Unless you have been hiding under a video game rock over the past few weeks, you have probably heard of the offensive poem in Pillars of Eternity , written by a Kickstarter backer. The poem read as such:
“Here lies Firedorn, a hero in bed. He once was alive, but now he’s dead. The last woman he bedded, turned out a man. And crying in shame, off a cliff he ran.”
On the surface the poem seems transphobic and in bad taste, but when you look deeper it’s STILL transphobic and in bad taste, but strangely represents a very peculiar and interesting intersection between LGBT rights and women’s rights.
Just a warning, this article is going to get very heavy very quick and will tackle issues such as gender identity, sexual identity, and rape, so turn away now if all you are looking for is a way to get infinite XP in Evolve or something like that.
So the problematic part of this poem is that it suggests that being with a woman who “turned out a man” is a shame. Some have argued that it actually pokes fun at the transphobic man, since he is dead, but that doesn’t take away the poem’s problematic nature.
But the poem also sets up an interesting scenario. Specifically, it sets up a situation in which Firedorn did not know that the person he was having sex with was trans (or a cross dresser, or some guy playing a prank on him, or whatever interpretation you go with). Then, of course, he overreacts and kills himself.
Some have brought up that this situation, when looked at legally, might actually count as rape.
Before the pitchforks start flying, I want to make it clear that this in no way makes the poem acceptable or not transphobic.
But, and this is a very important but, our laws state that any sexual encounter has to be between two adults who give transparent and informed consent to the sexual act. Similarly, this means that lying or withholding information from someone about who you are just to have sex with them, counts as rape. Essentially, you cannot withhold a piece of information that would make someone not have sex with you in order to get them to have sex with you. That is, essentially, forcing them into sex when you know they wouldn’t otherwise. If you lie to someone about your power, your status, how drunk you are, what family you belong to, or really ANYTHING including your gender identity, for the explicit purpose of having sex with them, that is coercion and manipulation, hence rape.
So in the above scenario, it can be argued that Firedorn was raped by someone who withheld their gender identity from him, knowing that he would have an adverse reaction.
These are the same laws we have discussed in the women’s rights realm for years.
But, the argument gets sticky from here. These laws mean a lot of things that do not sit well with the LGBTQ community. First of all, it means that, to be safe, all LGBTQ people need to come out of the closet before a sexual encounter. This can not only be traumatic, but could also lead to violence against them, and the law shouldn’t be able to force someone to put themselves in harm’s way. Thus, it can be argued that gender and sexual identity are not reasonable things to expect somebody to reveal before a sexual encounter.
But again (and there are a lot of buts here, no pun intended), if there really is a worry of danger, then we are admitting that there is a large enough portion of the population that might react adversely to the situation of finding out that their partner is trans or otherwise genderqueer. If we are accepting this danger as a reality, then we are accepting that it is reasonable to assume someone might get violent or otherwise belligerent if one’s gender identity was revealed. If that is the case, we can ALSO assume they wouldn’t carry through with the sexual act, in which case, gender identity WOULD be legally required to be divulged prior to the act.
But this also not only puts someone in danger, it also means that we are legally categorizing LGBTQ people, specifically trans people, as “legally ugly” or at least legally undesirable, which is incredibly demeaning. Oddly enough, however, if we do not make this classification, then we are assuming that LGBTQ people are just people like anyone else in the sexual sense, and there is no reason to assume that someone would be averse to having sex with them, and thus no reason to require that information be divulged before the act. However, if this is the case then there is also no danger, and if there is no danger, the law questions why the information needs to be withheld in the first place, and suddenly we get into a vicious cycle with no easy answer.
And all of this because some guy wrote an immature, offensive, transphobic poem that made its way into a video game.
I’m not saying I have an answer here. Frankly, I don’t think that LGBTQ people should have to divulge their gender identity before a sexual act. Similarly, I don’t think that any sexual act can be considered safe and consenting without clear and transparent information. Yes, both of these views are butting heads with each other, but as I said, I don’t have the answer.
Heavy stuff for a gaming website to be talking about.