I came out as transgender back in January of 2015. Now, a full retelling of the last three years would take way too long, so I'll simply say this: it's been hard. It's sucked tremendous amounts of ass. Every aspect of your physical being, your appearance, your voice, are constantly being scrutinized and judged by strangers. There's a new "debate" or a new easily debunked science article springing up every five minutes to justify cis society's bigotry. You find yourself getting blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong in a person's life, regardless of how ridiculous it is; natural disasters, the 2016 presidential election, businesses shutting down, someone waking up and stubbing their toe first thing in the morning. It's all bullshit.

Whenever things get too hard to deal with (which is often), I tend to imagine what it would be like if I could, along with the few fellow traumatised trans women I've made connections with during this time, escape. Just leave. Find an island, or go into space and land on an empty planet. A place where we can hide from a shitty world that wants us dead for no good reason, where we can be free to be ourselves and show each other the love that is so often cruelly denied to us here.

And this all brings me to Hardcoded. Hardcoded is, as its itch.io page describes it, a "Cyberpunk porn game." It's a visual novel designed to make you horny while you play it. The plot follows a transgender android who has just escaped from the corporation that built her, carrying only a slip of paper with an address. While she's escaping, she meets another trans woman named Beryl, who lets her know that the coast is clear, and they spend the night in the apartment written down on that slip of paper. The next morning, the android, now called Hardcoded, due to her deadname being hard coded to her AI and unable to think of a new name, is introduced to all of Beryl's friends. Then, the first major aspect of the plot begins, as a yet-unexplained (the game is still unfinished) occurence has caused everyone in the city to be hornier than normal, to the point of dropping everything and having sex in public. Hardcoded and her new friends decide to try and figure out what's causing this, as none of them are able to function normally due to constantly being aroused. Yes, it's a very silly plot that more or less serves as the justification for all the well-drawn sex scenes.

But there's something to this game. The cast is made up of trans women who, for the most part, become friends immediately. Each clearly has a backstory involving some sort of trauma (again, the game isn't done, so nothing is fully explained yet), as is shown in their appearances and dialogue. They're a polycule (because lol trans culture) that deeply care for one another. The first romantic thing that Hardcoded does with any of these women is hold hands, cuddle, and stutter and stammer out how cute they think each other are. It's sweet. And it's very remniscient of the relationship I have with my group of fellow trans friends. That is, if we weren't all seperated by distance and a lack of money. It all ties back to what I talked about at the start of this: wanting to be with them, away from all the stress and the bullshit of society at large.

Now, you're probably sitting there and saying, "Ramona, that just sounds like you want to fuck your friends!" And, well...hey...listen, you're not wrong in that assumption. But there's more to intimacy and more to love than simply having sex. Especially when you're someone in a group of other someones desperate for something; some sort of affection, or someone to hold you and listen to you when you're down, or any kind of positive affirmation that you're not some weird freak that doesn't deserve to live. It admittedly feels odd and funny that a game designed to be masturbated to can bring that sort of emotion out of me, but it does.

It's not often you see trans-focused media like this. Where everyone is in a loving, consensual relationship. Where they're seemingly free to express their gender and be allowed their own sexual autonomy without being looked at as a predator. And while there is objectification happening; this is porn we're talking about here, where it's impossible to not objectify (I'm not bringing this up as a complaint, for what it's worth), it manages to do so without being described through the many trans slurs that are used to promote and sell trans porn. And while I'm a person who reclaims slurs as a political and artistic act, it is good to not have to see that shit here. Hardcoded is a game that not only appeals to sexual fantasy, but also to the fantasy of finally being free. I'll be looking forward to the finished game.