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I'm Out of the Box! (A safe place for gaymers)

It’s a little weird if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, gender queer, or whatever it is that you are. A lot of other people don’t get it, and it makes playing games… awkward, sometimes.

When your party of adventurers come across a sleeping campsite of kobolds, what personal pronouns do you use when you’re hacking them to bits?

Or (more appropriately) playing games is something you do with other people. How do you handle it? With friends and family? Strangers at a pub? A church picnic? How “out” are you, and is everyone else expecting it? If they’re not, how do you deal?

When you’re not straight, the rest of the world can seem hostile and alien, especially when you feel like the only person who’s out of place. The actual alien.

Or maybe you’ve overcome that, and feel comfortable in a crowd. Someone else could use your advice, right?

Let’s get you back to feeling human, there are plenty of others here! A lot of them are a lot like you! We can share advice about playing with cis & straight people, vent about people who just don’t see you for who you are, and talk about games. While feeling free to be you! And also giving/taking advice from other queer gamers.

(Seriously, though… talk about games here. I am in no way joking.)

We don’t get to choose who we fall in love with, or what chromosomes we were born with. We do get to choose who we want to spend time with. So, let’s roll the dice…

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OK, as usual, I’ll start.

I’m bi? (if you ask me about my orientation, my answer will be “Yes.”)

My son is transgender, and so is his girlfriend. We just spent about the entire afternoon fighting. Not irl! Playing card games, board games, tabletop stuff. Love Letter, Dixit, and Catacombs, to name a few.

Both my son and his girlfriend want me to GM a campaign I’m just making up. I’m having a hard time with “ix” and whatever. How do I plan that in my head? Gendered pronouns are a major part of the English language! It’s also the only language I feel confident with!

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So I’m somewhere outside the gender binary, applying different labels mostly on the basis of what I think is easiest for whoever I’m talking to to understand (I fairly recently got a very dirty look from a slightly older gay man for using the term Queer, and was reminded that reclamation of words is never uniform, and it’s worth being careful).

I significantly prefer a neutral pronoun, although if people haven’t asked/checked/don’t know, I just ignore it. This is working less and less as a coping strategy, not least because it means I’m holding people to different standards (if you’ve asked or been told, and you get it wrong, it hurts more). For quite a while it was more of a positive experience, where I didn’t mind when people got it wrong, but got a little firework of joy in my heart whenever people got it right. The firework is still there, but there’s also a plain old fire coming from the other end, so, yeah…I need to work out how to deal with that better.

My tricks for training my head out of requiring gendered pronouns mostly come from adapting figures of speech. If you start referring to god (if ze comes up) with a neutral pronoun, it (a) makes a lot of sense and (b) gives you some practice trying it. I also kicked a little bit of extra life into a sordidly overdone meme by always going for ‘that’s what xe said’, which has the double benefit of sucking the heteronormativity out of most applications.

I use they with more and more people, as a training wheel. If it’s not necessary for clarity, just say they, and it feels natural, and makes it easier to do when it’s absolutely needed.

It is hardest in the heat of a game though. I have to admit.

But as with Food Chain Magnate, practice will likely make practice.

I’m in a relationship that mostly gets read as straight, but am definitely more flexible than that label, and still haven’t worked out if hetero makes any sense from non-binary position…I kind of don’t think anyone else is quite the same as me, so I guess I’m very, very hetero, but I often find myself hot, so who even knows!

I’m really enjoying my largely queer D and D group too. I don’t think consent and pronouns have ever been discussed so much in any other Phandalanian taverns, but I do like what we’re doing (and it’s lovely being at a table where the theys outnumber the more specifics).

My big pub game group is not very clued up though, and I tend to just be quietly in the corner. I don’t know how people read me, to be honest, but few people seem to get it, and I’ve been asked my pronouns only thrice in two years (and probably more than a hundred people!)

On the one hand, I’m just there to play, and nobody’s ever been phobic in front of me. On the other hand, I often feel like I’m letting the side down when I don’t push.

This has been a very long post with very little aim! Sorry!

Hi, I’m Alabaster, I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m rolling the dice.

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Very hesitant to post this, as I’ve never experienced the situations that you both describe.
If you are about to start GMing a new campaign, would it be fair (and inoffensive?) to get your players to describe the correct gender pronouns they wish to be addressed as as part of the introduction to their characters? Part of roleplaying is about creating a collaborative story, part of which (I believe) should include a check to ensure that the world you’re creating doesn’t touch on things that offend people, such as slavery for example. Maybe use the first session to set the ground rules? Would being this open right from the start help?

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It’s almost always okay to ask people pronouns, but it’s pretty important to start doing it all the time, and do it to everyone, rather than singling out, or only doing it occasionally. I’m pretty bad at doing this, mostly because it feels really awkward if I start and am then the only person to say something not ‘obvious’. But I do really, really appreciate it when others do (although that is when I then get upset later on if people don’t take it on board).

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I spent my life identifying as a straight, cis guy. I’m now 30 and have been with my fiancée for 7 years and have recently come to the conclusion that I’m bi and non-binary.

