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Pokemon Was The Perfect Way To Find My Fashion Sense As A Trans Girl – TheGamer

Sword & Shield helped me discover myself when I came out as trans, and it continues to inspire who I want to be.
I’d love to say being trans is a magical journey with no obstacles on the road to being fabulous, but I’d be an awful liar if I did. Pink, blue, and white? More like pink, blue, and shite. Jokes, I love who I've become and continue to embrace where I will end up. I'm being my true self, but I'd be a fool not to recognise the obstacles that stand in my way.
Being queer is tough, especially when you’re coming out of the closet for the first time and experimenting with parts of your life that were once unknowable. I grew up with eight siblings in my family, but we were so scattered in age and location that when I came out as a transgender I didn’t really have anyone to turn to when it came to piecing together a new wardrobe and evaluating my self image in a way I’d never thought about before.
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The coming years proved to be a challenge as I chased the medical treatment to change my body and confided in friends to provide me with small pieces of advice that would help light the way. I still have a long journey ahead, but the pieces of media I find myself being engrossed in help make each step that much easier. It turns out that one source of inspiration was more unlikely than any other.
Like millions of people I grew up with Pokemon, whether it was through the excellent anime or Game Freak's beloved RPGs. I talked about the series in the playground with my friends, while at home I shared a save file on Pokemon Crystal with my brother as we journeyed across the lands seeking to be the very best. While the simplistic visuals of this era wouldn't achieve the same level of customisation as future entries, the single question asked by the professor in the opening moments still lingers in my mind.
"Are you a boy or a girl?" – he asks, which to the majority of players is a simple question with a definitive answer. But for young trans kids, it's a matter of acceptance, or subconsciously making a decision in the virtual world that perhaps you aren't ready to accept in reality. All those years ago I walked through tall patches of grass as a young girl, and I'd continue to step into these imaginary shoes with each new game that would follow. As the series grew I did so along with it, coming to terms with who I wanted to be as I questioned my gender and sexuality and began feeling things that hinted that I was perhaps suppressing something I had yet to even comprehend.
It wasn't until shortly after the release of Sword & Shield that I had come out, so it was the first game in the series where I was approaching my character with a definitive identity. I was going to be an adorable Scottish lass with a fluffy cardigan and a charming beret, all complimented by a leather bag hanging from my back. It immediately became my favourite trainer design, because it's so true to the region of Galar and expresses a level of personality that the series had seldom achieved before. It was a bold step forward, even if fans were happy to moan about the Pokedex and lacklustre visuals.
Have your fun bitching about stats, I'll be perusing shops in search of killer outfits. Sword & Shield provides so many options to the player when it comes to creating a trainer that truly represents them. The opening moments allow you to peruse skin tone and hairstyle, while the first few towns you stumble upon have a handful of stores that invite you in to purchase clothes and cement a fashion sense that will be forever yours.
At first you'll struggle to afford the best stuff, so you'll need to settle for bland t-shirts and colour variants of existing items instead of a fluorescent dress or a fanciful suit. Rome didn't slay in a day, and neither will you, but patience is something that Sword & Shield is happy to reward. Climb up the trainer ranks and you'll be raking in the big bucks, more than enough to get a little bougie when you slip into boutiques and ask the tailor for their finest wares.
The thing is – I never had a definitive style in Sword & Shield, and that indecision even reflects how I am in the real world. I am very much still finding myself, slowly coming to terms with the fact that perhaps I don't sit in a specific binary at all. I'm Jade, whether she fancies wearing a beautiful dress or they have a hankering for a handsome suit. Gender identity is so fluid that nobody can tell you what to do, it's your happiness that matters, and I adore games that provide an avenue to explore that growth, even if some still aren't as flexible as I'd like them to be.
My hope for the future is that Pokemon throws aside the "Are you a boy or girl?" question forever in the years to come, because binaries are boring and gamers love themselves a bit of fluidity. Follow in the footsteps of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which doesn't put up any barriers in regards to how your character looks, is gendered, or how they wish to dress. It is you, an emotionally honest interpretation of your virtual self that isn't beholden to our own societal norms. That's so refreshing, and will only help more and more people like me find themselves in games when they aren't quite ready to face the music in real life just yet. Pokemon helped me find myself, and will continue to so as I return to the series with a nostalgic glint in my eye, while also admiring how it helped me look forward to the future.
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We’ve all been there.
Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously Gaming Editor over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.

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