Episode #30 – “Elune’s Dance Party: Talking to Laura Kate Dale”

Episode #30 – “Elune’s Dance Party: Talking to Laura Kate Dale”

Feb 04

Our thirtieth episode features Tzufit and Apple Cider talking to guest Laura Kate Dale about how World of Warcraft helped her come out as trans. We look at her specific experience with gender and identity through Warcraft, what people can do to make the game a safe space for trans individuals and answer fanmail.

Links:

Content warning: There is frank discussion about transphobia and transphobic slurs in this episode. If this sensitive topic for you, listen with care!

Below the cut is a full transcript of Episode 30, “Elune’s Dance Party: Talking to Laura Kate Dale.” Many thanks to Lyn for transcribing this episode.

ACM: Hello, and welcome back to Justice Points.  We have a great show this week, we have a great guest this week.  We’re going to be talking about Laura Kate Dale.  She wrote a brilliant piece for The Guardian about how WoW has helped her realize and kind of come out as a trans woman.   We’re going to be interviewing her today, really important topic, especially because we’ve actually touched on this in previous episodes.  WoW can kind of be a place, not just a video game for people, but also, not just a fun activity, but also a place where people sometimes feel comfortable to express different parts of themselves or to explore different parts of their identity, whether it’s through roleplay or the kinds of characters they play or things they do in game.  Gender is one of those things and I know we definitely talked about this in the queer episode and the roleplaying episode.

 

However, with gender, especially the kind of community that WoW has, sometimes it’ s friendly and sometimes it’s not.  It is a place online where people can feel more comfortable, maybe kind of exploring that stuff that they might not feel comfortable doing in the “real world”.  Now, onto our wonderful guest, Laura.

Laura: Hello!

ACM: So, Laura, so great to have you on the show.  I read your article and I was just kind of blown away.  We’ve touched on this stuff in the show, but it was so cool to see somebody actually discussing their experiences with World of Warcraft and coming out as trans.

Laura: It was an article that really happened just sort of out of nowhere.  I was being interviewed by a different podcast, just generally about trans issues and how they relate to gaming.  It was a really throwaway line I’d put in there somewhere about games like WoW and sort of really skimmed over it and about half an hour after I recorded it, I started thinking, I’ve got a lot to say about WoW and trans issues, I should probably write some of this down!  And then within an afternoon, it was a thing.

Tzufit: It’s nice when posts or articles come together that easily, and I think it tends to happen when it’s something that you have a lot to say about the topic, so.

Laura: I was really impressed that the Guardian picked it up.  It wasn’t something I had pitched to them.  The Guardian’s games editor follows me on Twitter and to his credit, he saw the article title and said, “That sounds cool, I’ll take that.”

ACM: Now, you talked about in the article that you did play WoW, I presume you don’t play WoW now.  But how long did you play WoW when you were still in game?

Laura: Um, I haven’t played woW for about four years now, I think? But I played for about three years, so I think that’s sort of 2006-2009; I think it was.

Tzufit: So around Vanilla, going into Burning Crusade, I guess?

Laura: Yeah, vanilla, played about two years of Burning Crusade?

ACM: I mean honestly, I think that’s definitely  an interesting stretch of time in the Warcraft universe.

Laura: There’s a lot that’s gone on since then; I’m well aware.  I’m like, I better get back into this at some point, but there’s a lot that’s changed since I was there.

Tzufit: Oh, yeah.

ACM: Definitely.

Laura: Just a little bit.

Tzufit: So when you did play, what sort of things did you like to do?

Laura: When I was first playing, I played it almost like a single player RPG.  I went through and, at least at the low level stuff, where you can do it without skills, I was just going through doing single questlines and things like that.  It wasn’t until later when you sort of need to be in groups that I started socializing with other people on there.  By the end of it, it became a lot less about the actual questlines and more about just hanging out with people online.  By the time we hit the level cap for where we were, we would just sit around and talk in there.

Tzufit: As somebody who plays now, and as someone who enjoys raiding quite a lot and that’s like the primary activity  I do, I still can say that if I weren’t with my guild and the group of people that I’m with, I would have no desire to play the game.

ACM: Yeah, same.

Tzufit: I like raiding, I enjoy it, but at the end of the day it’s all about the people I play with.

Laura: Well, that’s exactly it.  The raiding was what got me into the social stuff, and the social stuff became more important to me in the end.  I’m here for the people more than I am for any of the actual quests.

Tzufit: Yeah.

ACM: (Laughter) Yeah, socializing can basically make or break your experiences.  Especially just from a support aspect, but also just from a fun aspect.  You can only do the things in game so many times before they’re not very fresh or new or exciting.  But if you have fun people to do it with, it doesn’t really matter.

Laura: Exactly.  After you’ve done the same raid a number of times, unless you’re doing it with people that you get on well with, there’s only so many times that you can do the same raid.

(Laughter)

Tzufit: So I know this was a long time ago, but we usually do ask people, so we’ll go ahead and ask you too.  Did you have a main character that you particularly  identified with, and what race and class were they?

Laura: The main race that I used to run was blood elves.  I think that wasn’t the beginning, that was Burning Crusade, but I did that for the longest time.  I really liked blood elves, I liked the whole idea behind them where it was, you’ve got a whole race that’s sort of fallen to the wayside.  And it was them trying to — not necessarily the best means of doing it, but.  Okay, we’re going to go to slightly more evil means to keep doing what we do.  We’ll remember who we’re named after.  And it was just– I really liked something about the class.

ACM: Yeah, they have kind of an interesting position in the lore.  But they also represent just kind of the survival aspect of WoW I think, which doesn’t always get 100 percent explored. You think about the world — most of the races are obviously in some mortal peril, because you know it’s a world full of warring individuals but on the other hand you don’t ever feel like the orcs or humans are in population jeopardy.  Whereas the blood elves, they definitely are.  There’s not a lot of them left.

Laura: Yeah, its one of these, they’ve really got to push to survive.  If we’re not actively trying to survive, we’re going to be gone pretty quick.

ACM: Yeah, definitely.

Tzufit:  We’re hopeful, too.  We’ll see.  The blood elf story hasn’t really progressed a lot since Burning Crusade, but it looks like maybe we might get a few more hints of that in the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion. But who knows.

ACM: Yeah, exactly.

Laura: Stop telling me things that are going to  make me want to come back to the game.

(Laughter)

ACM: We’re going to email next week from Laura that’s like ‘I’m back in World of Warcraft; oh my gosh, pandas!’

ACM: So that’s actually a good place to start though.  You said that WoW was the place that maybe helped you realize you were a trans woman and things like that.  So, maybe kind of go into that.  You said you played blood elves for the most part.  So what aspect did WoW really play in your transition or coming out as trans, and gender issues in general?

