One of the seminars I started attending a few years back at Gen Con is Queer as a three sided die. It is less a structured panel seminar and more of a conversation between people in the industry and gamers of the LGBT community and our supporters. It provides a space to discuss the issues in the hobby that affect us as well as meet other members of this chunk of the ven diagram intersection.
Unlike the other seminars I attended, I didn’t take notes. I go here to feel like I fit in. Gen Con is a giant convention that makes me feel like I belong. Within this context, Gen Con is home and this seminar is my room. So, what I’m going to write about are the things that impacted me most from the seminar.
As usual, The seminar was hosted by Steve Kenson, Green Ronin Publishing and designer of Mutants & Masterminds, and Jeremy Crawford, Managing Editor for 5th Ed D&D and one of the lead designers for 5th Ed D&D. Also on the panel were Wesley Schneider, Editor in chief for Paizo Publishing, Renee Knipe, Freelancer for Onyx Path Publishing and Co-Moderator for Gaming as Women, Matt Conn, creator of Gaymer X, and Philip Jones, creator of the documentary Gaming in Color.
One of the first thing was showing a ton of love for the people on the panel and for Paizo and Wizards of the Coast for their games being inclusive. When you read through this new edition of D&D it calls out specifically that your character can be straight, gay or trans and that is perfectly fine. In addition it deals with this in other spots throughout the players handbook. The most notable being in the description of the elven god Corellon Larethian and his fluid nature in this regard. Pathfinder has been doing this for quite some time and has several of their iconic characters that LGBT with the most recent being the shaman iconic character Shardra Geltl who is transgender.
After the love fest, one of the questions that caught my attention was why did this have to be in the game at all. Sexuality wasn’t a necessary part of the game. The response from the room was pretty nice. No, It wasn’t required but what did people do when completed a successful trip through a dungeon? The average answer was spent their gold on ale and whores. This happens so often that it is a trope in gaming and you can find several vendors at Gen Con with shirts that say this exact thing. So, sexuality is implicit at this point but you can eliminate it and say that I went back to my wife and children. Which, there it crops up again. Why wouldn’t we, as LGBT players, want to be able to do any of that as well? When it isn’t dealt with in the books, it is something we have to bring up and some gaming groups may not be supportive. By putting it in their books, the companies are saying that this is normal and that we have a place at the table too.
The other part is that when you sit down with a game book you hope to find yourself in the book. Until recently, we weren’t there. Now, I and anyone else at the seminar can pick up these books and find a hero that represents us and says play you if you want to because you are welcome here.
Another issue that came up was the question of responsibility. A man had been playing at a convention and had his husband with him. The conversation had came around to wives and such and he had felt uncomfortable mentioning that he was there with his husband. He wondered if we, as a group, had a responsibility to be more open about these things. What touched me was that it came out that is was very much a decision based on personal choice. There are parts of the community where you are told that to be silent is tacit approval of the horrible things that happen. Here, it was more about ownership of how comfortable and safe you felt in sharing that information. Steve was very open that he felt that he had a responsibility to be open about these things but that this choice wasn’t for everyone. It was nice to here that I wasn’t alone struggling with that question.
A brave straight man stood up with an experience he had had that day at a tournament. He stated that his opponent had been very flamboyant and had said things that it must make him uncomfortable to be playing against a gay man. His question to the room was to how to handle this situation. The overwhelming response was that the man was an asshole and for that, we were sorry. The gentleman’s description of how he handled it was good and the room said as much. The hard part was that the panel pointed out that this was a single episode for him and that he could get up and walk away. The room encouraged him to see it as a learning experience because for most of the people in the room that was most likely how they have been treated for a very long time.
The last thing that really stuck out for me from this was a story from a gm. He was telling the room about his group and how very traditional they were but had been accepting of him. The group had added a new member who later came out to him as transgender. The new player wanted to come out to the group and the gm facilitated this. The group of players later came to him and told the gm that if the player came back that he wouldn’t have a place at the table. He ended up caving to the groups demands and the trans player was told to leave the group. I’m not going to lie, the story brought tears to my eyes. This was one of my great fears given form. I came out to my friends that I gamed with and there was this terror that not only was I going to lose these friends that I would lose my favorite hobby as well. Here was this nightmare that had terrified me given form. I could hear that same fear in the speakers voice. I could also make out the sorrow there as well as he later realized that there is a wider community that would have accepted him and the trans gamer as well. The story brought the idea of responsibility home to me. I have to stand up in my hobby and elsewhere because I want new people to feel welcome no matter what they bring to the table.