Saturday, June 2, 2018

#IAmQueerGames



Hi! I’m Brie Sheldon, and I am queer games.

June is Pride month, which is when we recognize the adversity queer people face and overcome, marked especially by remembering the Stonewall riots. When police raided a bar where queer people were gathered – trans people, gay and lesbian people, bisexuals, and all – the patience of queer New Yorkers ran out. Martha P. Johnson, a black transgender sex worker, is credited with initiating the riot as response to police aggression**. A number of other black people and people of color headed up the rejection of prejudice in power, alongside many queer resistors. Pride matters. When we talk about resistance and the pursuit of freedom, we should look to the best parts and most important parts of Pride.

Those parts are the people. So, as a gamer, I’m a people. I wanted to offer a way to connect with other queer people, and to have an easier way to frame who I am as a queer person – while showing how it matters to things I love.

This video includes a series of questions that I've responded to below. If you’re a queer gamer or queer person-who-plays-games, please consider answering these questions in your preferred format – video, social media, blog – and use the hashtag #IAmQueerGames.

This is supported by my Patreon at Patreon.com/briecs, as part of my community outreach and efforts in recognizing diverse creators. Thank you for watching! Here we go!


1) Who are you?
I’m Brie Sheldon, formal game designer, journalist, and editor. I run a site called Thoughty were I talk game design and do interviews, supported by my Patreon. I’m a graduate of leadership studies and creator of Leading with Class, using games to teach leadership, which is supported by Patreon.com/leadingwithclass.


2) What are your pronouns?

I use either they/them or he/him, whichever is easier and makes more sense.


3) What's your queer, in a few words?

I'm genderfluid nonbinary-masculine, queer in orientation.


4) What are your intersections and chosen labels?
On the marginalized side, I'm disabled and have mental health stuff. For privileges, I’m white, well educated, and married to a cisgender man with a decent paying job and live in a safe neighborhood. On the fun end, I'm polyamorous, a gamer, and an artist.


5) What's your gender (or lack thereof) and what does it mean to you?
I describe my gender as genderfluid nonbinary-masculine because my gender identity - the inside part of me - fluctuates between nonbinary androgynous and nonbinary masculine, where I am never a man but I have some masculinity. I call myself a boy a lot because the soft masculinity that I associate with boyness is basically where I am then.

My gender is very important to me. I struggled with it for 24 years before coming out on a small scale and 26 before I told my family. It's who I am and I love to live it freely.


6) What's your orientation and what does it mean to you?
I am queer, and I call myself queer because it makes the most sense to me. Being a fluid person and being non-cisgender, I fluctuate a lot on how I define my relationships, but basically I'm attracted to people of pretty much every gender. My attraction is different with different people - sometimes romantic, sometimes sexual, sometimes both, or sometimes aesthetic or none at all, and I also have a lot of platonic attraction. It's all important to me! I feel a lot of feelings, and they find homes in many different places.


7) How do you present yourself, and how do you want to present yourself, including clothes, makeup, body mods, and anything else?
My ideal presentation is moving between soft masculine and edgy androgyny, but both with boobs. I like my boobs and hate that having them decreases my masculinity, and my androgyny. I wish that I could be those things and still have boobs, and still wear makeup - which I do enjoy. I like wearing masculine or more unisex clothes – I could live in simple jeans, ballcaps, and tee shirts – but I super dig getting to wear those alongside low cut tops and stuff. It suits me.

I'm not planning on getting any further body mods than my piercings and tattoos - except more tattoos. Gender affirmation and hormones aren't what will make me whole, from what I know.


8) What's this got to do with games - gender, queerness, Pride?
Games have a good dose of queerness in them already once you realize how easily you can put on another gender and orientation and have it be the identity you perform for a session, event, or campaign. If you think you've never touched queerness, think of how many times you've played a character of a different gender or who was attracted to a gender you aren't. It doesn't make you queer, but it shows how you can connect those things.

Gender and orientation are so tied to our experiences at the table because they're tied to our real lives. Mechanics and settings in games can encourage queerness, and safe environments encourage engagement with identity questions - when we're playing a game, it is a safety buffer. It's a way to explore with training wheels. And when the wheels come off, we can tell stories we want to be told, since good media for us is so hard to find.

We must tell our own stories. We can make them rich and interactive for queer and not-queer people alike. It’s an amazing medium to dig into both queer reality and queer fantasy, and it gives us a unique power to frame the mechanics of the worlds we play in when we design queer games – how we handle violence, how we handle sex, how we handle stigma. The control it gives us to realize queerness is really important.


9) When do you remember being queer in game the earliest? What does it tell you about games and queerness?

Honestly, it started when I was playing Harry Potter text based roleplay when I was in my early teens. I started playing androgynous characters - very clumsily - and exploring who my characters could be attracted to. In my mid-teens I played some androgynous characters in D&D and flirted with the ideas of queer characters like lesbians and gay men, and even pansexuality.

But it was not well executed. We need games that support queerness and identity questioning, where it's okay to explore these things and encouraged to explore them, and done with support in the text and community. Games can't hold these spaces alone, they need support from those making them and playing them who know about queer culture and life.


10) What can cis straight people do to help?


Listen. Look at your life, look at your choices. If you've fucked up, apologize and don't do it again. Remember that kink isn’t inherently queer. Donate money and time where you can. Honor our history. Hire queer creators. Support sex workers. Don't write about us without doing research and consulting us. Use people's proper pronouns. Be better than you ever have been.


Share a message with other queer gamers, both out and not, about the future.

Things are a hot damn mess right now, but we can make it through. Pride month is a big deal but it's not the only month of the year we need to raise our voices, support each other, and keep moving forward. No queer person is alone in their queerness - we can find ways to work together. We need to recognize black queer people, queer people of color, trans and nonbinary people, bisexual and pansexual people, queer Jewish and Muslim people, and asexual and aromantic people.

Don’t forget that sex workers, disabled people, and people with mental illnesses are queer people sometimes, too. We need to remember we are in this together. Don't let the pressure from privileged bigots crush you. And if you are still keeping private - it's okay. We'll be here when you're ready.


Final Thoughts

I'm doing this because I want to see queer people in games be recognized and welcome them, as well as talk about why these things are important. I want to highlight the diversity in games that is so often brushed under the rug. I also want to open up the floor for queer voices. If I can do that for even one person, make just one person be heard? Yeah, I'll like that.



This post is supported by Patreon.com/briecs patrons like you! Please feel free to support my work there or donate through the donation links in the description.


Note: In my video, I state that Marsha P. Johnson (a black trans woman) was the one who started the riot at Stonewall. According to this tweet: https://twitter.com/BlackFemmeinism/s..., the riot was started by Stormé DeLarverie, a Black Butch lesbian, and Marsha P Johnson & Sylvia Rivera (a Latinx trans woman) founded & organized PRIDE. I apologize for any errors - finding consistent information was pretty challenging.









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