Analysis, LGBTQA, RPGs

Representation Matters: Gender Identity & Krem’s Inclusion in ‘Dragon Age’

Dragon Age

As someone who identifies as a genderfluid lesbian, I definitely don’t fit into society’s norms. Due to the way I express my identity, I’ve been called ‘sir’ or ‘mister’ at times, which I consider totally fine, but it isn’t the actual pronoun I prefer. I’ve also been at the forefront of unkind comments and discrimination. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one. While there are states in the U.S that give transgender men and women certain rights, that absolutely does not balance out the very high murder and suicide rates. LGBTQIA+ youth also make up between 20% to 40% of homeless youth in the United States. Nevertheless, the LGBTQIA+ community has come far in the fight for equality, even if there’s still a lot of work to be done.

In Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, there are characters both straight and gay, as it was in the previous Dragon Age installments. However, there is one character who stands out from the crowd: a character who defied the norms of society and chose his own path. His name is Cremisius Aclassi, second-in-command of the Bull’s Chargers mercenary group, voice acted by the amazing Jennifer Hale.

Known as Krem, the character first appears in Haven. He informs the Inquisitor that the Chargers are interested in helping the Inquisition and, if the Inquisitor desires, to meet them at the Storm Coast to see the Chargers in action. After you recruit them, there is some interaction with him later on. He reveals he is transgender to the Inquisitor in a subtle way while relaying his time in the Imperium, his home country.

Krem was in the army of the Tevinter Imperium. In the Imperium, women can only serve in a few ranks whereas men have more available positions and promotions. He goes into detail about how he signed up for the men’s army. He persuaded the healer in charge of physicals to let him join as a man. When the actual day of the physical came, however, the healer left to tend to a sick magister. The replacement for the healer saw that Krem’s gender identity did not match his assigned sex, and said he would tell the Imperium (while misgendering him).

Krem, angry at both the comment and for not being able to join, punched the replacement healer and ran. The Imperium chased him for a while, but not as viciously, he comments, since he wasn’t a slave. Eventually, his pursuers caught up to him in a tavern near the Imperium-Nevarran border. They began to beat him up right before the Iron Bull entered the tavern, who began helping Krem fight off his assailants. Bull lost his eye in that skirmish by putting himself in front of an incoming blow directed at Krem. After that, Krem joined the Bull’s Chargers.

He continues to explain how his family reacted. Krem’s mother didn’t take it well and wanted to throw him out, saying that if “she” didn’t marry, he would be dooming them all to slavery. He explains how, when he was little, his father would hand him his shaving mirror to teach Krem how to shave. “He never said anything, but I think he knew.”

When interacting with Iron Bull, the subject comes up again while the Inquisitor is meeting all of the Chargers. Bull says that the Qunari have transgender people in their culture, called Aqun-Athlok. Bull says that the Aqun-Athlok are not treated differently because those who identify as Krem does “are men,” to which Krem replies that, “Maybe you Qunari aren’t so bad after all.” The Inquisitor can also ask why Krem “chose” to become a man, and the answer he gives is absolutely perfect:

“I didn’t decide anything. I’ve been like this my whole life.”

Dragon Age

Krem’s story is very impactful in so many ways. However, it is not without its faults. Many have criticized the questions the Inquisitor can ask Krem, which are quite transphobic. “Why pass as a man” and “Are you a woman” aren’t the best questions to ask any transgender person. Only one question is relatively okay-sounding, which is when the Inquisitor asks Krem when he realized.

Although Patrick Weekes (writer) reached out to certain LGBTQIA+ friends and acquaintances, no transgender writer was hired for the job of writing Krem. Some argue that, had a trans writer been added to the team, Krem’s personality would be much more relatable. This also connects to another issue: the fact that trans gamers who were excited about Krem coming out were unable to react in kind with their Inquisitor. For example, had there been a dialogue line that said something along the lines of, “Hey! Me too,” trans gamers would have that special connection with the Lieutenant.

Bioware tried to reach out to a lot of their fans with Inquisition. Although they messed up in certain areas, the reception was quite positive and, according to Patrick Weekes’ blog on the Bioware website, it could’ve been a whole lot worse. That would’ve caused a lot of uproar.

“We are all proud to have brought Krem to life in the game, and seeing people in the genderqueer community respond positively to him has been wonderful. We are also listening to feedback on how we can improve with characters in the future.”

A friendly reminder to all gamers and non-gamers: whether you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or any other identity outside convention, remember that you are perfect the way you are. Sometimes, rude questions or comments may be asked that make you uncomfortable, creating hardships in your life. Society might not always accept you, but know that there are people out there supporting you and others like you. It does get better.

[Editor’s Note: For further insight into the writing process behind diversity in Dragon Age: Inquisition, check out Video Game Sophistry’s interview with David Gaider. Thanks to @curatedpixel for the catch!]

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15 thoughts on “Representation Matters: Gender Identity & Krem’s Inclusion in ‘Dragon Age’”

  1. I mean yeah Krem’s great but I think it’s a little messed up how he’s given such respectful and amazing treatment yet all instances of trans women in the games have been relegated to “joke prostitute characters”

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    1. Hey there! I’m not the author of this particular post, but was curious: what instances of transmisogyny were there in DA:I? I know about that comment Sera makes in text, but wasn’t aware there were more. What a shitfest. :/ If you have time/feel up to sharing, I’d really like to hear about where else in the game that happens. I don’t doubt it!

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  2. I actually took the fact that they added in the questions on “Why pass as a man” and such were for those folks who ask those questions without thinking because they don’t understand. I don’t know Krem’s responses to those, as I saw them and thought “How rude!”, but perhaps that is why people were upset those options were there at all–because Krem’s response to those questions made it seem as if those questions were okay to ask…which, some would argue, you have to start somewhere to educate someone.

    Honestly, until we start having these conversations openly with people who want to learn rather than with people angry at the thought of a character being even remotely LGBTQIA, this area will always be a bit of a mess.

    Either way, I am completely on board with the idea that in order to get better characters and connections in gaming, we need to fill the industry with people who know what they’re talking about. Good writing comes from those who research and know. It will be great for those working on DA:I to take the feedback from this instance to make something even better.

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  3. Love the article and I love Krem. Just a tiny correction to this. Krem was already in the military when his secret was found out. He was up for a promotion and had to take a physical, when the healer he bribed left.

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