On Magic, Gaymers, and Identity

Last week, I saw a thread on the Magic subreddit about a gay guy asking how accepting the magic community was since he was thinking about going to his first tournament. I was going to write a response in that thread, but I quickly realized that it was going to be very long and, honestly, the things I had to say on the matter were going to be controversial and I didn’t want to start an internet war. Additionally, I think this issue is extremely important and I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about it for a while now. For reference, you can find original thread on reddit here.

My answer to the guy’s original question is, of course, it depends. When I was playing in shops in California, both in Los Angeles and in the Bay Area, my sexuality didn’t really matter and it was kind of a non-issue. There were some shops where the players seemed less welcoming than others, but luckily there were a ton of shops around I was always able to find a place that I felt comfortable playing in. However, my experiences at game shops have been drastically different since moving to the South. Basically every time I’ve played in an event in Savannah, I’ve overheard some sort of gay joke or covertly homophobic comment being said by the other players. Now, I should mention that these types of comments have never been directed towards me, but overhearing other players make gays jokes at each other contributes to a hostile environment that I want no part of. Unlike in Los Angeles, there aren’t many options for game stores around here, so I can’t just jump around to find the perfect place. At this point, I only ever play in a magic event if the payout is worth it (like the SCG invitational a few weeks ago), and when I do, I’m very quiet and try to just keep to myself.

that-guy

Some places will always have ‘that guy’.

But there was something else going on in that reddit thread that really bothered me. The top rated comment in that thread is this: “As far as I’m concerned, LGBT in terms of magic means “L-i-G-htning B-ol-T”. For me it’s a game and the other people are players, first, foremost and last. I couldn’t care less who or what they do in their spare time, just don’t let me catch them cheating or being unsportsmanlike during the game.” In fact, most of the comments in this thread were echoing similar sentiments: It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, we are all just here to play cards, and your sexuality doesn’t matter. To me, these kinds of statements are just the newest form of colorblindness. They are basically minimizing all of your unique experiences as an LGBT individual in a heterosexual-dominated world while simultaneously making themselves sound really progressive.

sexy anime magic

Who says sex and magic never mix

Furthermore, there were a lot of comments on the thread like this one: “I’m also a supporter of [gay] rights to be who they are and love who they want. That being said, I don’t sit down and say “I’m straight and I fuck women” and neither should my opponent. I’m here to play magic and bringing up your sexuality just makes things awkward. So let’s just be two people playing a game we both love.” Except here’s the thing, people have gone up to me in a tournament and basically said, “I’m straight and I fuck women.” Now they obviously didn’t use those exact words, but in one tournament recently, I was outside smoking a cigarette and a player smoking with me says, “Damn, the chick is working. I wanted to go home and fuck her.” When I was at the Theros pre-release, one of my opponents was lamenting on how there were no women dressed in togas and that dudes shouldn’t wear togas since no one wants to see that. I was at a tournament in LA where a guy was telling me a story about how he slept with his crazy ex-girlfriend the night before. As much as people want to say that there is no room for sexuality at a magic tournament, it comes up at least once in every single tournament I have ever played in, and I’m sure that if the tables were turned and I went up to one of my opponents and said something like, “I can’t wait to lose the tournament so I can go home and get fucked by my boyfriend,” things would get awkward real quick.

gaybros

Comments like the ones I highlighted above are indicative of a growing trend in our society of downplaying our sexuality. You see this a lot with gaybros or anyone who describes themselves using the phrase “happens to be gay.” There is this idea that one’s sexual orientation is something that is relegated to what one does in the bedroom and that it doesn’t really affect other aspects of your social and professional life. In social psychology, there is a term called salience, which the degree in which one becomes more aware of one of their social identities than they would otherwise. For example, if I consider myself a gamer, my gamer social identity will be more salient for me if I am discussing the upcoming smash brothers game with someone else. Thus, what people who downplay sexual orientation identity are saying is that their LGBT or heterosexual identity is only salient to them when they are actively having sex or spending time with their SO. The thing is, one’s sexual orientation identity becomes salient in a lot of different situations. Just talking with anyone about marriage, children, or family life is going to make someone’s sexual orientation identity more salient to them. Sure, you can go through a magic tournament only talking with people about magic or go out with coworkers and only talk about work issues, but if you are having a conversation with someone that goes below the surface, then these topics WILL come up and your sexual orientation identity WILL become salient to you. If you have an LGBT identity, then not only does your identity become more salient in these situations, but you are also reminded that your sexual orientation identity is different from everyone else’s. Sometimes your sexual orientation identity becomes salient under the most random triggers. Here is a personal example:

I currently live in Savannah because my husband got a job opportunity in this city that he couldn’t pass up. Furthermore, I had just graduated with a masters so I was fully capable of being mobile. It doesn’t matter where I am, whether its a magic tournament or at the grocery store, if I am talking to a stranger they will inevitably ask me this question: “What brings you to Savannah?” This questions is seemingly trivial, but it immediately makes my gay social identity salient for me. When someone asks me this question, I immediately have to decide whether or not I want to out myself, which usually involves a complex process of me trying to figure out how open the person is, what the climate in the room is like, etc.

