The Femboys of Fighting Games
At EVO 2022, fan-favourite Bridget was added to Guilty Gear Strive. After years of fan requests and Bridget missing the roster entirely in Xrd, the fans got what they wanted.
Personally, I was very against adding Bridget into Guilty Gear Xrd. Bridget's story is... somewhat of a mess. Being born a boy, but forced to live life as a girl because of a superstition in the community about twins, Bridget went out on a quest to become stronger and assert that "I am a boy!"... while doing so in a hyper-feminine outfit with a stuffed bear.
So while Bridget became a femboy icon across the game's fanbase (and just the internet in general), you can see how I had mistrust over a video game company, let alone a Japanese video game company, being able to handle that gender minefield.
But I underestimated Arc System Works. They added Testament to the game earlier this year (another character that didn't show up during Xrd) and knocked it out of the park with them. Testament went on a journey of self-discovery after their angsty phase in XX, rejected gender in its entirety, and have been living their best life as an agender immortal.
And everyone loved it. Arc System Works did a phenomenal job in reimagining this character in such a positive light, a character that was defined as struggling and not being accepted. And people (including me!) became hopeful that Bridget might just return after all and be handled well when added.
You'll notice I didn't use pronouns for Bridget. That's because, with this new release, Bridget has gone through some changes. See with Guilty Gear Strive, characters have all been redesigned to "strive" to be the best versions of themselves. Which is a fantastically positive design philosophy in a world that is sorely lacking in that. Now whether they hit that mark is up to debate (poor Faust), but they certainly did with many characters, including one of the toughest ones so far.
And with Bridget? Soul-searching was also on the menu and, after obtaining strength and dispelling the superstition around twins, Bridget still didn't feel right about Bridget. After some support from Ky and Goldlewis in the new story mode, Bridget comes to terms with that and decides not to run away, proclaiming: "I am a girl".
And the internet exploded. While Bridget has certainly been a femboy icon for years, she has also been a huge icon for transgender players. Transmasc players see themselves in this character who was forced to be femme for her entire life now trying to burst out of that and be a man and Transfemme players see themselves in this character who likes traditionally feminine things, but was unfortunately assigned the wrong sex. Even Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) people as a whole, not just femboys, liked Bridget for what she represented.
(Obviously that's oversimplifying quite a bit and there is a lot of nuance and differing opinions, but you can see how some groups would be *incredibly* enthusiastic about this change and others... not so much.)
While I understand those who loved this femboy icon not being too enthused by Bridget being a canonically trans woman, there has been some pushback that has been, to be blunt, transphobic as fuck.
- You can disagree with a writing choice for a character without being transphobic about it.
- You can disagree whether the choice to make a character trans is what you would have done with the character without rejecting the notion that Bridget could possibly be trans.
- You can mourn the loss of a femboy icon without going for the throat of every trans person celebrating this change.
- You can not be a dick, a complete piece of shit, a complete transphobic asshat, and still say why this design decision hurts you.
But this is the internet and people inevitably didn't do that. So, to both help those mourning and those who are being attacked, I thought I would shift the attention away from Bridget (as much as I am happy for her) to other femboys in fighting games. Bridget's backstory might be... unique, but having men that are femme (or at least GNC) in fighting games is not.
So let's look at some of them!