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Transition: The Board Game

So this idea kind of emerged out of a bit of chat involving Anders over at the Giant In The Playground Forums about the possibility of using role-playing or Choose Your Own Adventure as an educational tool for cis people about the kinds of things that trans people go through, and the difficult choices we face.

My own reaction is that the best of both worlds could be found in a simple board game, which would additionally allow the presence of chance, and not sort of present the not-quite-as-realistic idea of what happens to a trans person being wholly predicated on hir choices. instead, a board game could lean heavily on luck, could be incredibly unfair, and could be structured such that sometimes nobody wins: just like real transition.

It’s also really bleak. Remember, though, that it’s meant to educate cis people about challenges faced by trans people. There is lots of joy, hope, fulfillment and awesomeness to be found in transition (and I hope to do a post all about that some time soon), but it’s tough to talk about that at the same time as talking about the difficulties we face… and talking about just how incredibly brutal those difficulties can be, especially for those of us who don’t get lucky.

A little bit a disclaimer, though: THIS IS MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, YO. I wholly encourage people to go ahead and make their own home versions (which is basically exactly what this post is for) and to playtest it and tweak the rules around and whatever they want to do. I’d also love if I could get some feedback on the playtesting, and what rules or tweaks did and didn’t work. But don’t go mass-producing or marketing or selling or profiting from this game without my permission (though feel free to use it as an education tool), and don’t go pretending it was your own idea. Credit a girl, please?

This blog post is nice and time-stamped. Fun fact: this legally functions just as well as a copyright.

Anyway…

I had hoped to have a little draw-up of the board game, but that will have to wait for another time. So instead, you’ll have to just draw from your imaginations. So bust out some bristol board, rulers, sharpees and coloured pencils!

There are two start/finish places, marked “M” in a circle with the little speak/arrow thing, and “F” with a little distaff/cross thing (I’m sorry that the game assumes only a binary transition… I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate genderqueer while still keeping it relatively simple). A player can choose which position to start at, and their goal is to get to the other end.

Between each of these primary start/finish positions are 60 little squares / positions, forming a winding path between the M and F. Some of these are marked with a nasty bad-guy scary symbol and the word “Risk”. The Risk spaces start out sparsely, approximately five spaces apart, but gradually become more and more clustered towards the middle of the path, until at the center there are three in a row, with only one safe space on each side of this set before another “risk” spot.

Players progress from their starting point to their finishing point by rolling a single six-sided die. If they land on a “risk” space they can choose to draw a “risk” card and accept the consequences (almost always negative), or decide to return to their original position and roll again next turn.

12 steps from the start/finish spots is a special space called HRT/SRS. It functions as the “HRT” space when it’s close to your starting space, and as the SRS space when it’s close to your finish line. More details to follow.

Now each player has to keep track of two special sets of points, Resources and Stigma. Resources can be spent to buy your way out of some risk cards, and also help you out with HRT and SRS. If you run out of resources, you need to either do survival sex work (in which you gain +15 stigma, and +10 resources) or become homeless (in which you gain +10 stigma, but your resources remain zero). For each 10 stigma points you acquire, your dice rolls count for one less. So, if you have 11 stigma, and you rolled a five, you’d only move four spaces. Dice rolls can’t go into negative integers, though. So if you have 34 stigma, and roll a 2, you don’t move at all that turn. You’d need to roll a 4 in order to move 1 space, a 5 for 2 spaces, or a 6 for 3 spaces.

If your stigma gets all the way up to 50, you end up dying… perhaps you were murdered by a group of violent transphobes, perhaps you couldn’t handle things any more and chose to take your own life, or perhaps you self-destructed through addiction. One way or another, the loneliness and pain and hatred of trans people ended up becoming just too much. You’re eliminated from the game.

Your starting Resources and Stigma are determined by rolling dice. You start with 30 Resource Points plus a single dice roll mutliplied by five. For starting stigma, you roll a die to determine your passability-

6 – Because circumstances or a supportive family or money worked in your favour and you were able to transition early, because you had enough money to be able to afford a plethora of surgeries, or just because you happened to score the genetic jackpot and always had physical features concomitant with conventions and expectations for your identified sex, you’re totally, completely passable, and look like just like a cis person. No starting stigma.

5 – You are very passable. You have a few traits that don’t quite fit in with the norm for your identified sex, but it’s not strongly noticeable. Generally, people will only pick up on those traits if they already know you’re trans and are looking for them, or if they’re deliberately scrutinizing you for some reason… or if they have a Sherlock Holmesian level of perceptiveness. 2 starting stigma.

4 – You pass better than most. There are definitely one or two features or traits that stick out, but again, it’s not going to be noticeable to anyone unless they have a reason to look closely. Close friends and coworkers will pick up on things, but strangers, passerby and those you interact with on a casual basis won’t notice anything at all, and simply gender you like anyone else of your identified sex. You may get clocked, but only on a very rare basis. 4 starting stigma.

