Warhammer 40k needs sensitivity readers say fans in open letter

A Warhammer 40k fan has collected 596 signatures on an open letter criticising gender critical language in The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness book.

Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Gender Critical: The Age of Darkness Rulebook for Horus Heresy.

June 27, 2022: Another prominent Warhammer 40k fan has now called GW out publicly over its gender language – click here to read the full story

A non-binary Warhammer 40k fan has criticised Games Workshop for allegedly using gender critical language in the new Age of Darkness rulebook for The Horus Heresy and called for them to make use of sensitivity readers in the future. Twitter user and hobbyist Draeci has gathered 596 signatures on their open letter from like-minded fans. “Let us continue to love your settings and your materials, without trepidation over the way they are written,” their open letter requests.

Draeci shared their open letter to Games Workshop on Twitter on Monday, covering what they described as “accidental use of Gender Critical language in Horus Heresy AoD” as well as “the necessity of sensitivity readers in publications”.

They were concerned by a potentially harmful passage in the Age of Darkness rulebook for The Horus Heresy. Draeci writes that while they feel “no malice was intended” they are also asking that GW “understand how accidental use of language that echoes real-life pain and harm, not only breaks our immersion in a setting that we cherish, but shakes our faith that we are truly regarded as part of it to begin with.”

The passage in question is the following, from the recently released Age of Darkness rulebook:

‘The process by which Space Marines are created relies inherently on the hormonal and biological make-up of the human male, meaning that only males can be subjected to the transformation.’

Draeci argues in their open letter that this “misses the mark by including terms that are frequently used to harm gender minorities in the current day”, sounding “uncannily and uncomfortably close to the rhetoric used by Gender Critical and trans-exclusionary groups.”

They point out that ‘biological male’ is a term often “used in malice” and that the ‘hormonal make-up’ section rings alarm bells, since “there is no detectable hormonal difference between a cisgender person and anyone receiving the correct dosage of HRT”.

They add that the passage “is an immediate and very cruel slap back to reality for any gender minority who has experienced modern bigotry and wishes to seek escapism in your work alongside everyone else.”

They also suggest an alternative passage, true to the spirit of the original: “Human males have been the only successful candidates gleaned from the arduous transformation process by which Space Marines were originally created.”

Draeci wrote their open letter with an eye to the future, and requested that Games Workshop take action, or at least consider their suggestions.

“Please, for our improved safety in your community, hire sensitivity readers for your future mainline publications.”

They finish their letter: “We trust to your consideration, and hope this letter is received in the spirit in which it is written; from a position of love for the worlds you create, and the desire to visit them alongside you.”

Wargamer approached Games Workshop about the wording and petition but at time of publication had received no response.