Laura: WoW was the first MMO I played using a female character.  I’d played other MMOs before;  I think my time in Runescape was before World of Warcraft and it was the first one — I have no idea what possessed me to do it with World of Warcraft, but I played with a female character, female screenname.  It’s just one of those things, particularly because at that time, it was a lot less common to have Skype and webcams.  I could get away with, oh no I don’t have a webcam to have Skype!  It was just something that I don’t really know why I did it in the first place.  But I quickly decided while playing that, while I’m playing Warcraft, all my characters will be female characters.  That’s what’s going to happen.  It’s just one of those things that, over time, the more time I spent presenting as female within WoW, the more quickly  I realized this is something that connects to me on some sort of level that I should probably be paying attention to.

ACM: THat’s really interesting.  I mean we’ve talked about gender of your characters as a way to explore things just from a roleplaying aspect.  That doesn’t necessarily have real life ramifications, but it seems kind of, it’s interesting to me that that could be the catalyst for something like that.  Playing a video game.  I think people really do brush off the video game aspect — you know, it’s just a game, it’s not really real.  But I think giving people the ability to play as who they imagine themselves to potentially be, or giving them that sort of peek into  what might be down the corner — or down the road, as it were, is really fascinating.

Laura:  Well, it’s one of those things that I really like about playing MMOs with people that you don’t know already.  Looking back on it, when I came out as trans, coming out to parents and family and sort of doing those sort of things.  There’s a lot of problems that happen around that often and these sort of people that struggle with how they feel about it.  With something like WoW, where these were people who I didn’t really know — if it turned out that it didn’t feel right to me, I could just easily walk away.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, nothing lost. It’s all sort of fine.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: Right.  And I know you mentioned in your article too that one of the things that was appealing was the idea  that you could experiment with female names and appearance. It’s a lot easier to walk into the Barber Shop in WoW and change your hair around than it is in real life, obviously.  So I think it’s cool that there’s that amount of freedom and experimentation available in an MMO as well.

Laura: Yeah it’s really easy to test out a lot of different things very quickly and see what you like, what you don’t, and what connects with you personally.  It’s sort of nice to go through those things really quickly and not to have to commit to any of them.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: It also strikes me as a reason why it’s important that games have an option to customize avatars, including both male and female avatars available to people.  That’s just a given when it comes to MMOs.  There’s always lots of customization available, and if there isn’t, people get angry about it.  But it struck me, because what’s in my head recently — I’m the last person in the world to play the Mass Effect series, I guess — so I’ve been playing those since Christmas.  It’s made such a difference to me that I can play through as a woman, because there is this kind of crucial identification between myself and the character on the screen.  And if that character is male, it just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t quite get my head in there.

Laura:  Definitely, and I think that that, more than any other kind of genre — I think that MMOs are a genre where that really does apply.  Because you’re spending so much time as that character, more than anything else.  You could be putting hundreds of hours into a single character, like World of Warcraft.

Tzufit: Oh, absolutely.  And I think MMOs  tend to give you less to go on, in terms of the default personality for that character, too.   Warcraft, in some zones more than others, gives you a sense of, well this is where your character comes from.  But they are still essentially a blank slate that you’re filling in.  For a lot of people, you just kind of fill in as yourself if you’re not a roleplayer.

Laura: Exactly, and even if you are roleplaying, I know from my own experience,  most of the people I’ve roleplayed have some aspects of myself thrown in there.

Tzufit: Oh, absolutely.

ACM: Yeah, it’s, for the roleplaying aspect and also the customization aspect — and this has become way more of a thing for transmog, which is something that just got added recently.  Like the ability to change your clothes around and make them how you want permanently in game has also been a big deal.  People want to see the person they think of themselves as, maybe who they want to be, an alternate sort of self, through the avatars of themselves.  This has started to become a hot topic in academic analysis of video games, even.  So it doesn’t surprise me that it’s not just a little model that you push around in game.  It becomes part of an identity people have and really feel tied to.

OK, kind of chaining to that discussion — I do believe that, for many reasons, avatars are very important to people, whether it’s a representation of self or the kinds of things you enjoy in game.  We just seem to always often hear about people’s “gender” out of the game not matching necessarily their gender in the game.   Like it has to be a 1:1 all the time.  But we only ever seem to hear about it from the perspective of men playing women and that it’s only for sexual reasons.   That whole aspect of the discussion– that people can’t just play what they want to play always seems to be couched in this thing that ‘Oh, it’s very weird if people play different genders other than what they are in real life’ and it only ever seems to pertain to cis, heterosexual men, which is kind of just a weird point.  I think it brings up why it is important to have these sorts of discussions about having different kinds of avatars in video  games.

Tzufit: Yeah. I think the default sort of stereotype or even joke at this point that people tend to throw around is the notion that, OK, of course no women play video games.  So anybody who says that they’re a woman must actually be some 40 year old guy living in his parents’ basement, in reality.  There’s lots of issues with that.  But it does seem like that’s always the assumption.  I think it’s problematic for a lot of reasons, but namely because there always seems to be this anger behind it.

There’s this expectation of honesty with the person on the other side, when in reality, no one is under any obligation whatsoever to share anything more than whatever they want to or whatever is safe for them.

Laura: I was going to say, yeah, I know. It’s a really difficult thing for the position I was in when I came out, when I was playing WoW, rather. I wasn’t ready to come out, I was still questioning, and not sure what it was that was sort of different about me.  Without being to put a label on it and say oh, I was born male, but I’m playing a female character because — and have trans or something to lead into that —  without that, there really does seem to be this sort of expectation that if you’re playing as  a female avatar, but you’re not born female,  that it’s always for these malicious reasons.  It’s a really annoying thing because that’s what  ended up pushing me out of World of Warcraft.

The group that I’d been doing raids and things with, I don’t know who in the group had their suspicions, but the group decided to stop pushing me for lots of information and trying to bring down what I’d been saying about myself.  I think that, definitely, the reasons behind that is there was this sort of expectation and once they found out that I was born male., there was this belief that, you’ve been lying to us, and it’s deceptive, you’ve obviously been doing this for whatever negative reasons.  I couldn’t just say I was playing as a female character because I wanted to play as a female character.  It suddenly had to become this much bigger thing to them.  Like what were you trying to get out of this and why were you misleading us this way, and it’s a really awkward thing to deal with.

ACM: That sounds really terrible and I’m sorry you had to go through that.   Video games are supposed to be this place where we all feel accepted as nerds, and it’s so patently not the case.  The things we would hope not happen in game, which seems very much an extension of transmisogyny, this idea that, oh if you are this person playing a female character and you didn’t tell us every single detail about yourself, then you’re obviously being deceptive.  That’s the same thing trans women get in real life, and it’s terrible.

Laura: Yeah, it’s one of those things like … it’s the reason I don’t like trans-specific guilds or the requirement to be in a trans-specific guild in MMOs.  It’s one of those things that, like, the way that a lot of MMOs that I’ve played since WoW or that I’ve looked into and covered– they have more and more trans guilds popping up.  But the thing I don’t like about them  is that while they do provide a safe space and I do appreciate that, that they offer that, it’s this problem that it feels like if you don’t join a trans guild when you’re trans, then anyone outside that is like well if you were trans why didn’t you join a trans guild so we knew you were trans?  You’ve got to present yourself upfront or you’ve got to specifically label yourself so people know you’re part of that guild, we know what’s going on.

