Theory From the Closet: Homosexuality and RPG’s

Theory From the Closet: Homosexuality and RPG’s

I wish Alexander would do more interviews about anything.

Great show.
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  • Hm... although interesting, this interview feels really unfocused, in a way that disappointed me.
    I'd like to see some deeper analysis of the topics that Alexander draws us to.
    Like... there's a new social dimension to a table when an openly gay player sits down.
    That's really interesting terrain, but I feel like the observation is short-changed and reduced to "it's like when a girl joins the table, and people have weird sexuality hang-ups that transcend player/character dichotomy!"

    It'd be cool to have a deeper analysis of how trust is established and developed, where groups take romantic/social/sexual aspects of their stories, etc.

    Having shared a table with someone who was openly and vocally gay, and who would sometimes play gay characters at the table, I saw a lot of really interesting dynamics emerge. I noticed that there were more relationships (gay and straight) explored at the table, that people were more cautious about how they approached gender and inclusion in the game, that I felt uncomfortable playing a gay character myself (as a largely straight man), and that some people felt weird being asked to play a suppporting character (ie, an NPC/extra) who was the gay lover of another character (whereas playing a female, an alien, a schizophrenic, a murderer... these were things we could readily ask another player to support us in playing). I noticed how surprised I was when that particular player decided to play a straight character (especially a straight character who was "visibly" straight, ie in a straight relationship, carousing with the ladies, etc).

    ...so, yeah. I've seen some of the dynamics that Alexander mentions. This stuff interests me. I'd like to have heard more in-depth exploration of the things he was talking about, perhaps focusing on fewer points so as to get further into each.
  • (I also posted this on the Theory From the Closet site)

    Good show. Not a topic that I had actually put much thought into so it really go me thinking.

    I'm actually a bit surprised by all the rants Alexander had. Is it really necessary to tell guys that gay men don't want to sleep with them? Apparently it is. I expected that gamers (in general) were more a open-minded group. But, I guess, there is still a large representation of traditional gamers who are, well... traditional.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: mjbauerI expected that gamers (in general) were more a open-minded group
    IME, groups that have faced ostracism themselves can be some of the least inclusive and most bigoted people out there.

    Don't have to be, obviously, and often aren't, but the idea that gamers are somehow more open to [The Other] in general then the general population seem strange to me.

    (Disclaimer: Only just downloaded the podcast, so I can't speak for any specific behavior mentioned there.)
  • Aaron, I also heard the same professed about Sci-fi fans. Not because they've been ostracized (though at some point they were), but because their hobby is supposedly all about imagining the different, the different people, the different people, cultures, etc.

    I'd rather not comment on that assumption.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: Thunder_GodAaron, I also heard the same professed about Sci-fi fans. Not because they've been ostracized (though at some point they were), but because their hobby is supposedly all about imagining the different, the different people, the different people, cultures, etc.

    I'd rather not comment on that assumption.
    People generally think well of groups that they self-identify as being a part of, and ascribe to the group values and qualities that they themselves hold or view as positive. For example, I've met people on all sides of the political spectrum in the U.S. who view their party or faction as being the most educated or most intelligent on average - the "thinking person's party" or what have you. There's a fact to the matter, of course - one group will have a higher average level of education than the others, for example - but this rarely factors in to these beliefs. People on these forums regularly express a belief that "story games" or "indie games" or whatever the preferred term are superior to "trad games," or at least no worse. Rarely does a regular poster here claim that oWoD or DnD are wholly superior systems to Dogs or PTA, and likewise whenever there's a flame war someone is sure to point out that at least we're not as bad as group Y, or that the hostility has positive cultural value.

    People rationalize. It's good to confront that.
  • We have a pretty easy-going group.

    Our ongoing D&D game (which has gone through AD&D2e, 3rd ed, 3.5, and now 4E) had a significant gay NPC character in the game. The character wasn't played for laughs at all - he was a serious hero, a noble knight, an elder statesman, and eventually a good friend of the PCs. I laid on hints throughout the game that he was gay, but the players never got it until another NPC got drunk and disclosed that tidbit of information. It wasn't really a big deal except insofar as it added some additional depth to an already memorable character. We also had a gay PC (a man, played by a woman, so I am not sure if it counts) who got decreed gay by the rest of the players, and then she just ran with it. That added some additional emotional depth to a d20 Cthulhu game we were doing.

    None of us are gay or lesbian, our gender diversity includes one girl, and that's about that. We prefer going the Buffy route. Saying we had a gay NPC should (ultimately) be as significant as saying that we had a blond NPC. We also have occasional gender bending, and most of the games have romantic subplots now and then, and it works out okay. It just kinda works, although one player does try to get under my skin by telling the female NPCs I run who are related to him "I love you" as much as possible. . . we make him play the slayer during Buffy games, so it all evens out.
  • Interesting interview. Boy! People are really at very different spots on this issue. My brother's gay and I've know for 30 years so for me - no big deal. But when people first encounter this there is all the halting speech and discomfort. Eventually people get over it.

