What Role Do Gender & Sexuality Play in RPGs?

Do you permit your players to have a character of the opposite gender?

Until recently, I had never given it much thought.  Sometimes my players were men, (okay, mostly), but sometimes they were women.  If they wanted to play a male character or a female character, it made no difference either way rule-wise, so I pretty much let them choose.  The only problem I had ever run into was when almost all the guys playing chose female characters and the two gals playing chose male characters.  Hilarity ensued…

Then I discovered a fellow blogger’s post about how he adamantly refused to let any player choose a gender for their character other than their own.   Too many problems, he said.  Too many issues, he claimed.  A permanent House Rule was in effect that made playing your own gender mandatory.

How boring.

Who the hell are you playing D&D with that made this necessary?  I guess I never really gave it much thought, because the people I play games with are all fairly mature — at least in that realm.  We still talk about farts.  And who is dating who.  And what video games we’re playing, and what cartoons are cool…  But gender roles?  Why is this still a debate?

I feel that I am fortunate in that I have several homosexual players in my games.  This was not a conscious decision, either to include or exclude them…  They were cool guys who also happened to like guys.  Case closed.  Then we moved on.  We are all good friends now and the jokes get raunchy.  Just like your group, probably.  Sometimes they play male characters, and sometimes they played female characters.  No one made a big deal out of it, even when the characters flirted.  It was just that — role playing.  When the game was over, we all went our separate ways and the friendships continued.

Two in-game issues came up recently that really made me start thinking about the role that the gender of our character plays in the game.  The first occurred when I decided I was going to play a female-version of Superman in our Mutants & Masterminds superhero game.  I had originally created a Super-Lad clone with flight, super-strength, etc., but after exactly one session I was bored.  All of these stories had been told before.  No new ground was being covered here.  There was no reason to play this character…  So I made him a her.  Blonde.  Spunky.  Much like Power Girl, but with self-confidence.  I had not played a female character in a long time — for at least as long as I could remember I always played men.  Manly men with names like “Garrison” and “Kalen the Barbarian” who swung a big sword and drunk a lot of ale.  My GM allowed it.  End of discussion.

The second instance was when one of my players decided he was going to play a Changeling character in the D&D game that I run.  And switched genders.  A lot.  The character slept with men and women in the towns to get information, hopping from bed to bed and generally had a good time.  Nobody minded.  Everybody razzed him about it in a generally good-natured way.  S/he was our swashbuckling rogue, seducing the hearts of all who crossed his/her path.  And it was storytelling, since I had never dealt with the identity loss that could come from playing a shape-changer.  We’re having a lot of fun with it, actually.

So what’s the big deal?  How do you handle your games?  Do you let your players choose their gender or is it strictly no gender-bending allowed?


5 Responses to “What Role Do Gender & Sexuality Play in RPGs?”

  1. November 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve played—and GMd—with male players who played female characters; didn’t bother me, and it never caused any problems. (Don’t recall ever playing with any female players who played male characters, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been an issue either.) I don’t think I’ve ever played a female character myself—though I have played a changeling in an Eberron campaign who sometimes took female form, for what that’s worth.

    In any case, unless every NPC in the campaign world is of the same gender for some reason, the GM is certainly playing both male and female characters. If it’s not a problem for the GM, why should it be a problem for the players?

    So, yeah, I guess overall my take on this is the same as yours…I don’t see why this should be anything to worry about.

  2. November 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    This is a great post. 🙂

    You are correct. I don’t understand how playing a different gender confuses things in the game. It sounds to me like that certain DM maybe has issues with gender-bending. Hmm…

  3. November 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Our DM is gay and he loves to flirt with the straight boys in the group. It’s all very much in fun. He lets us play whatever gender that we want, although I’ve always played female. It’s great when the straight boys play a female and then “get it on” with another straight boy’s male character cause the raunchy jokes start to fly. I have a character that I want to play very badly but I’ve never had a chance. I want to play a male dwarf battle-rager who cross dresses. I think it would be so much fun!

  4. November 25, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    It’s not cross-dressing, it’s a “kilt”! haha. Sounds like you guys have a great group.

  5. November 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of frilly dresses & pink ribbons in his beard. And lots and lots of blue eyeshadow. Sort of like Mimi from the Drew Carey show, only shorter and with a longer beard.

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