Tzufit: The expectation now in a lot of ways in WoW is, that if you’re gay, you go play on Proudmoore, because that is the place that’s going to be safe for you.  So if you’re playing anywhere else, it’s, like, but, “You could just go to Proudmoore”.

ACM: Yeah, it’s kind of shoving people into a box, so that everybody else doesn’t have to raise the tide to make it safe everywhere, for everybody.

Laura: The way I like to point the difference out is that I like that they exist, because if you’re an LGBT person that doesn’t feel safe in those other areas, you have a safe space you can opt into.  But I don’t like the fact that it’s not often LGBT people opting into those guilds and those servers or places, it’s more that they’re being pushed there.  Because oh no, we’re not going to make the rest of the game and the rest of the world accepting because you’ve got your own space, so you don’t need us to accept you.  You can just go accept each other.

Tzufit:  Exactly.   We’ve cordoned off this one area where it’s okay, and the rest of us are going to go on existing and not worry about that.

ACM: It’s the Diversity Lounge of World of Warcraft, basically.  Not to be super topical, but.

(Laughter)

Tzufit: The thing that strikes me, too, with the sort of outrage that people express when they assume that somebody with a female avatar must be a woman in real life is their expectation of what a woman in real life is.  That is interesting to me because it also assumes that obviously they have been treating you differently all along, because they believe that you’re a woman based on your avatar.  And it also seems to assume that they’re treating you better because they’ve thought you were a woman all along.  Which is just not generally true.

Laura: There are a lot of weird implications to that.

ACM: Yeah, haha.

Tzufit: Because I guess it probably all ties back into the stereotype of the woman who plays an MMO and doesn’t really know what she’s doing, and she gets all these favors.  Apple Cider wrote about this in her blog not too long ago, about this notion that the only way a woman gets good gear is if she’s providing sexual favors to the raid leader or something.  And that was a very real assumption at different points, particularly in vanilla, because of how gear worked then.

Laura: It was one of the first things that I had told to me  when they found out that I was born male. It was this assumption that, “Oh, well, okay, no wonder you’re playing World of Warcraft.  No wonder you’re so good at it.” It was as if the fact that the way I was born said oh, no, obviously you can’t be female, we should have known that, because you’re playing World of Warcraft.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: Oh, gosh. “And you’re too good at it!”

(Laughter)

ACM: Yeah, it feels like it’s this intersection between transphobia, and misogyny, and transmisogyny.  Because people treat women very differently in video games.  There’s so many expectations.  There’s a level of creepiness with the whole,  “Oh, you’re not the woman I THOUGHT you were because women are so rare, apparently, in video gaming and they need to be handled with delicate gloves or, you know.  But also the presumption … basically, the whole problem with transmisogyny, especially in the video gaming community, is that feminity is already reviled quite a bit in video gaming, so it double-whammies trans women in particular.  It sounds like.

Laura: Yeah, it’s one of those things, even in the larger gaming community.  There’s this thing that … gaming is seen as such a masculine activity that it seemingly overrides everything else in the view of a lot of cis-gender men where it’s this sort of, if you’re into video games, that’s proof that you’re not a trans woman, you’re a man that’s blah-blah-blah, whatever their thing is.  And it’s this sort of, you can’t be female ’cause you like video games.  And it sums it up just that much.  No woman likes video games; therefore, you’re not a woman.

ACM: Or that you’re somehow opting in to be a woman to get the perks of being a woman in  the video game, so there’s also that too.  Which is super creepy.

Laura: I’ve had that one a lot and it’s like, no, there’s a lot more drawbacks than perks.  I can promise you that.

Tzufit & ACM: (laughter)

Tzufit: Exactly.  This is the thing that I don’t understand about it.   There’s this assumption that you’re double-dipping, basically, and it’s like, no, no.  I assure you, it’s actually not that great to be a woman in a video game.  I promise.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: I can put it this way: as someone that played MMOs previously with a male avatar under a male name and who also at one point wrote under a male name, I can tell you the video game industry is a much, much, much, much  friendlier place for men than it is for women.

Tzufit: Surprise!

ACM: I am SHOCKED.

Tzufit: Seriously.

Laura: Oh, God, yeah, none of you ever knew that, of course, God.

ACM & Tzufit: (laughter)

Tzufit: I wonder, too, how one directional this is, because I know … so, for me, when I first moved over to the server that I’m on now, which is an RP server … I was there because I wanted to see what the whole RP scene was about, and the first character that I created that ended up in an RP guild was a little male gnome mage.  Because I just thought that male gnomes were so funny and part of the thing to me was that, if I RP, I want to RP a funny character.  So I had this in my mind — well, the funniest RP character I could do would be a male gnome.  And when I applied to the guild, they didn’t really ask any personal questions, and they didn’t ask any personal questions in the interview or for a while there.  And so, because I was RPing as a male gnome, there was just an assumption that I probably was a guy.  Because most people playing World of Warcraft must be men.

And when it became apparent, eventually, at some point … I don’t know if it was because I was in Vent or exactly what happened … that I was a woman, there was no anger directed at me because of it.  Whereas, in the opposite situation, there is almost universally anger directed at that person.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: It’s that whole thing that just comes back down to misogyny.  It’s men being viewed as superior to women, so it’s OK for a woman to move in a masculine direction, but for a man to move in a feminine direction is — oh, no, completely, no, never, can’t happen, don’t do that.

Tzufit: Why would you wanna do that to yourself?

ACM: Yeah. (takes on a hypermasculine voice)  Unless you disavow that it’s for very very heterosexual — I just wanna look at her ass while she’s running, huh-huh-huh sort of reason.

Laura: That is the greatest male impression that I’ve ever heard.

(Laughter)

ACM: I’ve heard it so many times.  But yeah, like, this notion that your avatar is this gender performance is really just bizarre to me because outside the MMO sphere, where there at least is the binary man/woman character… in so many games, you as any gender other than male basically have to identify with a cis dude character.  And so, gamers, it just completely blows their mind like, ‘Whoah, what do you mean, you’ve been centering the narratives of men all this time but how dare we center them on a woman for once.” It’s just, it’s very annoying.  It also neglects the fact that one of the other things that women in particular often do is play male characters to avoid men hitting on them all the time.  Which might be one of the reasons straight dudes get so mad when they find out a woman avatar is not being played by the person they thought it was because it feels like maybe they thought it was entirely an opportunity to hit on you or be gross to you.

Laura: The number of the people that got mad when they found out about me, that had previously tried to hit on me, was quite a high percentage of the two.  There was a lot of people who had previously hit on me and then got very annoyed.  It was, ‘WHAT!  You’re not what I thought you were, aaarrgh!’

(laughter)

Tzufit: Yeah, because, and again I think this goes to the expectation that … like, I mean, I don’t  think there are many people out there that would admit to using World of Warcraft as a dating service.  But it seems to be this assumption that, if you are a male cis person who is playing World of Warcraft, and you run into a woman or someone who tells you that they are a woman, there is automatically this assumption that, like, WELL …MAYBE …just maybe … (laughs)

Laura: It’s the — Oh my God, I found my Gamer Girl. Now we shall go off into the sunset and play video games for eternity!

