~requested

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gif request meme

{Anonymous: Harry Potter + most attractive} → Ron Weasley.

"I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left — Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy’s a prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they’re really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.”

Six Questions About A Girl

A couple months ago, a short story was published on the Magic: The Gathering website as part of the game’s weekly storyline series “Uncharted Realms”. This story was called “The Truth of Names” and starred Magic’s first transgender character, a nineteen-year-old warlord named Alesha. I was a contributor to the story, and I received an interview request from a major content website about the story, my role, and some thoughts behind the story. For reasons that had nothing to do with the content, the interview was never published, but after speaking with the interviewer, Hallie Santo, we agreed to publish the interview independently. Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility, after all, and so today seemed appropriate given that the topic is, in part, transgender visibility in gaming.

1.What is your position at Wizards of the Coast? What are your major responsibilities?

I’m the Digital Editor for Magic Online, which means that I’m involved in the way that sets are implemented online. One of my primary roles is overseeing many of the ways we present information to players in game, so I work with the other members of the Digital Design team and several of our programming team pretty constantly. I also help out with developing rules and templating for the physical cards: that is, determining exactly which words to put on cards to make sure the card works as intended, ensuring consistency in presentation of text, etc. I also work with the Events Manager for Magic Online to help work on the kinds of events that we offer.

As a member of Magic R&D, I also have opportunities to work on design teams for future sets. We haven’t actually announced any of them, though, because we work pretty far ahead. It’ll be a while before the public gets to see non-digital stuff I’ve designed.

2. You were credited as a contributor on the Uncharted Realms story “The Truth of Names.” What did your job entail, and why were you selected to contribute?

In college, I studied cultural anthropology and had a gender studies minor. On top of that, I was an activist on queer and trans issues: I started a trans student group on my university’s campus, I worked with a variety of regional and national organizations, and even lobbied on Capitol Hill in DC back in 2007 for the late, lamented Employment Non-Discrimination Act. (This was before trans protections were stripped from the bill, of course.) On both an academic and sociopolitical level, I have a pretty good grip on queer and trans issues. And my co-workers know that. That’s why they wanted my help getting the story just right.

I helped start the story planning and I was one of the last people to review it, mostly because I knew what to look for and avoid. It’s super easy to do a trans story wrong. There’s the “Crying Game” trope, where the story is built largely around the reveal of the trans character’s transness, often as the climax of a seduction plotline. Then there’s also the “Transamerica” trope, which involves focusing on how hard being trans is for that character. Neither of those types of stories is inherently bad – I’ve seen well-executed versions of both – but they’re not all that compelling. Worse yet, they often use “I’m trans!” as a punchline for one of the characters, which is pretty disrespectful to the thousands of trans people out there leading lives that don’t involve melodramatic reveals as a part of a day-to-day life.

And to be honest, it wouldn’t even make sense with the goals we had set. If we believed that representation was important, and that we wanted to present a trans character – which it is, and which we clearly did – then the trans character pretty much needed to be heroic. The Creative team already strives to make many of our characters relatable, aspirational, or both. The way I see it, it would have been unfair for everyone if the first trans character isn’t treated that way as well.

Part of my job on this story was to review it after it had gone through the normal story-development process and help punch-up the trans elements, make them meaningful, powerful, and hopefully carry some verisimilitude. Some of the choice lines that I’ve seen quoted across the internet were mine or inspired by my conversations with various members of the Creative team. I am incredibly proud, both for my colleagues who did amazing things, and for the part I was able to play.

It’s worth noting that I was sought out because I have interest and experience with these kinds of issues in story, not because I was some kind of token. Although I am trans myself, when we started the process, my colleagues didn’t know that. They didn’t know until I told them halfway through the process, not because I enjoy melodramatic reveals, but because being openly trans is hard, and I didn’t want to come out in the workplace until I knew it was safe to do so. For what it’s worth, I haven’t regretted coming out at all.

