Since my first website, I’ve known how powerful technology can be, especially when that technology is used to connect people. It seems to amplify our connections, to tie us into a wider world and give us context and perspective. Gaming communities have a wonderful air of belonging to them, because no matter what, we’re at least all gamers.
Yes, there is also quite a bit of “I’d hit it,” Nazi accusations, a fundamental misunderstanding of what the right of free speech actually means, and cat videos, but I’ll bet even a shining city on a hill has a sewer. Can’t know daylight without the dark, etc. The darkness is at least our choice. The internet is the great leveler where all of us are judged by what we choose to share, not the things we can’t help. Most of all, it allows us to not be alone.
Anyway, I was watching some YouTube, because, you know, Maru, and I followed a chain of links until I got to some stuff that choked me up. I’m not ashamed. I defy you to watch many of the It Gets Better Project videos without choking up. Personally, I couldn’t watch more than three without wanting to freaking DO something, as long as that something was not “yet another straight girl making a blurry video.”
There’s something I’ve been doing already. Gaming forums, being somewhat dominated by young straight males, tend to be one of the last places in our culture where you can toss around homophobic (and misogynist) slurs with abandon. I don’t mean there’s always evil intent. When you ask one of these kids why he said “gay” when what he meant was “stupid” or “contemptible,” most of the time he’ll just blink at you. A few of them mumble an explanation that basically goes “I didn’t mean gay, like, GAY. It’s just a word on a gaming forum, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Well, it’s not just a word, it does mean something, and I don’t allow it to be used in a derogatory way on any channel where I have mod powers. If you do allow it, you’re basically saying to every kid who is LGBT or questioning that his or her kind isn’t really welcome in your community, and that the only way they can stay is if they pretend they don’t care. Just like you don’t care if some mouthbreather uses “gay” as the very worst possible insult.
Wanna know something interesting? It will cost you nothing to change this paradigm. It doesn’t take very long, or many repetitions of “do not use that word” before people find other, better insults. You don’t even have to ban, or get agitated. You just have to say no. I’ve proven it on multiple forums ranging in size from hundreds to tens of thousands of people. So much for “it’s just a word gamers use.” Gaming forums do not have to be ruled by the worst our genre has to offer.
So, speaking of help: Help me, fellow mods and CMs. (And help me, players, by reporting and not responding when you see it.) We’ve got to stop tolerating homophobia in our communities. I’m not saying we have to go and get gay married. You don’t even have to support an agenda of any kind. All you have to do is say that you will not permit one of your customers to call another one of your customers a faggot.
Here is my pledge:
If you’re young and LGBT, I want you to know that gaming is getting better. In any community that I run, you will not be called names if you choose to be open about your identity and orientation. I will not allow the use of homophobic slurs, either at you or near you. I will not work for an employer who does not have my back on this. My forums are a safe place where you are not “other.” You are not alone. You are, always and forever, one of us.