A year after Celeste's Farewell DLC teased a vague hint of queerness in an ending screen, creator Maddy Thorson has confirmed that the platformer's leading lady is absolutely, for sure, a transgender woman.
Last September, an ending screen in Celeste's final chapter nodded at potential queerness on Madeline's part, with tiny Gay and Trans Pride flags lining her desk. A welcome nod to the game's LGBT+ fans, for sure, but one that stopped short of fully presenting the mountain-climbing lass as transgender representation.
Writing in a blog post today, Thorson cements Madeline's transness as canon. But the Canadian developer didn't start with those plans in mind, and the issue of the character's gender identity was complicated by being inextricably tied to Thorson's own.
"During Celeste’s development, 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."
Good representation is hard to nail, of course. Following Farewell's release, critics like Laura K. Buzz bemoaned the game's "ambiguous" approach to queerness, too easily-deniable by players who wouldn't accept a trans protagonist in their platformer. While Thorson apologises to fans who "felt hurt by our silence on this after Farewell’s release," it does sound like that vision of Madeline didn't become concrete until some time after the DLC's release.
The post does continue to dig into the weeds of working out how to approach Madeline's transness, too—from the team balancing the character's privacy and agency over her identity, to a wish not to "pull a JK Rowling" by carelessly dropping in baseless representation long after the fact. But eventually, the team came to the conclusion than "full, in-writing confirmation" simply fuels certain folks into arguing the game doesn't adequately prove that she's trans.
"If I could start over from the beginning of Celeste’s development, knowing everything about myself and Madeline that I know now, would I write her differently? Yeah, probably. But then again, I’m a very different person and Celeste wouldn’t be the same game. For my part, Celeste is about who I was, which includes that struggle for understanding."
Now that the important business of Madeline's gender has been settled, we can all look forward to the important business of watching Celeste get thrashed with a dance-mat at next year's AGDQ.