As the ‘Overwatch’ Moira release looms, some fans hope for a transgender hero

As the ‘Overwatch’ Moira release looms, some fans hope for a transgender hero
Moira in ‘Overwatch’ Blizzard Entertainment Inc.
Moira in ‘Overwatch’ Blizzard Entertainment Inc.

The video game behemoth Blizzard Entertainment hosted BlizzCon, a two-day extravaganza dedicated to all things Blizzard, on Friday and Saturday. It was there Blizzard revealed all sorts of exciting news about its various properties, like StarCraft II and World of Warcraft — but what we’re here to talk about is the multiplayer shooter Overwatch.

Specifically, let’s talk about Moira, a brand-new Overwatch character revealed during the BlizzCon opening ceremony. She’s a total badass who can suck the life force out of enemies and use that energy to heal her allies. And some in the Overwatch fandom are thinking Blizzard might eventually establish Moira as the game’s first playable transgender — or potentially gender-nonconforming — hero.

Moira regenerates her healing abilities with life-draining powers.
Moira regenerates her healing abilities with life-draining powers. Play Overwatch/YouTube

Blizzard hasn’t said anything official about Moira’s gender identity, but there are a number of quotes from developers and details about the character that have surfaced since the initial reveal that are piquing the Overwatch fandom’s curiosity.

For example, the Overwatch development team hasn’t shied away from acknowledging Moira’s divergence from typical depictions of women in gaming.

Arnold Tsang, assistant art director for Overwatch, described Moira as having an “androgynous face.” And in an interview at BlizzCon, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said Moira appeared in a panel of the “Doomfist” comic before she was officially unveiled, but noted fans tended to assume she was a man.

Moira in the ‘Overwatch’ comic “Masquerade”
Moira in the ‘Overwatch’ comic “Masquerade” Blizzard Entertainment Inc.

“She’s sitting in the back at this Talon table,” Kaplan said. “What threw people off is they all thought she was a man. They were like, ‘Who’s that cool-looking dude in the back?’ And that was Moira.”

Moira also has an alternate appearance option called “Glam,” a psychedelic, over-the-top tribute to glam rock — a genre associated with queer, gender-bending icons like David Bowie. Here’s concept art of the skin Tsang showed on stage during BlizzCon’s “Overwatch: What’s Next” panel:

Moira’s “Glam” skin in ‘Overwatch’
Moira’s “Glam” skin in ‘Overwatch’ Blizzard Entertainment Inc.

In fact, Tumblr user jinyouo noted that Moira’s eyes are different colors, yet another not-so-subtle nod in Bowie’s direction.

You can see the difference in eye coloring a little better in this screenshot, which we’ve cropped from the official Overwatch site:

Moira’s eyes are different colors, much like queer glam rock icon David Bowie.
Moira’s eyes are different colors, much like queer glam rock icon David Bowie. Blizzard Entertainment Inc.

The idea Blizzard might add a trans or gender-nonconforming character to its playable roster is entirely reasonable — in fact, it’s almost certainly an inevitability at this point, given Blizzard’s statement at BlizzCon 2016 that there are “multiple” LGBTQ heroes in Overwatch’s character lineup. However, it’s also worth mentioning that Overwatch fans have a tendency to hang onto the smallest shreds of evidence to will their theories into existence.

Blizzard revealed Overwatch’s title character, Tracer, was a lesbian in the holiday comic “Reflections.” Though not a playable character, Blizzard also debuted its first gender-nonconforming character, Lynx Seventeen, in the Zarya comic “Searching.”

But some fans are skeptical of Blizzard’s ability to depict Moira’s gender identity — whatever it may be — in a sensitive, thoughtful way. For example, Tumblr user gothfool noted that since Moira is affiliated with the terrorist group Talon, making Moira trans would feed into the all-too-common trope of depicting those who exist outside the gender binary as evil, mysterious tricksters, like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

In fact, in the same panel where Tsang described Moira as “androgynous,” he also said her appearance gave her a “mysterious appeal.” In addition, Blizzard only said Tracer, its title character, was a lesbian well after Overwatch had already established itself as a mainstream success.

At the very least, there’s one thing the Overwatch fandom can agree on: Moira probably isn’t a lesbian?

Well, maybe they can’t even agree on that.

Yeah, we’re not even gonna touch that one.