Since the very first installment of the Dragon Age series of video games, Bioware has received many props from at the LGB portions of the LGBT community. With female characters that are fun to play, have real motivations and storylines, and the ability to pursue romances with any character, male or female, Dragon Age has created positivity within the gaming community, as well as epic story lines and fantastic game play.
The Dragon Age franchise’s record with trans characters, however, has been spottier. Which is why the inclusion of Krem in the newest game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, is so exciting. I09 delighted in the fact that character design allows for female characters with an Adam’s apple, and the Mary Sue called Krem “[m]aybe the awesomest representation of a trans character in mainstream gaming.”
From the reviews of the game, it does seem like Krem’s trans identity is handled extremely well within Dragon Age; Krem was assigned female at birth, but identifies as male. He is a mercenary with Iron Bull’s group, and if you accidentally misgender Krem, referring to him as “her,” Bull corrects you. It’s fantastic to see a trans character as an important part of the storyline, not just played as a bad joke.
There is one detail, however, that isn’t getting as much media play as the trans positive character, and that is the voice actor responsible for Krem, Jennifer Hale.
Hale is huge in the voice over scene, in both games and cartoons. Her Wikipedia page reports that she is in the Guinness World Records as the most prolific video game actor (female). What she is not is someone who identifies as trans.
After the controversy nearly a year ago regarding Jared Leto winning various awards for his portrayal of a transwoman in The Dallas Buyer’s Club, it seems odd to have this conversation yet again. Casting cisgendered actors to play trans characters can be compared to putting white actors in black face to play a person of color; a cis-gendered actress playing a transman is by definition “acting” man, which defeats the point Dragon Age’s Iron Bull makes very well, “they are real men, just like you or me.”
This is light years ahead of the “drag queen” character in Dragon Age: Origins, but it highlights how far the mainstream gaming community still needs to come to have proper representation of queers of all stripes. Let’s hope that the next Dragon Age installment contains Maevaris, and that Bioware gets a transwoman to voice her.