Pax Sim party outfit

Gender and gaming: The Sims bulldozes binaries

[Image: A screenshot of the Create a Sim screen from The Sims 4. Pax’s Sim has long black locs and is wearing a black and white patterned jacket, black hat, and black jeans.]

In a climate of relentless cissexism and transphobia, it’s great to share some good news for trans and non-binary people for a change. Today, Maxis announced new gender customization options in The Sims 4, the latest version of their mega-popular video game. All Sims will now have full access to all hairstyles, clothing, makeup, accessories, and other formerly gendered attributes.

I’ve been wanting this change for a long time. I had posted about it numerous times on the official game forums, most recently just a week ago when players were speculating about new unisex clothing options:

Sims forum comment on gender[Image: A screenshot from The Sims forums (text below).]

No clothing “belongs” to any gender.

As I’ve said in other threads, if it were up to me, all clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, and makeup would be available to all Sims in CAS [“Create a Sim”]. The game could be coded to ensure that townies only show up with what most players consider to be conventional styles for their genders. If people really objected to men having long hair or skirt options even in CAS, I guess there could be another option to hide “unconventional” styles in CAS or something.

What I most wanted to do was to make a more accurate Sim of my partner Ziggy, who likes wearing skirts. Ziggy is genderqueer, not a trans woman; he uses he/him pronouns and is not currently pursuing any sort of gender transition. He just prefers wearing clothing that is branded as “feminine.” Now, I can finally dress his Sim appropriately, and give him better hair to boot:

Ziggy Sim in purple skirt[Image: A screenshot of the Create a Sim screen from The Sims 4. Ziggy’s Sim is wearing a floral purple-and-white blouse, purple skirt, and lavender hat. Under the “Fashion Choice” menu, the word “Feminine” is checked.

Ziggy Sim at the mirror[Image: A screenshot from The Sims 4. Ziggy’s Sim is seen from the back, in front of a mirror, wearing a floral purple-and-white blouse, purple skirt, lavender hat, and long, braided lavender and white hair.]

I haven’t changed my own self-Sim much yet, as I prefer clothing that is branded as “masculine,” and my Sim counterpart in this version has always been male. But I love that I can now have the long locs that my male self-Sim sported in The Sims 3, which were only available for female Sims in this version before today.

Pax Sim with long locs[Image: A screenshot of the Create a Sim screen from The Sims 4. Pax’s Sim has long black locs and is wearing a black V-neck T-shirt, black cap, and blue jeans.]

I’m very happy that The Sims has continually become more progressive and affirming of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Same-sex relationships have been supported since the beginning, with The Sims in the year 2000; the first Sim I created was a gay man, and he ended up living in a house with three other gay male Sims. The Sims 2 added “joining” which was not quite equivalent to marriage, and then The Sims 3 added full same-sex marriage in 2009, years before it became legal nationwide in the USA.

Support for varying gender identities and expressions was the next logical step. As the Sims team explained:

  • ..the team also worked very closely with GLAAD to assure that the update was authentic and respectful to the transgender community.
  • … I’m very proud that we managed to remove some barriers to creating Sims that defy stereotypical gender definition.

Of course, this change will not come without backlash. I’ve read a lot of cissexist and heterosexist comments on the forums whenever gender identity or non-hetero sexual orientations have been mentioned. Although blatant hate speech is normally removed by the moderators, the language is triggering enough to me that I’m mostly avoiding the forums right now. Regardless, the team did reassure players that non-player-created Sims (NPCs or “townies”) would continue to sport traditional “masculine” or “feminine” styles for their sexes:

These options are entirely in your control and the game itself will not modify how Sims appear in your world. Instead this is about adding more tools in your toolbox, and letting you pick the tools that make sense to you while ignoring what doesn’t.

I am looking forward to spending more time exploring all the new options available to my many Sim families. I am grateful that in an industry known for sexist oppression, there’s at least one safer harbor where I can more freely express my authentic self.

One thought on “Gender and gaming: The Sims bulldozes binaries”

  1. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing. I haven’t played Sims in forever but I’m a big fan of the Fallout series, and I was happy that in Fallout 4 they did away with any sort of straight-ness or monogamy by allowing players of either of the (unfortunately still binary) genders date any of the available companions, AND date multiples of them. So for instance a female character can now have up to 3 female companions as girlfriends and up to…I think there are 5 or 6?…male companions as boyfriends, all at the same time, and none of them care.

    I do hope for the next Fallout game, which probably won’t happen for 5+ years, that they also do away with gender.

    Another cool thing about new Fallout is that they did away with racial assignments and instead just let you pick a skin tone. I was offended that in previous games they had Caucasian, Hispanic, Black and Asian racial assignments (no others), and whichever you picked came with a body that was ever-so-slightly stereotyped (i.e. the Hispanic body had a bigger butt than the others; the Asian body was the skinniest). Now you can just customize all of these things without choosing an ethnicity.

    It’s really fascinating to see the interplay between gaming and social movements…It’s a really important element of enacting positive social change as so many people and especially *kids* play these games *all the time.*


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