Drag Race icon Jinkx Monsoon opens up about how gaming helped her escape a ‘heteronormative world’
“I’ve been playing video games as far back as I can remember,” says Drag Race legend Jinkx Monsoon. “It really became my favourite escape away from the heteronormative world that I lived in.
“I was never big into sports, surprise, surprise.”
Speaking to PRIDE, Monsoon discussed how important gaming was in exploring sexuality and gender.
In particular, when playing alone, you don’t need to justify your choice of playing a female character.
“As a trans femme person, I always liked video games for the fact that I may have to try to pass as a guy in my day to day life when I was younger,” she says. “My gender expression was expressed through my video games and through getting to play these characters.”
For a long time, though, options have been limited. Female characters were too often relegated to princesses to be saved, while some characters were only lightly queer-coded.
“The gayest thing I saw in video games for the longest time were always the villains, and it was always their femininity that kind of made them weird or strange,” says Monsoon.
“Now, to see characters be designed and come out as queer and not just that, but specifically in Overwatch for the poster character, for the face of the game, Tracer, to be a queer character [is a sign of progress].”
Monsoon is a huge fan of Blizzard’s hero shooter, recently judging an official Mei Gala cosplay competition featuring cosplayers from around the world.
Both Tracer and Soldier 76 are queer characters, even though it’s not acknowledged in the game itself and is instead noted in side comics.
For Monsoon, their inclusion is still important in sending a message to straight male gamers.
“Soldier 76 came out and for such a masculine male archetype to also be queer, I just felt it was such a victory for queer gamers. I also loved thinking about all the straight people who probably just assumed these characters’ sexual identities. It probably ruffled some feathers and I loved it. I f*cking loved it.
“I hope some straight gamers, especially the straight gamers on the game chat, calling me the F word because I didn’t heal them quickly enough, I hope it ruffled your feathers that Soldier 76 is on my team.”
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Online games like Overwatch are rife with toxicity, something Monsoon has also experienced.
“I do still witness and experience that toxicity with random people all over the world playing one game together,” says Monsoon.
“I definitely feel there’s been a decrease in specifically queer attacks on queer people in those group chat experiences. Lately the assholes on the game, basically just say, ‘You suck at the game,’ but I haven’t been hearing people call each other the F-word, I haven’t been experiencing the same level of toxicity about people’s personal lives in the game.”
As a further sign of progress, Monsoon now plays games almost exclusively as female characters.
“I’ve actually kind of gotten to the point where I’m hard-pressed to play a game that these days that doesn’t allow you to play as a female character,” she says.