    Ian (my brother) ran a cool gay flavored game at Gen Con this year "Bareback Mountains of Madness". None of the players were gay but all played it up wonderfully.

    I have had gay characters in Matrix Games. In spy games from the 40's gay was a wedge issue to blackmail people into working for you. My wife has used gay relationships in games to cement loyalty of NPC.

    The gay thing is such a non-issue once people get over their "stuff".

    Chris Engle
  • I played a game with Alexander in which I played a homosexual man and he played a heterosexual woman. It was fun to have Alexander call me a fag.
  • I am interested in the comfort angle, insofar as some people feel uncomfortable playing women or gay characters.

    I have played murderers, messiahs, demons, angels, prostitutes, priestesses, traitors, tyrants, terrorists, gods, illusions, thieves, Nazis, Communists, Pythagoreans, rapists, freedom fighters and heroes, and am so far none of these things. Add women and gay people to the list; it makes no difference to me.

    What is key is trust - playing with a group that understands boundaries. We're happy hand-waving a lot of the romantic stuff through - we're big kids and we have sufficient imagination to fill in the gaps in ways that fit our comfort level. We also make sure of this: unless the game says otherwise, each player's character is his or her own creative domain. All that proceeds thus must do so in accordance with their comfort and wishes. Those who do otherwise can take the douche bus to another game.
  • Posted By: Luke WheelI played a game with Alexander in which I played a homosexual man and he played a heterosexual woman. It was fun to have Alexander call me a fag.
    Luke,
    what was that like, playing a gay character when there was an actual gay player at the table? Did you feel a different set of priorities/responsibilities/whatever in playing that character?

    I know I feel way different about playing an X character with an X player at the table, whether X is gender, race, sexuality, profession.
  • edited September 2009
    Since I come off as a bit of a redneck -- and most people assume rednecks are either all straight or all deep, deep in the closet -- sometimes I'm almost tempted to do the whole rainbow or pink thing. But rainbows? Pink? It's just not me. However, I do kinda understand the desire to wear your sexuality on your shirt. If someone chooses to play with you after finding out you're gay, then at least that's one possible obstacle to a positive experience out of the way immediately. When I play with new acquaintances before they know I'm gay, can I play a gay character without one player assuming I'm trying to be "edgy," another assuming I'm trying to flirt, and another assuming I'm the comedic relief? Yes, of course, with the right players. So obvious tells are practical in that sense. But the other side of the coin is that even nice, rational people tend to take rainbows and pink shirts as screaming, "I'm a representative of the gay community -- ask me about fashion/theatre/anal!"

    The whole issue is a little obnoxious to me, independent of which side each of us falls on. I don't play gay characters because I want to express my homosexuality (as if I weren't doing that just by being me), but because it's one less thing I need to keep in the forefront of my mind as I roleplay. And if I ever were to wear anything pink or rainbowy, it wouldn't be because I see gaming as a political assembly, but rather just so there will be one fewer turd at the table. Of course, I can only speak for myself, and I wouldn't want to do otherwise.
  • I could listen to Alexander all day. I'm gonna download this right now.

    Incidentally, Rob Bohl and my ongoing podcast/design experiment, Oo! Let's Make A Game! is dealing a lot with sex and gender stuff right now. Alexander, I seem to have lost your email. If you're around these parts, I'd really, really love your thoughts. You always say something smart.

  • Posted By: joepub
    Luke,
    what was that like, playing a gay character when there was an actual gay player at the table? Did you feel a different set of priorities/responsibilities/whatever in playing that character?
    There were occasional twinges of, "I hope I'm doing this right," counterbalanced with, "Jesus, I hope Dro and Thor don't think I'm a fag," offset by, "why the hell did I decide to do this?" I loved that character. He was challenging to play from the standpoint that I wanted his love for this other man to be a normal, understandable thing made tragic because the relationship was ugly and unbalanced. I was playing a man who was little more than a slave. He was a pirate lord. The love was not reciprocal. And I failed all my rolls.

    Alexander, on the other hand was playing a tyrannical witch of a woman hellbent on having her will done. She was an object of power -- sexual, magical and temporal -- in the group and Alexander wielded that stick mercilessly.
  • This summer I played a gay character in Burning Empires. The other players didn't realize he was gay until I made it clear by having him go to a gay club. In particular, since he started the game *engaged* to a female NPC, everyone just assumed he was straight. In fact I played it that he was very trapped in this feudal society where marriage is a big obligation game and has little to do with love. It was pretty cool! I also definitely played up this character as something of an "action hero"—a battle commander and ass-kicking Hammer Lord.

    Matt
  • Matt: That's pretty cool.

