Should we be talking about The Taken King’s gender?

3 min read

Destiny The Taken King Oryx

With a rise in trans awareness, there is increasingly a push towards representation in games. While not all games have the opportunity to include diverse characters along the spectrum of sexuality, an increasing number of games are exploring transgender characters. From Dragon Age to Assassin’s Creed, AAA franchises are becoming more representative and it’s exciting and empowering to see. However, the latest claims about Destiny are a bit more muddled.

Over on Polygon, an opinion piece went up from Laura Dale exploring the idea that the latest Destiny expansion, The Taken King, actually centers around a transgender character.

Oryx is the titular character of Destiny: The Taken King, and he’s a transgender male character. He’s a king of darkness who had the power to bend reality to his very will, had been designated female at birth and transitioned to male during the ritual that granted him these godlike levels of power and strength.

[…] The reason few players were talking about this groundbreaking piece of mainstream video game transgender representation is because it isn’t actually acknowledged within the game itself. This fascinating, and potentially groundbreaking, piece of Destiny lore is hidden away in unlockable text logs that can only be read outside of the game on Bungie’s website.

[…] On the one hand you could argue that Oryx is a transgender man who isn’t defined by his gender transition. The fact he used to use different pronouns and lived under a different name is such a non-issue that it’s never used unnecessarily as a plot point. He’s a strong, powerful character who just happens to be trans, without that in any way coming to define who he is.

[…] On the other hand, the reason that he’s not defined by his gender and that people have not made a big fuss about it is largely because nobody knows it’s in the game. By including this as one footnote in a lengthy set of collectable lore outside of the game itself, they are able to on paper state that they made a huge move for visible, high profile transgender representation, without actually having to face most of the risks associated with doing so.

However, due to the alien nature of Oryx, it could be argued that he isn’t actually a transgender character, but rather engaging in sequential hermaphroditism, a changing of gender during development that is common in many fish and gastropods. So, this might not be a matter of Bungie trying to get all the praise and none of the risk of having a transgender titular character, but rather a questionable use of alien biological processes.

For me, this raises a larger debate about the nature of Bungie’s story telling. Darryn has raved that The Taken King has way more narrative and compelling gameplay, and the way everyone has been going on about the expansion it seems that Destiny is finally the game it was always meant to be. However, for there to still be such ambiguity in the storytelling, and the fact that something as integral to character development as gender transitions could be hidden from the average player seems rather odd to me. Whether the character is trans or not, it could have been an interesting conversation to have, if only Bungie had actually given us the necessary information to make a discussion possible.

Last Updated: October 6, 2015

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