Dungeons & Dragons is a table-top roleplaying game first published in 1974. Spanning over five major editions and with 23 published adventures for the most recent edition, there is no doubt that Dungeons & Dragons has had a massive impact on pop culture.
But what is often overlooked is the inherent queerness of Dunegons & Dragons, and TTRPGS more broadly. Since its publication, D&D has mostly been associated with cishet white men. Yet the mere concept of roleplaying as a character different from yourself is a vessel for sexuality and gender expression.
When I think of the queer aspects of D&D, I think of three major categories: fluidity, community, and mythmaking. All of which can be connected to The Legend of Auntie Poe by Shing Yin Khor.
In D&D, you can experiment with sexuality and gender. A player that identifies as a man can play a female character, a lesbian can play a bisexual character, and so on. Not only does this allow someone to express how they may be feeling inside, it can also help exemplify empathy for people who are different from you. Readers can see evidence of gender and sexuality fluidity in The Legend of Auntie Poe. Mei wears traditionally masculine clothing and is interested in Bee. On the other hand, Bee seems to be interested in both a boy in the camp and Mei, but she chooses to express herself through traditionally feminine clothing.
Community is a very important part of D&D. The people you play with–and your characters–become a family of sorts. Spending time with like-minded people every week forms bonds. Having a space that is safe to explore gender and sexuality–while also having fun–is a huge aspect of the game. Community is important in Auntie Poe as well. There is the general logging community, where everyone helps each other in times of need. Within this community is the smaller Chinese community. Mei and the other Chinese loggers are able to connect with each other and share similar experiences because of their race.
The simplest way to describe D&D is collaborative storytelling. While the dungeon master leads the group along, each person has an impact on the story. These stories show the players as the heroes, and often, these players are queer. Therefore, the community is creating a queer story of triumph and resilience. In Auntie Poe, Mei makes her own myth with Auntie Po and Pei Pei. Auntie Po is part of her Chinese community, and proves that they are strong and powerful, despite what the world might tell them.
There are many groups who livestream D&D campaigns; the most famous is Critical Role. In their second campaign, two female player characters begin a relationship.
3 thoughts on “Your Turn to Roll: Dungeons & Dragons and Auntie Poe”
I totally agree. D&D has so many ties to the LGBTQ community yet is almost always seen as something that only teenage boys are into. The fluidity and creation of the characters has always been really interesting to me, as it can give people a chance to explore themselves through a character (and without having to commit to any labels). It almost reminds me of fanfiction in the way that it allows for self-exploration without judgement; you can put yourself (or your character) into different shoes to see how they fit.
I love this connection as from my experiences with D & D the community is incredibly diverse. I feel as if it is due to, as you mention in your analysis, the ability to experiment how one feels filling different roles and playing a character. The potential of D & D as experimentation reminds me of Eve Sedgwick’s analogy of the queer identity, as it is an open mesh of possibility in which one is not limited.
I think this post is by far one of the most meaningful to me. I too have had experiences with D&D and have been able to experience putting myself in the shoes of those identities that I didn’t feel identified with at first, but from which I could extract learning about aspects of myself that I didn’t know. In this sense I agree with Carrots, as D&D is a community that can encompass all those identities under the umbrella term “queer” that Eve Sedgwick mentions in “Queer and Now”.
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