    My favorite gay character was a female pirate captain in love with the governor's daughter. She was out pirating trying to get rich enough for the governor to see past the fact that she was a woman and let her marry her love. Tragically, she died trying to get the treasure.
  • Posted By: Luke WheelAnd I failed all my rolls.
    So apparently it wasn't that different.


    I played a gay character once where it never came up in-game, which I guess would be an example of sexual orientation being as (not) important as other details. It was certainly less important than the bad French accent I used in-character. But acually, I was a bit annoyed because the campaign didn't give us any room outside of "the mission" for extra roleplaying stuff, which is why it never came up.
  • Having GM'ed a group for a while that was approx. 50% openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, I have to say I didn't really notice any problems or differences in the group. This was likely because they all knew each other well before we started playing. The only noticeable 'difference' was a result not of sexuality, but the fact that one of my gay players hadn't gamed before and it caused a little friction with his then-partner who was also at the table. This was nothing that I wouldn't expect from a straight couple in the same situation.

    Sometimes I think it's better not to observe these things too closely, lest we pick up on 'signs' that simply aren't there, or fail to repeat the process adequately on the other side of the divide in order to get a proper basis for comparisson. In the last game I created, I deliberately included as part of the character creation process a point where the player must explicitly state whether their character is straight, gay or bi because it directly affects their use of seduction, and how it can be used upon them. I think that's what we need more of really, inclusion, not analysis.

    -Ash
  • I just realized (once again) that there's not a single really, totally, Kinsey 0-kinda person in my gaming group. I only ever notice that when this topic comes up and I read about straight (mens?) groups "issues" with gay gamers.

    ...

    Makes me wonder if our dynamic would change if a totally straight person sat at the table... ^_^
  • I was in a game of Storming the Wizard's Tower last Dreamation with a good friend and his boyfriend, now his fiance. My friend was playing the annoying little-brother type to his boyfriend's slightly older, more than slightly annoyed brother. Their interaction was spot-on and hilarious, and of course, they have great witty banter outside of game interaction as well.

    When one of the other players, who seemed much the "trad gamer" type, exclaimed "You're just like brothers outside of the game, too!" We all nearly lost it. My friends kept composed and just changed the subject. Now, I don't know if them having actually stopped to explain to the other player that they were, in fact, very very gay would have changed the dynamic at all. I think most of the people at the table were aware of their relationship, though, and the only thing that it affected was their great in-game chemistry, which I'd expect from any het couple that also roleplayed together often and well. Things might have been different if we weren't all playing kids, I guess.
  • I've played in groups where the gay players outnumbered the straight. There wasn't ever an issue with it, though.

    The "gay dynamic" while playing with groups I know has really never been a problem for me, because -- well, they *know* me and I'm partnered, so the fact that I'm gay is pretty much out there on the table -- especially considering that I game a lot *with* my partner. Though -- after reading some of the posts here, I've realized that I don't recall anyone ever playing a gay character in one of those games who wasn't actually *gay*, so I'm wondering if it's an unspoken possibility that people would feel uncomfortable playing gay in front of me.

    The issue of my sexuality affecting other players really only comes up for me when playing with strangers. Like Jarod, I wonder if I can play a gay character without it being an issue -- either just the fact of the character or what it leads people to assume about me.

    I can remember a Dreamation a couple of years ago where I played Bliss Stage with Ben Lehman and two other players. I'd just met Ben in a previous game of Polaris and didn't know the other two players at all (one of whom I believe was Daniel Solis). One of the first things that came up in the game was naming the Anchors which, by the rules, are based on someone each player had a crush on in high school.

    I was immediately faced with the issue of outing myself. There was exactly one person I had a serious crush on in high school and he was very much a guy. That Dreamation was my first real gaming con and I'd already felt a little weird about outing myself in "gaming culture", as it were.

    I ended up telling the truth on that one and no one blinked an eye. And then I ended up playing out a classic shonen-ai/boy's love story that, of course, ended tragically. :) But still, I have to say, I had reservations about taking that first step.

    A friend of mine noted this year at Dreamation - in the PTA/Cold Sleep game we played - that he always feels that there's this underlying assumption with a lot of my characters that they're at least quasi-possibly gay/bi -- even when I'm playing a supposedly heterosexual character. I played Tony in that game and a big part of his issues were dealing with his girlfriend. I didn't have any issues with playing a straight guy, but afterwards, I think he might of had a point there... :)

    Actually -- now that I think about it, that same Dreamation I played in a game of Misery Bubblegum where I was playing a very straight jock whose issues were all about this girl he had a crush on, and feeling like I was doing a pretty good job with it, when Remi suddenly had his male best friend declare his undying love.

    I gotta say, that threw me. :)

    -d-
  • One of my favorite games of Breaking the Ice was with Kat Miller. We each played women who fell in love. Hers was a long-time out lesbian, very comfortable with herself and her identity. Mine was newly realizing it herself, with a conservative, religious family. Her father was a minister.

