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Celeste Developer Finally Confirms Popular Fan Theory

Fans of Celeste have long believed, fueled by in-game hints, that the indie platformer's groundbreaking protagonist is transgender. Developer Maddy Thorson has now confirmed Madeline's gender identity as trans

In Celeste's Chapter 9, Farewell, there's an epilogue in which Madeline is at her computer. Behind her keyboard, players can see a rainbow flag and a transgender pride flag. Other subtle clues exist as well, including a framed picture of Madeline as a child looking a bit more masculine, which can be found next to her bed in the same epilogue. Considering the theme of mental health that pervades the game, Thorson's confirmation of Madeline's trans identity contextualizes her journey in Celeste while helping others connect with and relate to her in a new way.

Thorson admitted that the lateness of the confirmation and the lack of a firm acknowledgment of Madeline's status inside Celeste may have been problematic, but notes that Madeline's evolution mirrors their own: Thorson was not "fully conscious" of their own feelings or identity, and therefore could not insert them into the game. "During Celeste's development, I did not know that Madeline or myself were trans," they said. "During the Farewell DLC's development, I began to form a hunch. Post-development, I now know that we both are."

This makes Madeline one of the first trans protagonists in a video game. Respectful representation of trans characters remains in its infancy. However, strides have been made recently. The Last of Us 2 featured a trans storyline with the child character Lev, which has nevertheless been controversial because of the deadnaming and other torments he undergoes within the narrative. Tell Me Why, which is getting plenty of buzz, made history when it was released in August with a playable trans protagonist. Developer Dontnod consulted with GLAAD, made sure to have transgender testers, hired trans voice actors, and did its best to accurately depict the trans experience.

While representation remains important, Thorson said they believe that Madeline's story is still relatable to all people — regardless of gender identity. "People need to see and feel the experience of those different from themselves, especially from less-privileged groups who they share society with but wield outsize and often invisible power over," Thorson said. "Trans folks, and other marginalized groups, have a lot to teach that will help everyone. If you're cis and Celeste helped you, that's awesome! That simply means that you learned something about yourself from a trans story."

Hopefully, these recent developments mean the video game industry will continue to make positive strides in terms of representing diverse voices.