Male Privilege in the Comic Book or Gaming Store

Just 'cause it is pink doesn't mean it is for girls.

Just ’cause it is pink doesn’t mean it is for girls.

I walk into a game store and…

No one comes up to me asking what I want. No one questions my interest in Halo. No one smirks when I coo (yes, I cooed) over the new Zelda game. In fact, gaming stores and comic stores are one of the first places I realized I could display non-normed behavior someone perceived to be male. If I accidentally squealed in excitement as seeing a new Final Fantasy release on the demo stand someone might smirk a little but it would be with understanding. Games are exciting. Gamers are geeky. Squealing might get you mocked in the locker room but at GameStop you are accepted and respected as a member of the club. If you are male.

I identify as outside the gender binary. BUT my transgressions against my biological sex actually help me fit in deeper with the gamer and comic book crowd. These places were staked out by scrawny geeks looking to have a bit of territory safe from harassing elements that viewed their interests with disdain. Now the male behavior in this space seem extremely territorial. If you do not fit into the geeky male archetype you are viewed with suspicion. Someone biologically female actually gets a double whammy of alienation and harassment.

Many women go into one of these spaces and suffer overly attentive clerks when they just want to browse. My friend related the story of buying Grand Theft Auto and being asked who she was buying it for. She seems to have suffered the swath of prejudice and suspicion that I never experience. She sighed over the Legend of Zelda game she was buying for me. The sigh was probably because she knows I think Link is hot. Apparently someone in the store guffawed. Her word, not mine. If she had squealed over the Sims (something she bought for me) would they have treated her with increasing hostility?

Why should she have to prove her gamer cred? Why should anyone? Yes, gamers get territorial but that doesn’t mean it is right. In fact I find the fact that male gamers behave in these ways very distasteful. Uncouth. Disgusting. I get that membership in a group of privilege often causes blindness to the benefits. I have my own privileged blind spots to figure out as well. Hopefully my friends and colleagues continue to graciously point out when I start taking someone else’s struggles for granted.

If you really want to get into this check out Jonathan McIntosh’s article “Playing with privilege: The invisible benefits of gaming while male” on Polygon Gaming. You can also take a look at the video embedded below based on that article or watch it on YouTube.

Full transcript available at: http://www.feministfrequency.com/2014…

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Utah’s LGBT Anti-Discrimination & Schools: Questions, Questions, Questions

LGBT Brick Road

I think Murrur’s “Russian Embassy in Helsinki, LGBT pavement” makes a poignant reminder of the threat to civil liberty that continues to harm LGBT folks all over the globe.

This essay describes my thoughts after reading the Utah LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill and Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act that has since gone defunct. I kept looking for articles describing how these acts impact education. My research references, so heavily focussed on game design, the student experience, and increasing minority representation in the educator body, have not prepared me to understand how legislation impacts policy and the embodied experience in schools. If anyone wants to share resources I should look into I would appreciate it. What follows are my initial thoughts peppered with experiences that might better describe my concerns.

Following the passage of the Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill I have a lot of questions about how this will play out in education: public, private, charter, higher education, and early childhood education. The bill makes it illegal to base employment, housing, or loans decisions on LGBT status. It makes an exemption for religious affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals. It also allows people to express religious beliefs in the workplace without retribution.

In education there are ethical and legal considerations around what a teacher says to their captive audience. Still would an educator see the provision for expression of belief as a loop hole? Probably not, after all that would interfere with the running of the school, right? The policies by the Utah State Board of Education as codified in this legislation protect the rights of parents with children in public schools to know about and consent or withhold consent on topics of “human sexuality”. I think any educator who wanted to share religious views relating to sexuality would need to consider this provision. By expressing religious beliefs about the nature of human sexuality they would require both informing parents about the nature of the discourse and obtain consent.

It does mean that openly LGBT educators who serve as valued community outreach agents and role models for LGBT students and families may have to put up with religiously-based homophobic discussions in the staff room. Even if no one is specifically targeted or even in the room I have observed the rumor sieve that the faculty lounge provides the entire school population.

In terms of bathrooms I am curious how the gender-specific restrooms and other facilities section with play out in schools. The wording for the rules and policies on this section was “reasonable” but sometimes what a school sees as reasonable can place an undo burden on students who identify outside the gender binary. Use of a private bathroom that also serves as administrative bathroom accommodation or a facility in the health room carries a stigma that may potentially be harmful or simply inconvenient in larger schools.

