A little background before I dive into this one.
If we're going to lay down definitions, I am a female-bodied, queer-as-fuck, non-binary individual. I went through a handful of years binding, presenting as various states of gender and androgyny before I finally realized that I exist comfortably somewhere in the middle. I've never cared about pronouns and I am very fortunate to have a name that can be masculine or feminine.
One of my closest friends and room mate is a transman. We've often talked about the experiences of binding (which is something I still do) and transitioning, but a few weeks ago he brought up something that I've never considered: there are lots of field guides on what to expect for your first LARP, and even some with what to expect as a women, but there's nothing for trans* individuals. And the trans* community often has a very, very different physical and emotional experience at a LARP game then anyone else.
I reached out to members of the LARP community who are trans* to talk about their experiences. In this article I am specifically address transgendered individuals, not genderfluid or queer, and I've been graced with experiences from both transwomen and men who have offered their advice to incoming trans* individuals in the LARP community. Some of them have just begun to transition, others started to before they were LARPing, and one transitioned fully while remaining involved in the LARP community.
So here's some advice from the current generation of trans* LARPers to you.
Dress for your health
I know how discouraging it can be when your body does not match what you want to represent both in life and at game, but this is the point I'm going to put at the top and can't stress enough: if you're playing a combat or physically active LARP, don't bind at game.
Binders are designed for maximum compression, and that spells disaster when it comes to LARPing. Binding can be taxing on the body when you're just existing -- imagine doing it while wearing armor, or running across a field, or fighting a zombie? It can be incredibly unhealthy, if not dangerous, to fully bind at game.
If you're not comfortable being completely unbound, sports bras and layering go a loooong way. Even doubling up on a sports bra or smartly layering your clothing can create the effect you want at game without the health hazards. Remember that you're creating a character, so there's lots of opportunity to incorporate that clothing into your thinking when you design it.
It happens - both as a character and as a player. If you've got a solid community in your LARP, then you can expect most of the misgendering to be a product of a misunderstanding or a mistake. It can be easy to let those moments eat at you, but there are a few things you can do to combat the potential and then deal with the after effects of being misgendered.
Pronoun patches are my favorite, favorite solution to being misgendered. They can often be easily blended into costuming by using the gender symbols or the pronouns themselves. There are a TON of different options on etsy if you're not crafty, or you can make them yourself very easily with little more than some paint and fabric. It's an easy and often effect solution for people to know what your preferred pronouns are and I've started implementing them on my characters that are different than my real life gender too.
Our trans* LARP friends also recommend still being prepared to correct people when you have been misgendered, whether its as a character or as a player - don't be afraid to police your pronouns. If the reaction is anything less than "I'm sorry / I didn't know / thanks for telling me" it's time to reach out to the staff at your local game to make sure they're aware of any issues. You might feel like you're making a big deal out of it, but rest assured that by bringing it forward, you're bettering the trans* community at your game by educating people on these issues
Know your community and staff
Your game's staff and game organizers might not know your struggle. While some games have very progressive policies on LGBTQ players, other games might not have any at all simply because a lack of familiarity. Knowing both the community and the staff of the LARP you're interested in playing can help determine what to expect from that game.
Open a dialogue with the staff of that game - reach out to the game organizers about your personal experiences. We're all nerds here, and while we all come from very different walks of life, most of us want to share a safe space where we can have fun, and I can almost garauntee you that the staff of your game want to make sure that you can feel the same way.
Many larger LARP game communities have Facebook groups for their LGBTQ members that you can join and learn more about that way, or you can reach out to the community at large to see if anyone shares your experiences. The one thing a lot of our trans* friends said when they were approaching a LARP is that while they were intimidated by reaching out the greater community of the game, the results were worthwhile and created a greater, more reassuring place for them to play in.
Got any other tips?
I'd love to hear them and share them here. Feel free to email me at email@example.com so we can spread the word about your experiences!