    There was this beautiful moment in the game, where my character was angsting about telling her family or having anyone find out, and Kat, in character, gave an impassioned speech about how if people couldn't accept me as I was, how could they really be treating me with love. My heart still beats faster a bit when I think of that. My character came out to her family, taking Kat's character's hand at another wedding, in front of God and everybody.

    I haven't listened to the interview yet. I wonder if Alexander talked about his slash game with Superman and Batman? So funny and so good.
  • edited September 2009

    I ended up telling the truth on that one and no one blinked an eye. And then I ended up playing out a classic shonen-ai/boy's love story that, of course, ended tragically. :) But still, I have to say, I had reservations about taking that first step.

    That's ballsy, man. I'm glad it was that crowd you were with at the time.

    [Dewhispered cuz Dan asked me to so we can discuss.]

  • I find myself more and more playing bisexual characters or characters who's sexuality is undefined until someone takes an interest for the sole reason that I'm becoming an In-game romance and sexuality junky.

    It's funny that I'm fulfilling the old incorrect stereotype of bisexuals with my meta behavior at the table.

    I guess I'm just a slut for the romance.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: joepubHm... although interesting, this interview feels really unfocused, in a way that disappointed me.
    I'd like to see some deeper analysis of the topics that Alexander draws us to.
    Like... there's a new social dimension to a table when an openly gay player sits down.

    ...snip...

    ...so, yeah. I've seen some of the dynamics that Alexander mentions. This stuff interests me. I'd like to have heard more in-depth exploration of the things he was talking about, perhaps focusing on fewer points so as to get further into each.
    Yeah. I don't remember a whole lot of the interview. Might have been hungover, and as Clyde said, it was the third go around. I think #2 was the best! If it provokes a little thought, that would be good enough for me. I'll listen to it this evening, and probably have something more cogent to say.
  • Wow, great Dreamation stories, Dainel. Courageous and vulnerable and funny and so rewarding in result.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • It was a difficult conversation, for some reason I had a delay plus echo, which adds even more difficulty to my round-about talking style. I'm trying to think forward, but I have the past hitting me in the ears. I think #2 was probably better, but this is what we had. It was very helpful to alleviating my frustration as I've been wanting to do this show since Alexander mentioned it to me, at the end of Gen Con 2007. I also think it was hard for me to get into the problem as I'm likely a zero or one, plus maybe an X, on the Kinsey scale, (I looked it up after as I'd never heard of it), so I've no idea what it feels like to have to deal with people accepting, or not accepting, your sexuality. That's why the show leaned so hard on Alexander, and I couldn't carry my weight.

    Fortunately you can ask Alexander your own focused questions here.
  • Incidentally, there's a few people speculating as to why straight people don't play gay people, so I'll give the reason why I personally don't. I don't want to offend anyone who's genuinely gay by subscribing too closely to a stereotype that I don't understand. On the rare occasions when I have played a gay character myself, you'd never tell simply because romance never even entered into the story. Ah, sadly, the groups available to me tend to be of an overly rigid mindset. The players do what the GM tells them more or less, and the GM tells them 'Monsters over there, kill they ass'.

    One day I'll find a group I can really play in. One day.

    -Ash
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: Destriarch On the rare occasions when I have played a gay character myself, you'd never tell simply because romance never even entered into the story.
    I think that's really the point anyway isn't it? Sexuality isn't very important outside of sexual situations - which account for most of our lives. We men may impose sexuality onto situations where it doesn't fit (ie making female players uncomfortable by being awkward in games (use your imaginations here) but sex really doesn't fit and when we stop sticking it where it doesn't belong life becomes much more comfortable.

    I work in counseling and encounter this imposition in "Identifying Information". Some people will write "John Doe is a 24 year old gay white Fundamentalist Christian single male..." I write "John is a 24 year white single male who has come to counseling because of depression..." sexuality and religion are important but they don't define who a person is (that stuff is further back in a report). I want the opening document to focus on what they came in saying rather than saying "Wink, wink, they say they are depressed, wink, wink." I know for my part when people sum me up as "Chris is a 45 year old white married Muslim male..." I'm kind of annoyed. Religion is pretty irrelevant.

    BTW the idea of sexuality being on a continuum has been in psychological liturature since Kraft-Ebbling wrote the "Psychothathia-Sexualise" back in the 1880's! (All the good parts are in Latin).

    Chris Engle
  • Posted By: MatrixGamerWe men may impose sexuality onto situations where it doesn't fit (ie making female players uncomfortable by being awkward in games (use your imaginations here) but sex really doesn't fit and when we stop sticking it where it doesn't belong life becomes much more comfortable.
    Speak for yourself! :) I know several female gamers that are just as bad too, including one who used to regularly bring copies of porn mags to the gaming table.

