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There was one more moon to get and it was right above me. So I looked up and spotted something in the sky. I had to use the round platform to go up high enough so I could hit the cloud hats in the air to turn them into platforms.

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W hen she wasHannah discovered two portals to other worlds. The first was her Nintendo 64, which could transport her to the dark dungeons of Zelda and the chaotic battlefields of Super Smash Bros. Hannah had been ased male at birth and raised as a boy; she feared her mother would not approve of her son trying on dresses.

She vividly remembers the first time she explored that wardrobe, at the age of nine.

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Her mother was at work, her father asleep downstairs in his chair. Hannah crept into their bedroom and tentatively opened a drawer. As if on cue, her mother returned from work unexpectedly and caught Hannah in the act.

Video games

At secondary school, she would wear tights under her school trousers, enjoying how they felt against her skin. In PE, she wore baggy trousers to hide the fact that she had shaved her legs.

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I never could. While Hannah hid this from family and friends, there was one place where she could live openly as a female. She had been a gamer since she was three, and began playing on the Roblox platform at eight.

‘in the game, i knew myself as hannah’: the trans gamers finding freedom on roblox

When players first start, they are instructed to make an avatar through which they interact with the game world. There, she played as a girl, under the name PrincessBananna. You can escape real life and have a completely new identity. As soon as I got on the computer, I just knew myself as Hannah. Through her teenage years, the online community around Roblox would help her learn about transitioning, support her as she came out to her family and even help fund her gender-affirming surgery.

I spoke to almost 30 trans gamers, aged 13 to 30, for this article and, while every story was different, each emphasised the important role that games played in helping them to come to terms with their real-world selves. As Hannah began to favour her female avatar, she confided in Roblox friends about her confusion over her gender identity. They offered advice and, more importantly, acceptance. While Hannah spent a lot of time gaming, her mother, Terri, 47, an NHS recovery support worker, never saw this as a problem.

Since its launch, it has grown to host 37 million daily active users, with two-thirds of players under the girl gamers tumblr of 17 in The company claims that three-quarters of all American children aged nine to 12 are on Roblox. It is the highest-grossing game on the US iOS store, according to mobile game market research company GameRefinerywhich also noted a huge jump in popularity over the pandemic when children have been stuck at home.

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Roblox has had less media attention than games such as Fortnite or Minecraft, perhaps because girl gamers tumblr its younger demographic, but it has an edge over competitors because of the range of players it caters to. Unlike Fortnite, Roblox is not a single game, but a platform for game creation and sharing. Any user can download the Roblox Studio software free and use its simplified de toolkit to make and share their own games. range from treasure-hunting in the jungle to shooting baddies in military compounds, or role-playing baristas and customers in a virtual coffee shop.

The most popular title, Adopt Me! Communities on Roblox interact in different ways. There is the in-game chat box, where players talk about the game they are playing or just shoot the breeze. Here, players can learn about queer issues, play games and meet others. It lacks the aggression and vicious, often casually racist, sexist and homophobic comments common in online shooting and sports games. It is not a coincidence that the age most people get seriously into gaming is adolescence, a stage of life when our sense of self is in flux and we actively seek to define ourselves.

Players questioning their gender identity can experiment without social judgment, consequences or commitment. For a young person ased male at birth to walk down the street in a dress could be a terrifying, even dangerous experience. To de a female avatar and step out into a virtual city could hardly be easier or safer. Freya not her real namea year-old trans girl from the south of England, told me how experimenting with her Roblox avatar helped her understand her gender identity.

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Her first character, made when she was 10, was a boyish figure in a baggy red hoodie, with a majestic pair of golden wings. Over the next four years, her avatar underwent a gradual transformation: she grew out the hair and swapped the hoodie and trousers for a sunhat and white short-shorts.

Freya has now changed her name legally, transitioned fully at school and partially with her family she is not out to all her relatives. S tudies on how gamers express themselves through avatars have typically focused on cisgender players people whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were ased at birth. It is generally found that they create avatars that look like idealised versions of themselves : taller, thinner, more muscular, or with a different skin tone. Few academics have studied the intersection of avatars and gender identity, though a study suggested that games might be prescribed therapeutically to ease the path to transitioning in the real world.

All gamers enjoy playing with the looks of their girl gamers tumblr — almost half of Roblox players update their avatar each month, adding body parts and accessories to their Lego-like characters, ranging from new clothes and hairstyles to antlers, wings and weaponry.

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Hannah can pinpoint the moment when, at 15, she changed the gender of her main Roblox character to female. With a single click, her avatar made a transition that was still a distant, complicated dream for its creator. By 17, she was ordering supplements online to boost her oestrogen levels, but was still afraid to come out. Are you going to get bullied at school?

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No online space is free from trolling. The same anonymity that allows users like Hannah to experiment with their identity also allows trolls to harass with relative impunity. Several found the in-game tools to report harassment — which include blocking other players or reporting them to moderators — ineffective at curbing abuse. Yet all agreed that these occurrences were relatively rare. I used to trash-talk people and get angry when I lost a competitive game. We actively encourage and empower users to report and block anyone that may be harassing or bullying them or other members of the community.

As part of her job, Higgins shares safety tips and encourages parents to learn about Roblox alongside their. With the encouragement of her Roblox community, Hannah finally came out as trans to her family at the age of 18, and found them surprisingly supportive. At girl gamers tumblr Hannah had no idea how she could make that much money. Roblox provided a potential answer.

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Though free to download, Roblox makes money from a premium subscription service and the sale of Robux, an in-game currency used to buy accessories and items for avatars. It is not just the company that can profit; Roblox has more than 8 million community developers, often teenagers working alone or in small teams, who create games for others to play.

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Hannah had been making games on Roblox for fun since In their most successful game so far, Marble Simulator, players roll girl gamers tumblr a blindingly colourful landscape collecting coins and blasting enemies. It recorded 1, simultaneous players during the first coronavirus lockdown. But Hannah is a clear, thoughtful person. It is not uncommon for trans gamers to mobilise their communities to help pay for surgery. American gamer Veronica Ripley, 30, livestreams herself on video platform Twitch to more than 30, followers who know her as Nikatine.

But as tight-knit as the trans gamer community is, Ripley says that people rarely stick around for long. Freya is only 14, but feeling this already. I prefer to be known as female, not trans female. Ripley tells me she often receives private messages from young people experiencing debilitating gender dysphoria, who learn to accept themselves by interacting online.

Not everybody who swaps gender online is on the path to transitioning, Ripley is keen to point out. Anything that can subvert gender norms in some way is a huge, beneficial thing for any questioning person. She advises them to explore their options early, opening up to parents if they will be accepting, in order to save years of potential suffering.

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She hopes younger players might learn from her own mistakes. Ripley and Hannah both say they have observed that the current cohort of people questioning their gender online are younger. Last summer the Roblox online store was stocked with user-created clothing emblazoned with pride flags and Black Lives Matter logos. The wider gaming industry is also beginning to level up when it comes to trans representation. Last year saw the release of Tell Me Why, the first major game with a trans protagonist, while gender non-binary options have been introduced to the character creation options in games such as Animal Crossing, The Sims and Cyberpunk Hannah is still waiting for the operations that will make her feel as authentic as she does in her Roblox avatar.

When she drops into the game, players treat her like a hero.

See, that’s what the app is perfect for.

Hannah, 20, in her childhood bedroom: she remembers the moment she chose a female avatar on Roblox. Tom Faber. Reuse this content.