In celebration of Pride month, this week’s blog is actually going to be a series of essays from several people I know and trust around the gaming community. These brief essays come because I think it is important to hear these voices, and because the gaming community has often been such a good space to explore what it is to be queer. I gave no instruction to those writers being shared here as I wanted the stories to be authentic and what, as queer individuals, they felt was important to share about Queerness and gaming.
Today’s post is going to combine two stories — what Nate Brogan wished to share about his experience in gaming, and some of my own recountings about queerness in my current gaming work. I first noticed Nate in the Dead Legends LARP community. He was playing the same type of character I often play — an in-character therapist — but did it in a completely different manner that I portrayed. He conducted his in-character counseling through art therapy and drawing, encouraging other characters to work through their ‘madnesses’ by drawing, artistic expression, or other more surreal means. At first, I hesitated on this, as I assumed players wanted the drama of RP going through their dramatic break-down scenes, but then I watched people work with Nate. I watched them learn things about their characters through different artistic mediums, think about their characters in a manner they had NEVER thought before, and he challenged them to stretch their roleplay in different avenues. Because of this version of in-character counseling, Nate encouraged players to tell a different angle of their story in a way I’d never dreamt possible. I knew Nate was doing to do impressive things from that moment on, and he had given me a lot to think of in my own gaming process. So, I asked Nate if he would give us his thoughts on queerness and gaming.
In Nate Brogan’s own words…
“So I would probably say that all of my LARP experience has been heavily defined by my 50 shades of queer. I got into it because of the person I was dating at the time, who was genderfluid, and [I] made up a character on the spot that night, immediately deciding that he wasn’t quite sure what his sexuality was aside from definitely not being interested in women. I also gave him the name that’s more or less the “full” version of the name I use today, as a way of sort of testing the waters of coming out and being perceived as a man. (Which I’m not fully, but having my masculinity acknowledged is important to me.)
Basically, every character I’ve ever played after that has also been queer of some kind, whether they’re attracted to the same gender or more than one gender or on the aro/ace spectrum or under the transgender umbrella. Personally, I don’t see the appeal in playing cis, straight characters when I am neither of those things in real life and don’t want to be. And I could never play in a game where I felt like I had to hide these things. If a game is purposefully exclusionary of LGBT+ folks, I’m out. It’s not worth my time, energy, or money. I love being queer and love having LARP be a safe space for people to express their sexual orientation and gender identity. I can’t imagine having it any other way.”
Nate is one of so many queer gamers I’ve heard express that LARP was one of the first safe spaces they had to explore their queerness, and that makes me so proud of the stories we are telling in our community. Personally, it has been important to me to have those stories a part of the worlds in which I touch. They are not the MAIN story — the struggles of being queer are there right alongside fighting demons, farming for food, and or Ocean’s 11 style banditry. Just because someone is queer that doesn’t make it the only part or even most important part of their story — however, it is still part of their story. To erase or ignore it is as awful as not having it there in the first place.
Queer history has never been easy and was not something we cared to erase from the game for which I’m the head writer, which has an intensely history inspired setting. That was the reason I finally felt it necessary to put down in writing the unspoken rules of how Lazarus Gap dealt with queerness. If you want to read the entire write up, please see this page on Queerness, Sexism and Racism in the Black Hills. But, in short, it was important to acknowledge the struggle that queer individuals faced in the world at that time without supporting hate or alienating it from out game. While there are still many places in the world of Dead Legends 1880’s setting that treat queers as outcasts, our little town found a more progressive way. Some characters have even fled to Lazarus Gap as a safe place for their queer identities and know they will find support there.
The settings document, however, was not enough in my mind. It was important to put my money where my mouth was. Therefore, it was important to me that my main character was a bi-sexual woman (much as I am in real life) and that her bisexuality made an appearance on stage, even if that was not the theme of her story. A dear, trusted friend (Jill Segraves) worked with me to create a romantic backstory between our two female-identifying characters. When she finally walked into town, the ensuing drama (drama that often comes with any normal relationship breakup) put a spotlight on Moira’s screaming bi-sexuality, as she is currently in a straight-seeming relationship. It spurred on a lot of good, hard conversations about sexuality, relationships, straight-passing, queer acceptance, and identity. I would have never been able to explore these concepts from a different angle if I didn’t have gaming to tell that story, or support other people exploring their own queerness through the exposure of my own story.
I hope gamers all across the world will be more comfortable in the future exploring their queerness through the gaming arena and that we continue to create safe, supportive spaces to tell such stories. There will be at least two more blogs this week from guest bloggers, telling their stories of Queerness in Gaming. I cannot wait to share them with you all.
One thought on “LARPing While Queer…”
In the ‘90’s – culturally the closet were very much still dark, scary and locked place for the gay community. The AIDS scare was very real and people were just starting to come out publicly, in the South there was stigma, violence, and discrimination especially outside of Atlanta. In Atlanta, GA itself it was more liberal, there was a burgeoning LGBTQ community but it was still very much underground.
In 1993 I went to my first LARP in Atlanta, GA. – a fantasy system and really one of the only games in town. Here I found vibrant and colorful gay men proudly (forgive the term) flaming out while playing powerful and influential characters. For an 18 year old hetero boy, no matter how liberated I may have grown up, it was a shock. I remember being surprised and taken aback not at the fact they were gay…but at the audacity of how open and safe they were. The LARP provided me an opportunity to get to know the community, the individuals and it shaped my life. Since then I have helped friends come out of the closet, protected them when needed and stood beside them and the LGBTQ community. It was those early interactions and the fact that it was so open and welcoming of them as individuals, the only thing that mattered was if they were good at the game. In turn these men (and women) lived and grew and were the genesis of the “Family” at large. Over the years we’ve all moved on, some have died to cancer or AIDS, some have simply gone their own way or like myself have moved far away. Those early interactions with the community were key in shaping beliefs, commitment and world view and my life has been amazing because of those interactions
For those that have suffered and continue to fight for equality and recognition, for safety and solace, for family and connection, understand that your efforts ripple far outside the LGBTQ community and help shape the hetero community as well. Your courage helps bridge our understanding and bring folks closer to that great family.