People who've played Mass Effect 2 might remember Jack, also known as Subject Zero, a biotic and potential romance option for a male Shepard. However, players may also wonder why they have to be male to romance Jack when she talks about getting intimate with non-male partners. As it turns out, BioWare was originally going to make her pan, but removed non-straight romances from the game after weathering a moral panic over the first game's depiction of sex.
Why were non-straight relationships removed?
Shortly after the first game's release in 2007, Fox News aired a panel where they blasted the game over its sex, which was still considered a forbidden topic in video games. It was the kind of reporting that doesn't care much about researching what they were talking about, but the panel caused more criticism to get thrown at Mass Effect, including a non-straight romance in the form of Liara T'Soni (which is a bit of a gray area because she's from a mono-gendered species.) As reported by TheGamer, Brian Kindregan, the head writer for Jack, Samara, and the first critical path mission on Horizon, said that they only decided to make Jack a male-only romance option very late in development. "She was essentially pansexual for most of the development of that romance," he adds.
Players of Mass Effect 2 who remember Jack will likely see the seeds planted in her conversations that she's into more than just men. Some might remember her distinctly mentioning that she was part of a three-way relationship. More specifically, she mentions a man and a woman who invited her into both their heists and their bed. All in all, it's pretty apparent that Jack was supposed to be more open to non-male Shepards.
How did the Mass Effect 2 team feel about making the change?
Kindregan specifically mentions Fox News when he talks about how Mass Effect was "pretty heavily and really unfairly criticized in the US." The team on Mass Effect 2, while being "a pretty progressive, open-minded team" was worried about how bad the backlash would be. Courtenay Taylor, the voice actress for Jack, was also aware that Jack was originally going to be pansexual. She said:
It’s funny to me because my understanding was always that she was pansexual. So I don’t know if that’s just something I inferred from the character or something that she said that maybe got cut. I was surprised there wasn’t a female romance possible because that was my understanding. I think it was the time, you know? That was, what - 2008/2009? The industry has changed exponentially since then, and BioWare was leading the charge on that. I don’t know if it came down to a budget constraint or maybe someone being like ‘this is too obvious’ because everyone was like ‘of course she’s a lesbian.’ But my sense was always that she was [pansexual] and it just didn’t get followed through. Of course, the community modded it immediately so you can have it your way.
Kindregan, while he disagreed with the change, fully understood that this was done to avoid more controversy. He always thought of Jack as a character with an edge in that she doesn't follow traditional norms. He thinks that even during the revision he kept a bit of that pan spark in there to show that she's a character "who’s been around and done a lot of things, went off the farm and down to Paris." The initial release of Mass Effect 2 did feature a few non-straight romances, but one wasn't a squadmate and thus didn't disqualify other relationships, one ultimately turns you down, and one winds up killing Shepard when they get busy.