So I’m in the odd position where I’m not actively closeted, but I’ve made no kind of announcement about it or anything. My fiancée knows and I mention it every now and then in a post on a tumblr, but that’s it. Anyone could find out if they paid attention, but the kind of people who might react negatively aren’t likely to find out.

I’m in a privileged position of being kinda “gender ambivalent” (to paraphrase Eddie Izzard). I don’t care what pronouns people use for me or what gender people perceive me as. I generally present as male out of laziness. I’ve presented as female (or androgynous) in the past but it takes a lot more time/effort/money than just chucking on jeans and a t-shirt and not shaving.

Though I am regularly saddened that nice heels in my size are pretty much impossible to get without spending extortionate amounts.

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It can be really jarring when someone uses “artificial” pronouns in casual conversation. I’ve even read it here in the forums. It can be like stubbing your toe on a rock you didn’t see, when you were just thinking, “lalala, I’m taking a walk now. Nice day. Nothing could possibly go wrong with this boring and otherwise uneventful scenario.” Gendered pronouns just seem natural in English (and Romance languages in general, jeeze this has got to be a major pain for native Spanish and Italian speakers).

I think Alabaster’s got a point: you use it, you get used to it. A big advantage of English that is we also get to have the flexibility of piecing new words together (thanks Germany, or whatever you were called when there were just Anglo-Saxons on the isle), and we can also do stuff like “verb” our “nouns” and more! English is like having a big set of LEGOs you can do pretty much anything you want with. Yeah, it can be awkward and pointy, but most people will still get what you mean after a while.

I still screw up with my son. Sometimes I accidentally call him “she” (nearly two decades of habit is hard to break), and I even mess up and call his girlfriend “he.” There’s only one way to get to Carnegie Hall, though.

Practice.

You have a good point, too @Scribbs. Establish boundaries. I’ve never personally had CAH hurt my feelings before, for example, but I’ve been in games where I just didn’t play a card because I thought, “That’s a little too close to home for this player. Let’s just… not.” CAH wouldn’t be a great game anyway, no matter what. I’m not going to hate on it or anything! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had fun! But once it’s flaws were revealed to me, I felt betrayed (“you seemed so awesome at first, but you’re actually quite boring! Whyyyyhyhyhy!?!”)

The whole neutral pronoun thing I lead with was really just a starting point that I thought may make people curious or get them engaged. I know one person who identifies as bi-gendered, only one, and I know hundreds and hundreds of people, I do volunteer work for the annual LGBT Civil Rights festival my friend started 6 years ago. It doesn’t come up in conversation that regularly because of it’s rarity. I don’t even particularly identify myself as “queer.” But, I knew that there must be other people who have banged their heads against this, and other gender/orientation issues in games, and figured this would be a good spot to share solutions.

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Does that ever come up in gaming? Or do you just kind of “read the crowd” like other social situations?

I’ve always been open, but not declarative, in my gaming groups. “We’re here to play!” not to get into an endless discussion about sexual morality. But when I’m feeling crude, I’ll just go off and say something like, “Daym, she’s fucking smoking!” or “Holy Chr!st, he’s got a nice ass. Pretty eyes, too!”

Which I know is objectifying! I’m just saying that in my groups, I’ve always been open about speaking my mind and just relaxing and being natural, not intentionally trying to offend anyone, that was a bit of an over the top example. It’s worked out pretty OK. Even though the groups are mostly straight, just one or two openly queer members (if even that many), no one’s had a problem with any of the “gay in the room.” (One person said, “holy shit, it smells so gay in here!” which was really hilarious in context. It lightened us up after a brief but heavy talk about how I would punch the kidneys, all of their kidneys, of any player who discriminates about race, age, gender, or orientation. I think it helped that she was our only black lesbian member. I still think I have a little crush on her, but I kind of have a crush on most of our members. Don’t tell them, it would get weird! Actually, I think they know.)

As it’s still kind of a new thing for me to have admitted to myself that this is who I am, I’ve yet to encounter a situation where it’s come up.

I think for the group of friends I play with a lot, it wouldn’t come as a surprise. I met them all while at uni and they’re the same group of friends who were there on nights out when I was wearing 6" heels, makeup and a skirt (it’s the odd effect of the enforcement of the gender binary that it’s taken me about 10 years to work out that knowing I didn’t want to transition didn’t mean I was definitely male).

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I’m a gay woman of colour, but am lucky enough to be in a fairly liberal part of the world. The most antagonism I get about my identity is the odd infrequent shouted insult, and a lot of “sir”ing at restaurants. I don’t game much outside of friend groups, so for the most part I’d feel uncomfortable playing a game that required excavating my identity in front of strangers. But I think most games don’t require that amount of self-exposure – you can play them simply as A Human Being (not that they couldn’t benefit from that in a more personal setting!)

