Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism

An image of a dark haired and light skinned woman, eyes closed with two fingers pressed to her temple as she is surrounded by a number of holographic images.

To all new readers: I've written a follow up to this article. Not long ago my partner and I were seated in her car discussing the arbitrary nature of certain holidays and I opined, perhaps halfheartedly, that New Year’s was a worthwhile holiday simply for it being a useful vantage point for reflection, however arbitrary. It provides an overlook whence one can see a year of one’s life and world. A recent tranche of writing by several prominent members of the trans and queer feminist gaming community has renewed my faith in that idea-- with the overleaf of the year we suddenly find a great deal of penetrating insight into activist discourse and the risks incurred by our silence about certain excesses that have come to define us too often. The wages of rage in our communities, and the often aimless, unchecked anger striking both within and without have created a climate of toxicity and fear that not only undermine our highest ideals, but also corrode the comforts of community for the … [Read more...]

State of the ‘Corn: “Eat the Press” Edition

16 bit video game screen showing Princess Peach wearing a white dress with red trim jumping between two green pipes against a clear blue sky with a goomba running around on the ground below.

So, I updated the space with a meaty new article a few days ago, but you can still rightly be forgiven for wondering where you're unicornish correspondent has been these many weeks and months. I've been doing a lot of travelling and a fair amount of work of late. I've also been interviewed for a few media outlets about gender in gaming. First is this article in the Wall Street Journal, hitting the streets tomorrow morning: "Fans Take Video Game Damsels Out of Distress and Put Them in Charge." I was very grateful to be interviewed here and pleased to see the Journal covering this important angle of gamer resistance. I should, however, add further commentary lest my lonely remark be misinterpreted or taken out of context. I think that this trend of 'flipping the script' in these games shows that people want to see women protagonists and are willing to both make and support these hacks. It is also worth adding that even as there has been opposition and some vocal nastiness, a lot of … [Read more...]

At the Edge of Night: Who Owns a Woman’s Truth?

One of Chloe Sagal's games, Homesick.

UPDATE 2: Chloe is doing a good deal better and has started a new fundraiser for her SRS which can be found here. She has also told her side of the story in a revealing post at Indie Stone here. UPDATE: I'm leaving this article up for the time being but everyone concerned with the issues discussed here should read this roundtable between Chloe and Allistair at Gamers Against Bigotry. This post at Destructoid also gives some further updates and details about the case, and Allistair Pinsof himself has replied to this article; you can read his response and my reply here. Needless to say, I'm overjoyed Chloe Sagal is well enough to discuss what happened and I look forward to her joining our community very soon. I still welcome you with open arms, sis. By now word has spread like a nauseating shockwave through the various channels and tributaries of the Internet: independent game developer Chloe Sagal “defrauded” online contributors to her IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign for what … [Read more...]

And if My Life Is Like the Dust…

Trans100 Logo

Much to my great shock I was nominated and added to the Trans100 List, a curated, non-ranked list of US trans activists working intersectionally to improve conditions for the community—I accepted with profound gratitude, and I feel humbled to know that I’ve been added to a list that includes some truly astounding people, considering I’ve only done a fraction of what some of them have. I can only hope to live up to the very high bar that my sisters, brothers, and siblings have set. The Trans100 list is a project that I didn’t even know about until a week ago. But it grew up from We Happy Trans*, This is HOW, and other projects dedicated to the proposition of trans visibility, and the idea that the lives we live—even in the midst of a stricken world like ours—are worth celebrating. That’s an idea I can get behind, to say the least, and coincidentally I wrote something this past week that gets at why I think we need things like the Trans100. I was expressing my discomfort with the … [Read more...]

Sag mir wo die Blumen sind: “Vienna to Weimar” and Songs of Resistance

Karen Kohler (l) and K.T. Sullivan, courtesy of Ms. Kohler's website. (http://www.karenkohler.com)

As my semester ramps up and my workload is beset by ever more fascinating layers of tedious yet exciting social scientific labours, I realised that I might do well to share with you some older essays of mine; reduce, reuse, recycle, I grew up with Captain Planet, baby. What follows here is a review of a cabaret show that I wrote for my German Thought & Culture class back in October 2012. I loved the show and I wanted to share my reflections on it with you all, partially since my last essay on Nuclear Unicorn broached the subject of 'bridge building' across identities and experiences. This fits with that rather serendipitously  I think. I hope you enjoy, there may be more of these to come; I like to write beyond discretely trans issues and German history is actually a bit of a hobby of mine. *** An intimate theatre arrayed much like a speakeasy, a crowd of chatter, wooden colonnades framing a petite proscenium—all washed down with aromatic whiskey; it was the carefree … [Read more...]

