I’ve frequently used my RPG characters to learn more about who I am. I trusted my group. It was the first area of life where I felt supported and loved for being myself.
That isn’t the always case for people who identify as LGTBQ. There are many reasons why someone chooses not to disclose. It isn’t always safe for someone to do so. That is why some queer players prefer to play in LGTBQ only groups. Last year’s GaymmerX panel “Queer as a 3 Sided Die” goes into great depth about this.
I was fortunate that it worked out for me. I thought my experiences may spark some inspiration. It is also a way to introduce GMs to players that identify this way.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what it is like to play non-binary characters. There are many scenarios not presented here. I can only speak of my personal experience and cannot speak for anyone else. I personally identify as non-binary. My preferred pronoun is they/them.
I realize that this list really only covers human characters. But remember, it is your game and your choices are valid.
1. YOUNG CHILDREN
I went to Israel when I was eight with my family. My brother had his Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Men and Women are separated into their own sections, but I was an exception as a young child. I was able to witness the ceremony on the men’s side because I was considered genderless.
This is something unique about playing children in RPGs. Since they are young they are able to question societal norms without fear of recourse. They are often seen as being curious. This can be a lot of fun if you want to stir things up in the style of Emperor’s New Clothes. It is also more acceptable to express traits associated with any gender because you are still being socialized. You haven’t yet been indoctrinated into gender norms. Of course, there is no reason that you ever have to be.
One of my favorite characters that I’ve ever written is Shane. He is an oracle of a forgotten God. Part of a prophecy for the re-birth of their religious order. Shane was born a girl but always questioned their place in the prophecy. He lives as a boy in order to avoid his fate.
Teenagers are questioning themselves. Pushing on their own boundaries. This is a time of self-discovery.That is great fuel for a character back story. I will admit Shane’s personality is based on my own as I was learning about my gender identity in High School. A few events in my real life managed to find a place in his story.
I once played a Barbarian in a Pathfinder campaign. They were kind and gentle. They dutifully took care of children and animals but had no difficulty killing monsters. My party seemed to enjoy the lengths they would go to assist others. Perhaps it isn’t clear that this is a non-binary character. But for me, this is how they expressed themselves regardless of how others interpreted their behavior.
Non-binary characters may reveal themselves through clothing, items, language, bodily movement, or choices about physical appearance. But these traits are not what defines them. It is about what is happening on the interior of your character. Their hopes, ambitions, and dreams. What is seen on the outside should resonate with those goals.
Non-Binary characters are no different than any other you might play when it comes to the complexities of their back story. Write and play them with depth.
Featured Image “Dungeons & Dragons” by River Siren CC BY-SA 2.0