Jack Skellington. The first crush I ever had. I was five and obsessed with him, the Nightmare Before Christmas and everything Halloween. Probably due to some correlated thinking due to my birthday being so close to the holiday, but I loved all things spoopy from a young age.
Then it was her. Fiery red hair, smart, passionate, and everything I loved in a person – Willow, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then it was them. They always had the nicest hair and the gentlest voice. But they were in real-life, as I had not come across any trans, enby, intersex or otherwise non-cisgender individuals in media at my age.
Thankfully, that is changing. As I near my thirties, a lot is changing in regards to the visual representation of all genders, races, orientations and sexualities. Though we have a long way to go before we reach full inclusion, we are making magnificent strides.
Being a small, white, cis-gendered female I saw myself represented a fair amount in media growing up and still do (I see people like Felicia Day as the epitome of representation for people like me). There was always the lack of non-visible disabilities representation, but it keeps getting better every day. My only question, which popped up a few years ago for the first time, was…Where are the other people who love like me?
It wasn’t until I turned twenty that I found the word for how I identify in terms of orientation: pansexual. Gender played no role in my attraction to people, nor my love for them, in any sense. It never has and it never will despite my current relationship status with a cisgendered man. My past relationships are a myriad of colourful individuals who I have only ever seen for who they are – themselves. And when I looked around at media growing up, and media now, it is always the same. Boy tries to get girl, girl groans over the boy, boy or girl comes out to the world after falling in love with somebody of the same gender. But what about the rest of us? Where this hyper-focus on gender never existed in the first place?
In tabletop gaming specifically, orientation seems to be something of a rarity for relevance. But it is, indeed, relevant at times. The infamous succubus, for example, has an orientation (and the succubus itself is a whole other can of worms I am not going to currently touch on). When a character wants to flirt with an NPC, for example, the orientation of the NPC themselves is vital. If the human woman flirts with a male barkeep but he is, in fact, gay, it won’t get the party very far.
I cannot speak for the representation on many queer identities, though I do know they are vastly underrepresented (and poorly) in official content for tabletop gaming, but I can speak toward pansexuality and the way I have seen it represented in the tabletop community – atrociously, for the most part.
Nearly every Bard I have ever encountered as identified as pansexual. Why? Because they will seduce anything and everything that moves (and some things that don’t). It always reminds me of Captain Jack Harkness and though I adore that character these representations of pansexuality paint a stereotype for the rest of us that is (usually) not fitting.
Just because gender plays no role in attraction does not mean I hope to seduce every human who comes across my path. Just because I am equally attracted to a non-cisgendered woman as I am a cisgendered woman or as equally attracted to a non-binary person does not mean that everyone is attractive to me. That’s not how it works. At all. The promiscuity that has been unnecessarily tacked onto the orientation of pansexuality is unnecessary, false, and even harmful.
Then there’s the thought process that one D&D class is almost always one specific orientation over others? How-how does this ever make any sense to anyone? That’s not how that works.
Now, I cannot speak for all pansexuals but I can only speak for myself and my feelings toward it. Unfortunately, the several times I have brought those feelings up with other individuals who play pansexuals despite being hetero, they have been all-too-quick to shut me out.
Several other individuals have spoken up about the representation of queer individuals in TTRPGs and I think it’s important to share their thoughts on the subject matter as well.
There is definitely positive change happening, but most of the big strides are being made in indie games/by indie creators. Official D&D-materials often stumble a bit on delivery, even when they try (see: the gender shenanigans going on in the elf-chapter in Mordenkainen's).
— Anna Landin 💜⚪🖤 (@AnnaLandin) July 31, 2018
In any campaign I haven't run myself, as well as in any published material, I have never encountered a queer character. Most DMs default every NPC to cishet male, and most published materials don't dig into NPCs sexuality. This is very frustrating to me
— exhausted (@brentlemen) July 31, 2018
Ace here! It kinda shows up in RPGs, but almost always as an “alien-feeling” species, not as an orientation. And a lot of times, it goes hand in hand with robotic emotions ( or literal robots). It’s very othering!
— Athens Arcana (@AthensArcana) July 31, 2018
For bi/pan people, I feel while it's not as fetishized as some other orientations, it's all too often made "The Quirk" of a character. It's rarely just a normal part of their identity in my experience, and often used to make characters seem "unusual", which is a form of Othering.
— Jon against the windmills (@QforQuijote) July 31, 2018
Never enough bi/pan people represented. There's always room for more gay. Everything needs more gay
— 🐟 Mad Mongerer of Fishes 🐟 (@madfishmonger) July 31, 2018
Remember to love, friends, making marginalized people feel like “the Other” is never indicative of an inclusive environment.