Magic: The Gathering Introduces First Trans Character, Alesha, In a Totally Awesome Way
The card-based fantasy game Magic: The Gathering includes hundreds of characters of various orientations, races (real and imagined), and fantastical walks of life. And now, Magic: That Gathering also includes its first trans character. Which is not only awesome and inclusive, in my opinion it also just makes for better games. After all, no disrespect to Tolkien or anything, but fantasy stories in which all the main characters are straight, white, cisgender men are boring.
The new Magic character, a woman named Alesha who was assigned male at birth, is part of the new Fate Reforged card set. Though the card itself makes no mention of it, a story about Alesha on the game's official site clearly identifies her as a woman born anatomically male. It also identifies her as a kickass warrior, strong leader, and all around awesome badass. Because naturally.
In the story, we see Alesha choose her name after her first battle, as is the custom in the clan to which she belongs. Alesha remembers the day fondly. "She had been so different—only sixteen, a boy in everyone's eyes but her own, about to choose and declare her name before the khan and all the Mardu."
When the leader finally makes his way to her on the battle field,
She stood before him, snakes coiling in the pit of her stomach, and told how she had slain her first dragon. The khan nodded and asked her name.
"Alesha," she said, as loudly as she could. Just Alesha, her grandmother's name.
"Alesha!" the khan shouted, without a moment's pause.
And the whole gathered horde shouted "Alesha!" in reply. The warriors of the Mardu shouted her name.
In that moment, if anyone had told her that in three years' time she would be khan, she just might have dared to believe it.
So, just to recap, this character, obscure though she is, is a strong warrior (and shown as such throughout her story), becomes an awesome leader, and has her gender identity largely respected by the other characters.
And even more importantly, her gender identity is also respected by the game itself; Alesha is referred to with only female pronouns, and the narrative at no point implies she is not a woman. Though Alesha at one point one of the characters insults her by calling her "A human boy who thinks he's a woman," the character is presented as clearly out of line, and his view does not seem to be shared by the rest of the characters in general. Which is pretty awesome
One of the most common criticisms about representation in fantasy and science fiction is not only the fact that these genres tend to not include enough diversity, but that they typically reproduce various forms of oppression even when they are diverse. What is the point, the argument goes, of imagining whole new worlds if you're still bound by the harmful oppressive realities of the real ones? Why is it easier to imagine dragons or space ships than a world where sexism doesn't exist or where trans people are accepted?
In not only making Alesha clearly trans, but also in making her female gender identity immediately and genuinely accepted by most of the people in her clan, Magic: The Gathering has done a pretty cool thing. So let's hope this sort of thing becomes the norm in fantasy media, not the exception.
You can read Alesha's full story here.