(laughter)

Tzufit: Exactly.  Whereas, I guess that’s the thing that has always been confusing to me about it.  It’s like, so why does anything change at all?  You’re still interacting with this person for the same reasons, which are ostensibly to play this video game, to raid together, to roleplay together, whatever the preference might be.  But why did the interactions need to change at this point?  Of course the answer to the question is self-evident, but it’s just something that people obviously aren’t asking themselves or aren’t thinking about when they get so up in arms about all this.

Laura: It’s one of those things where nothing should have to change.  But it’s one of those things that just happens over everything in the trans community.  It’s this sort of, when you come out to people, this view of — OK, this affects every interaction we’ve ever had and there’s an element of deception to everything you’ve ever said about yourself to me.  And it’s … it makes coming out as trans really, really difficult.

Tzufit: And of course, not to, yeah … I’m just going to do it anyway.  So, Drama Mamas, on the WoW Insider site — I’m sorry, Apple Cider, I have to —

ACM: That’s okay.

Tzufit: — I don’t  know if you’re familiar with this, Laura, because I want to say that they probably started writing after your time, but I’m not positive.

Laura: I’m not aware of them, no.  They might have been a thing that I just never came into contact with.

Tzufit: They basically do a Dear Abby type thing for World of Warcraft-related questions.  They cover all different kinds of topics and a few months ago … I want to say maybe it was sometime in the summer or fall … they had a letter written in from a trans gamer.  Who was asking, basically … basically had not come out to her guild at that point and was trying to determine if she wanted to do that, what the process would be, was worried about people being angry with her, all those sorts of things.  And there actually was a response that basically said — from the Drama Mamas, not from the cesspool the comments turned into … the Drama Mamas saying that yes, you have been deceptive, you have lied to these people, they probably are going to be a little angry with you.  It was just like … WHAT ARE YOU DOING!

ACM: Yeah.  It made me really angry.

Laura: Well, it’s the kind of response I see all the time.  I did a question and answer thing on someone’s Twitter — I think it was the Geek Agenda, on their Twitter — they asked me to talk about the same topic.  And someone brought up that, someone who I know is a really understanding, really caring sort of person, made that same suggestion.  “You know, you were kind of lying to people and deceiving them.”  And that was a really hard thing to hear from someone like that.  And then we sort of actually got into a conversation about it, and she was like … I completely understand, that wasn’t deceptive.  It was just you trying to work through your things.  Very sorry about that.  But it is a really common assumption people jump to.  It’s this feeling of, oh well you said something that’s not entirely true even if you didn’t, yourself, know that it wasn’t entirely true, therefore you were obviously lying to deceive people and blah-blah-blah.

Tzufit: Yeah, God forbid you’re still working things out yourself or are concerned about your own safety and that those things should come before anybody’s notions of, you know, whether or not you’re lying to them.

Laura: Well, that’s the thing, it’s that I wasn’t deliberately trying to lie to people.  I was sort of, I don’t know what’s going on with myself, so I’m trying to work things out.  Can you just give me some time to do that?  Okay?  I don’t know, myself, what’s happening.

ACM: Yeah, it’s very much a normative idea that everything you are, or could be, is set in stone from the moment that you’re born, or hit puberty, or whatever the hell.  And I think this is the biggest thing with trans issues, but also things like LBGT across the board, to some degree.  But it’s the idea that you’re this completely like, bedrock sort of person and if you don’t have it figured out … or the fact that anybody has to figure it out is that kind of normative idea, so.  The idea of deceiving people because you’re still just figuring it out is … like you even owe that to anybody, you know?

Tzufit: Right.

ACM: But I think that’s kind of, some of the peculiarities of MMO play in particular.  Because it is so social, so people feel like they have these social expectations of you all the time.  Which is pretty frustrating.

Laura: Definitely.  It’s really difficult just balancing the fact that everyone feels like they have a right to know things, regardless of whether you feel ready — or can — talk about them.

ACM: Man, I would just love to tell everybody, it’s like, ‘Hey!  Chill out!  Your guildmate is your guildmate, whoever they may be.  Just let them have some time’.

Tzufit: So we touched a little bit on the idea of safe-space guilds, and Apple Cider happens to run a safe space guild, so I  know that she probably has a few things to say about this.  But in general, as you pointed out, one of the important things is that, as a community, we find a way to move toward a safe space overall.  Rather than just sort of these isolated pockets.  So I think we should move into talking a little bit about what a safe space looks like for trans individuals and how we can move in that direction.

Laura: Well, it’s one of those things that I think, the stuff that makes a good safe space guild safe for trans people are things that like …  the trans community’s already really aware of, and it would be really simple for the rest of the community to do, but they just haven’t got round to yet.  And it’s this sort of, like, okay we’re going to do these things because no one else is.  We’ll just have this space exist until everyone else catches up with us.  It’s just sort of … okay, don’t assume someone’s gender or pronouns.  Just be like, okay, if you’re not sure, ask.  Just all those general safe space things.  They’re all really easy things to do, but it’s just like, okay, we’ll just offer you a space until other people get round to that.

Tzufit: (laughing) I know that Apple Cider and her guild … one of the first questions that they always make sure to get down is, ‘What are your pronouns’, and, even on the Twitter community now, it’s always nice to … like, almost everybody, when you go to their profiles now, will somewhere in there say, like, ‘she/her pronouns’, ‘they pronouns’, whatever.  It’s nice that that’s available to make sure that like … hey, I’m not going to screw up and misgender somebody.  But, again, that offering of information or that asking of information is extremely helpful and goes a surprisingly long way, I think.

ACM: Yeah.  I feel like that’s just kind of the ground rules for building a supportive guild, um, as somebody who, you know, is a GM of a safe space guild that does have trans individuals.  You never make assumptions, always ask people, always be respectful of their wishes with regards to everything, you know, like asking what their pronouns are before they join the guild.  I even make a note of it in officer notes, so that officers across the board know and respect that in case they get misgendered in guild chat and things like that.  So that person doesn’t necessarily have to handle it themselves.  I think that’s one of the biggest things — officers should really be the lead.  Officers should be the lead on that sort of thing and not have that person 100 percent have to be the only arbiter of respect.  So that’s been a big deal as well.

Laura: Yeah, it’s one of those things.  But the one thing … that I don’t know what the answer is for safe space guilds.  The one thing I was saying before about the difference between having them there — which is a good option — and what it sounds like is still the case in World of Warcraft where it’s this sort of expectation that if there is a safe space that applies to you, you should be using it.  Otherwise everything’s fair game.  It’s this question of, like, how you get around to the point of … yes, it’s good to have those safe space guilds exist, I definitely believe that … but it’s like, how we move on beyond them and how we get to the point where enough change has happened in the greater community that they’re no longer needed.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: And it’s … I have no idea how we get to that point, but … uh (laughs)

ACM: Re-making society. (Laughs)

Laura: Everyone who doesn’t apply to the rules you set gets banned.

