How Dragon Age Inquisition helped me find belonging as a trans man

Everyone benefits from having a reliable ensemble of fictional heroes, misfits, or outcasts to turn to when real-life obstacles feel insurmountable. Dragon Age Inquisition’s Thedas is where I always seem to return when life is hard to handle, and when I came out as a trans man, it provided no shortage of comfort. 

Dragon Age: Inquisition is where I gather myself in the company of good friends, let myself sink into the snarky repartee I’ve heard so many times before. That familiarity feels like friendship, and as much as the cast exists inside coded boundaries, only able to interact within a single story’s parameters, the way they grow within those boundaries is ever more relatable. Like me, many of them are trying to escape backgrounds that only weighed them down.

Acceptance

Dragon Age: Inquisition

(Image credit: EA)

Just as The Iron Bull goes through his ‘re-education’ under his culture’s code of honour, the Qun, putting out feelers into the world beyond his rigid upbringing, I’m blazing a new trail for myself – and I couldn’t ask for a better ally. Ever since my first playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition many years ago, I’d had his romance arc on my to-do list. And by the Maker was it worth the wait. Not just for the moment he and my male Inquisitor get walked in on by Cullen (and what a moment!) but for the experience of playing a romance with a butch battle-axe of a guy who accepts trans men as real men. 

Krem, one of Bull’s own mercenary company, is a trans man. Although the reveal had always struck a primal chord in me, in my most recent playthrough it brought a tear to my eye. Here was a warrior, a loyal friend, and ally who was proudly trans and proudly supported by his commander, and his team. But he only arrived at this point after passing as a man to join the army, escaping execution after a healer discovered his birth sex, and almost being beaten as a ‘deserter’. Bull blocks a blow from a flail and loses his eye in Krem’s defence, and together with the Bull’s Chargers they prove that they each have the courage to strike out on their own. Disentangling themselves from cultural constraints on what a life of purpose looks like, they find their own sense of fulfilment and family, as I have done. 

The people I’m cutting out of my own life still believe they are being kind, that their fundamental disagreement with my transness is in my best interests. Much like Dorian, the vainglorious, quick-witted and fabulously dressed Tevinter mage, I’ve dropped the exhausting attempts to be someone I wasn’t for the sake of family. It hurts to have to fight back against people who are supposed to be on your side. But Dorian helps me see that I can demand better for myself – that I am entitled to my anger, and also to moving past it. Because sometimes love isn’t enough. I still love the ones who don’t accept me as I am, as Dorian loves his father despite the heterosexual life model he enforces on his son. Less from a lack of love, and more from denial that change is a powerful constant.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

(Image credit: EA)

“Although the reveal had always struck a primal chord in me, in my most recent playthrough it brought a tear to my eye”

But this can be plainly seen in the arc for Cole, the Fade spirit that dreamed of being a real boy. It’s always intriguing to take him out questing, to hear his insights on the hidden aches the rest of the party carry with them. “You think hurting is who you are,” he might note to Dorian. I’ve been a victim of the same, and that could be said for Cole too. His identity doesn’t fit his body, and his journey to integrate the invading emotions of others is painfully relatable. 

More than ever before, I’m touched by Cole’s wisdom in being something ‘other’ and outside of most people’s perceptions of reality. “This world taught me that changing means losing your friends. But now I know that doesn’t have to be true,” he says. “I have enough self to know that what I felt wasn’t foolish.” He reminds me that it’s my responsibility to live the best life I can from a place of integrity. It’s my job first and foremost to accept myself as I am. I can’t be an example of how important it is to keep learning and growing if I’m stuck in my own fear. 

Anchors

Dragon Age Inquisition

(Image credit: BioWare)

The traumas these characters share with each other reinforce that we are never alone, no matter what we’ve gone through or need to reconcile in ourselves. Solas constructed the Veil over the spirit-realm of the Fade, to banish the gods who murdered his friend Mythal from the rest of Thedas. But in doing so, he put a barrier between his fellow elves and their ancient connection to spiritual power, and now strives to tear it down. He remains set apart from the rest of the characters by the nature of his own godhood, and yet befriends the Inquisitor. As prideful as he is, he adorns Skyhold with frescoes telling the story of the Inquisition. He seems to find comfort in sharing the beauty of the Fade through poetry. Coming from a decision that’s wounded his world, he begins to share himself with others again. But he doesn’t believe himself worthy, and will not drop his ‘Dread Wolf’ guise until he undoes the damage he caused.

Centred around the Inquisitor, marked by the Anchor which can open or close tears in the Veil, irreversibly changed whether by fate or happenstance, the wounds these characters bear will be with them for the rest of their lives. There is nothing and nobody to fall back on, only the path ahead. Like the Inquisitor, this new path I found myself on feels right, and is unlocking strength I never knew I had. But the weight of it (though it isn’t the weight of the world) is still heavy sometimes despite the supportive friends and family I have.

These characters who rage against domineering forces, or grow from believing they are not enough, have changed the meaning of Dragon Age: Inquisition for me. When you’re waiting for the battle ahead, you must be prepared for all bonds from your past to be cut away, for the prospect of remaking yourself untethered from old anchors. When the enemies have been vanquished, all that remains is what you choose to do when nobody’s watching. When all you’re accountable to is your own self – what do you make of yourself then? 


Looking for something new to play after Dragon Age: Inquisition? Why not check out our ranking of the best open world games. Or you can find out everything we know so far about Dragon Age 4

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