Note from Gamer Grrl: The words below are not my own, but from a man named Sean Patrick Fannon from DriveThruRPG. It’s a thoughtful piece, especially where the young man wrote him to thank him for speaking up at the tournament. I vow to be more thoughtful about my own words when sitting at the gaming table, because he’s right, and I’m guilty of doing this exact thing on ocassion. Being gay has become something negative and we never know who’s sitting there with you. I’m better than that and I challenge you to be too.
Some Gamers are Gay
No, I don’t mean that in the all-too-popular vernacular of “I don’t like that, that’s gay.” I mean there is a significant and highly-involved community of gamers within our culture that are homosexual. Many do not regularly wear signs or symbols to identify themselves as such; for many, it has absolutely nothing to do with their participation in gaming.
Just as I am a straight man who likes to play Savage Worlds, one of my dearest friends is a gay man who greatly prefers the Hero System (and still chides me for abandoning the system I sold him and so many others on all those years ago). That I am straight and he is gay has nothing to do with our gaming interactions. Better still, Chris being gay has never had much of an impact on any of the gaming experiences we shared, or on the gaming community that we both participated in back in Athens, GA, and later in Jacksonville, FL.
Maybe I missed something, but somewhere along the way, the phrase “that’s gay” crept into the pop culture lexicon and took root like a nasty, ugly weed.
This isn’t actually a new thing, I know; I was regularly called a “fag” when I was much younger, all through my middle-and-high school years. I’m relatively certain most of the kids using the word weren’t even entirely sure what the hell it meant, only that it had a hurtful sound to it and it was supposed to be something very negative.
I am very gratified that our overall culture has advanced – slowly, to be sure – in such a way that the fact of being gay isn’t the social sentence it once was. I am by no means saying the struggle for equality and social acceptance by the GBLT community is over, not by a long shot. Things have, however, gotten marginally better.
The one place, however, where I always believed folks of any origin, gender, color, orientation, or belief could find open acceptance has been my culture of choice – geekdom.
Yet recently I’ve encountered younger members of our social circles that now use the term “gay” to indicate something they do not like.
To whit, I was in an Ascension tournament at a convention this summer. It was a full table, six players. One was a woman of about my generation, while the other four were in their teens and twenties. Three of them were obviously buds, and it was made clear that they came from the Yu-Gi-Oh CCG arena, very competitive in nature. One player in particular kept referring to every play he didn’t like or every card he read that he did not care for as “gay.”
“Oh man, that play is totally gay.” “I hate that card, it’s so gay.” “I can’t believe you pulled that off; how gay.” The other two generally laughed or smiled, and the rest of the room more or less ignored it.
I had finally had enough after about the tenth such reference, and I called him down on it. He looked utterly stunned. He had no idea anyone could possibly be offended. I explained, as simply as I could, that to refer to something that you think of as negative as being “gay” makes it clear that you feel being “gay” is negative. I said that I did not know if there was anyone gay in the room, and I didn’t care, that it was wrong and that I expected better of the people I was playing games with.
He managed to reign it in (slipping only a couple of times, simply because it was such an ingrained part of his psyche that I don’t think he has any hope of unwiring it). One of his companions actually whispered an apology to me, and said he understood why I had a problem with it.
What I didn’t expect was a message I received a short time later, via Facebook, from one of the other folks playing at the table. He was the fourth young man, sitting on my left, who was very quiet and polite during the game. This was the message I got (reprinted, with his name, by permission) –
“Hey, I didn’t really introduce myself or anything, but I was the guy who sat next to you in the Ascension tournament. I just wanted to say thanks for speaking up about those guys saying “that’s gay”. Being gay myself, I see it happen all the time [especially in the gaming community] and it gets on my nerves like crazy, but I never really speak up and say anything about it since I’m rather, erm, timid. I just wanted to say thank you since I didn’t get the chance; it really made my day.” – Jonathan Alexander Duchock
Folks, we are good people. We are the tolerant, accepting ones, the social safe haven for everyone willing to play well with others.
Let’s please remember this.
~ SPF (08-25-2011)