I can go to a party and have my gamer identity never become salient for me throughout the night. I can go to a party and have my Latino identity never become salient for me throughout the night (in LA anyways, not in Savannah). My gay identity, however, will always be salient for me when I’m at a party. I will inevitably see someone who I think is attractive or have a conversation with someone about sex, relationships, or family.

When someone says to you that they don’t ever think about their sexual orientation and that it’s not a big part of who they are, they are lying. Sorry bout it.

willam

Gnome Con Tournament Report

Last weekend was Savannah’s very own gaming convention, Gnome Con! While I didn’t actually partake in the convention itself, I did go play in a magic tournament there. The tourney was a Star City Games Invitational Qualifier, meaning first place in the tournament wins you an invitation to compete in SCG’s quarterly invitational tournament, taking place in June in Columbus, Ohio. While entry into that tournament is a big deal, there was no way I was going to be able to go even if I won, but I played in the tourney anyways since there was also a $250 cash prize for 1st place.

I got to the tournament site about 15 minutes before registration closed, took a seat in a far corner of the room, and looked around before filling out my decklist. There were about 30 people signed up the tournament, and out of those 30 there was only one woman actually playing (3% ain’t bad!). There were two other women in the room: one was a wife who was standing around watching her husband play and the other was a mom of a little boy who was playing. I was the brownest person in the room, which is saying a lot since I’ve lost all my LA tan over the winter. I was also the only gay in the room … I think. It’s always hard to tell at these sorts of events, but I didn’t see anyone on grindr or scruff and I was wearing the shortest shorts in the room so I just did the math.

I registered this list, which is a pretty stock U/W control build. I wasn’t really going for anything too fancy and I barely had time to test before the tournament. This was also my first tournament all year, so I had no idea how well I was going to do or if I even read the metagame correctly. I did, however, name the deck Ru Animale by Coco on my deck registration sheet, which made me laugh out loud to myself and caused some people to look at me like I was crazy.

coco-montrese-ru-animale

I had been waiting for a long time to name a deck this.

I then take my seat for the player meeting, which is a short series of announcements by the judges and is when players turn in their deck registration sheet so that the tournament can officially start. Next to me, I hear two guys talking to each other in thick southern accents. One makes a Big Gay Al reference, prompting the other guy to joking hit on him in a bad gay lisp. The first guy then says something around the lines of, “You took it too far now.” After hearing that exchange, I realize that it’s gonna be a long day.

Round 1 vs. the Mirror:

I go to my assigned table for the first round and my opponent is a quiet, young SCAD student. He wins the die roll and immediately plays a Hallowed Fountain tapped. Yay, the mirror match for round 1! At this point I knew that it was definitely gonna be a long day. We take turns playing lands and passing to each other, each of us having a hand full of useless cards that are awful in the mirror. In the meantime, my opponent is beating me down with Mutavaults. I get down to 8 before I finally deal with his manlands. I manage to resolve an Aetherling with counter backup and then we were off to game 2.

For the mirror match, I always board out a significant amount of my creature removal spells and board in some more counters, my anti-Aetherling tech Debtor’s Pulpit, and some anti-Detention Sphere measures. I never board out all of my removal since sometimes people like to board in additional creatures. Besides, I don’t have enough cards in my sideboard for me to replace all of my removal spells anyways. My opponent chooses to go first, and keeps a hand with 1 Plains, 1 Mutavault, 2 Soldier of the Pantheons and no other land.

latricereally

 

I manage to Supreme Verdict away all of this creatures and kill his man land. He doesn’t draw another land for like 8 turns, giving me enough time to resolve Aetherling and kill him again. After the match, he tells me that his creature plan is the way he beats all control mirrors. I just smile and nod. Nice anti-control tech from 6 months ago you got there.

