Why I Don’t Think Cyberpunk 2077 is Transphobic: As a Trans Person
Cyberpunk 2077 is a much anticipated future-dystopian RPG game set to release on 12/10, but has recently come into controversy over it’s alleged transphobia. The most notable controversies are over a poster shown in a game trailer, and tweets from the Cyberpunk twitter account. As a trans person, it’s always upsetting when transphobia is present in video games, since it’s quite prevalent and leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But I think Cyberpunk 2077 will be different.
In a game trailer, a advertisement poster is shown in the game, featuring who appears to be a transgender woman, drinking a soft drink that says “Mix It Up”. This image has come under criticism for hypersexualizing transgender people and commodifying them as objects. The main criticism is that the game uses transgender people as something shocking, and eye catching to draw people’s attention.
I think that while that is definitely a problem in today’s world, where transgender people are seen as strange and shocking, the point of Cyberpunk 2077 is that in the future, capitalism has taken over everything, and uses the appeal of people’s bodies to sell products. In an interview with Cyberpunk 2077’s art director, Kasia Redesiuk, she says, “You’ll notice many advertisements — for anything, a table, chair, a roof tile — slap a random sexy person on top and say ‘hey, buy this’.” The use of a transgender woman in the in game poster was more to show how in the world of the game, exploitation of all people is used for capitalism, and isn’t just a specific targeting of trans people. While it is quite strange using a trans body to market a soft drink, it’s a portrayal of a future-dystopian world, and CD Projekt Red isn’t transphobic for doing so, especially since it matches with the theme of the game.
In a cosplay contest held by Cyberpunk 2077, a finalist was a cisgender woman cosplayed as the trans woman shown on the poster. Some people thought that that was transphobic since it feels like she’s mocking trans people, and that Cyberpunk 2077 shouldn’t feature her as a finalist. I think it’s fine, honestly. It’s a cosplay, and she did a good job recreating the character. But, when called out on Twitter by @vaporh0e, the original cosplayer, @YugoroForge said, “All people have their own struggles. Many cis men and women face acts of harassment and violence on a daily basis as well.” Which completely misses the mark and is extremely hurtful. @vaporh0e was talking about how trans people often face harassments and violence because of transphobia, and saying that all people have their own struggles completely diminishes our struggles. I agree that cis people may face struggles, but not specifically because they are cis. I think that while the cosplayer is transphobic, it’s not Cyberpunk 2077’s fault.
Another criticism is that Cyberpunk 2077 claims that you can be whoever you want by being able to customize every part of your body, and isn’t limited by gender. This is different from many other games, where there are two body presets, male and female, and you can’t change any aspects within it. In most games I played when I was younger, when I thought I had to pick the girl option, it’d only have long hairstyles, a set body shape, and a limited wardrobe of “girl clothes”. I’d get extremely frustrated and spend the whole game hating my avatar. Cyberpunk’s character creator is good news for trans people, because you can make your avatar look however you want, and it isn’t limited by gender. This fantastic new to me as a trans guy, and I can’t wait to spend hours in the character creator perfecting my avatar.
However, Cyberpunk 2077 still forces you to pick between male or female, and will have the voice be one or the other. While this doesn’t really bother me specifically since I will just pick the male option, I recognize that this is inconsiderate to some trans people, like nonbinary people. Nonbinary people are neither male or female, so having to choose between two options isn’t exactly trans friendly, and Cyberpunk could take notes from Apex Legends, a popular first person shooter game that did a good job having a nonbinary playable character, a technological tracker of undeterminable gender. Also some people may want to have one voice, but a different gender, and there’s no option for that. Still, I understand that having to have multiple voice actors for the main character, V, would be quite challenging. I think Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t exactly as trans friendly as it may seem, but it does have a lot better options than many other games, and overall isn’t transphobic, although it could do better.
Another thing is a now deleted tweet Cyberpunk 2077’s twitter account made back in 2018. Cyberpunk 2077 responded to @rysteez’s tweet, “I WANT MORE GUYS” with “Did you just assume their gender?!”. That joke is way overused and makes me face palm whenever I read it. Basically no trans person has ever said that, and only cisgender people who think trans people say that think it’s funny. It’s the stalest cheese lard of jokes, and I’ve heard it a million times. But I don’t think that it’s transphobic that Cyberpunk tweeted that, because they were referring to another person’s tweet that assumed that Cyberpunk developers were “guys”, and not making fun of trans people. That tweet has since been deleted and another tweet was sent out apologizing for it.
The game has not come out yet at the time of writing, but I am really hyped for it’s release, and can’t wait to play it. While it has received criticism for being transphobic, as a trans person, I don’t think it is. Of course, it’s not exactly a progressive trans ally, and my opinion may be subject to change when I play it. Overall, it looks like a beautiful game, and reminds me a lot of Detroit: Become Human (a futuristic game where androids gain consciousness, my favorite game) and GTA V.