3 – You pass more or less average. You don’t quite fit into the norm of someone of your identified sex, and clocking is something you need to take into consideration in your life, and something you worry about, but it doesn’t actually cause you any significant problems. You get misgendered only every once in a long while. People may wonder, but they won’t know. 6 starting stigma.

2 – You have trouble passing. Whether it’s a small number of extremely noticeable traits, like your height or facial bone structure, or whether it’s just a whole bunch of slightly noticeable traits, being identified as transsexual is an ongoing problem for you. Although people passing you on the street don’t tend to openly notice or stare, interactions tend to result in people noticing, and can become awkward, and occasionally rude or hostile. Being out on the town on a Saturday night can be dangerous, and misgendering is a sad, painful fact of your life. 8 starting stigma.

1 – You are visibly gender variant. You rarely, if ever, manage to appear to others as cis. In almost all instances you are immediately identifiable as transgender. People openly stare, or snicker behind your back. You are misgendered very frequently, and not often treated respectfully as a member of your identified sex. When you are treated as such, it is often in a patronizing manner. Your life is even more difficult than that of other transitioners, you often still feel pronounced dysphoria, you are a target for open bigotry and hostility, and the threat of physical violence significantly compromises the kinds of social events and situations you are able to safely be in. Adding insult to injury, even other trans people will often shun you and not wish to be around you, fearing that your presence will result in them being more visible. They even will blame you for your visibility, as though it were something you chose. 10 starting stigma.

You cannot reroll. If one player rolls a one and another rolls a six, yep, that’s unfair. Very unfair.

The HRT / SRS squares are special… it doesn’t matter if you land directly on them or not, but landing on or crossing over these squares presents you with a choice to either undergo the treatment or opt out. Undergoing HRT or SRS costs 10 resources, whereas opting out adds 10 stigma. Both decisions may have additional consequences, depending on what Risk cards you may draw.

The risk cards themselves carry all kinds of different effects, explained on each. There are forty of them total (or more if you want), and you can make them out ordinary playing cards by drawing the description and game effects on some paper and gluing or taping it to the front of the card. These can represent a wide variety of various scenarios faced by trans people. 30 of the 40 Risk cards should be negative consequences for the player (to justify the mechanic of being able to “slow down, take it easy” and skip your turn rather than draw the risk in order to be able to continue forward with your transition). If you’re using more than 40 cards, try to have it be a 3/4 ratio.

Some example Risk Cards:

– You’re in a doctor’s waiting room and the nurse calls out your birth name. You gain +2 stigma.

– You find out your voice is noticeably “off”. If MtF or FtM who has opted out of HRT, you can either pay 5 resources for lessons or speech therapy, or take +2 additional stigma every time you’re obliged to take stigma for the next five turns while you get some practice. If FtM who is undergoing HRT, you take +1 additional stigma every time you’re obliged to take stigma for the next three turns while the HRT changes your voice a bit more.

– The seasons have changed, and you desperately need to buy some new clothes that match your new gender presentation and suit the weather. Spend 5 resources, or take +5 stigma for wearing your old seasonally-appropriate but gender-inappropriate clothing.

– You disclose your gender status to a partner, and ze is fully accepting, hir love and attraction to you turning out to be genuine and unconditional. Lose 4 stigma, thanks to the newfound confidence, support and happiness.

– Your employer decides that your transition is “disruptive” to your workplace, and terminates you. You seek legal counsel, but discover that in your region there are currently no protections for employees on the basis of gender identity or gender expression, and this form of discrimination is entirely legal. There’s nothing you can do. Lose 9 resources.

– While out at a bar, a cute somebody starts flirting with you. You find them attractive and reciprocate. Eventually, they ask for your number, and then return to a table with their friends. You feel happy, but suddenly hear them laughing uproariously, and you realize it had been a dare. You are completely humiliated. +4 stigma.

– While using a bathroom appropriate to your identified sex, one of the other patrons complains to a security guard, who then publicly chastises you for using the “wrong” bathroom. You don’t have your carry letter with you. +2 stigma.

– You are asked to contribute a personal essay to a local trans-friendly LGBT magazine on the subject of your choice, and they pay you in return for your efforts. +3 resources, and -1 stigma.

So that’s pretty much everything you need to know in order to be able to construct your own version of Transition. I’d LOVE to hear some feedback on what people come up with in terms of improving the game, what you decide to use for risk cards, how the game works, what should perhaps be included to help make it a more valuable teaching tool, or just feedback in general.

Sometime soon I’d like to do a follow-up on this with revised rules, a fully drawn board, and a full set of risk cards, so please let me know any suggestions or ideas you have!

Maybe someday I might even find someone interesting in manufacturing some of these and sending them out to organizations that might want them. In particular I think this would be highly valuable to LGBT organizations as a way of better understanding the “T” part of the equation, and being better able to understand the experiences of the trans element of the queer community.

Cheers!

(and sorry for all the depressingness… I’ll write something positive about trans experiences soon, I promise!)

Comments

  1. Pteryxx says

    Wow. That’s… wow. And impressive.

    Would some proportion of the Risk cards would have different consequences depending on starting gender, like the Voice card? I seem to recall that in some situations, such as clothing, there’s less stigma for women leaning masculine than men leaning feminine. Which also makes the game less fair, but hey, that’s also how it is.

