This post has been crossposted from the Imaginary Funerals blog that has since been discontinued. Posts are hosted on the Imaginary Funerals G+ page.
There will soon be a follow-up post to this, so keep an eye out!
PLAYING WITH IDENTITY (link to main host)
by (originally posted 8, 2014)
So like, there’s this thing about growing up in small rural towns that are filled with blue collar workers and legacy families and all that jazz. It’s insular and you don’t always learn about stuff outside of your own little reality. You end up getting taught some pretty weird stuff.
These are the kind of things that you learn, often without the intent of your parents (at least in my generation). Sometimes it’s the influence of other relatives. Sometimes it’s just the fucking culture.
Where I grew up, there were white people for days but not so many people of color hidden in there. Those that were around were probably not treated much better than they were talked about, which wasn’t so good.
Being different was a mark. One of my fellow 4-Hers and a friend of the family was a lesbian, and my only real exposure to homosexuality except TV and the internet (which I later discovered had LOTS of information on homosexuality, and everything else). She was treated like an oddity – something to be observed and commented on. Some people treated her like a human being, but enough didn’t, including me for a while.
Where I grew up, gender roles were pretty fixed and solid. Playing with what gender feels like is something I started doing shortly after I started gaming. I would play men, or androgynous characters (before I even knew what androgyny really was). I played them more than I played women (although I’d later learn that some of that was due to some internalized misogyny). It wasn’t until I started writing for Gaming as Women and met some awesome trans folks that I had the shocking realization that maybe I wasn’t stuck being a girl in the strict sense of the word.
I have no desire to transition. I’m as fine with my body as a woman with low self esteem in this age can be. But, I don’t always feel like a girl (or woman, as I finally allow myself to be called sometimes), and it took some heartfelt talks and some experimenting with characters in-game to realize that it was okay. I can’t help but feel that maybe someone else might have had the same kind of experience, and I want to say “hey, isn’t it cool to find out that feeling like something other than what you thought you had to be is okay?”
And sexuality, whoa, buddy.
I realized I liked girls when I was in my early teens. Maybe 12? 13? I remember the very night it happened. I also remember that shortly after that night, rumors spread that I was a lesbian, and shut down any of my hopes that I might be accepted like I thought my 4-Her friend was. I was confused further by still liking boys, just the same as I liked girls.
I explored some of the feelings I was having in Harry Potter fandom text-based roleplay. The characters I played had fluid sexuality for the most part, and while I had to keep it totally secret from everyone I knew, that roleplay experience was a safe space for me to explore who I was and what sex was to me.
I was still really ashamed of my sexuality, and I’m only just coming through that period, but one big thing that helped was the community of acceptance I found surrounding certain parts of gaming. There are people who are openly kinky or poly or gay or all three, and hell no, you do not find that often in rural Pennsylvania.
I played some Monsterhearts, which was actually kind of a huge deal for me. I had ruled out sex and relationships in RPGs because it made me uncomfortable, but a few sessions of Monsterhearts and I was looking at things differently.
Most recently, I’ve been getting schooled by some pretty brilliant people on race. I have learned that there is no real difference in ability between me and people of different races. I have learned that other modern cultures than mine not only exist, but are rich and complex. I learned that class and race intersect (and that your race should not mean you are forced into a specific class or that you belong in a specific class), and that gender intersects with both of them. These might sound simple and like common sense, but they weren’t, to me.
What I’m trying to say here is that gaming and the gaming community has opened up my perspectives and shattered my assumptions. It’s allowed me to play away from type and find secrets that I kept even from myself. It’s even helped me learn how to respect other people and their differences from me.
And that’s awesome.
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