This is the letter I sent to both XSEED and their parent company Marvelous Games about the transmisogyny in the game Akiba’s Trip and their defense of it.
Cut for discussion of transmisogyny and slurs, as well as mention of rape, violence, and assault.
To Whom It May Concern,
As I am sure you may know, there has been discussions on Twitter and Tumblr about the use of the word trap in the Vita and PS3 game Akiba’s Trip. Upon hearing that this may be changed I pre-ordered the PS4 version and asked Tom, the person in charge of the XSEED Twitter account if this was true. To my disappointment I was told it was not true and they were keeping the word despite many people bringing up the issue that it was transphobic.
The reason stated was to keep true to localization and an actual translation. However, it has been pointed out to many people that this is untrue. Trap is not the closest or most accurate translation of the dialogue from the game. However, the team seems to have failed to also take into knowledge that the idea of trap in the United States is not a ‘man pretending to be a woman’, but a word used to describe trans women. It is used to describe the idea that trans women are deceiving heterosexual men into having sex with them. The GLAAD media account describes trap as a derogatory and defamatory word towards transgender people, especially transgender women. They go on to say, “Gender identity is an integral part of a person’s identity. Do not characterize transgender people as “deceptive,” as “fooling” or “trapping” others, or as “pretending” to be, “posing” or “masquerading” as a man or a woman. Such descriptions are defamatory and insulting.”
As previously mentioned, trap is not meant to mean a man. Trap is almost exclusively used to mean a trans woman or trans feminine person. If you google the word trap, convincing trap is suggested. The results bring up a myriad of transgender women as well as cisgender (non-trans) women who are deemed to be masculine or are joked to looked like trans women, though the language used is also usually more derogatory and includes the usage of slurs. Another suggestion, the first one, is “most convincing transgender”, more proof that trap is aimed at transgender women and their identities and lives.
Context is not an excuse or a reason, either. While context is important, in this case, the meaning of the word is pervasive. Using a word to address someone who is not a transgender woman (as the character addressed is male) does not change the fact this word is widely used and it’s most common usage and meaning is aimed at transgender women. The example above should prove this point and then some. Context does not change the meaning of a word, especially a loaded word, like trap, when used to describe a person.
I would also like to address the forum thread that Tom created on the Marvelous forms, located here: http://forum.marvelous-usa.com/index.php?showtopic=27749. He defends the use of the word, ignoring the criticisms that have been brought forward by transgender people. He also says that the people who are criticizing the game are those who are not buying the game. This is untrue as I previously stated. There are many people who would have bought the game, myself included, if it were not for not only the use of the word, but its continued defense despite the outcry against it.
He also repeatedly states that he is sorry for the offense and does not mean to cause discomfort. This is something that is stressed and repeated. However, for someone to be sorry and yet, not remove the problematic text, of which will not affect the game if the word was changed to something else (such as man pretending to be a woman online, and so forth), does not show someone who is sorry. It shows someone who is more upset they were called out for transphobic actions than someone who wishes to change as sorry is meant to entail.
Many I know will not be buying any XSEED games after this handling as well. Customer issues were ignored and instead XSEED chose to go the route of fostering an exclusive gaming environment which leads to events like Gaymer X and so forth to be required. This is something I have brought up to gaming giant, Blizzard, upon discovery that their Diablo III clan making system banned the prefix trans-. As someone who is in charge of numerous TransGamer subreddits, clans, groups, and so forth, this upset me. I took it to Blizzard, their forums (my treatment and experience there why I will not post to the Marvelous forums about this issue), and various gaming media sites. I also took to social media as well. There was a large outpouring and various sites, such as Ars Technica, picking up the story. Blizzard promptly changed the issue, and that was that. Blizzard also reached out to me and kept the line open for communication regarding potential changes and rewording of certain anti-discrimination clauses. Here is a link to my own coverage about that, including the original message I sent to Blizzard support: https://genderterror.com/2014/04/03/gaming-culture-and-safe-spaces/
We are not asking you to change core gameplay. We are not asking you to remove the dialogue. We are simply asking that the dialogue be reworded to be more aptly suited for the Western audience, where trap is associated with transgender women and their lives. Numerous trans people, including transgender women, spoke on Twitter of their experience with the word, bringing up issues of violence that is linked to the word. Its usage in video games is what will continue this stereotype, especially in gaming and online communities as trans women are often accused of pretending to be women in these spaces.
Please consider the changing of the word. I will not say it is an easy fix because I am not a game programmer or developer. I am an activist and I writer, I understand that sometimes what may seem simple is not quite so. Gaming is meant to be for everyone, and it would mean the world to your trans fans to hear their voices and understand that we play games too.
The letter above addresses he many defenses that were brought up in regards to the use of trap in the game. However, there was something I left out that I am going to address here.
A single word was put above the comfort of trans women, trans feminine, and feminine non-binary CAM folk. One word. This word was seen to be more valuable than the comfort of the numerous trans people, especially trans women and trans feminine people. The idea of context as a defense, over a word that has been used to justify the murders, rapes, and assaults of trans women, trans feminine, and non-binary CAM people. The trans panic defense hinges on the very idea that these people are entrapping straight cis men into sexual relationships. The trans panic defense is still used and, unfortunately, it still works.
A single word was put above the comfort of trans fans. We were told that our money and our support is no good. These things are useless and unneeded. Despite being pointed out as inaccurate, convoluted, and unclear, the word was kept. The word was kept despite trans fans and supporters pointing out that the word had been used to harm and hurt them. It was kept despite evidence to the contrary of the arguments presented by XSEED staff. XSEED staff blatantly said “we are not actually sorry for using this word, this word is more important than you are”.
XSEED staff continued to show that trans lives, money, support, feelings, and existences are seen as worthless. The value of a word is more than trans people, especially trans women, trans feminine, and non-binary CAM people.