(General laughter)

ACM: Yeah, no, it’s … I definitely … it’s basically, safe space guilds have always, just for me, as a bisexual woman, it was always just a function of, how do I make World of Warcraft be a place where I don’t feel gross every day, logging in?  But it’s like, oh man, do i absolutely wish every place in game be an awesome place for me to be?  Absolutely.  I think that goes for literally everybody.  I don’t want to feel like I have to hide in my guild.  But, you know, as a temporary measure it kind of works.  Unfortunately.

Laura: Exactly.  Like … going slightly out of World of Warcraft, there was an in-person convention I went to that had a specifically .. what did they call it, I think they called it ‘Ladycade’?  Which was their female friendly gaming space they had at this convention, just slightly aside.  And I mention this existing, and it was like, okay, a woman who doesn’t feel safe in the convention space has set this up; hey, people should go.  And I got so many men who replied and it was like, “Well you shouldn’t be setting this up; you should be making sure the whole convention’s safe!” And I was like yes, but that’s easier said than done, which is why it’s good that this space exists, because we’re not there yet.  So there’s an option for people who don’t feel safe.

Tzufit: Yeah, it’s baby steps at this point.  And I’m not a big fan of awareness campaigns as a standalone, but I think there’s also just a total lack of awareness for a lot of the gaming community.  Because so much of it is so insular and so heavily just cis, white men, that there’s like … complete lack of knowledge, lack of understanding that ANYTHING else out there even exists.  I mean it’s hard enough even getting them to acknowledge the fact that there are cis women gamers.  That they’re a significant part of their community, too.  (Laughter)

Let alone trying to get them to understand that, hey, there are queer individuals in your community.  There are trans individuals in your community.  And it’s just like knocking on a brick wall sometimes.

ACM: Yep.

Laura: I have to ask, as you run a safe space guild … have you ever had able-bodied cisgender straight men come and complain to you that you’re being exclusionary and discriminatory to them?

ACM: Um … Not as such, because we kind of run under the radar.  We tend to get people as friends of friends, word of mouth, through Twitter, people that know where to find us and can just seek us out.  We do not advertise ourselves on the forums.  Because my guild’s been around for nine years, it wasn’t always an explicitly marked safe space guild, it was just a regular long-term guild on the server.  But that’s how most people know us as.  So no, I haven’t necessarily gotten that from anybody just randomly.  We’ve had guys from within the guild leave, however, because they got mad that a lot of us are very radical.  Like, most of the guild is very openly women who are (laughs), who are all feminist.  And we actually had a guy leave, or a couple guys leave, because they got really mad that sometimes the women would talk about misogyny and sexism in the guild chat.  And they said that it made them feel very anxious and upset.  And I was like, well, how do you think it feels to be us?  Literally.  All the time.

Laura: I love that argument.  It’s one of those I’ve heard before with feminism, where it’s like, oh, but you’re excluding men and lumping all men together with your feminism, you feminists!  So I was like, you’re lumping all feminists together by saying that!

ACM: Exactly.  It’s … we have men in the guild, too, like there was never a point in the guild’s history where we’ve been like ‘No, men can’t join’.  Because I think there are quite a lot of men who get it and who want to play in a great place too, where they don’t have to deal with patriarchal nonsense, like people calling them [edited] or pansies or stuff like that.  So men fit in great too.  We have queer men, we have straight men, we have cis men.  We have all sorts of men.  You never have to exclude them, but the ones that definitely feel excluded?  Oh, they let you know very quickly and they leave.  Very quickly.

Laura: Stop being feminists in front of me!  It’s not nice to men.

(Laughter)

ACM: Yeah, exactly.  Somebody got really mad that we would have occasional — occasional, not even every day — occasional discussions about shitty things that men had done to us.  And I — that’s an expectation I wanted. That’s an expectation of my guild, that people will be able to  … that’s the thing, the difference between, I think, just a safe space guild or a family friendly guild, um, and the idea of being progressive or transgressive, even, guild … as somebody once called my guild, they said it was transgressive versus progressive … is this expectation that it’s not just a safe space but also a space where people feel comfortable to maybe say some of the things they don’t necessarily get to say a in a space where they are a marginalized person.  I think it’s really interesting and exciting to have guilds where we can have those sorts of discussions because we’re around people that are willing to listen to us, I guess.

Laura: Yeah, definitely.  One thing I do love about those — and this is, uh, I can’t remember what I was playing, I was playing a different MMO at some point, a while later, and there was a safe space guild I went in where there was a man who was complaining that he was a minority within that safe space guild and therefore — (laughter) no, this was his thing — don’t complain about men, because men are a minority in this guild.  And I was like, yes, but you’re ignoring the larger context of, you’re a majority in the rest of the game and the rest of the world.

(Laughter)

ACM: I think one of the other things that is pretty crucial to making a guild that is especially friendly to all kinds of individuals, particularly trans individuals, um … and this I think is a little more important in a guild that’s a raiding guild or even a PvP guild … the reliance on voice communication for not just listening but also talking seems to be a big sticking point?  Did you ever have any experiences with that in your guild, and any problems with that?

 

Laura: That was definitely a problem.  And it was something that, toward the end, was one of those things that I was finding harder and harder to deal with.  There’s only so many times you can lose, break, or misplace a microphone.  And then people start asking — it gets harder and harder to explain why you’re not going on voice.  And it wasn’t anything to do with the actual quality of my voice, I just, like … showing my voice to people was something that, okay, it’s the first step in a line of steps where they’re going to find me out and everything’s going to fall apart and be terrible.  So it was definitely something that, like … it became more and more important for me to use voice, and I was being more and more resistant to doing so.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: Right.  Because especially if you have any desire to raid, it certainly does start to become more and more essential.  I know that, you know, in my guild, it just kind of depends on what the setting is for us.  If it’s a larger, like a 25 person flex raid or something, we really don’t care if anyone is able to speak in Vent except for the raid leader.  Other than that, it’s fine.  But, like, in the ten person raid that I run, all of us talk pretty much all the time throughout the raid.  Because it’s just, that’s when we socialize.  So it sort of depends on the context. I can imagine that it would certainly be a very, kind of, scary thing at that point.

Laura: Yeah.  Well, I was lucky enough that I had a group leader who saw themselves as a bit of a general. Like, ‘I will issue commands and you will do what I say’.  And that was definitely helpful for, okay, you can tell us what to do, we don’t have to respond.  We’ll just do what you say and I don’t have to talk.  But where I found it was more of a problem was  after that, where we were just doing social meets, and … like, they were all talking, and I was typing in response to them.  And very quickly they started to question why I wasn’t talking.  I was like, oohh … uhhh … it was a very nervous thing, just because, like, I have no idea, or had no idea, what my voice sounded like to other people.  Because your voice always sounds different to other people, and I had no confidence in my voice, so I was just desperately trying to hide it away as long as possible.