    Also, I support the M and F starting spaces as “assigned at birth”. THAT is completely binary. And being genderqueer or fluid, AFAIK, doesn’t actually give you any advantages in either stigma or resources. So I’d suggest throwing in a few Risk cards that relate to less-binary positions without actually affecting gameplay: they’d be neutral with regard to risks (so it’d be a relief to get one) but they’d serve the purpose of explaining that such positions exist. And maybe be a little morale-booster.

    Is there a way to incorporate the Lupron mechanic, or is this version of the game intended solely to represent the post-adolescent experience?

    • says

      Well the Lupron thing, and early transition, is sort of one of those things that isn’t exactly in your control. If you don’t have a supportive family, or don’t live in a tolerant area, or just didn’t learn about transition until later in life, sorry, you have to endure adolescence, end of story. So incorporating it as a decision, rather than just one way of explaining some beneficial starting points, just doesn’t feel right.

      • Pteryxx says

        Right, but I was trying to think of a way of incorporating Lupron into *the starting mechanic* and not as a later player choice. I remember you saying how important it is to raise awareness of Lupron specifically, to counter the widespread trans-phobic misinformation about it. Maybe it’d be like a rescue roll at startup – if you were lucky enough to roll a 6, then Lupron availability lets you add a couple of points to your starting Stigma score via Passability. It would never come into gameplay again, but the players would never forget it.

  2. Anonymous Atheist says

    Very well thought-out. I’ll look forward to the follow-up.

    For people to make the risk cards, I’d suggest you put the designs for all of them into a table of boxes in a downloadable Word/PDF document a few pages long. Then they can be quickly printed and cut apart, either printing on regular paper (or self-adhesive paper) to be stuck onto playing cards, or on cardstock to be used as-is.

    If you get financial support to have it professionally manufactured, this is an excellent resource for finding manufacturers:
    http://www.silcom.com/~tomjolly/design2.htm
    accompanied by an article about things to consider:
    http://www.silcom.com/~tomjolly/design.htm

    • says

      The originals can be done in Word, but downloadables should always have PDF as an option since it’s an open format and its way less trouble if no further modification of the text is requiredd. (Having had varying experiences with home-made extensions to board games that use Word or PDF designed playing cards, Word formatting is extremely unreliable in remaining consistent across platforms.)

  3. Savant says

    I’ve worked in the games industry before, so hopefully I can provide a little advice! The mechanics are good, but it seems a little lacking in choices – a good board game isn’t entirely random, but will have an element of strategy that rewards clever thinking. The only strategic choices are whether to accept a RISK card or pay out with resources. Maybe there is more than one path to take, with some paths being longer but with fewer RISK squares, and shorter paths with much more potential risk?

    You might benefit from looking at Monopoly as a model. There’s no “end” per-se, but the idea is just to collect points/rewards/etc. Maybe the unused squares can hold REWARD spaces that give positive things – “have a great evening out without being misgendered once. have a billion points” or similar. You keep going around until either the risk or reward decks are empty, and then you tot up the points to see who won.

    You may also look at Settlers of Cataan as a model, where the game would be more about building and maintaining a network of relationships as you undergo the transition. Events would cause your network to come apart or help build it back up, and the person who manages to keep the largest and/or most stable network together throughout the game wins. Just throwing ideas on the wall here to see what sticks!

    When it comes to manufacturing and production, I’d recommend small-run to start. Plastic can be molded for cheap right out of the home, so you could have nice looking plastic pieces without much trouble – or if you like the Monopoly idea, pewter isn’t too hard to cast, either. The cards and boards can be done at your local copy shop. Expect it to cost a few thousand dollars for a run of a hundred, so you’ll want to get pre-orders or a kickstarter going to gauge interest first.

    Fascinating idea! Hope you proceed with it.

    • Pteryxx says

      re casting: pieces can also be printed on cardstock for the purchaser to assemble, which gives extreme flexibility. Or, just provide generic tokens such as the glass pebble markers that cardgamers use by the bag. (I admit my bias is to absolute cheapitude.)

      • Savant says

        True! Cardstock can be an excellent choice for ultra-cheapiness, but it’s something of a catch-22. If you go with the expensive plastic molding it means you have to charge more, so you get fewer people buying. However, it also increases the perceived quality of the purchase, making people willing to pay more for it. Cardstock pieces make the game seem less valuable, so they aren’t willing to pay as much. Many board-game collectors actually prefer to spend more on their games, just for the cool plastic pieces!

        It’s a tricky decision, and something worth polling your customer base about.

      • TomeWyrm says

        You could also use the “find your own token” approach. Have part of the instruction be finding a personally meaningful token, with a list of suggestions and common alternatives such as bottle caps, pebbles, beads, mankala stones, washers, etc.

    • says

      Well, that’s part of why I incorporated the mechanic of always being able to choose to draw a risk card or just remain on the square you were at. That way every time you take a risk it’s a decision, based on wanting to move forward with transition or take things easy… which is reflective of the choices faced in actual transition: “Do I risk my family/job/friends/whatever with this step, or do I wait a bit, go more slowly?”

