The first moment that confirms for everyone Lev is undeniably a trans character happens during combat. A group of Scars spots Abby and Lev and engages them, yelling out Lev’s deadname. For those playing at home, a deadname is the (often) birthname of a trans person. It’s the name that many a trans person is stuck with until they realise that they’re in fact trans and change it. So, hearing it becomes a harsh reminder of a person they no longer are – and don’t identify as.
As a trans person, it bears weight hearing a name that doesn’t match you. Similarly, the same power translates even when watching this happen to a fictional character. I’m not going to pretend to be entirely knowledgeable. I’m a trans woman, they’re a trans boy. We’re different. Still, I can understand and empathise with the frustration and outcry that came from this moment and others in the game, as well as recognise parallels to my own life.
Messy progress is still progress
Admittedly, I gripe with this too. Yes, the Scars could be doing it deliberately to oppress Lev further. On the other hand, with Lev (rightly) fleeing so quickly for his safety, it could be that the group simply does not know his new name. Considering that, it is entirely plausible for these moments to exist in the narrative, even with the discomfort. It’s a dangerous, miserable and violent world in The Last of Us Part II, and no one comes out unscathed, Lev included.
Lev’s history with his family, like many trans people, is messy. This is explored in an exchange between Abby and Lev’s sister Yara. Though she willingly left the Scars with her brother, their relationship was far from smooth sailing. She confesses guilt to Abby about how she treated him in the past when she learnt of his identity. She yelled at him, pleaded with him to conform to what he was expected to be, and was angry with him for a long time. At that moment you see before your very eyes the reckoning Yara was trying to have with herself for abusing her younger brother. It’s a very real and complicated moment that trans people themselves have seen before. Accountability for Yara is important here but credit is also due, it’s one of the most real and emotional moments in the game.