Trans Inclusion in Halo: A Spartan's Example of Allyship

Trans Inclusion in Halo: A Spartan's Example of Allyship

Originally posted on October 16, 2023

Hi, I’m Stephanie - I’m Head Narrative Designer at Paidia Gaming, but I’m also a gamer, content creator, dog mom, hobbyist painter, and a transgender woman.

I grew up seeing my trans people be, at best, the butt of the joke in the gaming world. That’s why I was so surprised when a recent incident of anti-trans exclusionary behaviour was met with a perfect example of trans allyship in the Halo community, and it’s a great example of the kind of support marginalised communities need in gaming and beyond. 

Let’s talk about it:

Early in my life as an LGBTQ person, I learned that athleticism and competitive gaming were not for me after years of being teased, ridiculed, picked last, excluded and rejected from team activities that my peers so easily and openly got to participate in. If it were as simple as not getting to play a game, that would be one thing - but this sort of exclusion, even in elementary school gym class if it happens for long enough, has a rippling effect. 

Athleticism and competition teach young people the skills of practice, endurance, and perseverance. Being excluded from these experiences on the grounds of being queer limits a person’s growth opportunities in youth until they encounter a scenario where this can be learned again. Competitive gaming provides an opportunity for that.

Nobody deserves to feel unwanted and excluded while gaming. It’s a nexus where we all can be on equal ground, have fun and grow together - not a place to perpetuate exclusion and discrimination.

Halo Infinite Cover

In my early 20’s, I was lucky that my partner (an avid FPS player and athlete) made it his personal mission to show me the value that multiplayer gaming and being a part of a team could provide. He understood the issues around exclusion, listened to my concerns and strove to create an environment with our friends that could mend this wound. What he did was an act of ALLYSHIP, and it made a massive difference. Now I not only love getting into a call with my friends and working as a squad in an FPS title, but the experience I’ve had with practising and persevering with a new skill has changed my life personally and professionally. 

The cooperative element and spirit of athleticism that is present in competitive games like Halo is incredible, and transgender people deserve to participate in the benefits and connection it can offer, just the same as anyone else. There are no scientifically supported reasons, biological or otherwise that trans women should be excluded from women’s spaces in gaming.

Mai and Laurelei with Pride Flags

At Paidia Gaming, it’s been a part of our DNA since the very beginning that we are a supportive, inclusive and kind environment and that is reflected in our tournaments, events, creators, content and internal team. Over the few years we’ve been at work in the space, we’ve seen the needle shift towards a more inclusive gaming industry and we’re so excited to see that continue to grow.

If you’re a transgender gamer, I want you to know that you are welcome to play with us as you are. If you’re a gamer of any kind that has experienced exclusion or felt unwelcome - we invite you to join us and play as you are. While we work on building a more equitable and kinder world in gaming, there is a lot that allies can do. The Halo community provided the best example of allies showing up to support the trans community that I may have ever seen.

What this boils down to is to simply show up for us and for other marginalised communities. So many cisgender, heterosexual gamers, game devs and organisers could have said nothing in this case. The incident could have flown under the radar and the individual in question could have continued with their partnerships and community management job while holding these transphobic beliefs. Instead, allies stepped in and tried to educate. When that failed, they spread awareness. 

However, the most powerful tool of allyship was that they made sure the targeted community, the trans community, knew they were welcome in Halo. This spread like fire through the community: at first it was one ally, and then a hundred, and then a thousand. 

Talk about a ripple effect.

I am so used to seeing both myself and other people in my community having to beg people to pay attention to the way we are treated. Instead what I saw was cisgender allies from across the entire scope of Halo, both industry professionals and gamers, make it very clear that this exclusionary behaviour would not be tolerated. It is so extraordinary to see allies organise to defend transgender people without prompting, without incentive - just because it's the right thing to do. 

Trans Flag

One positive thing that can come out of a situation like this is that it presents an opportunity for us to show up in support of targeted communities, to educate and to make moves towards the world we believe in. 

Thank you to the individuals in the Halo community that came out in support of transgender women - we see you, your voices matter, your allyship matters and you did an incredible job. I cannot overstate how this was a prime example of how allyship can be effective - if more folks do what you did, we'd have a much safer, kinder, inclusive world.

And on a personal note, I wanted to say thank you to the Halo community for reaching out to trans gamers and making it clear that we are welcome - and a part of your team.

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Written By

Stef Sanjati

Creator, Narrative Designer, WoW Gal