Tzufit: Well, and of course, half the time it doesn’t even really matter what your voice sounds like.  I mean, you know, people have these expectations of what a man sounds like, what a woman sounds like.  We’ve gotten tweets from individuals, from women of color, who hopped on Vent, and they went, “Well you don’t SOUND black” … it’s just kind of this universal thing where people — (laughter) … you know.

Laura: Yeah … I just have to say ‘My God’ to that.

ACM: Yeeeah …

Laura: Really?  But it’s one of those things where, whether it’s actually the reality of your voice telling people things about you or not, it’s just that thing in your head where it’s like — if I talk, the people listening will know everything there is to know about me.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: Right.

ACM: It’s an anxiety thing of … you know, how are people going to react to me, how are people going to react to me, over and over.

Tzufit: And a completely understandable one.  I mean, especially if at that point, you were already concerned that they might sort of have some suspicions about what was going on.

Laura: Definitely.  And it was one of those, sort of … I was, like, right from the beginning, for whatever reasons I’d picked to go down that path, I was convinced someone at some point is going to find out and it’s going to ruin everything I love about this game.  And that sort of paranoia covered a lot of what I did in World of Warcraft.  Just trying to go as long as possible with nobody knowing.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: Which gets harder and harder when you start finding people that you really like on there.

Tzufit: Yeah, of course.

ACM: Kind of going back to … what you said, Laura, about creating this widespread community that is safe for everybody and not just needing safe space guilds … um, I would like to point out, too, is — I think one of the biggest threats to that is mostly the fact that gamer language is  terrrr-ible to so many groups of people.  But including trans people, trans women in general, just because I think it is considered such a masculine, heteronormative space.  I really … did you have to deal with any of that, or is that something you didn’t come across very much?

Laura: I came across it from the outside, where it wasn’t directed at me, but I was seeing those kinds of slurs used on other people.  And at that time, I didn’t stand up and say anything about it, purely because I was convinced on some level that if I stood up against it, it would come back to me like, why are you standing up against that … and that it would somehow lead them back to me?  I don’t quite know how.  But, um, yeah — even outside of gaming culture, trans terminology and slurs are a really common thing, and they’re really throwaway.  I was being interviewed on this TV show about this same sort of topic the other day, and they mentioned an American show called Girls?  I think it’s called.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: And, in it, someone throws out the word ‘tranny’, to describe a trans person.  In — just, just as a really throwaway line and a punchline to a joke.  There are very few groups that you could throw that kind of slur around and nobody would be complaining about.

Tzufit: Yeah.  And would have to issue a public apology the next day.

Laura: Exactly.  And it’s — it’s one of those things that, you take that into places like World of Warcraft … and though I feel like a lot of the trans-related slurs … there is very little done to prevent them from happening.  They just kind of exist within that space, or at least they did when I was playing.  That was not particularly pleasant.

ACM: Yeah.  And it’s always like … from what I’ve seen on my servers and places I go, it’s always just random out of nowhere jokes, too?    But those are so alienating, because it literally says to people in earshot, or eyeshot, as it were — that, not only is this something that we don’t like, we also find it hysterical, and will just bring it up for no particular reason whatsoever.

Laura: They’re bringing it up for a reason — they’re bringing it up because it’s the most hilarious thing that’s ever existed, of course.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: And I think your description of it as a throwaway is pretty apt, because it’s done with so little thought.  And the notion that this almost isn’t even a real thing, so of course we’re going to joke about it all the time because it’s so funny and so ridiculous.  It’s just — ugh.

Laura: Yeah.  It’s a lack of thought, but it’s also a lack of consequence.  It’s just this inconsequential thing that exists.

ACM: I would actually say that, as somebody who, routinely gets into fights in Trade Chat, literally all the time … um, that, one of the biggest things that I think cis people in World of Warcraft can do is when you see people saying transphobic or transmisogynistic things, then you speak up and say something about it.  Because, guess what, that’s kind of like our job, to kind of kick people of the habit of doing that, because it’s not a risk to our safety in order to do that.  I mean, when I see people using any sort of oppressive language, I absolutely will tear them a new one.  Because, it’s like, for every person that you’re getting into a fight with, there’s like ten other people that are just watching from the sidelines who think that was normal.  Who thought that that was funny.  And if you stand up and say something, maybe their opinion’s gonna start to change.  And you’re also saying it for the people who didn’t feel safe or comfortable saying something.  I do this all the time when people make rape jokes in Trade Chat.  And I always get whispers.  I always get whispers — thank you for speaking up, thank you saying something.  I didn’t want to say something; I didn’t want people to get angry at me.

Laura: If we’re talking about common slurs on MMOs, rape threats are a big problem, aren’t they?

Tzufit & ACM: Yeah.

ACM: And, you know, as somebody who was or is a survivor of that sort of thing, um, yeah  — I understand that there are a lot of times where I don’t feel comfortable saying something, because it just brings up a whole shit-ton of feelings.  But if it’s something that doesn’t necessarily affect me and my identity personally, that’s absolutely the time to say something.   And to defend people.

Laura: Yeah, it’s that thing that, when you can talk from a position of privilege on something, it’s so much easier to do.  Because you don’t have that feeling of  … you know yourself that it isn’t directly connected to you, and as such you can speak on the issue with confidence.  Whereas, like, going back to what I was saying — I know, for me, the reason I didn’t speak up when I saw those things at the time was … it was this whole fear of, well, I don’t have the confidence to say that, because I’m panicking about every way that it could in any way impact me that I’ve said it.  Because somehow someone will know from the fact that I’ve stood up against this that they’ll suddenly know all these things about me.  And obviously there’s no way that they’ll know anything about you, but it’s that fear in your own head.

ACM: Yeah.  Absolutely.

Tzufit: So one of the things we talk about a lot on the show here is lore in World of Warcraft and various representations in lore.  Laura, since you have not played in quite a few years we are not going to hold you (laughter) to any kind of big expectation of — of

Laura: Thank goodness.

Tzufit: — of current lore.  But we did just kind of want to cover from a broader perspective, what that lack of representation sort of does?  If it’s kind of demoralizing, if it does make you feel less comfortable riding around in the World of Warcraft — where there aren’t, you don’t see a lot of yourself in the people there.

Laura: It’s definitely a difficult issue.  It’s like, they … most MMOs at this point make at least the very base step of, OK, you can pick your gender.  There’s a lot of things beyond that that are still not well represented at all.  Um, if we talk about disability and race and things like that, there’s a whole host of things that are just not represented at all, um … like, there is an example of a game I wanted to bring up outside of WoW that I think does this — did their character creation stuff really well in terms of representation, and I would love to see some of these things being taken on board by WoW.  It’s a game called Redshirt, and it’s this game where it’s a social networking simulator, based loosely around Star Trek lore.  But the interesting part is their character creator.  They do things like — they have a gender slider on their creation screen, where you don’t have to be binary on either side of male or female.  You can slide that anywhere between the two.  It’s not perfect, because it still uses a binary character model, but, you know, it’s a step.  And it does things like … there is a race in the game that is specifically labeled like, all the characters of this race are female.  However, you can stick that gender slider to male, and have a male character of this all female species that identifies as male.  It’s just a lot of really interesting things it does.  And it has a lot of options for different ethnicities and things, and how they can be presented.  I would love to see some more of those kind of options that, for most people, would be completely inconsequential, because most people I know that have played that game just stuck their gender straight to the left or straight to the right and didn’t think anything of it.  But for that small percentage of people out there who do identify other ways, it’s a really nice thing to have there.  To have those extra options.