3. Author James Wyatt called this “the most important story [he has] ever written.” How do you feel about that?

I feel honored, honestly. That I got to be a part of this process was a singular blessing.

My role was to look at the trans elements and punch them up with some nuance and choice lines, but I want to stress that the bulk of this story was James’s work. He specifically wanted the assignment.

James is an excellent writer and a thoroughly good human being. On top of that, his daughter is trans. I’ve never met her, but if you ever listen to James talk about her even a little, it’s super clear he loves her with all his heart, the way fathers should always love their daughters. In our conversations, it was clear that this would be meaningful and powerful for her, so it was meaningful and powerful for him. And I think that shows.

For me, it goes back to my college days. At the time, I said over and over again that my personal struggles and my activism was all worth it if it made the next girl’s life just a little easier. Given the reaction we’ve gotten on Alesha, I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve ever been involved in, too.

4. How has the Magic: the Gathering community responded to this story? What feedback have you received?

The majority of the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Nothing we’ve ever done is universally positive, but the number of people who have said that the story made them cry, or they feel validated because they can see a character like them in a major game’s storyline, or even find the courage to identify as trans for the first time… it’s much more than I was expecting.

Maybe I should have expected this. I know how powerful this story would have been for me if I had just read it, especially if I read it when I was first coming out and needed to see other girls like me out there being awesome. Even if it’s fictional, representation means that you have a role model. It means validating that you have a place in this real world and a fictional one you can only glimpse. And it’s not just trans people who like it. We’ve gotten a lot of really positive emails that start with something to the effect of “I’m a cis dude, but…” and it’s heartening to hear from people who aren’t trans but care about trans issues.

Lots of people are making Commander or Tiny Leaders decks with Alesha as their commander. That, I think, is the most common thing I’ve heard.

It helps, I think, that we included the first trans character in a story that wasn’t a “trans story”. The story is about the Mardu people and about how they claim their identity through victory in battle. That the leader of this warrior culture is a self-assured, confident trans woman is a great illustration of that cultural practice.

And that’s how it should be. Alesha’s transness is relevant for our trans audience and anyone else who’s concerned with trans representation. If you don’t care about trans issues, it’s sort of irrelevant what her identity is, as long as she’s an exemplar of the Mardu tradition.

5. For those unfamiliar with Magic’s storylines, have we seen any other LGBT-identified characters in canon? any other trans* characters?

Yes, there are other explicitly LGBT characters.

Last year’s setting was a plane called Theros, which was inspired by Greek mythology. On that plane, we had two canonical queer-dude couples. One is subtle, shown on the card Guardians of Meletis: two male statues that the flavor text identifies as lovers. The second couple was in an Uncharted Realms short story from last February, called “Emonberry Red”.

There are also a few characters whose experience is outside the gender binary, though I wouldn’t call them relatable trans characters. One was a female-identified sexless minor character from a very long time ago named Xantcha, who was a Phyrexian newt. (The Phyrexians are one of the major factions of bad guys in Magic.) Her physiology and resulting experience with sex and gender are all pretty radically different from real-world trans people. The other character is a terrifying nightmare-wielding Planeswalker named Ashiok. Ashiok’s gender is canonically defined as an enigma, and I know a lot of people have latched onto Ashiok as an example of a genderqueer/agender character. I would hate to take anything away from them, but to be honest Ashiok terrifies more than inspires me.

So in the most inclusive sense of the term “trans”, what Kate Bornstein calls “gender outlaws”, no, Alesha wasn’t the first trans character. That said, she was certainly the first who was created with an experience that some real trans humans have: assigned male at birth, claiming a female identity that accurately reflects her sense of self. And the way the audience has reacted to her speaks volumes to that effect: she’s trans in a way that a lot of people can connect with.

I’d also like to point out that one of the challenges to trans representation in Magic is, well, the magic. In a multiverse where shapeshifting magic is a real and accessible thing, it’s hard to tell stories where a trans character’s transness could reasonably come up without the story descending into unsatisfying wish-fulfillment. Alesha was very well-suited here, because the colors of magic that could have given her a body to match her identity are not part of her people’s traditions.