WIN 2-0

Round 2 vs. G/B Dredge:

My opponent and I are chosen at random to play as a feature match, which basically meant that we got a table all to ourselves and a judge was around watching us play. I start off Game 1 by winning the die roll and then mulling to five. That’s not cute. My opponent plays a bunch of creatures and swiftly kicks my teeth in while I proceed to draw no lands all game.

In game 2, multiple Supreme Verdicts, Detention Spheres, and Celestial Flares slow my opponent down long enough for me to play Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with counterspell backup. Game 3 played out very much the same way, except my opponent stumbled on lands for a few turns, causing me to take over control of the game sooner. At this point in the tournament, I actually start to feel less anxious and feel better about my chances of doing well.

WIN 2-1

latricewhoopassRound 3 vs U/G Monsters:

Game 1 starts out with my opponent playing a couple Elvish Mystics and a Kiora’s Follower. He then plays a Kiora, the Crashing Wave on turn 3, and uses her to explore. I Detention Sphere the Kiora on my turn, and then wrath away all of his mana dorks the turn after. My opponent plays a Thassa, God of the Sea, and then proceeds to draw nothing but more mana dorks the next few turns. I wipe away all his elves again, then play Elspeth and proceed to win.

Game 2 starts off okay. I wrath away some of his early aggression, and stop his planeswalker onslaught. Out of nowhere, the guy tries to play an Aetherling. I was out of counters in my hand, so things were starting to look grim. After a couple of turns of stalling the Aetherling, I manage to kill it with a well timed Fated Retribution. On the next turn my opponent plays … a second Aetherling, and I proceed to lose.

LatriceNOTcuteGame 3, the two of us play a long, grindy match where me and my opponent are each drawing tons of cards while he plays threats as I answer them. Eventually, I manage to play an Archangel of Thune and start going beatdown. I get him down pretty low with Archangel while gaining a bunch of life in the process. At this point, I feel great about my chances of winning the match. Then, I manage to make a gigantic misplay: My opponent casts Sylvan Primordial. I have a Detention Sphere out (with a Prophet of Kruphix under it), and a counterspell and another sphere in my hand. I let the primordial resolve, figuring I would need the counter to protect my archangel, and besides, I had another sphere in my hand anyways. My sphere gets destroys, releasing his prophet, and then my opponent passes the turn. On my turn, I play my second sphere and target his prophet again. My opponent attempts to flash in a Prime Speaker Zegana, which I let resolve since, again, I need my counter to protect my archangel that was gonna win the game for me no matter what he did. I then move to combat and swing my angel and my opponent … blocks with his primordial. Holy shit, that card has reach?! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! I should’ve just countered the damn thing but I forgot it could block fliers. The game goes on for another 10 minutes, with me just trying to survive long enough to draw a second angel. Time in the round is called and neither of us can kill in the other in five turns. I end up conceding to the guy since he was super nice all game, he would’ve ended up winning if there was no time limit, and I didn’t want to get a draw and play against control mirrors for the rest of the tournament.

LOSE 1-2

Round 4 vs Bant Control:

My next round starts immediately after I turn in my match slip from round 3, giving me no time to smoke or use the restroom in between rounds. My opponent wins the die roll and starts off by playing a Hallowed Fountain tapped. Playing another control mirror is exactly what I didn’t want and was a major reason why I didn’t fucking draw last round!
latriceuhnoLuckily for me, it’s not an exact mirror match as my opponent taps out for a Kiora on turn four. I detention sphere his Kiora, and my opponent spends the rest of the game tapping out for planeswalkers almost every turn. I manage to draw a bunch of cards off my own planeswalker (Jace, Architect of Thought) and the two of us have a sphere vs. planeswalker battle for a while. Eventually, my opponent taps out for Elspeth and I use the opportunity to resolve an Aetherling, stealing me the game.

In game 2, my opponent continues to play his planeswalkers very aggressively, which allows me to resolve things like Sphinx’s Revelation easier. This game continues very similarly to the first one, except that this time, he manages to resolve an Aetherling first. I use Jace to dig into a Debtor’s Pulpit, which taps down his Aetherling for most of the game. In the meantime, I bash him with soldier tokens and mutavaults and I end up winning right when time in the match is called.

