In game designer Morgan Sea’s Zine Fair Lady, players navigate a queer zine fair through the eyes of a transgender woman. Though such spaces often ostensibly aim to be inclusive toward people of all sexual orientations and genders, in practice, organizers and attendees focus most on the most well-understood members of the queer community—cisgender gays and lesbians—while invalidating the identities of others.
Zine Fair Lady comes with a content warning that reads “Transmisogyny, nudity, & sex talk”; limited interactions give players some insights about the small ways individuals are marginalized even in purportedly accepting spaces. In one instance, the player character is regarded as a boy dressing up as a girl rather than as a woman; in another, she comes across a display of dildos she’s told are “for lesbians” despite that she, a lesbian, cannot physically use any of them.
While the game nearly celebrates getting misgendered only twice, that this occurs in a queer space speaks volumes as to what this character must encounter on an average day. If nothing else, Zine Fair Lady demonstrates the care with which she must choose to navigate everyday situations—the options to be more passive or more aggressive in asserting her identity both exist, but there’s social fallout regardless. In the game, as in real life, while she has the option of loudly proclaiming who she is and standing up for herself, there’s only so much confrontation she—or anyone else—can reasonably handle, and more than a few cases where keeping quiet is safer.
You can play Zine Fair Lady in your browser.