All that being said, those are just the LGBT and nonbinary characters that have been revealed to be such so far. The Multiverse is a huge place, and over the years Magic has had a tremendous number of characters whose sexual identities have never been made explicit because it wasn’t relevant to a story that we were telling. The only reason we know that many of our straight characters are straight is because it came up. So it’s possible that a great many characters are queer and/or trans and it just hasn’t come up yet.

6. The last few Magic story arcs have featured several female leaders: Elspeth was the main protagonist of the Theros storyline, and all five of Tarkir’s clans are or were led by female Khans. Is this consistent with previous sets, or are women seeing an uptick in representation recently?

Magic’s always had a fair number of female characters, but certainly in recent years yes, that’s increased. Looking back at the last two years in particular, in addition to what you mentioned, three of the five planeswalkers in Magic 2015 were female, and Chandra Nalaar was the face of Magic 2014. I don’t want to speak for the Creative team, because while I worked with several of them on “The Truth of Names”, that’s not my area of expertise. What I can say with confidence is that it’s something that they care about. The upcoming set Magic Origins, for example, also features three women and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar roughly-equal proportion of women to men in Magic going forward.

Alli Medwin
Digital Editor, Magic Online
@trulyaliem on Twitter

signs at their best vs. at their worst
  • Aries at their best:"I love you my life is amazing I love everyone. hugs for all."
  • Aries at their worst:"I hate my life I hate you let's kill everyone."
  • Taurus at their best:"Let's have a giant cuddle puddle with everyone I love people"
  • Taurus at their worst:*eats the entire refrigerator including the metal* "My life is over"
  • Gemini at their best:"wow I'm fabulous. do you see how perfect I am? I'm the new Beyoncé"
  • Gemini at their worst:"you know I could kill you?"
  • Cancer at their best:"has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are? wow can I be you? I love you. I love you all" *blows kisses and throws flowers everywhere*
  • Cancer at their worst:"I RULE THIS FUCKING WORLD BACK OFF AND DONT FUCKING TELL ME WHAT TO DO"
  • Leo at their best:"wow I'm so perfect I'm beautiful."
  • Leo at their worst:"MY LIFE SUCKS. DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH MY LIFE SUCKS?"
  • Virgo at their best:*feminist rant* "I love everyone wow"
  • Virgo at their worst:"actually I hate you all. now I need to go clean my fucking room and cry"
  • Libra at their best:*signs entire musical soundtrack*
  • Libra at their worst:"nobody loves me. you don't love me. he doesn't love me. my mum doesn't love me. my cat doesn't love me. my goldfish doesn't even love me."
  • Scorpio at their best:"I'm a fucking goddess my life is perfect"
  • Scorpio at their worst:"I hate myself my life is over"
  • Sagittarius at their best:"heheheheh" *does something stupid* "wow I'm HILARIOUS"
  • Sagittarius at their worst:*kills you and drinks your blood*
  • Capricorn at their best:"I hate all of you" *evil smile*
  • Capricorn at their worst:"I hate all of you" *emotional breakdown and sobs for the next year*
  • Aquarius at their best:"unicorns are real dude I swear. everyone is so beautiful. can I paint you? you're gorgeous and so am I!"
  • Aquarius at their worst:*sobs* "I hate earth. that's it, I'm moving to Mars"
  • Pisces at their best:"I'm so cute. so kawaii. wow I'm an angel and so are you. hehe"
  • Pisces at their worst:"murder"
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gif request meme

{chocolat-e: Game of Thrones + favorite villain} → Roose Bolton.

"Roose has no feelings, you see. Those leeches that he loves so well sucked all the passions out of him years ago. He does not love, he does not hate, he does not grieve. This is a game to him, mildly diverting. Some men hunt, some hawk, some tumble dice. Roose plays with men. You and me, these Freys, Lord Manderly, his plump new wife, even his bastard, we are but his playthings.”