Transgender representation in video games is lacking. Narrow that down to transmasculine representation and that number goes down even further. In 2020, Naughty Dog Studios released The Last of Us Part II to somewhat mixed reviews. The player must switch to Abby during the latter half of the game. During her story, she runs into a group of kids defecting from a religious cult, Yara and Lev. With Lev’s reveal as a transgender man, Naughty Dog created a character that received mixed reactions from players.
Part way through the first day, a religious cult known as the Seraphites captured and attempted to kill Abby. Before Abby is hung, a Seraphite girl, Yara, had her arm shattered for going against their religion. Both are saved by Lev and make an escape through the woods while battling infected and other Seraphites. During the second day, as Abby and Lev are searching for medicine for Yara’s arm, they run into another group of Seraphites. Many of this group refer to Lev as an apostate while deadnaming him. This is where Abby finds out that he is trans. Yara confirms this later on the third day.
On the third day, Yara explained that Lev was to be the wife of an elder. This prompted Lev to shave his head and run away. While Yara eventually came around to accepting Lev, many Seraphites saw this as turning their back against their religion. Lev was branded as an apostate and was on the run ever since. He did however return on the third day to convince their mother to leave their home with them. She tried to kill him, and Lev took her life in retaliation. This prompted Lev to leave behind his home and leave with Abby.
Misgendered and Deadnamed
Lev’s story was upsetting with a few players. Mainly with the deadnaming and misgendering throughout part of the game. Many players saw this as unnecessary while others referred to this treatment as “trauma porn”. The only people who deadname Lev in this game are the Seraphites. Many trans people often go through something like this. When it comes to certain religions, a few of them are unaccepting of the trans people. Often times, this can lead to the trans person being kicked out of the religion. In more extreme cases, them being killed. While it may seem like this game is tormenting the kid for no reason, it is something that trans people can relate to, minus the infected.
May 2020 Leaks
Prior to the game’s launch, Abby received transphobic remarks. The Last of Us Part II received a leak that revealed many major plot points. Joel’s death was among these leaks leaving fans upset with the handling of this scene. Many players were quick to attack Abby in anyway possible. As Abby has a more muscular build, many players on the transphobic side of the internet saw to attack this. Many people referred to her with derogatory terms and review bombed the game on multiple websites. These accusations were, without evidence, proven false.
When it comes to diversity, The Last of Us Part II comes with a cast of characters with multiple backgrounds. While these character’s portrayal had mixed reactions, these representations are still important. Naughty Dog created a character that has little representation in media in general.