Last week, a group of Warhammer 40k fans expressed their disappointment with language in the Horus Heresy Age of Darkness rulebook, stating it was similar to arguments used by transphobes. Fan creator Commissar Draeci drafted an open letter asking Games Workshop to use sensitivity readers. Now blogger Matt Austin, aka Bits Hammer, has added his voice to the mix, in an email to GW that also asks for better female representation in the hobby.
The questionable passage from the Horus Heresy book explains that the Space Marine creation process “relies inherently on the hormonal and biological make-up of the human male”. As Austin’s email points out “All humans have the same hormones, just in different levels” and this “can be changed with medication in 2022.” He continues: “Male biology is even more confusing of a term to use, as save for the shape of the hip, fat distribution, and the reproductive organs, men and women have all the same biology under the skin.”
“My aim is to at minimum get GW to acknowledge the issue and correct it,” Austin tells Wargamer. “They’ve laid down a promise with the community by stating that Warhammer is for everyone and they should be held accountable when their actions serve as barrier to people entering the hobby.”
Of course, Warhammer 40k (and the realm of sci-fi as a whole) is no stranger to using sciencey-sounding jargon to justify setting details, and Austin believes the passage was not intended to do harm. But, here, this particular bit of pseudoscience, as Austin says, uncomfortably mirrors arguments “used to attack trans women”.
“If you want to restrict the Astartes to being male only, then the lore should not use clear cut biological terms,” Austin says. However, his email then continues with an argument for why there should be women in the Space Marines.
— Matt Austin (@BitsHammer) June 25, 2022
The crux of it, as Austin’s email explains, is that “Space Marines are the protagonist faction of the setting”. They get “top billing” in everything from merch to Warhammer 40k books, and are clearly considered ‘more important’ than other parts of the setting. “Slapping a ‘no girls allowed’ sign on them creates barriers that shouldn’t exist,” Austin says.
He argues that adding female head options for Space Marines would be an easy way to make the hobby more welcoming to more people, and that the Sisters of Battle/Silence aren’t enough to fill the niche.
He concludes: “Changes to the way the lore is presented need to be made to be more inclusive to trans people at minimum, but to make it more welcoming for everyone and to keep in the spirit of ‘Warhammer is for Everyone’ it needs to evolve further to meet the community that participates in it in 2022.”
Austin tells Wargamer that the response to his email from people in the Warhammer community has been “largely positive”, despite pushback from a vocal minority “who think that having any female models in the game counts as representation”.
“The biggest thing is, I’d like GW to actually acknowledge this issue publicly,” he says. “The longer they don’t say anything the more it just serves to silently condone the actions of the gatekeepers and bigots they say they stand against.”
Wargamer reached out to Games Workshop for comment, but at time of publication had received no response.