      • kosk11348 says

        Well, that’s part of why I incorporated the mechanic of always being able to choose to draw a risk card or just remain on the square you were at. That way every time you take a risk it’s a decision, based on wanting to move forward with transition or take things easy… which is reflective of the choices faced in actual transition: “Do I risk my family/job/friends/whatever with this step, or do I wait a bit, go more slowly?”

        Yes, but then what’s the motivation for transitioning at all? It sounds like the best strategy would just be to stay as you are and not take any risks, which would be the opposite message you are trying to convey. The need to transition might be self-evident to you, but if you are intending the game to be an educational tool, keep in mind that most players will see no obvious reason to transition, especially if they are penalized for doing so. Remaining at on the same square should carry its own penalties too, i.e. suicidal thoughts or feelings of isolation.

        Unless I’m misunderstanding the game in some way, in which case I apologize in advance.

        • says

          Well transitioning is the assumed goal of the game. If you don’t make it to your finish line, you lose. It’s like any game: there’s something you’re after, but getting there involves risks.

          Like, you could be playing SimCity, and just never bother adding any building or anything, and therefore maintain no crime, no pollution, no traffic… just a pristine wilderness. Or in solitaire you could just not bother drawing or moving any cards, and that way not have to risk running out of moves. Or in poker, we could all just decide not to bet anything, and have each hand end up just giving the ante to whoever got luckiest that hand.

      • Savant says

        Oh, I agree, and that’s an excellent mechanic – it should really capture a sense of hesitance and lack of surety. It’s also a boolean though, which isn’t a very rich decision. Monopoly’s decisions are booleans too – purchase this location, hotel, house? But they have lasting effects; the strategy comes from the summing of those yes-no choices. Not sure whether you’d see the same summation in what you have described. It’s a bit more snakes-and-ladders than monopoly.

        Sorry, I protest too much! It all comes out in playtesting. Slap together a test kit with paper and give it a go, see what happens!

  4. Praedico says

    As I said when you first mentioned this on twitter, I’m learning java at the moment, so I fully intend to make a version of this to give me some direction. It might have to wait till I finish the generic silly zombie game I’m currently working on though.
    I was planning to call it “Natalie Reed’s ‘Transition: The Board Game: The Video Game'” but then I realised that makes it sound like it’s a game specifically about your transition.
    I ‘like’ the idea about your starting stigma being so completely unfair at the beginning, I think it really helps get the point across that everybody’s experience is different.

  5. McKenzie says

    So this is a really cool idea, and I actually really want to play it now. I don’t think I will find anyone to play offline, but I’m sure there’s some software to play board games online where you can make your own custom ones. If anyone knows of something where you can put cards in, do tell! I know there are plenty of things like Gametable where you could certainly do the board and the dice and the pieces, but I dunno about cards. Maybe Gametable does have cards. If there aren’t any I suppose a list of 60 numbered cards with a d60 to choose one would be an okay workaround.

    When I imagine this as a physical board in front of me, I can’t help but see the spaces arranged in a ⚥ symbol, with the start/end positions being the tips of the arrow/cross. The circle in the centre would either be something you have to do a full rotation of, or there are two paths, a shorter one (the right hand side) and a longer one. I want to kneejerk and make the shorter one have more risks in it, but that doesn’t necessarily feel right, and I’ve no idea what the choice would actually represent, or if it would be a choice at all (could be something to do with supportive/non supportive family members or friends perhaps which would likely be chance based).

    Anyway, I think the main gist of this comment is to give a megathumbsup to this idea (a megathumbsup being 1000 regular thumbs ups) and also because you mentioned him and he’s a swell guy, a megathumbsup to Anders as well, and a megathumbsup to you as well Natalie because I have been reading your stuff for a while and wanted to say that I appreciate your writing :)

    • Anders says

      After we had talked I came up with my own version of this, and then when I saw this post I incorporated some of Natalie’s features. I am, of course, unburdened by actual knowledge so there are likely huge flaws but I can post it here if anyone is interested.

    • Joven says

      I don’t think I will find anyone to play offline, but I’m sure there’s some software to play board games online where you can make your own custom ones. If anyone knows of something where you can put cards in, do tell!

      Maptools can probably work, its flexible, especially when you start going overboard with macros, fairly easy to use, and its free.

      It can do cards (I haven’t read about the mechanics of the game because my attention span sucks, but if they’re random its no problem, you basically just make a table which the image and text relating for each entry and it rolls, then displays the card), you can look at their forums for examples from other Frameworks (like Savage Worlds, which also has cards), or ask for help.

      Theres also a lot of plug-ins for stuff like hand-outs and other stuff available.

      http://rptools.net

  6. Brad says

    Cool idea. Looks like a powerful educational tool, something that has the potential to produce a real gestault change.

    Once you get a little further with the concept, check out what you can get at http://www.thegamecrafter.com/

    You can buy a wide variety of individual game pieces, blank cards, boxes, timers, dice, etc.

