Respect: Advice for my Fellow Cis People

ACM carries five bags of rice.

It’s not hard work to treat trans players with respect.

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.

 

 

And the New Warchief Is…!

The new warchief of the Horde, Sassy Hardwrench!

The new warchief of the Horde, Sassy Hardwrench!

One of the questions on everyone’s mind is who will be ascending to the title of Warchief after Garrosh bites the dust in 5.4. According to my sources deep inside Blizzard, apparently this will be none other than the wonderful Sassy Hardwrench. Miss Hardwrench, not content for being someone’s assistant and being passed over for leader of the Goblins, is a larger part of the raid on Orgrimmar than players may expect.

“We felt that the Horde, as well as the other leaders of Azeroth had too few women in charge and we felt that this was a pretty grievous error on our part. The idea of having the second most recognizable leadership of the Horde be Sassy seemed like a natural choice,” said a person who does not look like or sound like Dave Kosak in any way, shape or form. Other Blizzard story developers declined to comment on the record but it seemed to be like a unanimous decision.

But how will Sassy take over an entire population of orcs? Isn’t she busy running her weapons depot in Stranglethorn? Apparently her good looks, charm and even suspected romance with an unnamed (as of yet) lady orc warrior help win her the hearts of the people.

“There’s some gaps in our representation and we feel that Sassy is a perfect in-road towards showing more kinds of characters in the future.”

Good on ya, Blizzard!

Dealing With Intolerance

Trigger warnings: Homophobic/sexist language, anxiety

As much as I hate for one of my errant posts while the festivities of work and holidays keep me out of blogging to be relentlessly negative, I feel like this is something I should post. I feel that often the hardest part of being a woman in a sexist world, especially as a feminist, is putting your values ahead of you. It’s very hard to navigate what is still an openly hostile world and still stick your neck out for what you believe in. I had a situation last night that I dealt with, and while I don’t feel that I was the assertive, unabashed feminist I could have been, I feel like the appropriate people got taken to task and I got out of the situation as fast as my gnomish legs would carry me.

A recap:

Since 4.3 came out, I’ve pretty much quit progression raiding. I recently completed my legendary staff, killed Deathwing via LFR. I’m not left wanting for excitement or content at all right now. I’ve really relished the free time I have, that I’m no longer part of a 25man that actively dislikes the game and can focus on my friends, blogging, and having fun.

That being said, I happened to pick up a casual 10man group made mostly of alts/socials from a top 10man guild on my server. Interested by the prospect of low-stress normals raiding with a decent team of people, I started going along with them. First it was one night, one-shotting most of Siege and then adding a second day for working on Madness bosses. Most of the raid (if not all) is dudes, of the decently nice sort but a couple of them are a little “rough around the edges.” Not surprising, but not terrible. 

However, here and there sometimes they would slip up and say something a little rude or use a slur – mostly things like calling someone “fag” or n-words. Just every so once in a while, and I reported it to the raid leader who said he’d handle it.

Well, we got into the raid tonight and it was just one weird convo on Ventrilo after another; one talking about what cereal looked like vaginas, and how someone in the raid was a whore. I just felt really embarassed and weird. I kept making weird emoticons because despite all of my crowing about how amazingly strong and feminist I am, I’m still cowed by a large group of men online apparently. 

Then right before we pulled Zon’ozz, one of the louder guys said, “If you f*****s don’t all one-shot this boss tonight, I’m going to yell!” and started laughing. I had enough and told him not to call me that, and he shot back like, “See, I don’t understand why a woman would get offended by that.” I whispered the raid leader, told him I was sorry but I couldn’t handle it, apologized for leaving before a boss and peaced out of the raid.  I whispered the other mage later on since he’s always been super nice and said he could talk to me for magely wisdom That’s the only contact I think I’ll have from now on.

My hands were shaking and I got off Ventrilo in a hurry. I have legit anxiety/panic problems with confrontation and this was just piquing it all over the place. I feel not the slightest bit aggrieved that I won’t see normal content or loot, but that’s what LFR is for. I’m just sad that I forgot momentarily that the world outside of my awesome guild is still shitty in the World of Warcraft. I’m also sad that I’m still kinda a scaredy cat when it comes to socially dealing with people who are being offensive.

I feel that sometimes in our rush to uphold the ideals that we want to see in the world, that we forget that we’re all still human beings and things like anxiety, aggression and consequences still exist for those who speak up. While there’s no imminent threat of physical violence for telling some dudebros on Ventrilo to stop calling people fags, it can still be hard to stand up. But I’m glad I did. I still urge everyone who can to do it, and to feel proud about it. You’re definitely not alone. Even though I was scared, I still did it anyways. I feel like I might not always have the power to change the world overnight, but I still have the power to change the world in my immediate grasp. I do this by speaking up when I feel things are going wrong, and building a really amazing guild that’s full of people that respect eachother. It might be small, but I feel it’s a good first step.

Blizzard Sponsors Homophobia with Chuck Norris Ad Spot

Last night, Blizzard debuted another one of their celebrity ad spots during a football game. It featured Chuck Norris, of eponymous joke fame, with a fairly annoying and offensive Asian stereotype voice-over, running around beating people up as a melee hunter. Funny, right?

Eh, maybe not as funny as I imagined. Why is that, you ask? Probably because Chuck Norris has publically gone on record espousing many views that are fairly bigoted. Like that schools should feature a more conservative agenda, Day of Silence shouldn’t be held, and other such fun ideas like how he dislikes Roe vs. Wade. The fact that these links from his own blog and various websites go back a couple years shows a progression of ideas that he is free to express, but are not exactly friendly towards a particular segment of the possible World of Warcraft population.

But Cider, you say, what does it matter what he says on his silly site? Blizzard was just using him for Chuck Norris jokes!