    -Ash
  • Speaking of stories... one of the players in my now defunct AD&D 2e group is gay, which I kind of figured out during our first session together. There was one uncomfortable moment in that first session with a misunderstanding. One of the NPCs who was going to accompany our party (to make up for our lack of a PC healer) was gay, and when we as players were chatting about our group, I said something like "Well, that character doesn't really count" -- because he's an NPC, which I thought was obvious. However, one of the other players asked, "Why, because he's gay?" I was very embarrassed that people would even consider that I'd think something like that, so I blushed and stuttered a bit about NPCs and GMs and players, and so on. It was just our first session, and we all didn't know each other (except for the coworker of mine who invited me there, but even he wasn't a close friend then), so that was something to work through, I guess. After that, when we started knowing each other better, it was never an issue again. (In fact, I'm having lunch with the two tomorrow, I should bring this up and see if they even remember it :)

    As for my own characters, I've played bisexual and gay characters before, including in unveiled intimate scenes (online, usually). I tend to play them just the way I would other characters, only that their objects of affection are of the same gender; I'm not sure if I'm short-changing them that way, but it's the only way that makes sense to me. Even though I've known a couple of gay men who were effeminate, I stay away from that with my gay characters, because I feel like I would be in danger of slipping into parody/stereotypes there.

    Well, I do play them a bit differently when it's a big social taboo in the setting, which of course impacts everything about their person. For example, Lisa and I made characters for a Breaking the Ice game where both "daters" are men in the Confederate army, and while we haven't gotten to play it yet, their circumstances will definitely impact how they feel about their sexuality and their mutual interest in each other.
  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. Newman[Dewhispered cuz Dan asked me to so we can discuss.]
    Thanks, Joshua. :)

    My point was -- was it that ballsy? Isn't this just basic honesty? I know a scenario this specific won't come up much: I was asked a very specific question -- REQUIRED by the game -- that was personal information about myself. In this particular case, dealing with something like sexuality, yeah -- there are places/people that aren't 'safe' and it could have ended badly, but does that mean I shouldn't have been honest? :)

    (Rather a loaded question, I know.)

    If you ask an honest, personal question of someone in a role-playing environment -- what happens when the answer makes people (possibly) uncomfortable? Not to derail the thread, but how honest can play be when people aren't being themselves? Or does that honesty come *after* (at the cost of?) keeping things safe/comfortable.

    [An aside that just occurred to me -- I've known people who don't understand personal boundaries and just shove things on people for the sake of "honesty" ... that is *not* what I mean here.]

    In response to something Chris posted:
    Posted By: MatrixGamerthink that's really the point anyway isn't it? Sexuality isn't very important outside of sexual situations - which account for most of our lives.
    I disagree with that.

    If I encounter you at work and you've got a picture of your girlfriend/wife on your desk, am I suddenly in a sexual situation? The fact that you're in a relationship with someone and the fact of that person's gender is important. I might argue that the search for love/companionship (or the non-interest in same) is an incredibly important part of most people.

    Yes, a character's sexuality/gender preference is probably not going to come up unless romance or relationships is somehow involved, but I don't equate romance with sex. Maybe that's just me. :)

    A lot of story-gaming is going to involve characters and their relationships. Is noting that person's romantic relationships "sticking it where it doesn't belong"?

    Oh -- and one thing I noted in the interview. I think Alexander says at one point there's no gay characters in modules/adventures anywhere he's seen. One came to mind when I heard that. I think the example adventure in the Blue Rose RPG core book involves a young gay guy who's fallen in love with a handsome young stranger, which his local culture doesn't particularly approve of. Rather sweet, as I remember. The game itself also involves a couple cultures that have no issue with homosexuality, and there's even specific world-terminology that's used to identify different gender preferences.

    -d-
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: MatrixGamerI think that's really the point anyway isn't it? Sexuality isn't very important outside of sexual situations - which account for most of our lives.
    But relationships do make up a huge part of our lives, and that can be interesting to explore even if romance doesn't come up in your game. Who is the character dating, or wish she was dating? Is he married? Is it a healthy marriage? Is she cheating? Does he fondly remember the one that got away? Does she have a pesky ex who breezes through sometimes to cause trouble? Is there a little UST with his professional partner?

    Even if none of this comes up in game, it makes the character richer. In my current game I'm playing it that my character has a bit of a crush on another character. (Same sex, as it happens.) I don't expect it to go anywhere. I don't think anyone else has even picked up on it. But it makes things more interesting for me.
  • edited September 2009
    Thanks, Clyde and Alexander, that made me think.

    I like what Alexander says about hitting on a character not meaning you're hitting on a player. There does seem to be a strange frisson when characters hit on each other. If my character makes romantic advances towards a woman character, played by a woman, there always seems to be a moment when, non-verbally, we negotiate that, no, it's OK, we're not hitting on each other, we're doing a romance for the sake of the story.