    For a more professional result, you can even upload graphics to print custom cards and custom game boards.

  7. TomeWyrm says

    Minor nitpick: There’s a typo on the starting spaces.
    Bolding mine, and the word should be spear

    There are two start/finish places, marked “M” in a circle with the little speak/arrow thing…

    ····················
    Secondary minor nitpick, the game should probably use the plural pronouns “they” and “their” instead of the more recently invented set (xe, ze, hir, etc). If the point is to help inform those who are currently under-informed or misinformed using terms they are unfamiliar with could be a detriment, both to sales and learning.
    ····················
    For the You find out your voice is noticeably “off” card. as I currently read it, a MtF who is undergoing HRT has no downsides on that risk card while a FtM does. That seems backwards to me, but I’m not familiar with the process.
    ····················
    On a much less nitpicky and complainatory note, I think the idea is wonderful. Wish I could help beyond doing the fine-tuning like copyediting and playtesting!

    • Rasmus says

      I don’t see how that could possibly be detrimental to sales, unless those words are in the title of the game or something.

      It’s quite common for board games to contain a small number of technical or unusual terms that the player needs to learn. Such terms are typically explained in the booklet that comes with the game. That’s actually part of the fun. You get to use words that you have never used in your everyday life.

      Generally speaking you often receive more respect and focus when you’re communicating your message in a clear and uncompromising way and err on the side of overestimating your audience rather than underestimating it.

  8. katie says

    I think you should also have resources randomly distributed… people are born into all sorts of circumstances and it’s not always fair either!

    I think, based on your posts over the last few days, you should also let people choose to come out or not. The mechanics of how that works could be based on how far along transition you are, how many resources you have, randomness, etc. Maybe in some circumstances it would be better to be stealth, while others it would be better to be out.

  9. Anders says

    Risk Cards:

    Addiction: You become addicted to Alcohol, Benzo or Hard Drugs (Your choice). Lose 5 Stigma points, pay 3 Resources per turn from now on. If you want to quit, roll 1d6: 1-3 Off the wagon, gain 2 Stigma points and you’re still addicted; 5-6 On the wagon, you are free from the addiction but gain 4 Stigma Points.

    Bathroom Assault/Police Brutality/Gang Violence: All these work the same. Roll 1d6: 1 – you’re dead; 2 – Viciously Beaten, gain 6 Stigma Points; 3 – Harassed, gain 3 stigma points.

    Family Confrontation: Roll 1d6. 1-4 Bad Reaction – Lose 10 Resources and gain 4 Stigma points. 5-6 Good Reaction – Lose 4 Stigma points.

    Gender Dysphoria Crisis (only pre-SRS): Roll 1d – 1 Suicide; 2-3 DIY SRS, gains 6 Stigma points; 4-6 Mental breakdown, gain 3 Stigma points (this is another version of Bathroom Assault)

    And if we make this game bleak enough, we can probably ensure that no trans person who has played it thinks about transitioning ever again!

    I also suggest that at some place between HRT and SRS there be a choice between “Stealth” and “Out” mode.

    • Anders says

      I forgot that Viciously Beaten and DIY SRS also means you lose a turn to heal.

      Free Wardrobe: A friend of your identified sex decides to clear their wardrobe and gives you first choice. Lose 2 Stigma points. Keep this card – it can be used once to nullify a Changing Seasons card.

      Outed to friends: Roll 1d6 – 1-2, they accept lose 1 Stigma point; 3-5, they do not accept – gain 2 Stigma points; 6, violent reaction – gain 3 Stigma points.

      Sign from Above: You find a My Little Pony (trans woman) or a Transformer (trans man) at the moment when you need it the most. Lose 3 Stigma points.

    • Anders says

      Optional rule adds race and class to the passability feature, determined randomly.

      Lucky you, you are an African-American from the lower-class and visibly gender variant. You are basically completely fucked and the only reason you can have for not giving up immediately is to see if you can screw some of the other players over.

  10. says

    This game is really good. Of course I have suggestions. When trying to get HRT it would be nice to see the effect on passing privilege down the line. In particular, I suggest a constant mechanic about passing with risks or rewards. Such as the risk card at a bar? Roll for passing. If you get below your passing stat, you pass. In that case you gain a boost of self-confidence, -1 stigma. If you get your score or above, you don’t pass, the +4 stigma applies as described. Same thing applies for some of the other risks, though not for the doctor saying your birth name one. I think this mechanic would help players understand constant passing anxiety.

    Perhaps a stat about legal status of trans people where you live, and the option to spend many resources to move? Perhaps getting resources or stigma from family? And…um, I think I’m making it complicated.

    It also might be useful to see something about the legal hoops it takes to go through to get SRS in particular, insurance if you don’t have resources and not losing your job if you do. After SRS is there legal sex change and thus better job prospects on the board?

    Activism with gamer-geekery, I love it. Oh, and also, you said choose a side but I’d suggest encouraging first-time cis players who identify as M to play FtM, and F to play MtF.

