Tabletop Designers Rally to Support Trans Kids in Texas

Tabletop Designers Rally to Support Trans Kids in Texas
Image: Marcos del Mazo, Getty Images

As Texas makes significant moves toward preventing and criminalizing gender and life-affirming medical care for transgender children (flying in the face of major studies from noted studies and releases from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association), many transgender people and their allies have stepped up to the plate to help support trans kids and parents of trans kids in Texas.

One of those people is creator Rue Dickey, who has begun to organise a bundle of tabletop role playing games (TTRPGs) which will be sold for $US5 ($7) on digital games marketplace itch.io. What this means is that a huge amount of games — at this point, Dickey estimates that they will be able to offer around 250 games at the current rate of submission — including PDFs and .TXT documents of core books, supplements, lyric games, and small single-player games, will be made available at a massively discounted price. Typically on itch.io, the profits from the sale of these games would go directly to the publisher of the game, but with the bundling option that is built into the itch.io system, money can be collected and sent to charities. In this case, Dickey will split the money between Transgender Education Network of Texas and Organización Latina Trans Texas.

After putting a call out on Twitter, Dickey has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with many transgender game designers and their allies donating games to the bundle, which is still receiving submissions. While creating this initiative, Dickey was supported by fellow creators Jess and Morgan Nuncio, and TRPG streaming channel Huetopia TV. Some designers who have volunteered their games to the bundle include Steffie De Vann, a Dutch designer who is a writer at Angry Hamster Publishing. She wrote on Twitter, “I submitted [Punk Pride Pixies], my Pride month game, because I think trans rights and equality cross borders. I hope the profits from this charity bundle can help trans kids and their families affected by this law.”

Colin Cummings — who gained indie acclaim for their Lasers and Feelings game, Boy Problems wrote on Twitter that “I’ve added Tales’ End! I felt out of all of my games it is one of the most hopeful, and one of the most open. Contributing in any small way felt like the least I could do. Trans rights are human rights. It should be such an easy statement to make, and to realise. But it sadly isn’t, so I try and support wherever I can.”

Many government officials in Texas have, for the better part of the last two years, been fighting to remove medical access and protections from transgender children and people in the state. Last year, for example, the state legislature attempted to pass a bill that would have made providing gender-affirming care a felony, making transgender child care prosecutable on the same level as physical and sexual abuse and sex trafficking. This year, it passed a law preventing trans kids from competing in sports under their correct gender, instead insisting on determining the sex of the child via birth certificate before allowing them the privilege of competition.

Now, however, the government has finally succeed in legitmising the criminality of medical care for transgender children. Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion statement on February 18 and a full press release two days later that explicitly says that “prescribing puberty-blockers to [transgender children], is “child abuse” under Texas law.”

Dickey had their own response to this legislation, telling Gizmodo that “seeing Abbott’s letter describing that as ‘child abuse’ and charging the Texas CPS and law enforcement to remove children from homes that support and love them made me equally frightened and angry. Trans children are extremely vulnerable, and this will only push things harder for them. Abbott wants to make sure they never get to grow up to be trans adults, and as someone who did, I want to pay back to my community and help them.” Dickey went on to say that often when trans people are targeted by legislation in places that they cannot reach, they often feel powerless to help. However, digital projects organised online can make activism more accessible to many more people, including those across the globe.

Sandy Belmont, who donated Spring Comes Again, agreed on Twitter: “As a Trans woman I want to show solidarity with those in Texas, I often feel helpless in these situations unable to donate monetarily to the cause but here I feel I can contribute something.” She hopes that the both charities will be able to help those in need. Belmont also wants to take a stand within the TTRPG community itself, and hopes that this project will demonstrate that the “games community is a space for everyone and we will help where we can.”

When asked about the importance of games, and specifically games by or about trans people, Dickey said that these games “make space” for transgender people not only in the real world, but in fantasy worlds as well. They say that there is a joy in acknowledgment, in the simple fact that trans people can explicitly exist in games. More than self-representation, transgender characters are good for cisgender games as well. “It also helps with public understanding–the more trans characters and themes cis people interact with, whether it be in games, movies, books, etc, the more they are welcoming and understanding of us, and the safer the world becomes for us,” Dickey said. “So many of the trans and queer games I’ve bought and played from indie designers centre on trans and queer joy- and being able to focus on that and be happy in my identity is one of the things I love most about playing those games. So often our stories in media are reduced to tragedies–TTRPGs give us the space to flip the narrative and become heroes.”

The itch.io bundle will go live next week. This article will be updated with a link when it is released.