Celeste’s Madeline Is Trans, Confirms Director Maddy Thorson

After Celeste‘s final chapter released last year, a hotly-debated question arose surrounding the game’s protagonist, Madeline. Eagle-eyed players spotted two pride flags on Madeline’s desk – notably, a trans pride flag – and a bottle of pills on her nightstand. Many made the natural assumption that both of those signified that Madeline was trans, and that much of the game’s narrative could be reframed in that context. However, the game’s developers remained tight-lipped on (although very supportive of) the idea.

But tonight, director Maddy Thorson has confirmed that Madeline is absolutely a trans girl. In a fantastic Medium post, Thorson reveals that they didn’t realize Madeline was trans during development – nor did they realize that about themself.

“During Celeste’s development,” Thorson wrote, “I did not know that Madeline or myself were trans. During the Farewell DLC’s development, I began to form a hunch. Post-development, I now know that we both are.”

They go onto acknowledge the frustration some fans felt at their lack of earlier confirmation.

“The Celeste community has wanted clarification on Madeline’s identity for a long time now,” they wrote, “and I don’t blame anyone for wanting that, but the messy realities of my gender identity and coming out have meant that I needed time before I could talk openly about it.”

Their full post, which is absolutely worth reading, discusses the rationale behind not outright confirming the idea before, and how their approach to and depiction of Madeline changed dramatically throughout development. It’s a heartfelt read, one that grapples with the struggle to nail good trans representation in media in great detail.

But beyond focusing on whether something is “canon” or not, the emotional journey of the actual creator should be the focus of this conversation. Celeste is a work of art that came out of Thorson’s own questions and struggles with their gender, and it’s beyond brave to put those out into the world. Through this work of art, they were able to come to a better understanding of themself, and this gradual “reveal” is a reflection of that deliberation process.

Speaking as a trans person, this is what cements Celeste as a vital piece of the queer gaming canon. It’s a work of art that captures the complicated journey of its director – a journey that so many of us face when we begin our transitions – and manages to turn it into an effective piece of interactive fiction.

Thorson’s closing remarks really say it all.

Celeste is a game written and designed by a closeted trans person who was struggling with their gender identity, scored by a trans woman, with art and code and sound and other labor from their inspiring and irreplaceable friends,” they write. “These are the perspectives that we approached this from, and I think that the game reflects that beautifully. I would never claim that anything I have ever done is perfect. I do think that we captured and preserved a few pieces of ourselves and a moment in time pretty nicely, and Madeline’s transness is one part of that.”

I’m so proud of Maddy – and of Madeline.

Now, go play Celeste.

Next: Why Lara Is My Middle Name

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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.

She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.

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