    • Pteryxx says

      About SRS and legal hoops – that’s a really good point. I’d suggest a mechanic for hoarding sufficient points (not necessarily Resources) to accomplish SRS when you finally arrive at that space. Since one of the legal challenges commonly is “live full-time as your preferred gender” you’d have to aquire enough Risk cards where you had chosen Preferred over Assigned status – whether or not you had actually succeeded in doing so. There’s a bunch of risky situations where a trans person can mitigate the risk by presenting as their assigned, rather than preferred, gender to some extent.

  11. Pteryxx says

    Heck, bathrooms are such a huge issue, they should probably be their own kind of tile – land on a bathroom space, roll for Stigma penalty without even *going* to the Risk deck. Then you’re sitting down to this game and looking at a huge twisting path of little restroom symbols between you and your goal.

    Death on a 1 is far too harsh though and doesn’t reflect reality. I’d say roll below or equal to your Passability score on every bathroom challenge, then roll for a penalty only after failing. The overall chance of surviving to the end of the game should be roughly 60%, to match the real death risk of trans people. (Heck, does this game need a Go to Jail space?)

    Several folks have mentioned Out vs Stealth mode… but Natalie’s post series made clear that it’s more of a process, and depends on the situation. I’d suggest the option to choose Out mode in a specific context – Out at work, Out to a friend, Out to family, Out to housing – and these should be Risk cards that you make a roll to claim. If you win the roll, you keep that particular Out card for bonuses (or penalties) to specific kinds of Risk. Over the course of a game you’d collect several of these Out cards that you could utilize to mitigate certain risks along the way – say, using an Out card to spend bonus Morale points for protection against a Stigma penalty.

  12. Alexis says

    Possible risk cards:

    Come out to spouse, parents, or best friend, and they go ballistic on you. You retreat for several years. Add 10 stigma points. Lose 2 turns.

    Relapse into alcohol or drug use. Add 10 stigma points. Go back 5 squares.

    Car breaks down. Needs major repairs. Lose 2 resource points.

    New landlord raises rent astronomically. Or job hours cut due to recession. Lose 5 resource points. Lose another point each turn until you draw an economic recovery card.

    Plan to come out to spouse but the stork comes to call. Go back 10 squares and lose a turn.

    Go into deep depression. Go back to square one until you draw a get out of funk card or throw double sixes (hard to do with just one die).

    Great new job. Gain 2 additional resource points each turn. Drop 5 stigma points.

    Meet great person who loves you for yourself. Drop 10 stigma points.

    For some risk cards, your passability can negate some or all or the stigma points. A 6 will avoid most stigmas points. A 1 will get crushed.

  13. Anders says

    BTW, I posted a link from Steve Jackson Games’ Boardgames forum so we may soon get some new visitors. If anyone hangs on other boardgames fora I suggest you do the same. Who knows? We might get a few new visitors.

  14. says

    Unfortunately I’m a bit of a board game snob, haha, and this game has problems. There aren’t enough choices, and not enough player interaction. I also suspect that it would spiral down into a lot of dice-rolling with no movement (either because people have accumulated stigma, or because they’re all playing it safe).

    Of course, my own instinct would be to make some sort of Arkham Horror knockoff, which is obviously a terrible idea. The goal would be to evade or fight monstrous manifestations of stigma, as you try to seal the gates of gender dysphoria before it devours us all!

    Anyway, a card idea:
    “I’m not one of THOSE people.” You may choose to give another player +4 stigma. If you do, you are a terrible person, but you get -2 stigma.

    • Pteryxx says

      IMHO, player-player interaction should be an optional dynamic in this game. It should be perfectly workable to play it alone. Trans people tend to spend large portions of their lives without knowing anything about other trans people beyond the nasty stereotypes Natalie has been dismantling. Most cis people, even in the gay and lesbian and feminist communities, don’t know any trans people either (or if they do, they don’t realize they’re trans.) And isolation is often a huge factor in trans people’s lives.

      More practically, many potential players of this game will be curious individuals who encounter it over the Internet and *can’t* play it with others, because they don’t trust anyone in their lives enough to actually reveal an interest in what a trans person’s life is like.

    • Chirico says

      It’s funny because as I read this post all I could think about was Arkham Horror, which is also more or less designed to be unfair and difficult to win, but that’s part of its charm. To be perfectly honest, although this seems like an interesting idea to talk about, it doesn’t seem like something I would want to play, in the same way that Requiem for a Dream is a movie I don’t particularly want to watch. As much as I empathize with the concept and the thought behind it, I personally would rather play a board game that doesn’t make me wanna cry in a corner. :P

    • Rasmus says

      Here’s an idea off the top of my head:

      At the beginning of the game each player draws a small number of cards from a deck with cards that have various positive effects. You look at your own cards, but you keep them secret from other players. That way there’s a surprise effect when they are played, which is kind of fun.

      To make it realistic you could have the cards be about favors from your character’s family, friends and acquaintances. Like “Your sister invites you over for dinner at her place. +1 Resources -2 Stigma.” There could also be a couple of very powerful cards in the deck, like one that resurrects you once (a friend doctor maybe), or one that saves you from financial ruin once (a rich parent).

