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.
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.
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.
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.