    There's probably little chance of discussing things here, which is a shame, but I did like the interview, so thank you.

    Graham
  • I game only with people who know I'm gay, since I usually game only with people I know well. And they're all queer, or very queer-friendly. When I think about trying to find meet new people purely for the purpose of gaming, I do feel some reticence stemming from dealing with reactions to coming out, though it's jumbled with all my other reticences (is that a word?).

    Most of my RP-heavy gaming has been on-line in MUSHes, where I tended to play either women or gay men. People knew that a gay man was at the other end of the interaction, but it's an easy thing to forget when all you see are character posts.

    I think even when sexuality and relationships aren't part of the play, people still hold default assumptions about unrevealed aspects of the characters. I think players in a game that had never dealt with relationships would be a lot less surprised if a male character decided to woo a princess than if he decided to woo a prince.

    I've found that even playing with other gay men can lead to some interesting collisions of norms. I joined a Mage group composed of only gay men, and we all had relatively masculine presentations, burly guys with beards in denim. When I joined, then other guys were all playing gay men who were generally...burly guys with beards in denim. Just for the hell of it I made up a more stereotypical, twinkly sort of gay male character. A good Catholic boy. I even pitched my voice high. They were all somewhat taken aback.

    More often than not I'm a GM when I play, which brings up the question of where sexuality fits in the setting. Do you pretend everyone's heterosexual? Do you pretend that it doesn't matter to the culture, that opting to play a gay character just means a change in pronouns? If you pretend it does matter, how does it matter? It parallels decisions about what role gender or race plays in the setting. Is it just color, or does it have meaning?
  • edited September 2009
    Just a thought as ADMINISTRATOR REX and all that, after seeing the discussion grow:
    Posted By: jenskotI wish Alexander would do more interviews about anything.
    John (and Alexander): Are you cool with folks talking in general about homosexuality in RPGs in this thread? It seems like there's a huge and interesting sharing of experiences here, but I didn't know if you wanted to keep this thread about the podcast and reflections on the podcast alone, or if the greater discussion is cool with you (or should these discussion branches be broken off into its own threads)?

    We're cool either way, but let us know.

    EDIT: Just for full disclosure: I only listen to podcasts in the gym, so I won't be able to hear the cast until tonight myself.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: Joe BeasonWhen I think about trying to find meet new people purely for the purpose of gaming, I do feel some reticence stemming from dealing with reactions to coming out, though it's jumbled with all my other reticences (is that a word?).
    Joe,

    Does this apply to gaming at conventions? (do you game at conventions?)
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: peccablePosted By: Joshua A.C. Newman[Dewhispered cuz Dan asked me to so we can discuss
    If I encounter you at work and you've got a picture of your girlfriend/wife on your desk, am I suddenly in a sexual situation?

    A lot of story-gaming is going to involve characters and their relationships. Is noting that person's romantic relationships "sticking it where it doesn't belong"?


    Sexuality is certainly important in people (and the people we role play) but it's not the most telling thing and when brought up indiscriminately can trigger more sterotypical thinking than not. So I have relationship information further back in records (in therapy where sensitivity to prejudice and social disadvantage is pretty important). In role playing it might be the first thing said if it would be a good hook to hang a performance on. "Brokeback Mountains of Madness" for instance was by definition over the top but if the game was about say, soldiers in WWII where one of them was gay (say Biloxi Blues) gay was not put forward and as the narrator commented the gay character was the one who stood up for everyone. A game could explore the tension that person went through (It'd probably be a good game) but would it be sexual or would it be about society imposing sex on situation that it didn't fit in?

    As to the quesitons. I do have a picture of my wife in my office as well as a calligraphied "Allah u akbar" sign. They only come up if people ask. Otherwise they aren't relevant. Now that's in real life. If it was in a game every piece of information is a hook. It wouldn't be there if it wasn't important so deciding to describe that over the Ganesha statue or the Bambara mask or the books of Christian theology on my book shelves would be a choice telling somthing about the story being told. To highlight something that isn't important would be an odd choice in gaming.

    Noting romantic relationships for a story could be important (Biloxi Blues again) but if that isn't the focus of the game then why impose something on a character? That should be the player's right to decide, not the GM's, or so I think.

    I will cop to being a little too flip with my response above. It doesn't have a lot to do with what I think about role playing. It's about my politics and life experience. Sorry if I offended.

    Chris Engle
  • I work in counseling and encounter this imposition in "Identifying Information". Some people will write "John Doe is a 24 year old gay white Fundamentalist Christian single male..." I write "John is a 24 year white single male who has come to counseling because of depression..." sexuality and religion are important but they don't define who a person is (that stuff is further back in a report).

    Chris, you're really giving us fodder for Oo! Let's Make a Game! Our project is all about identity, including sexual identity, and the signifiers you use to detail them, whether or not they're actually "you", through the lens of Transhumanist science fiction.