ACM: I also heard of something similar to that in Saints’ Row.  The Saints’ Row franchise.  Because they also had a gender slider, although it wasn’t present in the fourth game of the series that just came out.  However, they did allow you, even using a binary gender system, to have any … like, the body customization could technically … you could be a man or a woman with any range of body features.

Laura: Yeah.  I read about that on Saints’ Row IV.  I … there’s a couple of things it’s lost from previous entries, but it does still allow you to use any of your customization options for your character, with either gender selected.  Like, you could have a character who, at the top of the screen says the gender is male, but is entirely female in body type, every hair option, every voice option, every clothing option.  They’re all open to both genders.  And they work exactly the same for gender, it’s just gender is, okay, do you want to tick male or female?  But you can completely … you can have a male character that’s labeled male, that has a female body type, that has a male voice, that is wearing female clothing.   And have that combination of things.  And every NPC in the game just accepts that as, OK, that’s who you are, that’s completely cool.

ACM: I have to play Saints’ Row.  My boyfriend is really big into Saints’ Row.  He loves Saints’ Row, like, all the time.  And he keeps talking about that sort of stuff, but when I actually heard about the gender stuff, that’s basically what sold me on playing the game.

Tzufit: Not the fact that it’s kind of perfect in every other regard.

ACM: Well, yeah, that’s true. (laughter)

Laura: I’ve never played any of the previous games, and it’s definitely not perfect in every regard, but there are some nice representation things in it.  Like, at the end of the first mission you go into, if your character is a female character, regardless of whether you’re a male or a female character, you have a wife.  At this point, very early in Saints’ Row IV.  And they never make a big deal out of it.  It’s just, okay, whether you’re male or female — you have a wife!  That’s just how it is.

ACM: That’s cool. I think WoW could do so  much to expand like that, and it’s where I feel WoW is showing a lot of its age, because even newer MMOs have just way more customization options.  Let alone something like … representing more types of people in the game … you know what would happen if World of Warcraft had a gender slider?  It would — number one, I think it would be amazing, but number two, like … people would just, kind of, lose their shit about it.  But it would be a greater game for me.

Laura: Well, you say that people would lose their shit about it.  So many people I know that played Redshirts never knew it had a gender slider, because without even thinking they whacked it up to full on whichever gender.  And that’s the thing with a slider — if you identify strongly with one side or another, you’ll just stick it right to that side and not even think about why there was a slider in the first place.

Tzufit: Yeah, see, and that was my gut reaction, too.  I wonder … it’s such an interesting, if completely inelegant solution, because it requires almost no developer energy whatsoever.  All you do is stick an extra slider in there.  It doesn’t actually make any cosmetic changes.  And like you said, it may not even actually piss that many people off.  Cause they’re either going to throw it all the way to one end or the other, or actually go — oh my gosh, I can put this where it’s appropriate for me.

Laura: Well, that’s it.  I know one who has played Redshirts where it was really, a really important thing for them that it had a gender slider.  However, most people just completely ignore that it’s there, or it’s just, okay, that was there.  Move on.  It just has so little impact on them, but for the people that care about it, it’s such a big thing.

ACM: I would really like to see a completely remade WoW with sliders and things like that and way more customization options.  So I hope … maybe, in the future, you know.

Laura: You’re suggesting that Blizzard is willing to risk any part of their big money machine.

ACM: Yeah. (laughter)

Laura: It’s making them money, therefore they’ll never change a thing.

ACM: That’s true.  So I guess maybe the option is for everybody to go play Redshirt.  But yeah, when it comes to World of Warcraft, it’s really … it’s such a big monster from just even a lore and a game mechanics perspective, it’s like, we have a hard enough time getting women represented.  Much less anything out of the binary or anybody that would be considered trans or even queer people!  We can’t even get — we can’t even get anybody from Blizzard to admit that there are literally  any character in the world whatsoever that might be like, the tiniest bit gay.

Tzufit: Even the ones that are obviously horrible gay stereotypes that they inserted in the game.

Laura: I would rather at least that they do that than what the Star Wars MMO recently did, where they had a gay planet.  Where you could go be gay, as long as you go be gay on that planet.

Tzufit: Oh, my goodness.

Laura: As soon as you leave that planet … it was a DLC planet, so as soon as you left the planet — they hadn’t put the code anywhere else — it was like, okay, you get off that planet, you’re straight again now.

ACM: (Laughter)

Laura: At least they haven’t done that yet.  At least WoW hasn’t gotten to that point yet.

ACM: Well, you know …

Tzufit: How to do diversity wrong.

ACM: Yeah, exactly.  Well, we’ll see, watch this — because WoW has adapted so many other things from other popular MMOs.  We see the second moon orbiting around Azeroth suddenly become the gay moon.

(Laughter)

Laura: I’m sorry — I was going to say something, but it’s gone, I’m just laughing at the thought of the gay moon now.

(Laughter)

ACM: Well, what if all this time Elune was the gay moon, and it was her all along.  Elune, the goddess of all nature and the moon and everything … no, she’s just, you know.

Laura: I’m just imagining now.  Have you ever stopped to think about what’s on the other side of the moon and we pan ’round to the back and there’s like a big disco dance party happening on the back of the moon.

(Laughter)

ACM: Suddenly everything makes sense.

(Laughter continues)

Laura: I am so sorry —

Tzufit: No.  You should not be.

ACM: So again, we really wanted to thank Laura for coming onto the show and giving such amazing insights about World of Warcraft and her time playing the game, and then her article.  Um, where can we find you on the internet?

Laura: Um, I’m on Twitter at laurakbuzz.  I run a website called indiehaven.com.  And then I write for, like, a million other places on the Internet.  So if you just follow me on Twitter, I will link to all the other places that I do things.

ACM: Awesome.  Seriously, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Tzufit: Yeah.

ACM: You’re a really brilliant writer, and I really enjoyed your article for The Guardian.

Laura: Thank you very much for having me on a World of Warcraft podcast even though I haven’t played in about four years.

(Laughter)

ACM: We like to break the stereotypes of just being a World of Warcraft podcast.  But honestly, we thought that the article was very illustrative of a lot of things we’ve been wanting to cover on the show up until this point.  But we, just kind of, you know, it had just been on our list of things to talk about.  But your article kind of blew it out of the water, so we were like, ‘Aha!  We have to talk to her!  We have to’.

Laura: Well, thank you.  I’m just glad I had a chance to talk about something positive that came from my time in World of Warcraft, because I hear enough stories about how terrible it is and how it sucks away people’s social lives.  And it does, but sometimes that’s a good thing. (Laughter)

ACM: Well, again, thank you for coming on the show.  And we are going to … we’re going to read a reader email that we got.

