Three years before transitioning made me a woman, Chloe Price made me a lesbian.
Back then, I didn’t fully understand why I forged such a deep connection with Chloe. You play Life Is Strange as Max, Chloe’s friend (and eventual partner, if you make such a choice), and while I liked Max, perhaps even related to her more as an artsy nerd, there was something powerful in Chloe’s aura. It’s an energy she shares with Shego, Megara, and the green M&M. I suppose in general terms, this energy could be described as ‘queerness’, but it’s not about simply being gay or not; it’s about the inherent confidence these characters exude from their pores. Some way, somehow, what they’re saying is: you’re not alone.
For the theme ‘Take Your Time’, Life Is Strange was the first and only game I thought of. Not only does the game revolve around Max’s ability to reverse time, it also has a slow, winding rhythm which gradually unfolds as the episodes progress. But just like your favourite movie is that one you watched when you were sick as a kid, Life Is Strange came to me at exactly the right time in my life. The game is great in its own right, with interesting characters, a compelling story and ending which ramps up the game’s key concepts in the perfect way. These are the things I talk about when I gush about my love for Life Is Strange, but the truth at the heart of it is much simpler. In 2015, when I really needed something to cling to, Life Is Strange threw me a butterfly shaped life buoy.
I replayed Life Is Strange recently with my partner, and found myself agreeing with her that Chloe came off as a bit of a try hard, and that the faux-teenage lexicon of Blackwell sometimes landed with a hella cingey thud, shaka brah. In 2020, as a 27 year old trans woman happily in a relationship with a real life bisexual woman, perhaps I didn’t need Chloe Price. In 2015, as a 22 year old queer man still coming to terms with my own identity, I needed her desperately.
There was a unique swagger to Chloe, something more than just being cool. It was as if she could reach inside my soul. When she dared me to kiss her, dared me to be a lesbian, it wasn’t about love or attraction or romance… it was about feeling seen.
In a world where lesbians in media were frequently either fetishised or pushed out to the fringes – something which was even worse even just five years ago – seeing a story so centred on Chloe brought me in. I didn’t know exactly what I was, but the way I connected with Life Is Strange let me know that that was okay. I’ve written for Unwinnable previously about the way the ending asks you to make a reckless, selfish choice out of love, why I’d do it again and again, and how it related to my transition. But this truth was something I pieced together after the fact. Even when playing it the first time, confused and unsure of anything, I knew what it meant to have Chloe in my corner.
This particular piece might be about Chloe Price, but any number of queer people could have written it about any number of characters. Like all great memes, the “if you liked these characters as a kid, you’re gay now” memes are popular because they’re true. Our culture is covered in queer influence, and for the people who watch them, they have a very important message: You can make the first step whenever you’re ready. Take your time. We’ll be here.