Before I say anything else, I’ll admit that I haven’t played Dragon Age: Inquisition, nor do I have any plans to. I am not in a position to make comments on the gameplay or overall story, and I do not intend to.
However, around when that game came out, I heard some rather interesting things regarding one of its characters. Cremisius Aclassi, Iron Bull’s Lieutenant and right-hand man, was transgender. A transgender man, to be precise. Normally I would be overjoyed by this news.
Except he’s voiced by Jennifer Hale.
Now, Jennifer Hale is a fantastic voice actress. She has done some amazing roles in the past, and I hope that she continues to get work. But she was not a good fit for this role. She uses a distinctly feminine voice in this role, and makes no attempt to sound like a man whatsoever. On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. But it says a lot when this is considered “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” for video games.
I doubt I have to explain that it’s considered highly offensive to depict trans women as masculine or as having a deep voice. It’s something we try to downplay and get rid of, and it makes us feel incredibly uncomfortable to see those traits highlighted and emphasized. So why should it be any different for a trans man?
The bigger issue, though, is that they got a cis woman to voice a trans man. Not a voice actor who is a trans man, or even a cis man, but a cis woman who doesn’t sound anything like a man. Roles that trans men are suited for are few and far between, and it’s often discouraging to see roles like that handed off to cis women who already have plenty of work. Similarly, it’s often disheartening to see roles fit for trans women handed off to cis men or cis women.
And this doesn’t just end with trans voice actors. Shows and movies about trans people are often handed off to cis writers, who often are writing based on second-hand stories. Rather than going to trans writers who have shown themselves to not only be just as capable, but also have first-hand experience being trans, they hire cis people to write our stories.
At the end of the day, though, it comes down to one simple thing: Trans people should be voicing trans characters and writing trans stories. Not cis people. We already are otherized in these fields, and we don’t need roles suited for trans people getting handed off to cis people. Cremisius deserved to be voiced by a trans man. Not a cis woman.