So is she a lesbian, or not?
That’s what many players ask about Zarya — a buff pink-haired badass in ‘Overwatch,’ a multiplayer first-person shooter created by Blizzard.
A Russian patriot, Aleksandra “Zarya” Zaryanova is a 28-year-old former bodybuilder that wields a particle cannon, sporting short hair and keeping up an appearance that could be considered butch.
Artistic director Bill Petras confirmed before the game’s release that there would be at least one gay playable character, but didn’t reveal which of the 22 were out-and-proud. That led many fans to guess — or in some cases, hope — that Zarya is the representation gamers want her to be
“We’ve been hearing a lot of discussion among players about the need for diversity in video games,” said Petras. “That means a lot of things. They want to see gender diversity, they want to see racial diversity, they want to see diversity along the lines of what country people are from … And we just want you to know that we’re listening and we’re trying hard and we hope Zarya is a step in the right direction.”
For some fans, Zarya’s sexuality isn’t even a discussion. They already consider her a lesbian, no questions asked.
“The only overwatch I care about is Zarya bc she's obviously a lesbian whom I would feel protected by,” said @LondonProphecy on Twitter.
And in the porn world, many gamers have already drawn and animated her with other female ‘Overwatch’ characters. Particularly, she has been paired with Mei, a Chinese scientist dedicated to preserving the environment.
Some fans don’t want Zarya to be gay — not because they are homophobic, but because she would conform to many lesbian cliches.
“As someone that loves her design, it would cheapen it that they based her off the butch lesbian stereotype instead of just being a tough soldier woman,” said user JakeTie on Reddit. “Literally anyone else I'd be 110% okay with. Just please, not Zarya.”
As a counter-argument, Twitter user @Just__Jasper spoke out:
Ironically, Zarya is from Russia — a country known for homophobia. As someone who is so patriotic for her country, would Zarya’s country accept her in turn?