The recently published PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Grand Theft Auto V seem to miss some content considered by many to be transphobic. These elements had been criticized by some journalists and players, although Rockstar Games has not commented publicly on what prompted the decision to make these changes.
Removal of this content has been first spotted by Reddit user JayProspero who noticed a small change in one of the game’s desks. In older versions of the game, a row of packaged action figures on display included one that features “interchangeable genitalia“, is dressed in pink with garish makeup and has a large penis-shaped bulge. This action figure, which could certainly be interpreted as a naughty joke about trans women, is no longer present in the PS5 or Xbox Series port. X/S.
Also removed from the latest edition of GTA V are NPCs that were labeled as “drag queens” in the game’s director’s mode and labeled as “transvestites” in the PC game files. These characters also sported garish makeup, bulges, and could sometimes be heard telling the player or other NPCs that they were using “hormones.” Again, these characters were obviously a joke at the expense of trans women.
The action figure and NPC “drag queens” have now disappeared from the game. The NPC models remain in the game files, but no longer spawn and appear to have had their voice lines cut, as documented by GTA modder and dataminer SpiderVice and GTA Forums Kirty Cloud administrator. (SpiderVice helped Kotaku and myself in the past in the past with data mining verification and cut content stories.)
Last year, Kotaku’s Clean Carolyn Little wrote a story about GTA V’ugly depiction of trans womenciting the now removed NPCs as well as the abundance of transphobic advertisements in the game world, which still exist in the game as of 2022. This story was then directly referenced by the Out Making Games LGBTQ+ Gaming Advocacy Group in a open letter to rockstar. In the letter, the group called on the company to “remove transphobic elements from the game,” saying Rockstar had an opportunity “to positively impact the next generation of gamers” to come. GTA V through these new ports.
Here’s what Petit had to say about trans NPCs last year:
Often people respond to concerns like this by pointing out that you can target and kill anyone in Grand Theft Auto V. The game is “equal playing field” in the freedom it gives you to do havoc in Los Santos, they say. If you want, you can target white men in cargo pants or people doing yoga.
But there is nothing “equal opportunity” about the position that trans people currently occupy in society. And unlike other random NPCs, the way Rockstar designed trans people in GTAV actively plays into the hateful stereotypes held by many transphobic gamers. The trans sex workers you may encounter, with their garish makeup and prominent penis bulges, seem calculated to be ridiculous and repulsive to gamers who bring their pre-existing transphobia to the game with them. It’s as if they were designed specifically so that some players might enjoy hurting and killing them because they’re trans.
Rockstar has yet to officially discuss the reasons for the removal of the content, or what other details, if any, may have been changed. Kotaku contacted Rockstar Games about the removed NPCs and action figure, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
In a short blog posted yesterdayOut Making Games responded to the discovery of the removed NPCs and action figures, saying the group was “delighted” with the adjustments.
“Grand Theft Auto V is an extremely popular game with millions of players worldwide,” wrote Out Making Games. “This change can have a huge impact on how these players view trans people. Thanks to everyone at Rockstar who has prioritized this issue – we are game developers ourselves and understand that even small changes like this take time and coordinated effort.