No such thing as ghosts, I guess. Might as well get started.
First of all, I'd just like to say I absolutely hate having to communicate through text, despite how convenient it is a lot of the time. Mostly because, well, if there's a voice you're reading this in, it's probably way off, and this is kind of something that tone of voice would be very useful for. It's why, when I did this for my Youtube audience, I did it over livestream, and I think that was still easier to do despite how incredibly cringy it ended up being.
(though, it is hard to take listening to my voice on playback, I really thought I was making better progress than that...)
So I've been acting a bit weird lately. I don't know if anyone is paying enough attention to notice, but in my thread posts, I feel like I'm suddenly able to talk about some topics that I was very uncomfortable with before, or that you wouldn't really expect me to know much about. And my journal posts... I can absolutely see I've been getting overly emotional sometimes. Sorry if that was a bit of a shock.
I've kind of been keeping this quiet for a while, I just... felt like I needed to get to a certain point before I could talk about it. It's not really something I could just come out with without something to point to. I've been on HRT for the past 10 months, and I've known I was trans for over a year, almost the entire time I've been working on 2552. There were plenty of signs and questioning stages before that, I've had dysphoria for years and years without really knowing what I was going through, it was just one late night in February 2017 that I finally made the connection.
I can kinda see why I ended up loving Red vs. Blue so much. At first I hated the adult humor, but despite that I could get into the show immediately just because the machinima style and fully-armored characters bypassed the weirdness I had always felt towards having to look at human faces/bodies. It was a universe where I could explore human beings as characters without their depiction making me shy away, and that was incredibly important. The fact that I ended up with two female characters in my main cast of OCs way back in 2008 definitely stands out for the time, given I usually felt so uncomfortable with enforced sexuality that I had to avoid the subject entirely, but RVB's setting completely erased any of the discomfort that stemmed from aversion to stereotypes or fears of what others might think. When everyone was just a suit of armor to anyone but me, I could make the characters I wanted to without caring what anyone thought.
So with 2552 I decided I would actually start working on those story arcs, since whether I fully knew it at the time or not, I ended up with a cast full of LGBT+ characters. To go into the history of a few and their significance:
Oregon: I absolutely wrote the character based on my own experience with dysphoria. Pretty much my default character to write was "guy who acts like a robot" for years. Being ace in a straight-enforced world meant it took me a very long time to even look at anything feminine out of dread for the "are they chasing you yet?" comments from family, but I certainly didn't feel represented by any character that expressed masculine characteristics. Oregon being nonbinary and aro/ace is pretty obvious in hindsight, kind of my way of reconciling what aspects of myself I did write into the character, separate from the things I couldn't have been drawing from at the time since I hadn't started experiencing them yet.
Throughout the series, Oregon has expressed a desire to be stronger than anyone else in the room, but it's always been more about heroics than anything inherent in the strength itself. Oregon's arc in 2552 starts out with them confronting two enemies that hold strength as an inherent value: first, the Imperator, who claims this as something they have in common, and second, Antullus, who is in denial that Oregon can be an equal but clearly recognizes this same similarity. Oregon has a brief moment where they let slip self-conflict ("if you're anything like me, all the more reason to take you down"), but ultimately rejects strength in the prideful sense, recognizing that they see it as a tool or skill and have no desire to have a tough/"macho" reputation. The fight in the training room is the polar opposite of the Tex fight in episode 6, Oregon doesn't care if they can beat the Imperator, and instead relies on strategy and teamwork in a way that takes advantage of the Imperator's priorities.
2552 also pits Oregon against the flood, with plenty of hints that Oregon is resistant to the frequent sights of body-horror, having had the same reaction to their own body for years. But when the harbinger compares humanity to a disease, Oregon's doublethink mechanism to separate humanity in the metaphorical sense from humanity in the biological sense is thrown into chaos. The nightmare sequence is... toned down since I still needed to be able to make/watch it myself, but it's a fairly accurate representation of my experience with dysphoria. I don't really feel like going into specifics, but... there's a lot there. And all that stuff about Oregon's armor was pretty accurate to how I designed the character. I kinda thought yelling "Noah, you made a mistake" in front of what is almost the exact nonbinary flag, after a whole bit where Basilisk uses they/them pronouns in a motivational speech, would be a bit over-the-top. Should I make it more obvious next time?