  15. phrankeaufyl says

    First of all, since this is my initial comment here: Hi. I absolutely love your blog.

    Second, I think your game concept sounds great. It occurred to me that you’ll probably want some way to make it easy for players to track their resources and stigma points. As you describe it, some of the transactions could get pretty complicated. You could have some sort of pre-printed tracking sheets, like the score sheets that come with Clue, or some form of token, like Monopoly money.

  16. Stacey C. says

    I think that despite the obvious ‘downer’ aspect of much of the game mechanics it sounds like a great idea and really a good way to show people who have lucked into feeling comfortable with their biological gender matching to see just how hard it can be for people trying to transition and how even little things can really have an impact on the person’s journey.

  17. says

    Natalie, as you know I twitted you to suggest intersex / genderqueer gameplay should be an option, so let me run a few possible ideas by you; first off, the playing board.

    Your description of the game board seems to allow a circular or horseshoe shape with the M and F starting positions at opposite ends, and some players may be moving in opposite directions past one another depending on whether they are M2F or F2M.

    Of course the ancient symbology of Venus and Mars uses symbols that embody circles, the mirror (♀), or shield and spear (♂), so perhaps the board layout could accomodate the combined MF symbol (⚥) so that the F starting position would be at the junction of the circle and the cross; and the M starting position at the junction of the circle and the arrow. Or the end points could literally be drawn on the end points of the spear (M) and mirror handle (F).

    These are normally drawn 120° apart on the circle, but for convenience you could exaggerate the normal shape of the glyph to have their arms closer together, say 90° or 60° apart, to give you more room for the 60 or so journey positions on the remainder of the circle. (The playing path need not be fixed to the underlying circle design of course, if it wanders slightly backwards and forwards to fit all the required number of spaces on.) The circle would also be broken, or have some sort of barrier at some point, so that it is not traversable via the short path directly between the two arms, obliging M2F and F2M trans people to take the long path around the board.

    However, as I said in my tweet, I think there would be some interesting possibilities available if some thought were given to extending the gameplay to support intersex and genderqueer trans identities. It need not be part of the basic game but could be an extension for advanced players :-)

    For example, if intersexuality were in play, then one’s initial dice rolls could be used to determine the starting place inbetween the M and F starting positions (on the otherwise inaccessible part of the circle), and whether or not a person were coercively assigned to one or other gender at birth, which would oblige the player to travel in one direction or the other; since the intersex starting positions would not be available to all players, this could confer some specific advantages or disadvantages to these players. (It should be obvious why a CAMAB or CAFAB intersex player should not be given the destination that corresponds to their assigned gender.)

    As for genderqueer identities, I think the problem is in having a game path that ends in a appropriate places on the board that are inbetween the two main destinations, and doesn’t make it too easy in traversing risk areas to get to those desired end points; and where should these GQ identities appear on the board? Well, if you were to use the combined transgender triple symbol (⚧) then part of the playing spaces could extend onto the symbol’s third arm that combines the stroke and the arrow. As this third arm is also halfway between the M and F starting points – and thus where you’d put the greater number of “risk” positions – so the majority of positions on the third arm’s alternate path would also embody risk, for diverging from the gender binary to various possible alternate identities such as androgyne, bigender, pangender, agender, etc.

    Probably if you were playing the “intersex/genderqueer” extension of the game, you would need an alternate set of playing cards, but this doesn’t usually present too much of a problem for game designers if the board allows the variance; it might be that certain risk cards have varying options depending on your birth status (male, CAMAB or CAFAB intersex, or female), likewise varying options depending on your destination (transman, transwoman, or somewhere else on the trans* spectrum).

    At any rate, hopefully someone can help make a set of cards and the playability of the basic game can be tested and refined, before considering such radical options to extend it. :-)

    • Anonymous Atheist says

      I was thinking about suggesting this too – 3 start/end points that meet in the middle. :) Would be more complicated to write the cards, of course.

  18. Anonymous Atheist says

    I had an idea for another potential mechanism (that would cheer things up a little bit :) ): Support points. Randomly assigned at the beginning of the game, and with occasional opportunities to receive more via some Risk cards. These would represent people in your life you can feel comfortable enough asking for help to get out of a jam. You can ‘spend’ a Support point to cancel out a bad Risk card without having to move backwards. If you want, some Risk cards could be exceptions not allowing Support use.

  19. William Burns says

    The game seems to elide the differences of male-to-female and female-to-male transition. Perhaps male privilege points–the MTF player starts out with them and loses them in the course of the game, the FTM player starts out with none and gains them, although never gaining as many points as the MTF player started with.

  20. Sandy says

    I doubt I would have much to contribute as a straight, white, middle-class, American cis man (*yawn*), but I totally love this idea and would gleefully pitch in on graphics.

  21. Aliasalpha says

    While out at a bar, a cute somebody starts flirting with you. You find them attractive and reciprocate. Eventually, they ask for your number, and then return to a table with their friends. You feel happy, but suddenly hear them laughing uproariously, and you realize it had been a dare. You are completely humiliated. +4 stigma.

