I started playing Role Playing Games (RPGs) in high school. My gaming group was called Ironlands and we played once a week at a friend’s house, staying up late into the night, rolling dice and drinking vanilla coke. My gaming group was populated by several lesbians, one person who identified as genderqueer, and at one point, a transgendered player. We were a diverse bunch – and our sexualities and identities weren’t as important as the game.
I assumed that this is the way that things would always be in the gaming world – the gaming world was always about being someone else, so who you were as a real person didn’t matter – it shouldn’t matter in the grand context of The Gaming Group – I imagined that the roleplaying world was a great equalizer.
When I played online, I played Albus Dumbledore in an online Harry Potter roleplaying game, there was even a girl who had a crush on me because she thought I was a boy. These are the things I think of when I think of the gaming world – gaming to me as no bearing on gender, or bearing on who can have what parts.
That’s why all of the twitter posts and blogs about transgendered people posted by Penny Arcade’s Gabe really bothered me on Friday. It’s why it took me a few days to really get my thoughts together – because I always have wanted to think of the world of gaming as a place where we can be safe, and accepted. It wasn’t a minor issue, it was a moment in which a major participant in the gaming community chose to reject the reality of people who are a part of that community. These posts reminded me once again that the gaming community is not yet safe for those of fluid or differing gender identities than the norm. (If you missed what all this is about, go to Borderhouse for details!)
The issue brings up more than just “Are LGBT people welcome in the gaming community” but “Are people allowed to play other genders in this community? Are people allowed to play gay characters in this community – and are they welcome to?”
We should be allowed to explore. Our world should not be defined by what parts we have – because in a fantasy setting where you’re playing a dragon, or in a science fiction setting where you’re playing a robot, who’s to say what parts anyone has? Or what sexualities our characters have been born with? If anything, gaming should open our eyes to differences, not shut them.
When Mike said ” I hate the idea that because I think boys and girls have different parts I am “transphobic” that pisses me off it makes me angry and so I lash out.” what he said to me was “I don’t want to have my mind changed, so instead of being open to new ideas, I am going to pitch a fit.”
Pitching a fit like that only serves to alienate more people from us – it only serves to reinforce the stereotype of the white guy gamer living in his mom’s basement refusing to change.
We don’t have to play that way anymore – and we shouldn’t. The gaming community has transgendered gamers & creators, disabled gamers & creators, mothers and fathers and people of all races and religions.
I fear for the gaming community when we see things like this in the mainstream – because it means we have so much more work to do than I thought.
I miss my tiny little gaming group in high school, I think we knew how to do it right – because it is the only time in my entire life that a gaming group has been so inclusive and welcoming to any and all who came to it. I hope we can create more groups like that in the future.