then all should be fine right? I mean, Talia isn't slutty. She can be flirty, but in more of the smuggler/han solo/malcom reynolds/confident sort of way. But it isn't like she does the things the horror stories mention. She is a person, her own person, and why should I be embarrassed to play her?

Other Reasons
Now there are other reasons for the swap out, but they would be minor by comparison. We may in fact be adding 2 people to the group. Going from 3 to 5 members that could call for some significant re-tooling of characters and how they work. It could also call for making a shift in a character to be better, or worse, at certain things or even an all out character swap.

However, these reasons will come up on their own. For me, the question just comes down to what are my actual reasons for wanting to swap out. Is there something wrong with the core design of the character? Am I just not having fun? Do I simply want to play something else? Or am I embarrassed to play this character because someone may make a flash judgement on me simply because I'm not playing a character of my own gender?

Funny that, huh? Play a different race and no one bats an eye. Play a different sex/gender and suddenly everyone has questions about why and second thoughts on if they should.


  1. Gender bending is a pretty important topic for me for various reasons. I always do it and I would not be comfortable playing if the GM didn't allow it/if another player had a real problem with this and I was forced to play a female character - unless the GM has a really good story-related reason. We're all pretending to be something we are not and a different gender shouldn't be treated different from playing a huge orc. It often is, though, which, depending on my mood, annoys or amuses me to no end. But all that would be stuff for a whole blog post. Here's a great thread on Story Games about queer content and gender bending

    I'd say that you are worrying too much here, though. Play the character as she is and see what happens. You are comfortable playing women, your fellow players tell you you're good at it and you won't do anything to creep the new guy out intentionally - I think you're good. Maybe talk about the game after you played and if you're still worried, you can bring it up then and just ask if the new guy was okay with it all. But give them a chance, don't try to guess what they may or may not like and change the game before they even played with you.
    And if they really will judge you on the one character they have seen you play, then I would think really hard about whether I'd want to play with such a person. But I don't think that'll happen.

  2. Thank you for the thread. I have a couple of other friends who prefer to gender bend male characters more than playing female characters. It usually, amusingly, keeps the group balance the same as usually if one of them gender bends a boy I'll end up gender bending a girl.

    And yeah, the conclusion I came to actually happened while writing the article. Hence the tone change partially through the article, but I wanted to leave it up. I don't have a reason to be nervous, and the point you made is spot on.

  3. I've played both male and female characters, making the decision based on whatever image comes to me at the time. Another friend just rolls 50/50 and takes the outcome. Only one person in our groups thinks gender bending is weird. But I've heard plenty of stories about players who can't deal with it. It's your character, play whatever gender you want.