The internet has been buzzing about a recent Vorthos article on the Mothership. This one, specifically. In it, James Wyatt reveals something that no one knew until now.
"That kill could have been yours."
She watched him carefully as her words sank in. He bristled, drawing himself up even taller. "Gedruk stole it."
"I saw you hold back. I saw you cut the beast's claw instead of its neck. Why?"
The orc snarled. "I don't know."
"You could have earned your war name," she said. "Know who you are, and claim it."
Anger twisted the orc's face and he took another step toward her. "You tell me this? A human boy who thinks he's a woman?"
Huh. Apparently Alesha was allowed to choose her own name after winning glory in battle, and chose her grandmother's name.
Is this a big deal? The internet, in typical "being terrible" fashion, seems to take umbrage with it. There are a lot of different opinions and I was mostly proud of the Magic community.
To me (and I may just have a good Twitter feed devoid of terrible people), all I saw was people applauding the decision to have a major character be transgender, and the worst I saw was people who were annoyed.
"Great, it happened. Why make a big deal out of it?"
Why, indeed, make a big deal out of it? Here's why.
- Alesha is a positive role model. Instead of portraying a male to female transgender character as some sort of weak and effeminate character, Alesha is a certified badass. Alesha was able to choose her name by winning glory on the battlefield and is not only a powerful, well designed card, she's also a compelling storyline character. I don't get super deep into Vorthos, but for people who do, having Alesha be a badass was a good choice transgender people see a character not at all held back or looked down upon, just a warrior respected by her clan. Not just anyone becomes a Khan.
- It cost nothing. This was an easy thing for Wizards to do. They engendered good will and showed their commitment to diversity and inclusion and all they had to do was write a story they were going to write anyway. This was a great PR move and a very easy way to demonstrate their values as a brand in an unobtrusive way that literally didn't cost them an extra dime.
- Who cares? The LGBTA community cares, for one. This is a bit of a token gesture, but it's one that Wizards didn't have to make and it's a positive step toward progress. People who feel marginalized in this community may feel less so or at least see that Wizards is making an effort. The other people who really care about it are transphobes and I don't mind when those people make themselves known to the community by freaking out over something that literally has no effect on the game. Sure, Wizards didn't have to court controversy because it added nothing to the set beyond flavor and could potentially anger some people, but Wizards is showing they don't care what intolerant people think. They shouldn't. Get upset over an imaginary transgender character in a children's card game. Good luck with that.
- It feels shoehorned in as if they thought of it at the last second, possible after watching the movie Mulan. However, on his blog, Doug Beyer confirms that the character is canonically transgender and it was always this way. This wasn't an afterthought, it was a commitment Wizards made as they were designing the khans. They handled the character respectfully and showed that transgender people don't necessarily fit in some preconceived stereotype.
This isn't the most courageous thing a company has ever done, but that's the point. They didn't announce it with a lot of fanfare or make a huge announcement--they quietly slipped it into a story they had written for the mothership.
Is that because they're scared and hoped people wouldn't notice? No way.
They announced it in this manner because they aren't actually the ones who made a big deal out of it. Because, you know what? It's not a big deal that some people are transgender.
The transgender community doesn't need to be put on a pedestal and lauded on principal any more than they should be derided or mocked. Wizards didn't make a huge deal out of Alesha's gender because it isn't that big a deal. They created a transgender character because there is no reason not to, and they didn't make her different from other characters because she really isn't.
Alesha is just another member of the pantheon of characters created by Wizards. She's tough, strong, a natural born leader, and she's not afraid of judgment from her enemies or the warriors in her clan.
Let's not make a big deal out of Alesha being transgender, but let's make a big deal out of Wizards not making a big deal out of it. It was a good move on their part and it's a big step into the 21st century, especially when you look at their 20th century track record.
Good for Wizards of the Coast.
Edit: This article originally included the word "transgendered", which was quickly changed after a Redditor pointed out that "transgender" is the preferred term.
Although it's a subtle difference, the latter is preferred because it clarifies that the term is describing an aspect of that person, rather than using a past tense and implying that it is an event or a thing that occurred to that person.