Yes, you read that headline right. The Adventure Zone is a podcast in which four cisgender hetero white dudes play D&D – STAY WITH ME – and manage to absolutely nail playing a trans character.
The McElroy brothers – Travis, Justin, and Griffin the dungeonmaster – and their dad Clint started the podcast as a goof in 2015. Meant as a one-off for their main podcast, My Brother My Brother and Me, the pilot took off with their fans and built a solid audience over the next three years. So much so, that the first campaign has been made into a graphic novel with another one on the way – and hopefully more!
The main player characters are Magnus the human fighter, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Taako the elf wizard. Fairly early on, Justin, who plays Taako, mentioned that he’d always envisioned Taako as gay; soon after, Griffin introduced an NPC (non-player character, ie. a character played by the Dungeon Master or DM who runs the game) boyfriend for Taako.
In episode 60, Griffin introduced another new NPC: Lup, Taako’s twin sister, who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female.
And that’s it. Lup is thereafter referred to using she/her pronouns, and no further mention is made of her transgender identity.
Which I believe is how it should be handled. Not a subject for discussion or debate, just a fact. Lup is a she.
This of course isn’t an accident; the McElroys are thoughtful and smart, and Griffin reached out to the LGBTQ community to find out how to accurately portray a trans character before making the attempt. Which just goes to show that it is possible for cishet creators to include LGBTQ representation in their works, as long as they’re willing to do the research!
On a personal note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t disclose that it was our daughter who turned me on to this podcast. We took an epic family road trip vacation through the Maritime provinces last summer, and during all of the long stretches of driving, as with any teen her earbuds were constantly in her ears and a faraway look on her face. What I didn’t know at the time was that she was listening to The Adventure Zone and being transported by the story.
When we were in Halifax we passed a comic shop and of course we had to go in! It happened to be shortly after the release of the first The Adventure Zone graphic novel, which she eagerly bought, and later during our holiday, I read it and was instantly hooked.
If you’re a fan of podcasts at all, I highly recommend The Adventure Zone. Even if you’ve never played D&D or an RPG, the narrative is complex and richly entertaining, you’ll grow to love the characters, and the comedy goofs will provide chuckles and even belly laughs. The thoughtful representation of LGBTQ characters is just the icing on the delicious cake!