Note: “Cis” is short for “cisgendered” and is a gender identity where a person’s perception of their gender matches up with the biological sex they were assigned at birth.
You can imagine my facepalm when I read the Drama Mamas column yesterday and saw that they had answered a letter from a trans woman in the audience. This column in particular tries its best to give good common sense advice to most WoW-related social problems but usually goes off the rails whenever a really serious subject is concerned. It’s terribly problematic to read advice that doesn’t treat the subject matter compassionately, but in the case of the trans woman, goes so far as to insinuate a lot of awful things.
I think one of the most critical things you can do with regards to a trans person in your guild is making the guild a comfortable place for them to play in, regardless of whether or not they want to disclose or “come out” about being trans with you. This means a lot of things like making it a place where you don’t use slurs or other disrespectful language, letting people talk as little or as much as they want about their identity and generally undoing a lot of problematic types of thinking.
First off, a trans person is allowed to represent themselves precisely how they wish. Point blank – whether this means disclosing to you or not. They are not “lying” or not being “non-transparent” if they don’t tell you they are trans. It’s not your business. If they feel comfortable doing so, awesome, but it’s not required. There is this narrative that a trans person’s gender identity is some sort of “falseness” to the gender they express themselves as, when it’s not. If someone says they are a woman, then they are a woman. End of story. You don’t know a person’s situation and it’s unfair to make someone “validate” their identity in that way.
Secondly, don’t give a trans person shit if they presented as one gender and came out later as another. A trans person coming out can endanger them to a certain extent. Trans individuals are attacked, harassed, stalked and killed on a regular basis and many times will not disclose for their own well-being and safety. If someone decides to transition while in your guild and they wish to share this info to you, make the space more comfortable for them but don’t announce it for them or otherwise. This process is a personal one and should always be on that person’s terms. Simply listen, ask what you can personally do to make them feel more comfortable in the guild and stick with that.
Thirdly, this means respecting and being sensitive to your guildmate’s needs. You need to make the guild comfortable for them, not the other way around. Ask your guildies what pronouns they use if you are unsure or use gender-neutral ones like “they” when referring to someone if you don’t know. Misgendering, even unintentionally, can be hurtful and should be avoided. Apologize sincerely if you do!
Being sensitive also means that if they don’t wish to use a voice chat, respect that. In the case of the Drama Mamas column, the letter writer was worried because she wanted to tank for the guild’s raid but that meant speaking on Vent. If someone doesn’t want to speak, then let them be quiet. As someone who raided progression and still continues to raid with main tanks who do not talk on Mumble, it can be done. Conversely, if someone does want to speak, be respectful. Don’t expect someone to sound a certain way and don’t ridicule someone for sounding “different” than their name suggests. Everyone’s voice is their own.
Finally, remember that this is not about you. It is about their feelings and not yours. They are allowed to be angry, upset with how stuff plays out in your guild. Expecting them to take everything “with a smile” while you catch up to treating them how they ought to be treated is unfair. Listen to what people are saying and respect their wishes across the board.
I think Jasmine W, a trans woman and commenter on the Drama Mamas column, summed it up pretty well:
As a Trans* gamer (and wow player) myself, i hope i can provide some insight. there are several reasons why a person can seek to inform their guild that they are Trans*. As Meer said everyone ends up talking about their RL selves and it can help keep issues down, second and more importantly, member’s of the Trans* community seek support for one of the hardest times of their lives. there’s also the fact that people who have no issue with people based on sexual orientation, sex, or race, do have issues with gender identity which can go into another issue entirely
it can be very jarring to hear a male voice over your (insert VOIP client here) and by ingrained habit you start to call them the gender you heard over the headset. for a trans* individual, though you may not mean it, that not only can be but IS very rude and offensive, so the OP would rather head the drama that could start because of not saying anything and then being hurt by being open about her and her partner it also helps to make sure it’s a guild they can lay down roots with and make a “home guild”
the only choice about being Trans* is that you choose whether to LIVE and transition or DIE because of all of the stress, hatred, ignorance, lack of support, and other things, and once a person does start to transition, then they face much WORSE, when you find out all the things a Trans* individual has to go through, you’d be impressed with the strength of character we have, and also why there’s a 41% suicide rate among Trans* people because of everything that’s given up.
Everyone has a responsibility to make the gaming world as safe and supportive for our community’s trans gamers, if not everyone at large.