Why We Wag

Glasses resting atop an open copy of The Social Construction of Reality

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil..., or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” ~Merlin, from The Once and Future King by T.H. White I am often asked why I study sociology, and invariably the question is often freighted with the ponderous addition of “how are you going to make money?” I have employment in my field, and I intend to remain employed … [Read more...]

Sorrows of a Shieldmaiden

Seralene 2

A recent article by Sady Doyle about the problems that inhere to conflating feminism with virtue (or indeed any belief system) and other struggles with morality and activism, inspired me to finally give voice to thoughts that I had suppressed and kept well hidden from view for reasons that I will describe shortly. But as I am so fond of saying, “it’s time to say something.” This is a long story with a very long epigraph but the meandering thoughts therein are, I think, of some significance. Not To Be Spattered By His Blood by Edna St. Vincent Millay (St. George Goes Forth to Slay the Dragon — New Year’s, 1942) Not to be spattered by his blood—this, even then, This, while I kill him, even then, this, when I slice His body from his head, must be my nice concern. This, while I kill him, whom I have hated purely and with all my heart, for he is evil, This, while he dies, for he will strive in death, for he was strong (I say “was strong,” for I shall surely kill him; he … [Read more...]

Lest We Forget

TDOR10

There are ample things to be said about such a day as this. For me the Day of Remembrance is about remembering the lives of those we have lost as they would want to be remembered, as the people they truly were, not as the lie that cis media repeats ad nauseam. I have wondered aloud if journalists go to a special school where they learn how best to utterly trash and defame dead trans women. The rather unpleasant spectacle created by the British press- both populist and 'higher class'- surrounding the death of Sonia Burgess is just one all too contemporary example of the kind of slander that becomes so bad many have described it as a second death. Yet deaths like hers are often the ones that get the most attention; as the list on any number of TDOR websites will tell you, those we lose are often from groups less likely to be mentioned in the papers under any circumstances. The unremembered women on the front lines of sex work, impoverished women in Latin America just trying to get by, … [Read more...]

The Soul of History: Breaking the Silence of Biography

This post was originally going to appear on Nuclear Unicorn first, but evolved into something written for Questioning Transphobia very quickly. Still, it has more than earned its place here and is part of the project of confession and catharsis that "The Daughter Also Rises" began, in the hopes of telling a true trans story- my trans story- and illuminating just how complicated this whole thing is. Enjoy! I was not so happy as I looked in the pictures on my parents’ walls. It was something that resonated with me as I read a beautiful, radical poem by Jo Carillo ‘And When You Leave, Take Your Pictures With You’ which used as a leitmotif pictures of Latinas working under the sun that might hang in the livingroom of a blanquita radfem. Like so many things in the anthology- This Bridge Called My Back- that poem is immortalised in, it made me think, not just about its own very important subject which is, alas, an all too salient issue even today… but about the pictures that were … [Read more...]

Daughter of Zero Queens: Roleplaying as Resistance

Liera- in purple with the staff- surrounded by her friends. Yes, even the dragon.

  Picture it: a World of Warcraft RPPvP server, 2006. A good friend of mine takes up a wager with a female friend of his to test a “theory”- at least it was nothing but a theory to him, at that time. She had often sparred with him about the idea that women were treated differently in online gaming and he was more than a little sceptical. If this were about treatment in, say, the workplace or the home environment or out in the street, this back and forth might have gone on forever. But this woman had a solution that only a game like WoW made available to her. She made a bit of a wager with my friend: roll up a female character, play her, roleplay (RP) her if you like, and don’t tell anyone you’re a man in real life. My friend agreed, being the adventurous sort and an avid RPer to boot, and went forward. To this day he still tells me how his experiences over the course of the next month completely changed how he understood the treatment of women in games like this. He … [Read more...]