Tag Archives: community

Desperately Seeking Queer Representation

by Santino Hassell

As someone who spends a lot of time on book social media, I commonly see people saying it’s difficult for them to find queer representation in paranormal and horror novels. There are several reasons for that but I tend to think the common obstacles are as follows:

1) Lack of rep in general in mainstream publishing. Even though non-queer people seem to think we’re all taking over because we may now have a queer hero for every twenty hetero heroes… that’s still only one queer hero among a sea of non-queer characters.

2) The queer representation primarily consisting of cis gay male heroes with little room for the rest of the rainbow.

3) I’ve seen many readers and authors alike state “it’s not out there”, and then being shocked when they receive many recommendations for paranormal and horror books featuring queer characters. This could be people assuming there’s *none* out there due to a lack of mainstream marketing for these novels. At the end of the day, readers are consumers and consumers tend to drift to things that are heavily marketed unless they follow social media accounts where they will receive word-of-mouth recommendations.

4) Writers receiving the advice that “those books won’t sell”, and writing less books with a queer cast. It’s a tricky situation because writers do want to make a living, but I can’t help but think the publishing industry sometimes gas lights writers into thinking queer characters aren’t interesting or relatable to non-queer people when, in reality, often those books aren’t marketed the same as books with hetero casts… so it’s not a comparable situation.

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An Interview with Transgender Faith Leader Stephanie Mott

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan, Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

This experience of being given rights and then watching them ripped out from under you and meeting Stephanie are experiences that have changed my life and have shaped many things in the years after. They are stories I recount often as the fight for basic protections continues across the United States and across the world. Stephanie, her kindness, and her story, and her dedication are something I look to frequently as something to strive towards.

What strikes me most about Stephanie is her unwavering faith. Stephanie is a Christian transsexual woman who frequently posts about her religion and its influence on her life. She even has a book titled God Doesn’t Have a Penis, and Other Writings by a Transsexual Christian Woman. She does not let those who question her identity and its intersection with her religion get in her way. This is most evident in her Trans Faith Tour she is currently doing across the country, talking about her experiences as a Christian trans woman.

I recently interviewed Stephanie about her Trans Faith Tour, KSTEP, and several other things.

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Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

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The Hate Culture of Gaming

“We play games to forget the hate in the world, not be reminded of it.”

This is a statement I made a long time ago and is something I stick with today about video games. I play video games to engage in fantastical worlds, far removed from my own. Video games are an escape, a retreat. Something I can do with my friends in order to get rid of some stress. I can escape the world, be whatever I choose to be. I become part of worlds where anything is possible, from dragons and werewolves, to just respawning when you happened to be killed. However there is one thing that, no matter how fantastical the world, if other players are involved, I cannot escape.

The gaming community is not only marred by this monster, it is defined by this monster. It is expected. When people log on to play a game, they brace themselves. What level of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so forth will I experience today? How many times will I be called a f*g? How many rape jokes will I hear? Will I be told to kill myself today, repeatedly? Will I be able to speak to my team without being told to get back into the kitchen or show my breasts? We have reached a point where online gaming has become no longer a retreat for many. Our fantasies are shattered. Fantastical realms crumble.

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When Clicks Mean More Than Violence

“Is the T Word the New N Word?”, is an op-ed that recently was published on the Advocate. Written by Parker Molloy (but not titled by her), the piece sheds some light on the current debate that has the trans community (specifically trans women) and the cis male drag community butting heads. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion over who can and cannot use the t-slur and the word sh*male. In the center of this all, is Parker Molloy and her continuous critique of the gay cis male drag community through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul himself (a cis gay male drag queen). This discussion has sparked op-ed after op-ed from trans women, drag queens, and everyone else under the sun it seems.

The title of the article sparked a public outcry across social media from Black people, cis and trans, straight and not. This is something the Advocate has done before, with an inappropriately named piece, “Gay is the New Black”. This is a common issue in the queer community, comparing the struggle for queer rights to the struggle that Black Americans faced during the Civil Rights movement. The ‘new’ Civil Rights movement is often used to describe the push for queer recognition. New, new, new. However, that implies that there is an old. It implies that queer people of color have their rights and their only struggles are being queer.

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Gaming Culture and Safe Spaces

As of Tuesday, April 8th, the trans- prefix has been uncensored! We did it! I am continuing to work with Blizzard as they are also overlooking how they deal with issues like this in the future. For more on that, please see the coverage over on Ars Technica.

Diablo III’s most recent patch allows for the creation of clans. As someone who created several trans gaming groups, my girlfriend (Olivia Quin) and I thought this would be a wonderful time to create a trans gaming clan on Diablo III. There was already as Gaymers clan, why would there be an issue for a trans-related gaming clan? We were wrong. So very wrong.

It turns out that the prefix trans- or tran- is banned. I can understand that tran- would be banned to prevent people from creating groups using t****y, but why not just ban that slur and several variations for it? That should be enough, correct? Apparently not. Anything involving the prefix trans- is forbidden in clan creation. This means that clans with involving non-trasnsgender are also banned as well such as transformers, transdimensional, transcend, and any of the words beginning with the extremely common trans- prefix.

So, I contacted Diablo III support. I had to do it in a slightly roundabout way. This is the exact message I sent to them:

Hello!

