I am a Transgender woman. It has taken me a long time to accept that, and it is mostly due to Video Games that I can. From the little things such as playing as a woman protagonist to an actual transgender character in a video game, it has helped me immensely to accept who I am.

Granted, television has included more representation recently, sense8 for example, video games are a lot slower.

A quick search online will find you a few minor characters in games that are transgender, many of which have a mildly, to extremely, offensive description. Take Birdo, for example, she is considered by many to be the first transgender character in a video game.

Known as Ostro then, the official description of her in the Super Mario Bros. 2 manual is “He thinks he is a girl.” Now, you may be saying, “Natalie, this was the 80’s we’ve gotten better since then,” and in some ways, you’d be right.

We now have Krem, from Dragon Age Inquisition, of whom I have seen many brilliantly written articles, some on this very site, a transman whose gender identity is only brought up if the Inquisitor is friendly with him. This is a great way of representing the transgender community in my opinion. However, as some of you may know, there is not one transgender writer for Bioware, the game’s developer. I do honestly believe his character could have been written better if one had been hired during the writing process.

That is an argument for another day and one that many people have written about.

That’s the good in the industry now, or until just over a couple of years ago. Up until then, there is barely any representation, and when there is, it is offensive.

The 80’s saw the creation of Poison from Final Fight, an arcade game. There is a lot of controversy over her, a lot of back and forth from the game’s creators about whether she is trans or not.

However, the game’s director has seemingly confirmed that they made Poison a pre-op transwoman to get around it being rude to hit women. Yep, you read that right, it’s ok to hit transwomen but not ciswomen.

However, for all of that, I still believe if it weren't for video games, I wouldn’t have realized who I was as quickly as I did.

I can remember being a young teenage boy, frantically trying to justify wanting to play as a female character. To the secondary school teen, I would make sexist remarks about how I preferred to look at them, or I’d say “It’s just to be different!” anything except admitting the truth to myself that perhaps it just felt right.

Then, I played my first game with character customization. Gosh, what an experience that was. Dragon Age: Origins, the game that made me realize I was bisexual. This time, I was determined to play as a man. And I did, I enjoyed it even, then along came Zevran and, boy oh boy, did he steal my heart.

Let me just state that I live in the UK, in a tiny village in the north of England.

We didn’t have gay people; I’d never even heard of LGBTQAI+. So to me, a man who flirted with my male protagonist, it was an amazing experience and opened my eyes to the world of sexuality. I was sixteen, and it was as if my life had just begun.

I replayed that game a dozen times, probably more than that, with different characters, romances, anything as long as I could be different to what I was in real life. A woman falling in love with another woman gave me butterflies like no other, and a seed began to form in my head. What if I was a woman?

I had never heard of the transgender community then, I’d like to say it was years ago, but it was 2010. I was just a clueless teenager.

I soon learned that Bioware had made another game earlier to that with similar themes.

Mass Effect, and soon my love for a certain blue woman became apparent. A woman Shepard became my new life, and I was exploring the stars with my alien sweetheart, Liara. It was a brilliant escape from my depressing life as a boy. I could be happy then.

I now realize just how much internalized transphobia and homophobia I had, and these games were my only outlet for them.

Six years on, though, I have searched and devoured any LGBTQAI+ media I could find. Video games with gay romances, you can bet I’ve played them, and gosh has it helped me.

I still go back to Bioware all of the time, their games have a special atmosphere to them that I honestly believe unique, they seem to be very LGBTQAI+ friendly, more so than any other developer.

Mass Effect and Dragon Age helped me immensely growing up, and I’m no doubt, not the only one.

Seeing people like me helped me accept that it was ok not to be straight, not to be a man, and this is why LGBTQAI+ representation, and even just female representation is so important. Imagine all of the young teenagers that are as I was, confused and lost, angry with themselves for being different. Now imagine if they can see people who are different as they are. Imagine how helpful that would be.

We all need to be able to relate to our characters, and those in our worlds, and I can’t wait to see more representation in the future.