The developers probably didn’t plan Hanako to be an exploration of the exotic or trans* issues.I also don’t claim to represent every single person with a trans* identity.One of the most painful experiences is claiming an identity that others don’t see or believe.
Yes, Katawa Shoujo has a sensationalist premise promising for something to go horribly wrong.
The main character, Nakai Hisao, transfers to a private school that accommodates students with disabilities and health issues that require the need of an around the clock medical staff.
Whenever someone approached me and looked at my face, all I could think of was how they were staring at my trans-ness. I felt ugly when people stumbled to identify me, I felt ugly whenever a guy would forcibly call me “dude” and make sure there was a yard between us.
Hanako was the Id I battled with, wanting someone like Lily who didn’t notice what was transgender about me, who was sensitive to when I need to leave social gatherings, that I needed extra steps to feel comfortable.
Appearances matter, especially how you dress, your hair, your face.
Imagine having that double fold and outside of high school; that was me.
I felt awkward, and looking at Hanako, I now know everyone else knew I was awkward, despite my efforts.
Then there was the social anxiety, some that stays with me today.
It also isn’t a suggestion that players or anyone participating in visual novel culture are rapists or otherwise condemnable people.
Katawa Shoujo, however, normalizes the exotic and makes it palatable to more hegemonic identities; it’s easier to explore feelings surrounding dating someone with a disability or transgender identity when they are a video game character bent to satisfy the player.
The unfortunate truth is Hanako and transgender people know they are often viewed only through what makes them exotic, and once it becomes familiar, interest fades.