    Aww its been YEARS since I’ve seen this fun little one, it pretty well describes about 50% my high school abuse. Mine was for being the fat kid rather than being trans but it sounds pretty similar. Heh shows how utterly fucked my brain is when its actually feeling kind of nostalgic for being subjected to petty abuse.

  22. Glazed McGuffin says

    Nope, nope, I can’t abide the exclusion of genderqueers. The journey would be the exact same, except at any time you can trade in your d6 for a rubber chicken and add “fuck you society” cards.

  23. Aesy404 says

    As someone on the Autism spectrum, I’m often amazed at just how much social interaction can help or hurt. The mechanic of interplayer actions (I think it was mentioned above) could be a REALLY cool thing: Access to it could be randomly determined, and could you take a leadership position? + x stigma and + x resources to you, – x stigma to other players. Could you involve the internet in some way? Something simple like “you find an internet forum/ blog that pertains to transitioning. Reading gives + 1 resource, commenting + 2″. Then again, internet access and putting your information online can be tricky… The internet could be its own mechanic… hmmm…

  24. Rayketh says

    Hi there. I’ve been reading your blog for the past week or so but this is my first comment.

    I have to admit I am extremely ignorant about everything related to transsexual/transgenderism, including terminology. For example “You may get clocked, but only on a very rare basis” I don’t know what “clocked” means. Is there a resource out there where I could look up terms so I know I am understanding you correctly? Or would you consider making a post explaining the different terms you use in your writing?

    • says

      Hi Rayketh,

      here’s a fairly good general glossary, which might be a starting point for Natalie to write up a similar list for this blog. But the two specific terms with respect to trans people are not listed there, so I’ll give a quick summary in a minute.

      Generally, trans people don’t wish to be publicly misgendered – which, in the case of trans people who identify with the gender binary (male/female) and are clearly trying to present as their preferred gender, means being contrarily misidentified by their birth gender (as “he” rather than “she”, or vice versa). This is a problem not only because it is embarrassing or insulting to not have one’s gender identity validated by other people, but because in certain circumstances it may be physically dangerous to be “outed” as trans, as homophobia and transphobia are closely linked.

      Passing: when one’s gender presentation is sufficiently convincing to be indistinguishable from cis gendered people
      Clocked: when another person indicates (by body language, facial expression, or by directly saying so) that they have discerned a person is trans, not cis.

      It comes down to the fact that there are many characteristics that vary between cis men and cis women, and we learn to recognise them from birth onwards: trans men and trans women, if they have gone through puberty, will in particular have been feminised or masculinised in ways that take effort to mask, eradicate, or modify, and any one of these physical traits (before we even consider behaviour) can contribute to whether a trans person ‘passes’ or not.

      Also, there are some trans people who feel they don’t fit into the male/female binary in any neat or easy fashion – I for one am neither one nor the other – so there are some of us who are less desirous of ‘passing’ for its own sake, except for reasons of not getting bashed by transphobes when going about our daily lives.

    • says

      What Xanthe said. In particular, Julia Serano taught me that when we see a person, we mentally categorize them almost instantaneously as man/woman/boy/girl. In other words, we actively gender people, and thus we might misgender them. (I don’t know anyone cis or trans who claims to avoid gendering people, though it gets easier not to worry about it.) To “pass” to someone means they assign you the sex you identify yourself as, even if you’re not presenting that sex. For example, my close friend who is a trans woman started passing as female on occasion after a few months on hormones, even at times when she still wearing clothing that appeared to be male. Also, my significant other uses the word “passing” for when she is seen as a man.

      To be “clocked” or “read” means they assign you the wrong sex, your birth sex, though you are probably presenting your identified sex. I am used to the word “read”, though I “clocked” may be better. “They read me” sounds like “they figured out my secret” and could be seen as validating the shame that can come with not passing; “they clocked me” sounds more like “they hit/assaulted me”.

  25. Emily Somers says

    Not much I could add to this entertaining day-in-the-life curio, but I reckon another 1d6 at the beginning (like the ‘passability’ score) might be interesting. Another 1d6 for ‘assets’ in determining resource available. In my mind, this mimics certain social collateral that influence ‘success’ in transition. (For example, until quite recently most of what we call trans narratives were written by white MtFs who transitioned quite late in life, having already amassed certain forms of security and prestige while presenting as male . . . I’m not criticising this in any way, just considering how it factors into the calculus of transification.

    So, a player could roll a low passability score, but a high assets score . . . a professor at a liberal arts college who waits until she has tenure to transition. She’s older in life, and decades of testosterone have done their damage. But she has a very stable income, no worries about employment, and a house in hand . . . extra cash for therapy, laser, cosmetic dentistry et al aren’t an issue. Low asset role? Like a teen who’s more or less evicted from home after coming out and starts off his or her journey with very, very little.

  26. says

    You need a risk that says something like “you react to hormones in an atypical way that causes severe health problems and baffles both endocrinologists who have experience with trans people and every other trans person you’ve ever spoken to”

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