Dark future retro


I was a teen in the 80s and as any Stranger Things viewer will know, roleplaying games were a thing. For a few hours, you could be in another world as someone else and it was all good fun. I never played D&D, but we did give ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ a go for a while.

The game that really had my attention was Cyberpunk. A schoolmate tipped me off to it and if I’m honest, I’ve always been more of a sci-fi geek than a fan of fantasy. Mind you, I absolutely loved playing the Skyrim computer game: that was just amazing.

So Cyberpunk – aka CP – fitted my late teen misanthropy. Good & evil weren’t a thing: everyone had an angle they were playing and there were times when the (so-called) heroes of the hour were, well, doing some decidedly questionable moral activities. Nothing out of the ordinary compared to your typical Bond film – in terms of violence or cons – but not the noble quests of Tolkien’s works or TSR’s Forgotten Realms.

Gaming was a chance for friends to get together and explore ideas that wouldn’t be possible until computer games caught up some 15+ years later (IMHO). To play, you needed a rule book, some funny-shaped dice, time, and your imagination. All things considered, it was a pretty inexpensive hobby and lots of groups would make up their own rules or settings to keep things fresh. Want to do an A Team style game or play as perps in a Judge Dredd world? Fill your boots. 🙂

Hauling this all back to T stuff, the game let me play a female character. I wasn’t out back then and scared of the idea that others would find out. I would play one game as a male character, then the next game as a female one. It probably goes without saying which characters and games I remember more than others 😉 Just like today where having a female character in a computer game somehow helps keep the Trans Clock from ticking towards midnight, so did the same in RPG terms.

Next year there will see the release of Cyberpunk 2077. I guess it’s all the stuff from the old game plus whatever the original creator and new team have thought of. One thing that’s missing from the old game – and oddly, predicting the future is rather tricky – was the lack of smartphones…. and no Transgender Tipping Point.

The old game was very gender binary – give or take a few minor mentions – and certainly, the language used in the books (‘sex change’ or ‘swap op’) mirrors the time when they were written (the early 90s).

Thing is, when I stumbled upon such characters, they were not – unlike many portrayals in films – victims or murderers*. They had a backstory and they were part of the world. Sure, the language feels kinda off compared to today, but there is a positive trans character. They’re in charge of what they do, loved by their partner, and – crazytalk I know! 🙂  – they are more than just trans.

[ * Earlier this year, BBC crime drama. Ooo, with a trans character! Ah, they’re the murderer. Again. ]

In more recent news, the computer game company put out a demo featuring an advert of a trans person. I think those of us on that continuum can say “that’s not a great tuck” and I won’t be linking directly to the image as it feels quite graphic. But, I’m not offended by that ad. I know I’m very late to the party, but I’m here to clear up and take out the trash. 🙂

The world setting is one of corporate greed turned up to eleven. So, yeah, some of us with our real-world eyes looking in may judge that as inappropriate… but, as a former gamer and trans person, I look at that for what the advert is. It’s making the point that the companies are not your friend. They want to exploit and they’ll ride any bandwagon that pimps their stuff. A quick look at the headlines this year will display a few companies caught stiffing the consumer.

As someone said about dystopia novels: they’re a warning, not a handbook. 😉

Stay frosty,



  1. I never seriously got into role play apart from a few D&D sessions, but I can see the appeal for playing cross gender characters. Had I been braver and less self-conscious I might even have been tempted into crossplay.
    I started reading science fiction and fantasy at about the same time I realised that I really wanted to have been a girl, and discovered that there a number of authors and stories that challenged fixed notions of sex and gender, notably Theodore Sturgeon, Frederick Pohl's 'Day Million' (https://www.drabblecast.org/2014/02/10/drabblecast-312-day-million/), John Varley and Samuel Delany.
    I followed that thread through the 70s and 80 and beyond (a lot of cyberpunk seemed a bit throwback on gender roles for some reason). There's a list online somewhere that runs to hundreds of titles.
    If I couldn't be who I wanted to be in real life, I could do it in the safety of my own head.Books were a safe refuge.