    Dan asked,

    My point was -- was it that ballsy? Isn't this just basic honesty?

    I'm glad it feels that way. It takes courage to come out about anything, and sexuality is both personal (and part of the game at hand, admittedly) and something that enough people get violent about that it would concern me, were I in your shoes. On a less dramatic level, all it would take is someone at the table who it will upset for whatever reason, and the whole game will be tainted with discomfort.

    On the other hand, I dropped in and watched you guys for a few minutes in that game, and it looked like you were having a really intense, good time, so your judgment was obviously good.

    If you ask an honest, personal question of someone in a role-playing environment -- what happens when the answer makes people (possibly) uncomfortable?

    Ideally? You examine your own assumptions. Practically? I dunno. You probably blush and say something embarrassing that might even be incidentally hurtful, then backpedal, then try to make up for it by buying the guy a beer, then fumble around when you say you're not hitting on him, cuz you're totally straight, and then secretly question that. Then feel shame and announce to your friends later how straight you are and how the guy was such a fag. You know, freak out.

    I suspect strongly, though, that the people who are going to show up to play Bliss Stage will tend toward the first option unless they didn't read the game description at all.

    there are places/people that aren't 'safe' and it could have ended badly, but does that mean I shouldn't have been honest? :)

    "Should" is a funny word. It's not my identity, con fun, new friends, or neck on the line. I think it's great you were honest about it, and I'm glad it went well. I think your judgment in the matter is the only informing element of "should". I'd hope that if your judgment told you it would go badly, you'd do what would be best that netted you the best experience.

    Speaking of which, I had an employee come out to me once. I was on the verge of tears that he felt like he could trust me like that. I mean, he was a nice kid, and we'd talked a lot, but he didn't have to come out to me, and I was his boss. If I were a different person, I could have found reasons to fire him. It was pretty intense that he was OK being that vulnerable in the 90% business relationship we had (the other 10% being that we shared certain geekly interests and were both graphic designers in different phases of our careers). There's more on the line in a boss/employee relationship than in a casual social one at a con, but it's the same kind of thing.

    It's also the kind of of revealing experience that is the reason I like role-playing.

  • Posted By: AndyJohn (and Alexander): Are you cool with folks talking in general about homosexuality in RPGs in this thread? It seems like there's a huge and interesting sharing of experiences here, but I didn't know if you wanted to keep this threadabout the podcast and reflections on the podcast alone, or if the greater discussion is cool with you (or should these discussion branches be broken off into its own threads)?
    It's cool with me. If the thread gets too long, branching threads may be needed to make the conversation more accessible. But I love the sharing!

    In BLACKOUT (the game I'm designing and running every other Friday as part of the GGG), you can randomly create characters by drawing dominoes and picking suggestions from a list. The suggestions are time and location specific. For example, the suggested names are based on the top 10 popular male and female names among white, black, asian, and hispanic children in NYC in the 1990s (since the game is set in NYC on Thursday, August 14th, 2003 at 4:15pm).

    As part of random character creation, one of the players generated a gay character. 2 of the other players are gay and decided to play themselves. So 3 out of the 5 characters are gay but in play it is only as important as any other character detail and no more so. It's not ignored. It just is. Although technically by the rules of BLACKOUT they may no longer be gay by the end of the game but the same can be said for being male, female, or even being human. The dynamic between 2 gay players playing 2 gay characters and 1 heterosexual player (who is the only female player in the game) playing 1 gay character has been very natural.

    I have seen social status plays by people trying to seem cool and that can be lame. I'm playing a woman, look how different and cool I am. Where it should just be a very normal, human thing. Why fetishsize it?

    That being said, when I play a gay character with gay players or a female character with female characters, I definitely feel extra self aware. Same if I was playing a different ethnicity. I don't want to play a caricature or stereotype. But ultimately I accept I'm going to make an ass out of myself at some point and look at it as a learning experience. My only hope is that my friends will prop me up when I fall rather than kick me when I'm down :-) We're all ignorant of most things till we're not cause there is just too much to know and experience. And there is a hell of a lot to learn by making mistakes and taking risks. But ultimately it's important to be aware of the social contract. If people are looking for escapism, that's going to be a very different game than full on engagement. So play needs to flow accordingly.
  • BTW, Chris's comment, "I think that's really the point anyway isn't it? Sexuality isn't very important outside of sexual situations - which account for most of our lives."?

    It could also be read differently, which some people aired on their blogs in 2007 or so which caused some kerfluffle: Sexual situations account for most of our lives, and sexuality is not very important outside of these situations.
  • Posted By: Thunder_GodBTW, Chris's comment,"I think that's really the point anyway isn't it? Sexuality isn't very important outside of sexual situations - which account for most of our lives."?

