No one goes into Grand Theft Auto expecting political correctness. For the last fifteen years, the series — produced by Rockstar Games — has garnered a dedicated following as much because of its stunning scale as for its fierce commitment to being the very antithesis of political correctness. The game’s misogyny is especially impressive. As my colleague Joe Bernstein wrote after playing the game’s latest installment for 38 hours straight:
“Female characters, like almost every character in GTA V, are, with two relatively thin exceptions, pretty hateful people. We’ve got Michael’s bitchy trophy wife; Franklin’s bitchy, blathering, New Agey aunt; a bitchy fiancé straight from Apatowland; the usual panoply of strippers and prostitutes; and so on, forever. The counterargument: Everyone in this game is hateful, men and women.”
Which brings us to the game’s depiction of transgender women. Bad Trans Jokes, a Tumblr which catalogs transphobic jokes in pop culture, posted several entries on GTA V this week that are difficult to read.
As the Tumblr’s author noted, “Before I even started playing the new GTA, I knew there would be trans women in it. I knew about where and when I could find them. I knew what their jobs would be. Because to the people this game is made by and targeted to, we can only be one of two things: secret ‘batin’ fantasies or sex workers moaning about hormones and their private parts.”
The player’s predictions were unfortunately well-founded. The dialogue is as offensive as the characters themselves.
When I found and greeted a group of them, the main characters had the following things to say:
Michael: Hello, sir. I mean, madam. I mean, ~whatever~
Michael: Well, hello, Mid-op.
Franklin: Almost fooled me, (bro-she?). Almost.
Franklin: Hey, you need to keep taking your hormones!
And the trans women said the following as I creepily eavesdropped and took photos of them (remember, these quotes were intended to be funny.):
Trans woman: I don’t think the laser treatment is working!
Trans woman: They won’t let me on the ladies’ basketball league at the rec center. This is crazy! I think I’m going to sue or something.
Trans woman (on the phone): I Just wish he’d let me untuck more… I dunno if I wanna lose it forever, and he needs to understand that!
According to Bad Trans Jokes, “The trans women can be located at night outside the Cockatoo Nightclub and Pitcher’s (the purchasable gay bar). Their locations are in the highlighted circles on the map below. In case someone wants to look into this themselves.”
As trans gamers and allies started comparing notes on the game, other transphobic jokes were pointed out. Lavender Panda noticed that Pitcher’s, the gay bar mentioned above, has this advertisement on its wall:
And when the game isn’t making fun of trans women directly, transphobic puns abound. In GTA IV, Post Op, the game’s version of UPS, had “your package is safe in our hands” for its slogan. In the new version of the game, the slogan is “no longer just mail.”
Bad Trans Jokes continues to update its post on the game as players find more examples. More than a few fans of the game have made the “What did you expect?” argument, but the banality of hate doesn’t make it any less disgusting.