Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Pride on Pandora: Flying the rainbow flag in Borderlands

The Borderlands franchise is celebrating its tenth birthday this year and with the imminent arrival of the eagerly anticipated Borderlands 3, we thought we’d take a look at the number of LGBTQ characters that exist in the franchise to date. 

It’s no secret that I love the Borderlands franchise… the highly stylised RPG/shoot ‘em up hybrid was one of the first games I seriously played start to finish. Combining comic book looks and humour, it has huge mass appeal and immense replay-ability. It is also hugely diverse and very LGBTQ friendly with a high proportion of queer characters who are authentically portrayed. 

Gearbox has proven to be one of the main studios leading the way on diversity and representation in its game cast, not only of LGBTQ people, but of people from all backgrounds. This cool blog from Head Writer, Anthony Burch, is worth a read to understand Gearbox’s philosophy.  We also now know that there will be a trans character in Borderlands 3, voiced by a trans actor.

Let’s look back over all the LGBTQ characters who have been portrayed across the Borderlands franchise:

Athena 

First appearing as an NPC in ‘The Secret Armory of General Knoxx’ DLC for the original Borderlands, Athena is a trained assassin who became a vault hunter which we see in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel where she is a playable character. 

After opening the vault in the Pre-Sequel, Athena moved to Hollow Point with her girlfriend Janey Springs. 

We see more of their lives together in Tales from the Borderlands where she is show still living in Hollow Point with Janey, reportedly retired as a bounty hunter. Depending on player choices, Athena is working at a Skag Grill in Prosperity Junction when she is recruited to come out of retirement. If the player also chooses Janey and told her that Athena loved her, then the two will reveal they are getting married.

Axton

Axton is the playable Commando class character in Borderlands 2 who is bisexual. Axton spent ten years with the Dahl military force, reaching the rank of sergeant. After his pursuit of personal glory and disregard for orders led to numerous compromised missions, his wife and commanding officer Sarah simultaneously divorced him and discharged him from the military.

Axton wasn’t initially meant to be bisexual. There was a coding error whereby when Axton is reviving other injured characters, he says some very bi-curious dialogue. Character-specific revival dialogue was originally written so Axton would say to Maya “whoa – do you, uh, work out?”, however the developers never implemented the character specific code, so this meant that there was a chance that Axton would compliment a fallen male comrade on his physique. 

Fans noticed this and liked it, so when the team was writing the Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC, they inserted more overt lines to confirm that Axton was definitely bisexual. 

Janey Springs

Janey Springs is a supporting character in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Tales from the Borderlands. She runs a junk dealing business on Elpis, called “Springs’ Emporium O Stuff”, located in the city of Concordia. She also writes children’s books in her free time, which are inspired by events happening around her.

Janey is established early on as a lesbian when she regularly tries to hit on Moxxi and Athena, with the latter eventually becoming her girlfriend. This is confirmed in a conversation where Athena implies that she “hit that” (referring to Janey) by giving a high five to Tiny Tina.

Moxxi 

Mad Moxxi has appeared in all four of the Borderlands games to date and is an NPC mission provider. She is the hostess of the Colosseum matches in The Underdome in Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, and the owner of various bars on Pandora.

Moxxi pulls no punches when talking about her sex life and has little modesty! She reveals that she has had numerous sexual partners of both sexes. 

Mr. Torgue

Mr. Torgue High-Five Flexington is the eponymous NPC of ‘Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage’, the second DLC for Borderlands 2, and the founder of the weapon manufacturer Torgue.

Mr. Torgue features in his eponymous DLC in voice only but is also featured in the Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC in person. It is during this DLC where he is confirmed to be bisexual. 

Rose & Gabby 

During the ‘Recruitment Drive’ mission in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a character named Rose from The Concordia People’s Front talks about her ex Gabby.

“Corporations are sooo out of control and should be taught a lesson! My ex, Gabby — I mentioned her before — wrote Atlas a letter once, complaining about the lack of responsibly sourced vegan food outlets in town, but she tore it up before she sent it… nerves.”

Sir Hammerlock

Sir Alistair Hammerlock is an NPC in Borderlands 2. He is a hunter who dresses in a ragged, futuristic version of a Victorian adventurer’s outfit. He becomes a central figure in the third campaign DLC, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, where he guides the Vault Hunters through their adventures on the continent of Aegrus.

During a side quest in the main Borderlands 2 game that involves finding Sir Hammerlock’s ex-boyfriend Taggart’s audio logs on hunting for use in his almanac.

Tiny Tina

Tiny Tina is an NPC in Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. She is an unstable thirteen-year-old explosives expert whose parents were sold to Hyperion to become test subjects for Jack’s slag mutation experiments, an event which led to the deaths of her parents. 

In Borderlands 2, Tiny Tina confesses that she likes Maya and asks if she likes her in turn. Head Writer, Richard Burch, is quoted as saying that he “tried to make her sexuality more overt in the Torgue DLC but the higher ups made me delete the dialog concerning it.” He goes on to state that Gearbox’s CEO, Randy Pitchford, quickly regretted that decision. 

Robin Gray

[He/Him] Robin is the Founder of Gayming Magazine. He's on a mission to fly the LGBTQ flag proudly over the video games world and drive forward authentic representation in the industry, in the press and in the games we love.