Basilisk: Core to the idea of the character of Basilisk was always this inherent need to plan for the worst, to survive against persecution, and the idea of something to live for. Her being trans was something I decided on relatively recently, but still before I figured it out for myself. She was this character that I actually gave a sense of self-preservation rather than only selfless heroics, and that was very distinct and enough to make me take a second look at why. I've been very worried though, about whether Basilisk is even decent representation, given that she was an anti-hero for most of Season 4, and while it's made clear the gang leader persona is a ruse, we don't really see a different side of her. I made it a point in 2552 to show her in a different context, the "force of habit" bit instilling the idea that she's very not the person we saw in S4. For her speech to the Imperator, she lets loose a bit, since it's obviously in anger, but she immediately shifts to a more upbeat tone when she calls Oregon afterwards.
And in the end, she's there for Oregon. Having gone through a similar experience with dysphoria, she knows exactly how to snap them out of the nightmare. What I kind of want to make sure I get right, is that she's a different person underneath, and though she might be adjusting her personality in a more violent or intimidating manner out of necessity, she's not truly like that inherently (or, to put it a different way, "It's not red, it's darkish pink").
Nevada and Alabama: So yes, Nevada and Alabama are an official couple, and they sort of have been for years. Nevada is bisexual and Alabama is a lesbian. I've tried romance in the series before. That arc in Season 2 with the AIs was kinda supposed to be a love triangle between California, Vermont, and Nevada, and can still sort of read that way if you know this, but I was just too uncomfortable to ever go through with it. I only really wrote it that way because I felt like that was what I was supposed to do in a series. With Nevada and Alabama... it took a while. Until I realized I was trans, any romantic feelings I did have I just felt guilty about, since they didn't make any sense to me, dysphoria switched them instantly to repulsion, and I just felt like a creep. So I just kind of tried to avoid it for a long time. I know it seems like an afterthought at best and evidence against at worst, but not really understanding love for most of my life, thinking it was just something I would never really feel as a good thing, and then seeing f/f relationships depicted in modern media and getting a whole new set of emotions I've never felt before is kind of a big deal for me.
It was as early as the Convergence crossover event in 2014 that I started putting them in scenes together and dropping subtle hints, but It would still take a long time before I could ever get over that hesitation. But over the last year, I've tried building it up slowly and seeing how the audience reacts. I got positive reactions to the emotional moment in Volume 1 where Nevada tries to apologize to Alabama, and gave myself the go-ahead to rewrite some later scenes to get them together for real by the end of the arc. When I'm writing their scenes... I'm writing from the heart, and I hope that makes it authentic.
I initially fell victim to the "oh, they can have a past relationship but eventually she will end up with a guy" stereotype for Nevada, and always had the idea that their relationship was something before Freelancer. Even if I didn't mention it before, them being together in the past was part of how I wrote the characters, so I did introduce it into canon this arc, then started taking steps to have it turn out differently this time. Alabama died in the original version of my RVB: Response series that takes place early in Reconstruction (after 2552), but I'd always left her armor enhancement as a wild-card, and revealed in Volume 3 that it's basically a way to fake her own death. Even if I don't change the on-screen events when I remake that arc, Nevada and Alabama are absolutely endgame.
So that was a long post, I'm sorry if I slipped too much into lab report mode when I got into detail, it's kind of been my coping mechanism for how I deal with the written voice. I've been doing a lot of research over the last year, LGBT+ representation in the media has become my passion in life, and I'm really trying to get it right even though I don't have that big of a voice in the grand scheme of things. Anyway, I hope I make a bit more sense now, and I can stop being so weird about things.