7/04/16 Update: Ed Greenwood has responded further on the issue, elaborating a bit more explicitly on what the lore for the realms did or didn’t include since its inception. I have included the additional quote below.
It would seem that even Elminster himself (Ed Greenwood) has heard of the recent kerfuffle over a certain video game and has decided to write a response. I’ve decided to quote it here, because it’s fantastic to see someone who created the source material directly contradict those who say “This doesn’t work in the setting!”.
I am saddened by what I hear of the current kerfluffle raging about Siege of Dragonspear and the trans character Amber Scott designed and included in it.
Folks, the Realms have ALWAYS had characters (mortals and deities) who crossdressed, changed gender (and not just to sneak past guards in an adventure, by way of shapeshifting magic or illusions), were actively bisexual, and openly gay. How underscored this was by TSR and later Wizards varied over time, and was always softpedaled, because D&D wasn’t a sex game, and we generally don’t rub the reader’s nose in sex unless there’s a good in-story reason for it.
But even deities have changed gender, sometimes for good, and the servants of deities (Elminster, in ELMINSTER: THE MAKING OF A MAGE) have sometimes been forced by the deity to “spend time as the other” to learn what life is like.
So it has always been there, and is an integral part of the Realms. With that said, I’ve never met a gamer yet who doesn’t tinker with every adventure to “make it their own” at their own gaming table, so if trans, LGBT, or sexual matters at all don’t suit your tastes and needs in your gaming sessions, leave it out or change it.
But D&D has half-orcs, and half-dragons, and half-elves, and has magic items that specifically change gender, right there in the rules. Surely, if you can handle the basic notion of cross-SPECIES sex, having a full variety of gender roles should be something that doesn’t blow your mind. If it’s not for you, that’s fine. I hate wearing certain shades of yellow. But I don’t scream and yell at someone I see wearing those shades of yellow, and call them names, and threaten things. My right to dislike yellow applies to me; it doesn’t extend to others. Because somehow, through an incredible oversight on the part of the universe that still hasn’t been rectified, no one made me a god. (I’m still crushed.)
And another thing: I have always felt HONOURED to have met, worked with, and enjoyed the work of so many talented women in all of my professional fields (library work has traditionally been dominated by females, gaming hasn’t, and fiction-writing was male-dominated when I was young, but has steadily shifted throughout my lifetime). Does Paul Jaquays becoming Jennell Jaquays rob his, now her, artwork or game design or prose of one iota of its richness and the enjoyment it gives me? NO! And how by the Nine flaming Hells does one human being made happier by being the gender they prefer to be lessen my own security, or happiness, or make my life the less?
The world has REAL problems, people. Telling someone else how to behave in bed (or dress, or what jobs they can hold down) isn’t one of them. Or shouldn’t be.
Extremely well said Ed Greenwood. Even though I have not been a huge fan of Elminster and many of the ways Forgotten Realms characters have been written, this is a really great response and fantastic to see the original creator directly addressing something like this. Just in case there was anyone wondering if this was a new position of his:
As the cut and thrust over Siege of Dragonspear continues, it seems to me that many posters on the matter have wildly (in some cases, perhaps willfully) misinterpreted what I’ve said.
I have NOT commented on how the game is written or plays, because (for years now) I have not been shown computer game licenses for my approval/lore input…including this one, so I CAN’T ethically comment on it (as I haven’t seen it).
I posted what I did in response to online gamer comments that claimed a trans character, or lesbian or gay characters, weren’t in keeping with the lore of the Realms, and that there was no canon basis for them. That is BS, because such characters have been in the setting since before D&D or ANY computer games existed (yes, I created the Realms in the mid 1960s, before any roleplaying games had been crafted). So no one “misled” me, and no one is muzzling or directing what I say or can’t say. I spoke out against some false arguments within my area of expertise (want “the” master of Realmslore? well, that’d be me), and went farther reacting to the hatred and vitriol expressed by some against people that in some cases they’ve never met and never will.
I have not defended the writing or coding of the game, because I can’t, simply because I have not personally seen or played it. And, no, I’m not avoiding this or any computer game deliberately; I simply have no time in my life for playing computer games except as part of paid work: I have a wife to nurse and a day job to hold down; writing, game design, and publishing are all “second job” work for me. Yes, really.