Confession: I’ve been sitting on this for over a week now. There’s an alternative version of this piece sitting in my drafts folder. It deals with how influential the cross-dressing scene in Final Fantasy VII was for me. How I had to watch episodes of Sailor Moon looking over my shoulder to make sure nobody else was looking. Watching TV shows “for girls” and wanting to be a character so bad. It would’ve dealt with the media I grew up with, in addition to dealing with child abuse and society’s cissexist expectations. I haven’t actually finished writing it yet (I might at some point), but I planned on capping it off with a happy, or at least some kind of positive, motivating ending about the future.
But, like the media I consumed to escape the harsh realities of life, publishing that piece would be just that: escapism. It would be utterly disingenuous to publish that piece right now, at this increasingly dreary moment in time.
Here’s the reality, here’s what Gaming While Trans™ is: everybody fucking hates us. Everybody. Up to, including, and especially those who will tell Twitter or the media until they’re blue in the face how much they love us. It’s feel-good bullshit by opportunistic assholes to further secure success and a notable brand. There are, of course, a couple of exceptions to this. But by and large, those exceptions are the exceptions to the rule. If I died tomorrow, if you died tomorrow, there will not be a single tear shed for us. We probably wouldn’t even get a simple retweet or a halfhearted RIP. That’s reality.
Social Capital, as stupid a term as that sounds, has been put into the hands of people who should not be trusted to raise a pet goldfish, let alone lead any type of social justice movement. Petty grudges and unadulterated jealousy become fuel for exclusion and harassment. 9 times out of 10, it’s a trans body that becomes a target for this. The reason for this is that most of these figureheads are cis people who, despite using the right keywords like real life is a quest for the right SEO, hold backwards, bigoted views towards those who are “different.” Hell, one of them is a registered Republican. Immature game developers and critics stepping over the progressive bar that has been lowered to the center of the earth by Gamergate wield these grudges and regressive attitudes like a reputation-wrecking cudgel, demolishing the careers and mental health of anyone unlucky enough to be caught in their path. Did you like the wrong tweet? Did you promote the wrong game? Did you enjoy an article written by someone on the personal shitlist of these progressive figureheads? Was your name literally picked at random? Get ready to say goodbye to your support networks! Hope you weren’t planning on becoming a successful artist in queer gaming spaces! These “reasons” are a mere mask for hatred of trans bodies. These people literally celebrate driving us away. They create blacklists specifically designed to cut trans women out of game spaces, then gaslight their own followers into believing such blacklists don’t really exist. And who are you going to believe? The wannabe rockstar with a book deal, or the nobody with less than a couple hundred social media followers?
We fall out of line with petty abusers, and get called abusers ourselves. We’re labeled as rapists, pedophiles, and stalkers. The same things mainstream transphobia likes to label us. The same “men invading safe spaces for women” shit Trans-exclusionary feminists use. A game developer made a series of images memes attacking writer Arthur Chu and comedian Peter Coffin. The punchline to these memes was literally the line, “Trans Rights.” Several people within a specific games group knowingly and willingly passed around a blatantly falsified hitpiece written by a right-wing publication attacking a trans woman who is critical of Gamergate. People within this same group have sat down for interviews with sites that sprung up solely to support the “ethics in games journalism” narrative used to mask Eron Gjoni’s act of domestic violence. To refute these accusations against us is considered to be a call to arms for white supremacy. How dare you try to dismantle all the hard work of this person of color! How dare you try to dismantle all the hard work of this member of the LGBT community! Axes of marginalization become a shield from criticism or a call-out. If that sounds familiar, well hey, put that comment back in your pocket because they are not your shield. The same see-through bullshit and frustrating hypocrisy that gets bathroom bills passed is used to hurt us in the online world, and nobody bats an eye. Or are too afraid of what will happen to them that they remain silent. People who spoke out publicly against something the Southern Poverty Law Center called a hate group are now suddenly too terrified to speak up about abuse on the other side. I don’t blame them for their cowardice, but you better believe I utterly resent each and every one of them for it.
It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of this. Watching as people with “clout” tell thousands of people that you’re the scum of the earth. Being gaslit to hell and back, feeling as though you’re losing your grip on reality. That maybe Brianna Wu’s “trans is a medical condition” tweet is true and you’re actually a total idiot. And it’s funny as hell, too, because most of the time we don’t even get addressed by the proper pronouns! It kills the social justice narrative to attack trans people for no reason, so we become heterosexual, white, cisgender men. We’re the Social Justice Boogeyman coming to take you marginalized people down a peg or two! We’re made to feel like violent predators, then become the recipient of a violent act ourselves!
Another Confession: the real reason it’s taken me so long to get work on Moonlit Corpse done is because I’m too fucked up to work. I open up the program, draw some rooms up, put some NPCs or enemies in there. And if I’m lucky, I won’t start to feel the onset of a panic attack come on until mid-way through an NPCs first paragraph of dialogue. I start freaking out because thousands of people “know” me as some criminal. I start freaking out because I know industry bigwigs follow these people, and now “know” that I’m not someone to be trusted. I start freaking out because I’m worried about one of my friends getting death threats simply for talking to me. I start freaking out because I think about one of the other people on the development team becoming the next target, and how I don’t want to be responsible for that. I close up my game making program and make bad jokes online while I pretend that I’m not ashamed of myself for giving in to their bullshit. And there’s something holding me back from simply e-mailing my project head and asking him to take me off the project. Dammit, I want to be a part of this! I want to work on a full-fledged game and have my name on it! But intimidation and isolation tactics have done their damage, and most days, I feel like they’ve won.
Our defenders; our activist trans voices out in the field will not help us. Hell, most of the time they’ll take part in hurting us. They’ll toss us under the bus if it means panel appearances and podcast interviews. They might even start up a few life-ruining rumors about you, themselves! Feeding into a transphobic society’s association of trans=rapist and soothing the fragile ego of a cisgender bigot can get you a lot more publicity than having to share that space with everyone else. This is not activism, but rather waste disposal. Our disposable bodies are thrown into a metaphorical landfill where we “belong,” while the people who put us there will have to spend the rest of their professional lives walking on egg shells, so as not to find themselves one day lying down and rotting next to us underneath the scorching sun.
And that is Gaming While Trans. We are not people, but a product. A cheap, disposable product to be used and thrown away once our usefulness is gone. We’re treated like literal garbage by people with their heads stuck way too far up their own asses to realize they live, work, and play in a toxic waste dump. I’m thinking back to the original draft for this I mentioned in the opening paragraph. In my weaker moments, I look at the confused little boy who loved Final Fantasy and Sailor Moon, who realized that “he” was not, nor ever, a “he.” I wonder if “he” should have stayed that way. He would be unhappy but dammit, a lot less people would hate him for daring to be different. My weaker moments eventually pass, thankfully. But I hate myself for even having entertained these thoughts in the first place.
This is Gaming’s Inclusive Space. Please enjoy it.