    Television, when it treated cross gender characters as something other than comedic figures, was less reassuring. If they weren't cast as murderers themselves they were inevitably victims. The first very formative indication that this wasn't safe thing to be was a BBC play where a woman knifed her middle aged husband when she found him in the kitchen dressed in women's clothes. (Can anyone pinpoint this?) Since then little has changed. A sympathetic trans character (Shakira) in the BBC series Odyssey was brutally murdered after a couple of episodes. Another in ITV's Berlin Station ended up jumping off a tall building.
    (apologies Lynn if I've hijacked this comment as a mini rant)

    1. Thanks for the book list, Susie.

      Yeah,not all sci-fi – as you say – explores gender. Perhaps the author doesn't consider that a thing, so they don't go there. Or, alternatively, they do consider gender but self censor to avoid messing things up. J Chalker would frequently alter his characters, which have them much to react to. 😁

      So, positive T people on TV? Difficult in drama I think. I know when I spoke to my sister about me being trans, she asked if it was like a character on EastEnders. As I don't watch the show, I couldn't say. I think Corrie had a go earlier and the shorts of that I saw on YouTube seemed okay. But I think drama is not a great medium because it twists people to make the conflict happen. By that end, few people are realistic in such a setting, even if you take the stance that characters need to behave believably.

      I think Moving On had an episode of a young lad who was CD and his Dad found the clothes (think S Twain). Cue drama that the Dad thinks it's *ahem* his lucky night and that starts the conflict off. There's also a BBC show in which Sean Bean plays a teacher who happens to be T and possibly bi or gay. The character has a gentleman caller… who later attempts to murder him. Ah, it started off so well. 😉

  2. Following on from your comments on TV characters, it seems to be in a program these days, particularly the never ending soaps, each character has to 'earn' his or her keep. It would appear you can't have the owner of a East London garage who is not a villain, an east end pub landlord that seems to act more like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins than any landlord I have ever met, a pregnant lady has to be suffering from and incurable disease or happens to be having a multiple birth (not twins only quads would do!). Meanwhile, up in the Yorkshire Dales, where precious little farming seems to be done these days, factory's are being burnt down, people are being murdered, oh and the garage owner is a villain! The point is these programs seem to be written by some junior reporter from the Star newspaper instead of a writer who knows their subject, and for it to be 'commercial' it has to be 'exciting'. Not that I would personally describe soaps as anything other than utter boring rubbish! Anyway, and getting finally to my point, putting a trans person in one of these programs inevitably means they will be victim or perpetrator. Eastenders did have a crossdressing person, but after running the story for a while he was written out, presumably because the writer could not come to terms with the fact that a crossdresser can actually function normally in everyday life, so they had to write him out – or murder him!

  3. I somehow doubt if the soaps are held in high regard at the best garage owner awards!
    The trouble with all this is that a lot of people seem to think these soaps are in some way real and follow them relentlessly. I get 'force fed' this stuff as Mrs R and the two Miss R's watch all the soaps switching from channel to channel to see each one, how they have any idea what is going on is anybody's guess. Whilst I am trying to occupy my time looking at Flickr, reading emails or reading YATGB, almost every time I look up some decidedly dodgy character looking back at me from the TV screen! The trouble with all this is, from our point of view, is that if they depict Trans people in a negative light, a lot of people will accept that as the true vision of us. But that is life I suppose!!

    1. Sadly, yes, TV – to almost quote an old rap track – reflects and directs. Or to use a more modern reference: black mirror.

      There are times when programmes create positive social change – Blue Planet or My Transsexual Summer* – as well as the 'guff' that fills the airwaves. But, one person's guff is another person's quality telly. Drag SOS, for example, seems like a fish out of water or OTT make over show, but I don't subscribe to either of those. The queens on the show nor the production go for cheap laughs – although there is humour – and instead use performance to help others with their personal problems. It can be very touching, IMO.

      * At Chams there was a spike of emails for a good number of months from Female to Male (FTM) people after My Transsexual Summer was shown.

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