The Flak over Fl4k and what it cost

Mod has asked me to “Please continue any conversation in the linked thread so as to keep everything in one place.”

So an update for all of you still following this topic: yesterday at Gamescom within a few minutes Randy Varnell (the Managing Producer of Narrative for Gearbox) called FL4K a ‘he’/‘his’/‘him’ FIVE TIMES during the Gamescom Xbox Live presentation.

He then continues talking about ‘he’, ‘him’ and ‘his skills’ multiple times, so it’s likely that they changed the canon, so FL4K is now correctly referred to as a masculine character. timestamp is 44:39 for those on mobile.

This means that anyone using the old/incorrect pronouns (they/their) should now take care to use the correct pronouns (he/his) for this masculine looking/sounding/acting robot.


Randy mispoke, I guess. It happens. No need to sensationalise it. Official statement stands.


You don’t misspeak five times. The official statement is the NEW one by the narrative lead at the Gamescom Xbox Live presentation. Not the one by a forum moderator in a topic in a subforum. (I’m refering to this topic: Flak and their pronouns: Clarification) - a forum moderator has no authority over the canon.


Why you think a single person speaking would be an overwrite to actually posted material is beyond me.

If someone accidentally responds to their dead name or old gender, we don’t automatically assume “oh they went back”.


Until that’s confirmed by Gearbox, the official statement stands. My post that you linked to comes from the community manager. It’s official.


In this case they/their are their 'dead’pronouns. He/him are FL4K’s current pronouns, as per the narrative lead five times at a major presentation which was prepared in advance. That is more recent than the forum post you are referring to. If you want to believe a singular message by a random moderator, that’s your choice (and your risk). The Managing Producer of Narrative for Gearbox has authority over the canon, the moderators don’t.


That statement was made at the request of the community manager.
Let’s take this to pm, before you fall foul of the forum rules.


No. They/them are FL4K’s current pronouns, same as it has been since the character was first revealed, as per the official website, every piece of promotional material released so far and every trailer/video that refers to FL4K directly, including one that was released just YESTERDAY.

By the way, that video also perfectly showcases how naturally you can refer to FL4K as they/them in casual conversation, even when simultaneously referring to the other characters by their gendered pronouns. It almost feels as though those character introductions were written with this specific purpose in mind.


I know a trans guy that I misgendered as “her” at least 10 times over the course of a day. If you’re mentally involved you easily forget pronouns that you aren’t using regularly. Also, Randy V. pretty much half the time mispronounces Fl4k. The pronoun hasn’t become a normative habit for him yet. That’s pretty much what the mods always say: “You can slip up on the pronoun, but don’t make fun of it.”


To be fair this is indeed incorrect. He does look and sound masculine but he is still a gestalt being, a collective rather than an individual. For instance, afaik the spiderant pet (that is by many signs a part of fl4k) is female. This is why you can’t technically refer to fl4k as he or she, with “them” being your best bet.

What I really disagree with is this triviality being policed on a discussion board, and mixing in unrelated human gender politics (which the much-quoted tweet by Sam Winkler doesn’t mention at all, by the way, saying nothing more than fl4k’s pronouns being they/them).
Who among us can actually relate to fl4k? Who actually gets insulted if we call fl4k a “he”?

Have you heard of the concept of representation?

Gearbox wanted to increase representation of non-binary folks in their games. We want folks who come here who are also non-binary to feel like they are accepted and welcomed like everyone else. If you read the forum rules you’ll see that this is also the case regarding racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

If you don’t like this place, or find the rules too challenging for your sensitive nature, you are welcome to choose to post elsewhere instead.


As I’ve stated, I’m not a fan of the rule at all. Unfortunately I think people like you are the reason it had to be implemented in the first place.


I think the thread already has this argument but:

How does fl4k represent non-binary people?
Fine, they

  • don’t have a gender
  • can’t be referred to as he or she

But the reasons are completely different. Humans cannot split themselves into multiple bodies. They aren’t telepathically linked with other creatures. They don’t have multiple minds in one body.

At risk of being crucified for daring to suggest such a thing, the humans who really are like this (the specific examples I mentioned above) are considered unhealthy and our society tries to cure them of what is labelled an illness, split personality disorder. They are the ones represented by fl4k. And who knows, they might be right, and the doctors wrong. Maybe we do have all the cool stuff I mentioned above, and we cruelly misunderstand these people.
But again, I don’t see the connection to the gender and non-binary stuff.

Why mix fl4k into an issue of representation he doesn’t belong in? Why fl4k?

I don’t know, ask the writer? My guess is the ‘non-binary’ fits an AI well.

My guess is that neither Fl4k nor non-binary people (generalizing for the sake of the example) see themselves as a certain gender. They don’t feel as if they fit into gender roles, culturally at least. They also distinct between biological gender and “personal gender” (for the lack of a better word). You may correct me if I correlated that wrongly

Edit: Basically, identification ≠ gender

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Yes, the term does technically apply, but for different reasons.

It’s the “all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs” thing. And you guys are worried about what insects might think about the things being said about bugs.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we can say mean things about bugs just because they aren’t here, but my earlier point is:
Is calling fl4k “he” really mean? How do we even know? It’s just some technicality of the lore to me, sci-fi background.
Now, if for instance Lorelei turns out to be trans or something, and people start calling her “he”, I can see the issue there. But for some reason not with fl4k and “they/them”.

(Not a flattering analogy with the insects, sorry, but this is how they taught sets to me at school)

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Glad you are happy but this is unfortunate. I won’t ever say they or refer to someone as a gender they aren’t genetically. I also won’t “misgender” someone. If someone chooses to identify as such that it on them. It’s not out of hate. I do understand how it offends. That’s an unfortunate outcome, not an intended one. It’s a complex topic. I couldn’t simply type why I disagree, it would take time. I’m not willing. I just want to say I strongly disagree but there is no anger from me. To me, this is just unfortunate. I want the best for people as well but because of what I’ve studied, I’m on the opposite end as you. I don’t look down on you as it seems you do me though. I should say more but honestly there is just not enough time in the day. I believe you are misinformed, you’d likely believe I am. I’d suggest looking further into it. I have spent hundreds of hours on the subject and I couldn’t agree with the trans movement. Transsexual people exist and I wouldnt deny that. What we have going on is something much different.

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How interesting.

Are you intending to misgender folks here? And how will you determine their ‘genetics’?


Quick question: How do you refer to all the other robots in the Borderlands games? Claptrap, Mal, Gortys, Loader Bot, that actual robot COUPLE in the Valentine’s Day DLC, etc.

As far as we know, neither can FL4K.

As far as we know, neither is FL4K.

Neither. Does. FL4K.


Yuhuh. I can’t see why, given the kind of science fiction we have seen in borderlands, it’s suuuuuuuuuch a huge stretch to understand that in borderlands, robots have genders in some way.

What’s that? It doesn’t make sense? Have you even played Borderlands?