Maybe it is because I’m a general peon in the scheme of things, and not an actual PR practitioner but I believe that when you use a celebrity to endorse your product, you endorse their name, clout and image. If that image is them also spouting off stuff on the Internet (which -is- important these days), then you are tacitly endorsing that too. Nothing a celebrity says or does in the public eye exists in the vacuum, especially in these days when celebrities have easy access to social media. This is why celebs lose contracts and endorsements from backing companies when they do something that the company doesn’t agree with, especially if it hurts their image. You don’t want your puppy chow associated with a known animal mistreater, you don’t want your brand of vodka associated with someone who racks up a DWI. So if you want to be a company that is friendly to all your customers, not using someone who wants to leave some of them out is a good idea. The fact that Chuck Norris has a history of saying these things long before Blizzard reached out to him is problematic at best. It’s no Corpsegrinder, but it does leave me with some questions about the thoroughness of Blizzard’s vetting of celebrities or maybe even outright dismissal that it is important.

That all being said, why can’t we use a more nerdy, awesome celebrity to promote World of Warcraft? Like Mila Kunis (a woman, gasp!) or Vin Diesel. They both play or have played WoW at some point in their career and they don’t quite have the same problematic background as Chuck Norris.

Homophobia at Blizzcon and Beyond

Trigger warning: Homophobic language. I also use “queer” occasionally to describe people across the GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minority) spectrum.

I’m sure by now, by way of either the forums or various other blogs on the subject, you’ve all heard about the Blizzcon incident with Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse. For those of you who have been outside the reach of social media this entire time, the summation is this – during the L90ETC opening act, Blizzard showed a video of Corpsegrinder talking about Alliance calling us “homo” and “cocksuckers.”  He goes on to call blood elves “queers” and “faggots.” Corpsegrinder then took the stage with the band and proceeded to call out the Alliance again before going into the set. There’s some contention as to whether the video was bleeped out or not, but despite any editing or not, Blizzard made a really horrible decision to give this person both a platform and audience for this homophobic grossness. What is deeply ironic is what was going on with me during Blizzcon when this all went down, hence why I don’t remember this very well.  As Mythrai wrote at her own blog:

Strangely, when the Corpsegrinder incident occurred, I was taking advantage of the (supposedly) shorter lines for the Diablo III demo with Apple Cider Mage and sucksmybrain about the Lore Q&A discussion around explicit LGBT characters in upcoming WoW stories, and how excited we’d all be if that came true.   We tossed around cheery ideas about Quae and Kinelory, Koltira and Thassarian, Sassy Hardwrench (come on, with a name like that, you know Sassy is an enterprising young gay goblin.)  To come out from that discussion to find that degrading homophobia was being played, promoted and even implicitly supported by the Blizzard team at the same time we were feeling hopeful about being represented by a major gaming company we loved and supported… saying it was a crushing blow is putting it mildly.

Coming back to the hotel that night to start reading Tweets and forum posts about what occurred was shocking and hurtful. How could Blizzcon support this? Over a Horde/Alliance conflict no less? People were jumping up to make it about some stupid video game faction dispute when the larger problem was looming there. Homophobia should never be a part of a company’s public face, especially at an event that features many, many fans that are queer, gay, or transgendered. Some of whom I hung out with a majority of my weekend and had great times with. Some of whom are me, even. Allowing someone like Corpsegrinder to express the same bigoted language and slurs that we hear in battlegrounds, trade chat, and even in our guilds and raids is damaging. It means Blizzard is condoning that language as a company, despite having rules in their TOS against it.

People started writing letters to the company post-haste, posts were written, petitions were created. A forum threads was eventually made (with a lackluster blue response), and L90ETC apologized. To some people, all it read as was “I’m sorry you are offended” which to some of us this is never an apology, merely a dismissal of the audience’s feelings.  It wasn’t until Mike Morhaime himself (president of Blizzard, also member of the band) stepped up to offer the more sincere of the apologies. My hope is that Blizzard really takes this incident to heart and forever changes their public face in regards to what kind of language they support out of their company, as well as a harsher look at their audience. My deepest desire is that maybe they even make good on their Q&A panel admission that they might see fit to include more LGBT characters in their game should they fit. Unfortunately, regardless of what Blizzard does, a situation still remains looming over our heads.

Because, really, the problem here on a more daily basis is not the giant company. It is society and nerd culture. Blizzard fucked up but the people we play this video game do not even see the error of their ways, despite playing with queer people on a regular basis. Rising numbers of social minorities of all stripes are playing World of Warcraft, and yet the audience still talks and reads unspeakably cis-gendered, straight, white male. This was never more evident than by watching the live raid that also took place at Blizzcon and seeing Blood Legion using racial slurs against a well-known priest called Kinaesthesia (of Learn2Raid fame) from Vodka as well as other inflammatory language and unsportsmanlike conduct. If these are the “leaders” of the raiding community, why does the rank and file have to act better than them?

It galls me and makes me incredibly angry that this is still what we have to deal with every day in the nerdy community and I am set on calling it out wherever I see it. I hope the rest of you have the strength to as well (but I can understand if you don’t.) We need guilds that uphold these things as policy, reports to GMs whenever we see it in-game, and a larger community presence. Because nerd culture needs to wake up to the smell of its own manure that it has been wallowing in all these years and realize that the time of the pervasive racism, homophobia, rape jokes and general disgusting-ness is over. I want an Azeroth where all of us feel safe to be ourselves, to see our stories and strife reflected in the characters we play and interact with, and people to get over their ignorance.

Some other blogs that wrote on the subject:

The ‘mental Shaman – Blizzcon: This is about homophobia not Horde v Alliance

MMO Melting Pot – The homophobic Corpsegrinder rant at Blizzcon explodes