I am contacting you in regards to creating clans in the newest Diablo III patch. I am trying to make a clan for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who would like to play the game together in a relatively safe space of like identified individuals. However, I have come to find out that the prefix trans is banned in clan creation! I understand this is to prevent people from creating offensive clans, but it is doing just the opposite. You allow the word gay as a prefix for clans, as there is a Gaymers clan, yet do not allow the same for transgender individuals. In fact, this forbids words such as transdimensional and so forth. The word gay has much more room for offensive and harmful clan names than trans does and deletes the possibility of safe spaces for transgender people to get together and enjoy your games. This creates a harmful environment for people like myself who wish you play your game and know that I will be a respected member of my clan, regardless of my gender identity, presentation, how my voice sounds over Vent/Skype, and so on. This sends a message that gay people are allowed to create their own clans and freely interact on your servers, but trans people are not. Please reconsider your ban of the prefix trans- and thus banning all transgender related clans and groups.

Thank you for your time.

I was told to post something on the forums as that was the best way to contact the developers. As someone who knew nothing of the Blizzard forums, I did just that, adding in this statement as well:

Banning the prefix trans while allowing the word gay sends a message. You can be an openly gay gamer, but you cannot be openly trans. They allow for clans to be created around being gay, such as the Gaymers clan, but will not allow a similar TransGamers clan (which is what was trying to be created). This creates an environment that allows for people to be openly gay, but not openly trans, and requires people to create codewords, and in community buzzwords to create a similar clan for a similar experience, gaming with people who share the same identity and will respect you for who you are. Blizzard is sending a very poor message to the trans gaming community by not allowing people to create safe clan experiences for themselves while allowing others to do that with words which can be used in a much more harmful sense (such as gay).

This seems pretty straight forward. There are no negative drawbacks to unbanning the prefix trans- and allows for people to create safe spaces for like-minded trans gamers and their allies, friends, partners, and so forth. The unbanning of the trans- prefix would allow people to also create a variety of non-transgender related clans in the game. The filter system was already pretty disliked by the Blizzard community due to how strict is can be, why would something this small be seen as anything but positive?

I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

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The Internet Saved My Life

And countless others. In fact, the internet saved my life repeatedly and continues to do so. I’m not alone either. I can safely say that millions of people have had their lives deeply and personally touched by those whose faces they may never see, voices they may never hear, and bodies they may never touch. People constantly disregard internet relationships (both intimate and friend) because of the lack of physical. While some of us may eventually meet these people, some of them we may not for whatever reason. Does that diminish the value, love, acceptance, and so on we feel in these relationships? Absolutely not. People criticize how people often have their heads in their phones, tablets, or other devices, as opposed to interacting with those around them. They talk about how people are always on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or other forms of…SOCIAL… media. These people are being social. In fact, they are possibly being more social than they could be with those around them.

I met both of my partners online, relatively. Most of my friends I have met through the internet. I have friends who have been my friends for almost ten years. These are people who experienced me at my worst, people who were at my side when I was going through the most troubling and traumatic times in my life. People who were there for me and cared for me when others were not. When I first tried to come out to my family as trans*, I was rejected. I was mocked. I was humiliated. I found solace in those who loved me online. Even before then, I was able to quell my loneliness with the internet. Before the internet, I didn’t think people like me existed. I’m not talking about just trans*, but trans* people LIKE me. In media, there were no femme trans guys. There were no cross-dressing men who had happened to be assigned female at birth. I didn’t exist. I was a freak among freaks in my head. That all changed when I found people like me online, not just one, or two, but communities FILLED with them.

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Trans 101: Misconceptions

There are a ton of misconceptions, incorrect facts, half-truths, and a myriad of other problematic information about trans people floating around in the media, academics, word of mouth, and so on. In fact, these misconceptions are often perpetuated by mainstream media and academia. For example, Orange is the New Black which is touted to be extremely positive towards its portrayal of trans people with its trans woman character, Sophia, has its problems. Sophia has had bottom surgery and has been on hormones for a while, I will not spoil any of the plot, but the show ends up showing Sophia sprouting chin hairs and experiencing breast shrinkage due to issues accessing hormones in prison. Neither of these actually happen to trans women who have had some form of bottom surgery. However, the show incorrectly shows Sophia experiencing secondary sex characteristics that are typically male due to her lack of hormones. While minor, these types of misinformation plague the trans community and society at large, creating a lot of confusion and misconceptions about trans people, transition, and their lives.

I am going to dispel some of these misconceptions and misinformation throughout this piece. I have split it into three parts:  Identity/Sexuality, Surgery/Transition, and Choices/Binary/Enforcement. There will be things that fit into several or all the categories. I picked the best category I felt for each option.

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Remembering ALL Our Dead: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Trigger Warning: Violence, assault, murder, suicide, racism, trans*phobia, transmisogyny

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is not without its issues. In fact, TDoR has some pretty big issues. Most of the murders of trans* people are trans women and trans feminine people of color, however, there seems to be a lack of discussion on race and how it impacts the lives of these women. There is no doubt this is not just an issue in theory, but in practice. While there have been women of color speakers at the TDoR events I have been to, they are always run by white trans* people. Clearly the event needs to be broadened and run by trans women of color.

There is another aspect that TDoR ignores. While their website chronicles the reported murders of trans* people across the world at the hands of others. This means that a large number of trans* murders are still undocumented as well due to incorrect reporting, unknown identity, undiscovered bodies, and so on. However, it does not report on the murders at the hands of the trans* people themselves. Trans* people murdered by the idea that society does not want them. Trans* people murdered by the idea that they are not worthy of life. Trans* people murdered by the fact they must face every day in a world that wishes them dead.

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