WIN 2-0

Round 5 vs Mono Black Aggro:

Again, I didn’t really have much time to smoke or take a break in between rounds. At this point, I’m super exhausted and starting to regret playing a control deck in the tournament. I get paired against a guy who I recognize from our local Savannah shop. The guy is nice enough, but he’s one of those people who just talks non-stop during a match. Considering I hadn’t had a break for two hours, I wasn’t really having his chatter. Game 1, I keep too slow a hand and get demolished by an early rush of Tormented Hero, Rakdos Cackler, and Herald of Torment. In Game 2, my opponent uses Thoughtseize and Duress to strip my removal and then beats me down with the aforementioned creatures. The entire match took 15 minutes.

latricehandwave
LOSE 0-2

At this point in the tournament I feel completely drained and demoralized. I realize that even if I play the last round, the chances of me making top 8 are slim, so I consider dropping from the tournament. My round 5 opponent urges me to stick it out and play the last round. I decide to wait a little bit a see how I feel since I had 45 minutes before the next round started. I took this opportunity to smoke, sit down, grab a snack, and down an energy drink. Even after I had recharged a little bit, I still considered dropping given how terrible that last game went and how low my chances were of getting top 8. I reluctantly decided to play the last round, and as I was trying to find my seat I thought about Latrice Royale’s wise words: “It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to fall down. just get up, look sickening, and make them eat it!”

Round 6 vs Junk Reanimator:

I win the die roll and start the match off by countering his Satyr Wayfinder. This causes my opponent to miss a few land drops, greatly slowing him down. Eventually, he manages to play some mana dorks, which I swiftly dispatch, trying to keep him mana screwed. By the time he reaches five mana to play an Obzedat, Ghost Council, I ultimate with Jace, getting Aetherling from my deck and an Ashen Rider from his deck, prompting him to concede. Game 2 goes pretty much the same way. I Last Breath a turn 1 Elvish Mystic and counter another Satyr Wayfinder, prompting him to get stuck on mana again. Eventually, he gets run over by Elspeth and her army of soldiers. After the match, my opponent laments on how those weren’t real games since he got so mana screwed. Gurl, you only got mana screwed cause I made you mana screwed. Get it together.

latricemakethemeatit

After all my lamenting earlier about not making it into the Top 8, I end up in 8th place after the swiss, being one of the two people with a 4-2 record to make Top 8. Awesome!

Top 8 Match vs Mono Blue Devotion:

My opponent starts off by curving Judge’s Familiar into Frostburn Weird into Thassa, God of the Sea. I Detention Sphere the Thassa, then Supreme Verdict away his creatures the following turn. Elspeth seals the game up for me shortly after. My opponent reveals that game 1 against control is basically unwinnable for him and that he has to board in like 12 cards for the match-up.

Game 2, my opponent brings some quick beats in the form of Judge’s Familiar and Mutavault, but then gets stuck for a bit without two blue sources. This gives me enough time to resolve an Archangel of Thune, which singlehandly wins the game for me as my opponent had no way to get rid of it and no way to outrace me.

latricepow
Semi-Finals vs Mono Black Aggro:

I’m extremely nervous at the beginning of this match because I get paired against the same guy who kicked my ass in round 5 and I knew that this would be an awful matchup for me. Luckily, Luke showed up to the tournament at this point, bringing me an energy drink and proving me with moral support. I start off Game 1 by mulliganing until I get a hand that can deal with some early aggression. He has a typical start with Rakdos Cackler into Herald of Torment. I verdict away both and fend off several more Heralds with a combination of sphere and Celestial Flare. He gets me down to five before I stabilize with Elixir of Immortality and a Sphinx’s Revelation for 7. At that point, I play Elspeth, which he Hero’s Downfalls. I then play a second Elspeth, which wins the game in short order.

Game 2 goes in a similar way. I stop his early onslaught of creatures but still get beat down to 5 life. I stabilize with a revelation and then Archangel of Thune finishes the game for me (that card did some serious work for me all tournament). I’m happy that I make it to the finals, but even happier that I got my revenge.

latricesnapFinals vs the Mirror:

As soon as I sit down the match, my opponent asks me how badly I wanted to go to the invitational. I inform him that I had no desire to go, he informs me that he really wants to go, so then we sit down with a judge and work on a deal to split the finals. We decide that I would get 2nd place and my opponent would get 1st so that he could get the invitation. We split the packs for winning 2nd equally, but split the cash in my favor. I walk away from the tournament with a new playmat, 12 packs, and $150 in cash … awesome.

latricebitchyeah

Overall, I’m extremely happy with how my deck performed. I think this season’s control decks are way more boring than last season since you can’t really close out games fast. It’s frustrating and exhausting to almost go to time every single match. Still though, the deck was great and if I were to play again, I wouldn’t really change anything (except for maybe replacing Essence Scatter with Nullify since the bestow interaction came up once in the tourney).