Laura: Woo!

Tzufit: Woohoo!

ACM: Woo!  Um, we got this from … Andrew, who writes to us: Hello, I am fairly new to the raiding game and I had a few questions for you regarding female presence and interaction in game.  (And if you wanna help us answer this, Laura, by all means.)

(Reading the letter:)

Um, I am part of a guild and we are currently 11 out of 14 in Siege of Orgrimmar.  I am one of the two raid leads for our ten man group.  We have two women on our team, one of them being the guild leader and main healer.  My question to you is, what is a hostile environment for women versus jokes and general banter?  I ask because I really don’t know what the barrier is between being offensive through the things that are said and being too politically correct.  I imagine this would create a form of isolation. For me, when people say they can’t say certain things around me, within reason, it makes it awkward.  I have heard of the really offensive things people have said to women in WoW and we really don’t have that culture in the guild or raid team, but the occasional comment is made.  Is that general banter?  Is that too far?  Is it a personal perspective of the women that we raid with?  Where do you draw the line between someone that is too sensitive and someone that is too offensive?  Is there even a line?  I ask because I feel a lot of dudes that respect women don’t know.  Thanks and have a good day.  P.S. You have a good podcast, keep it up.

Laura: Can I offer an answer just right now?

ACM: Yes.  Yes.  Go ahead.

Tzufit: Uh-huh.

Laura: If you don’t know where that woman’s personal line of what is acceptable and what is not is, don’t email a podcast asking — ask her.  Ask her where her line is.  Every woman’s line is different; ask her where her line of acceptability ends.

ACM: Exactly.

Tzufit: Yeah.  Yeah, that is definitely the correct answer.

Laura: I think we can give general thoughts on what is generally accepted as, like, a line.  But that line can vary vastly between people.  Just actually ask the people if they’re okay with things, and if someone says they’re not okay, then, you know, respect that.  Because you don’t know if they’re okay with it unless they tell you.  So listen to them.

Tzufit: Yeah, and I would certainly say on that front, the issue of … the question of, is somebody too sensitive, for me, I think it’s a smart default to have, to just assume that no one is too sensitive.  If somebody tells you, these words that you’re using, these things that you’re saying are harmful and hurtful to me, don’t say them.  Don’t tell the person at that point, Yeah, but I don’t mean it that way, or you shouldn’t take it that way, just accept what they’re telling you and change your language.  That’s a small sacrifice.

Laura: Never tell the person that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel.  Because there’s probably a reason why they feel that way, and even if they don’t feel like sharing it with you — which, it’s not necessarily your business to know why —  you know, you just have to accept, okay, that offends you, I will accept that and we shall move on that way.

ACM: Yeah.  But, honestly, Andrew, good email, but you need to be talking to the women in your guild.  Especially if you’re in a position of power, which it sounds like you are, because you are one of the raid leads.  And, um … yeah, we’re not a monolith, we all have different opinions about things, but maybe having a guild meeting, and sitting down and addressing those topics guild-wide as well might also be a good thing for you because it doesn’t specifically make any one person feel like they’re the sole arbiter.  But also lets people maybe jump in with their feelings without it being directed at, oh well, this person wants this not to be said and putting kind of like a spotlight on them as well.

Laura: If it’s a case of looking for things that are acceptable or not as just like, a general line, for what is offensive to women, I think a good line to assume is a benchmark is stick well away from anything that is suggesting of a power imbalance between men and women.  Like, there are obvious connotations to things like … rape humor is a great example of one where I don’t ever think it’s a … you should always assume that’s unacceptable just because a lot of the problem there is, Hey, it’s a male dominated space with very few women in it and you’re making these … either potentially triggering or even just, even if it’s not triggering, very implicative of power imbalance statements that are just generally good things to stay away from.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: I don’t know if there’s any other things that are good, um, just general guidelines, but that’s a good one to assume is just like, don’t do that.  Because for most people that’s not a good thing.

ACM: Yeah.

Tzufit: Yeah.  And this certainly goes right along with what you were saying and is really just a subset of that, that’s a little, slightly more specific … you know, don’t use slurs.  Slurs of any kind.  You don’t know who the people in your guild are when they log off.  So let’s just, you know, go with the safe route and just assume that you have sort of one of every different possible type of person in the whole world is in your guild.  So just don’t use slurs.

ACM: Yeah.

Laura: Would you say that word in front of either of your parents?  If not, don’t say it.

ACM: Yeah.

(Laughter)

ACM: Those are probably some decent baselines.  But thank you for writing in to the show, um, I hope your raid team continues to go smoothly.

Tzufit: We also have one new donor on our Patreon account and that is PinkSyllabus.  So, thank you very very much for donating to us, and for anybody else who might be interested in doing the same we have a link to our Patreon account on our webpage.

ACM: Yaay, patrons!  I love’em.

Laura: I have one of those!  I make about forty-six dollars a month from it!  Hooray!

ACM: (Laughter) Yaaayy!  Yeah, you, like I just noticed on Twitter you said that you — is this like your first month with a Patreon account, or …?

Laura: This is my first month of having a Patreon account.

Tzufit: Yes, same with us!

ACM: Ours, too.  We’re exactly one month old on Patreon today.

Laura: I’m not a month old yet, but this is the first day of February and I started mine at some point in January, so.  Yeah.

Tzufit: Close enough.

(Laughter)

Laura: Close enough.

Tzufit: Well, Laura, we want to thank you again.  We really appreciate having you on, again, as Apple Cider said, it was just a great article about really kind of exploring, uh, personality and individ–nope, I’m done, this cat is making noises in the box while I’m trying to talk.

Laura: Okay, that’s fine — you’ve said thank you enough times — thank you for having me, and  I have really enjoyed, like … after you invited me, I listened to three or four episodes of the podcast.  I’m really enjoying it and I’m going to listen to future ones, and there’s every chance that I’m going to end up getting dragged back into World of Warcraft, and if I am, I will definitely come find you.

ACM: Well, you should.  You should, cause we … we play a lot together, you know, so. It’d be fun to have you along.

Laura: Just to let you know, I’m coming to find you not to play with you, I’m going to come and find you and have a go at you for getting me back into it.

Tzufit: You’ll send us your bill, I assume, for your subscription.

(Laughter)

Laura: Exactly.  You’d better be using that Patreon money to pay for the rest of my subscription because it’s going to be all your fault.

(Laughter)

Tzufit: All right, well, thanks everybody who’s listening in.  Thanks again to Laura, and we will talk to you next week.

(Music)

ACM: Justice Points is generously hosted by SafeShark hosting.  Because hosting doesn’t have to bite.  SafeShark hosting does website and blog hosting as well as WordPress migration.  You can find them online at safesharkhosting.com, or on Twitter @safesharkhost.  Please remember to rate, comment, and subscribe to Justice Points at iTunes and Stitcher radio.  All music used on Justice Points is copyright Blizzard Entertainment and no copyright infringement is intended.

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