I actually brought the question of gender presentation in RPGs to some other queer gamer friends to see if I could get a better response. And while no one was able to think of an RPG that had gender presentation mechanics already worked in, they did comment on the flexibility of some of the bigger game worlds, like D&D and even Warhammer 40K. My friend A. “regularly plays Rogue Trader with characters people have specifically rocked as trans* or cyborg or whatever they chose. And Shadowrun/Earthdawn is especially good at character flexibility."

In regards to your specific question about pronouns in your RPG, do you and your group feel comfortable using one neutral set of pronouns that encompasses all people in your game world, or would that restrict the roleplay too much? It might help cut down on potential mistakes if everyone in your game universe responds to “xe/xers”, “zhe/zhers” or maybe even the singular “they/theirs” to keep English pronouns you’re used to using. I think it’d be fascinating to explore/create a world where gender isn’t a factor, if that’s even possible?

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On one hand, I think that deciding to use neutral pronouns all the time would disrupt the immersion and storytelling constantly. As I said above, it can feel a bit jarring. I don’t want to disrupt the narrative that I and my players are creating together.

On the other hand, you have to use it to get used to it.

I’m not sure, artificial (non-computer) language is hard to get used to. I’m sure there are more people who know Klingon than Esperanto. We all eventually worked out the Miss/Mrs./Ms. thing though, right?

This made me laugh because I immediately thought of the minefield that you get if you add Dr. into that mix. Slightly derailing the discussion, for which I apologise.

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HA!

Reminds me of webforms with dropdown-boxes for honorifics before your name. “I’m not a mister or a missus, I’m a Doctor!”

I came co close to finishing that last sentence with “I’m a doctor, Jim!” I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

The best webform with a drop down choice of honourifics that I have encountered was using the Globe theatre’s ticket booking system. The whole range of titles from standard fare such as Mr./Miss etc. all the way up the British national honours system, and (if my memory serves correctly) some senior military ranks too.

Again, sorry for moving this thread off topic!

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That is so very British. I love it. Did they have leftenant, or um, lieutenant?
(Sorry, just couldn’t help it)

Moving right along! Does anyone know of any good queer-friendly games out there? Like the rulebook doesn’t assume all the players are straight?

Like it doesn’t go out of it’s way to say “yeah, I’m totally all inclusive” which is a big turn-off for me, that’s kind of smarmy and faintly smells of patchouli and “liberation!” But one that’s actually a Good Game, one that’s juicy and fun, where you’ve noticed in the rules “huh. Thanks game!”?

The new D&D got a lot of praise for having a bit in the player’s guide saying ‘think about how gender might be treated by people in different parts of the world’ and noting that their were trans and non binary gods, so there must be trans and non-binary people. It felt like a big step, even though it’s such a tiny and obvious thing to include (it often feels that way). I like that it was really clear that gender and sexuality may or may not be stigmatised depending on where you were and what sort of campaign you wanted to run. Lots of flexibility.

Apocalypse world also has a list of adjectives to pick under the gender category that immediately encourage a more fluid understanding. Some spin offs take this even further.

Have you read Ancillary Justice (and beyond)? I was fascinated by how these books dealt with gender.

I do some content design, and it amazes me that most people don’t adopt the incredibly simple option of just putting a name field, and letting people add whatever they want. I work somewhere that has started putting Mx in as standard, which is great, but either a free title field (if you really need it), or just a full free name field is so much simpler. (I am aware of the irritating back office reasons this often isn’t possible, but that’s a different story).

My worst case was when the drop down box offered ‘Other’ as an option, but instead of asking me what my title might be, I just got posted something addressed to ‘Other [Alabaster Crippens]’. Made me feel like a white walker…or my own clone sibling.

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Ooh. And @bruitist, your story sounds so much like mine from a few years ago that it’s unnerving! Hi, and <3.

And to shift away from NB gender stuff, was anyone else really excited to find out that Isaac Vega was gay? I know in many ways it shouldn’t matter. But he’s been my favourite designer for a long time, and to find out he was queer and latino (technically I knew that already) made me really happy, just because it’s the first time I’ve seen someone in the board game design space openly talking about their sexuality, and the impact that had on design choices. That he almost seemed bored of Paul asking him about diversity in The Long Night simply because it was so damn obvious was really heartening.

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Fuuuu… how did you post that chunky block of text less than 30 seconds after I said [quote=“MinuteWalt, post:16, topic:1978”]
Does anyone know of any good queer-friendly games out there?
[/quote]

Ohh, I really got my eye on you, now! Devious devilish bastard…

D&D 5e should be applauded. WotC has been really proactive and awesome in general. I can’t do Magic anymore (3 years playing, starting when it was released, was enough for me), but they seem pretty OK.

Ok, the full range from the Globe website because you asked nicely (there’s Lt included):

Mr; Mrs; Miss; Ms; Dr; Sir; Dame; Lord; Lady; Prof; Air Commodore; Baroness; Brigadier; Canon; Capt; Cmdr; Colonel; Count; Countess; Judge; Lt; Madame; Marquess; Prince; Princess; Rev; Bishop; Duke; Viscount; Viscountess

And yes @Alexava, it seems like a ridiculous piece of design when you could just get people to add their own.

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