I remember one student who, on an average day, had no problem accessing the staff bathroom. However, when the secretary was out sick her replacement forbid the student from accessing the appropriate facility. The student, unable to use other facilities, spent several hours in discomfort as well as enduring verbal harassment from the substitute. Eventually, after the young student gained access to a faculty advocate, the situation reached resolution.

Is this reasonable?

This brings me to other legislation that includes religious exemptions. Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act would allow business owners to refuse service to people in the LGBT community. In a sly twist Rep. Emily Virgin added an amendment that would require business owners who refuse service to the gay community to post their refusal publicly on websites and their front door.

“If you want to discriminate under this law if it passes, then you’re legally allowed to do that, but you need to own it. You need to fess up to it,” Rep. Virgin said.

Of course I decided to imagine what this might look like if teachers were required to post their bias on their classroom doors. As a student I would never have stepped inside a couple classrooms that it took me months to see the extent of an educators racism, sexism, and a host of other prejudices. As an educator I am curious how millennials would react to this system. The ability to clearly see and avoid places refusing to serve diverse communities would definitely impact and drive home the economic repercussions of such discrimination.

Last I heard the bill had been pulled. If another bill arises, and other similar bills in other states go forward, I hope to see similar amendments. I like the juxtaposition of legislation providing acknowledgement of religious freedom but actually highlighting the hypocrisy and prejudice underlining the reason for its creation. Yes you are free to practice a religion that encourages prejudice – but no skulking around feigning tolerance.

I want to see what this would do in education. I expect something messy and scary. Almost a year ago I interviewed an administrator who spoke positively about a diverse educational communities. Later data collection revealed this same administrator consistently denied students access to programs or the ability to form students organizations that supported diversity. If they were required to post their bias before denying these programs the community would have them out of their position immediately. Instead, because they are allowed to operate obscurely, they continue to marginalize diverse members of the student body.

These are complicated issues and I am probably simplifying ideas and not quoting the theorists who could support or refute my statements. Instead this essay has allowed me, in a semi-critical way, to think through current scenarios in education. While the laws tend to focus on domestic and business interactions they impact the culture of school in more ways than I have expressed. I am curious how this will all play out.

 

LGBTQ Issues 2015

LGBTQ-Issues-2015What are the biggest LGBTQ Issues of 2015?

My top three:

LGBTQ Youth Homelessness

  • Depending on which resources you reference it is estimated that gender and sexual minority youth make up 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States.
  • At the intersection of race and gender and sexuality diverse young people the fact that the Congressional Research Center shows double the proportion of black homeless youth makes this and the following issues even more troubling.

Law & “Order”

  • LGBTQ youth on the street often face harsher penalties for petty crimes.
  • In some states running away from home (which an intolerant home environment may have precipitated) is considered a criminal offense if the individual is a minor.
  • Survival sex, detailed a bit in this article, becomes a last resource but police may use condom possession in general as evidence of prostitution for transgender women.
  • An inequitable percentage of queer and transgender youth, especially youth of color, are detained or imprisoned.

Safety and Violence

  • In addition to facing heightened police attention for prostitution and other crimes transgender women face the danger of physical violence. With at least twelve trans women of color’s deaths under investigation as hate crimes it is especially frightening.
  • The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report (2013) indicates that LGBT people of color experience physical violence almost twice as often compared to white LGBT people.
  • Issues of domestic violence in same-sex partnerships do not have adequate resources allocated.
  • According to GLSEN’s 2013 School Climate Survey, while things are improving, there are still large gaps in LGBTQ student safety and support at school.

Other Issues:

There are tons of other issues that remain important. The prior three are just the ones that stand out to me within the United States. Conversion therapy, marriage equality, representation in media, employment discrimination, and the struggles faced by LGBTQ senior citizens are among the big areas of concern. I suppose as an educator and youth advocate I am more aware of safety, homelessness, and police interactions than the others. Outside the United States there are much more intense struggles. The international LGBTQ advocacy scene really interests and frightens me. Even suspicions result in treatment that is beyond anything I could have imagined even in totalitarian societies. Those folks remind us that, as a global society, we have a long way to go.

Awesome Art/Social Commentary Game Designer

Today I have spent roughly three hours playing with the games and multi-media social commentary gadgets created by Nick Case.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.57.53 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.00.26 PM

I think you absolutely must check out the coming out story and the parable of polygons. I spent the most time with the parable simply because I enjoyed the way it made me think. There was also the temptation to pull data from different cities and try out the simulation. Case’s work is strongly influencing my own game design ideas. The slew of little projects share is also a bit of a wake-up call. My production certainly lacks.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.58.57 PM

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