Thanks for reading!

 

In Defense of Looking

LOOKING

As you may or may not already know, there is a new show on HBO called Looking, following a group of gay friends navigating relationships in San Francisco. The main character is a ‘gaymer,’ so I knew that as soon as the show started I had to watch it and write about it. As of a few days ago, I’m fully caught up (there have been 5 episodes so far) and I have to say that overall, I think the show is just okay. I find that there are too many awkward scenes, there needs to be a touch more comic relief (the female roommate of one of the guys fills this role perfectly and is comedy gold every time she’s on screen but her part is not that big), and I basically want to murder the main character despite his gaymer status. So why I am writing a post called ‘In Defense of Looking’? It’s because this show is constantly being attacked online by various members of the gay community and I believe that most of these attacks are undeserved. The attacks are centered around two main points of contention: 1) That the show is boring, and 2) That the show puts gay people in a negative light by being overtly sexual. I will discuss each of these points in turn.

looking poster

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

One of the most common things I’ve seen people post about is how they watched the first couple of episodes of Looking and stopped watching because it was too boring. Not every show is for everyone and I get that. My problem with the boring critique is that I think a lot of people are going into the show with a different idea than what the show actually is. If you go into the show expecting it to be a gay drama where boyfriends get into explosive fights with one another and a group of friends that are constantly fighting over the same guy, then you are going to be disappointed. Likewise, if you go into Looking expecting it be a gay Sex in the City-style comedy romp, then you are going to be disappointed. Looking is about trying to portray a realistic look at the modern gay dating scene. It’s about guys going on awkward dates with people they met online, hitting on gay coworkers and failing, going through a slut phase after a bad relationship, seeing the only guy you’ve dated for longer than six months getting happily married to someone else, trying to hook up with someone when all you really want is a relationship, getting too drunk and doing something embarrassing around the guy you’re trying to hit on, hooking up on grindr as a means of coping with depression/anxiety, and couples wanting to try something new to spice up their relationship. I, personally, have experiences with most of the things on that list, and, between me and my gay friends in LA, I’m pretty sure we have it all covered. While not everything is super realistic (of course one of the main character’s love interests has a British accent … urrgghh), I think it’s realistic enough to paint an accurate portrait of the gay dating community.

From left to right: The older gay who is promiscuous, the gaymer who is looking for love in all the wrong places, the artsy gay in a committed relationship.

From left to right: The older gay who is promiscuous, the gaymer who is looking for love in all the wrong places, the artsy gay in a committed relationship.

This actually brings me to next point. A lot of people put down Looking for being too sexual, and thus hurting the gay image in the media by being too stereotypical. Again, Looking is just trying to be accurate. It’s a show about gay guys dating so of course it’s going to have sexual themes. There is no way around that. I saw a comment recently on Facebook about the show, and the guy said that he stopped watching after the first 10 seconds because the show started off with two guys cruising in a park. Seriously? That is what you’re mad about? If you watched for literally another minute, you would have seen that one of the guys couldn’t actually go through with it and part of the episode was a frank discussion about whether or not cruising is even appropriate or right for that person. To be honest, I think the show actually needs more sex in it. If you’re going to go for realism then I think you have to take it all the way. Just speaking from personal experience, I’ve known a friend who got blown in public during pride last year, I’ve known friends who left parties I was throwing to go have sex, I’ve known friends who have left my house after hanging out to go on a grindr hookup with someone in my apartment building, and I’ve even heard tales of gaymer parties turning into literal orgies. Honestly, I feel like the show’s producers probably did tone down the sexual aspects of the show because they were anticipating some push back from the gay community. Granted, that push back happened anyways, so they should’ve just gone for it.

The scene at the Folsom Street Fair where Looking showed the only penis thus far.

The scene at the Folsom Street Fair where Looking showed the only penis so far.

Thus far, there has been maybe one sex scene per episode. That is not that much and they’ve all been pretty tame. Hell, Game of Thrones shows more sex than Looking does, despite Looking literally being about guys trying to have sex with each other. Games of Thrones has even shown more penises and male asses than THE GAY SHOW ON HBO. Let that sink in for a second and then come back and tell me how sexual this show is again. And if Looking is still too sexual than what’s the other side of the spectrum? Does a show about gay people have to be like Modern Family, where the gay couple is so heteronormative than they could be replaced by a straight couple and it would literally change nothing? The gay community is so splintered with regards to how gay people should be portrayed by the media that is impossible for a show focused on gay people to avoid criticism.

Personally, I applaud Looking for even trying.