I’m often ashamed to share how much time I spend playing GTA. I had even stopped playing for a long time due to my internal conflict: how can I, as a trans woman, play such an outwardly transphobic game?

How do I align my identity as a trans woman with this? As a gamer, as someone who enjoys role playing the criminal enterprise the rest of the game provides. The feeling of power owning properties and vehicles, ready to lay waste to the first person who dares cross me.

I’m not going to make excuses for the content, Coconuts is a place I avoid in the game like the plague, I cringe every time I have to drive the Post OPs truck, with it’s tagline “no longer just mail”. It’s obvious trans femmes are the butts of these jokes. They were written by people with no sympathy, even distain for trans folks based on the tone.

I’m sure it gives people a chuckle, and even a thrill to “go attack the trannys with a baseball bat” and that scares me, it angers me that it’s there and allows for that but the have no more encourages you to do that than any of the other similarly illegal activities in the game. That’s the argument, that’s the rub. They’re perpetuating the stereotype of these wide shouldered bodies, some with chest and facial hair, they could do better but why include them at all? Why have them congregate outside and loudly proclaim in their effeminate, deep voices about hormones? That’s the transphobia.

I still play, often daily. I don’t go on voice chat, I try to only reveal that I’m female to select few friends on there and almost never that I’m a trans woman unless I’m about to voice chat. I’m just as wary of being myself there as I am in real life. However I also enjoy the feeling of power that being high level in such a game brings and the general freedom of being accepted at face value of my character. I enjoy selling illicit weapons and counterfeit cash, all while avoiding the hard drugs to try and stay under the radar and go about my business without making enemies.

It’s not always bad on there, I have even seen others proclaim they were trans in chat and others tell them it was ok they were among friends, so the lobbies aren’t always full of bigots but I always assume the worst but I wanted to highlight the good. That sense of camaraderie in chat is one of the many reasons I enjoy playing.

I lose myself in the game, which this past year has been a welcome reprieve, albeit with a prominent asterisk.

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