In an article published to their Medium blog last week entitled ‘Is Madeline Canonically Trans?’, director Maddy Thorson answered the question immediately and succinctly: “Well, yeah, of course she is.”
Allusions to Madeline’s identity, including a trans flag placed in her bedroom, had already appeared in the game’s ninth chapter, released as a free update in 2019. However, this is the first time the question has been directly addressed by the team.
Elsewhere in the article, Thorson explains that working on Celeste allowed them to explore their own gender identity and eventually come out as trans themselves, writing that “when I wrote Celeste I sincerely still believed that I was cisgender, but I was nevertheless waist-deep in gender feelings,” adding that the game’s story “was all unknowingly written from a trans perspective.”
Though Madeline is not the world’s first transgender video game character, she joins an unfortunately rather shallow cohort. While recent games like The Last of Us and Life Is Strange were critically lauded for breaking new ground with gay and lesbian characters, trans and gender non-conforming characters are still rarely seen.
Representation is now on the upswing, however, with Xbox Game Studio’s 2020 release Tell Me Why receiving praise for working with LGBT organisation GLAAD to create the first transgender playable character from a major studio, and the recently released Watch Dogs: Legion featuring trans and non-binary side characters.
Though Madeline is not the world's first transgender video game character, she joins an unfortunately rather shallow cohort.
Legion also made headlines this month when developers reaffirmed the studio’s commitment to diversity by cutting journalist Helen Lewis from the game’s in-universe podcasts, after transphobic articles penned by her were unearthed.
In their post, Thorson also addressed the sentiments of fans who “felt hurt” by Madeline’s identity not being declared explicitly up until now, stating that “our conclusion was that we wanted to afford Madeline privacy,” and affirming that “trans people shouldn’t be forced to identify as trans in a world that is often hostile to them.”
Thorson, the director of party action game TowerFall as well as Celeste, founded a new development company in 2019: Extremely OK Games, which is currently working on a third, un-announced project.[Featured Image: IGDB]