Telling Trans Stories
Thirsty Sword Lesbians centers people who are marginalized in real-world societies. As a transfeminine person, I’m most comfortable talking from my own experience, but I’ve also heard from people with other experiences—even beyond queer identities—about how the feelings embodied in the playbooks speak to them, as well.
To focus on telling trans stories, there’s no single playbook that is “the trans playbook.” We’re all varied human beings who experience life in different ways. Instead, there are elements of every playbook that have the potential to speak to the experiences of some subset of trans people. And, of course, you can play trans people whose most significant emotional struggles, the ones represented by their playbook, have nothing to do with their transness.
The Beast is very explicitly about the pressure to assimilate, to suppress your self-expression in favor of a dominant norm. All sorts of marginalized people experience this, and for trans people it can mean either remaining closeted or expressing yourself according to cis narratives. It’s easier to “pass” if you don’t stand out in any way. It’s easier to get respect from cis people as a flat-chested trans woman if you wear breast forms. It’s easier to get respect if you change your voice—but what if you love your voice? The Beast playbook celebrates your uniqueness and shows the high cost of suppressing your true self in order to appease a toxic society. Not everyone can be out safely in real life, of course, and not everyone has the option to pass or mask or blend. For some, though, the Beast’s story will be empowering, cathartic, or familiar.
The Nature Witch feels very new to interacting with other people, hungry for new experiences. This touches on the feeling of discovering who you are as an adult and trying to make up for lost time or navigate the new scripts that people are applying to you. The playbook is anchored by a connection to their environment—animals don’t treat them any differently now than before, plants haven’t changed how they work just because the Nature Witch has a new understanding of their gender, and for the Techno Witch variant, their code still runs just like before. It’s just people that relate to them differently—in some good ways and some bad ways.
The Seeker represents a different kind of newness, where you’ve figured out that the things you’ve internalized about how to behave aren’t right, but they still hold sway. Sometimes the personal experience of rejecting the identities and behaviors assigned to you by a toxic authority translates into a broader rethinking of values. You can earn Tradition by following your Commandments, but Tradition isn’t good for much—just appeasing the Authority for a time. Rejecting those Commandments to write your own Convictions is more powerful and more fun!
The Trickster is afraid that people won’t like them anymore if they reveal who they truly are. This is hardly an experience unique to trans people, but it’s extremely common in media and real life for trans people to be rejected or harmed when a cis person learns of our transness. It can be scary to open up, but it also hurts to keep it in. The Trickster’s arc usually sees them finding trustworthy people who will love them for who they really are.
The Infamous is someone who has firmly rejected their past, yet is still haunted by it and is seen as a villain when they are not. Some trans people have guilt around pre-transition behaviors, often behaviors demanded for their assigned gender, and many trans people are simply villainized unfairly. The Infamous can explore either or both of these feelings of guilt and villainization, with enough of a fictional narrative remove to make it fun. (And characters of any playbook could touch on the villainization themes, especially the Beast and Spooky Witch).
Speaking of the Spooky Witch, their conflict with society comes from their interest in acknowledging and socializing with monsters and with the Unseen—those society villainizes or doesn’t want to perceive at all. They might be analogous to anyone who could enjoy better treatment from society if they abandoned their friends (perhaps because they “pass” as cis more than their friends or enjoy other privileges).
The Chosen could tell a story about someone who isn’t yet out as trans, who is elevated but only if they pursue their socially enforced Destiny in accordance with their assigned gender.
And the Devoted and Scoundrel also touch on themes that could easily be given a trans flavor. The Devoted struggles to do self-care—maybe because they’re depressed and have low self-esteem due to the way their society treats trans people. The Scoundrel has trouble connecting—maybe because they haven’t figured out something fundamental about themself, such as their gender (or sexual orientation, for that matter).
Again, all trans people are different and all of the playbooks are open to a variety of interpretations. You’re not wrong if you resonated with a playbook for a different reason. They exist to help you tell your stories.