    It could also be read differently, which some people aired on their blogs in 2007 or so which caused some kerfluffle: Sexual situations account for most of our lives, and sexuality is not very important outside of these situations.

    Freud's old Chestnut. I'm pretty cognitive behavioral in approach. I don't deny the underlying sexuality of life but as it says in the AA Big Book "some would allow no flavor for our fair and others would have us on an straight pepper diet."
  • Chris, if you hit the "HTML" button under your posts, the links will work right.

    Given Dan's example above — the picture of your wife on your desk, for instance — it's hard to get away from things that address your gender. If your character is a pawn, used to tactical ends, it doesn't matter. Pawns don't have gender. But if there are plot hooks — a prince has been kidnapped! Save him and you'll be rewarded! — then things take on different meanings that would be handily ignored. All it takes is human interest, an appeal to a character's nature, and the whole mix comes into play, gender and all.

  • Posted By: MatrixGamerI will cop to being a little too flip with my response above. It doesn't have a lot to do with what I think about role playing. It's about my politics and life experience. Sorry if I offended.
    No offence taken. :)
    Posted By: MatrixGamerSexuality is certainly important in people (and the people we role play) but it's not the most telling thing and when brought up indiscriminately can trigger more sterotypical thinking than not.
    I completely agree with this. If I introduce my new Elven Ranger and simply throw out "and he's FAAAAAAAAAAAAABULOUS!" with absolutely no context, then yes -- this is definitely including that piece of information just for itself. Which, honestly, can be fun, (as the over-the-top example you noted) but playing it like that is not going to have a meaningful impact on role-playing.
    Posted By: MatrixGamerAs to the quesitons. I do have a picture of my wife in my office as well as a calligraphied "Allah u akbar" sign. They only come up if people ask..
    And if I were in your office for a purely professional purpose, I probably wouldn't ask. Because it wouldn't be pertinent to our interaction.

    However, if I wanted to get to know anything about you as a person then I certainly would ask about both. Perhaps not overtly and perhaps not immediately. Religion (and certainly, sexuality) sometimes being a touchy subject, I probably wouldn't start there, but if I wanted to get to know you in any depth, I certainly hope I'd end up there.
    To highlight something that isn't important would be an odd choice in gaming.
    And this is where I think we disagree. I have a hard time imagining a character in any real depth -- knowing their relationships, their connections to other people -- and not knowing who they might be or might fall in love with. Maybe that's just the romantic in me. :)

    And I have to admit, this point probably pushes a bit of a personal button in me, as it sometimes echoes the argument of being truthful in who one is as "forcing" your sexuality on people. If anyone wants to know me in any real, meaningful way they're going to know I'm partnered. I'm not saying this was your intent at all, but it's sometimes hard for me not to get defensive when anything even vaguely like that idea is put out on the table. (i.e. "Why do you have to make such an *issue* of it?")

    -d-
  • Hey,

    This thread is the first in a long time on Story Games where I've felt that the conversation was meaningful and discussed with civility. People are treating one another as people, and treating the topic as important, and exploring some interesting stuff.

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank all participants and spectators for creating this rich thread. Mad props.

    And now...

    Posted By: MatrixGamer
    I do have a picture of my wife in my office as well as a calligraphied "Allah u akbar" sign. They only come up if people ask. Otherwise they aren't relevant. Now that's in real life. If it was in a game every piece of information is a hook. It wouldn't be there if it wasn't important so deciding to describe that over the Ganesha statue or the Bambara mask or the books of Christian theology on my book shelves would be a choice telling somthing about the story being told. To highlight something that isn't important would be an odd choice in gaming.
    [...]
    Chris Engle
    Chris, the bolded line makes a lot of sense.
    However, I think that importance is really subjective.

    Is it important to know that my Don't Rest Your Head character (who's a drug smuggler that recently lost a shipment and is thus hundreds of thousands in debt, and can't sleep because there are hitmen after him) is gay?

    If he's not in a relationship, and not being pursued by any romantic interests, you could say probably not.
    But in my head, it could make all the difference.

    *I could imagine that he grew up in a very bigoted home, and thus always felt like he was labelled with an outsider status, and that the transit into drugs & dealing was naturalized by feeling already marginalized and judged by my family.

    *I could imagine that his first lover was an older man who was really caring and paternal, and that breaking up with him prompted my character to rebel against him almost as one would rebel against a father figure (turning to drugs, street gangs and other dangerous behaviour).

    *I could imagine that this character was quite closeted, and that his experience of discreet gay lifestyle had normalized for him the idea that there were secret societies nestled into all the nooks and crannies of our society... which would have a huge effect on how he perceived the Mad City (probably less xenophobic, more likely to look for subtle communication differences, likely to succeed and fail in different ways than the other protagonists).

    I don't know that these are good examples or not (DRYH was a weird choice to go with, because it implies a lot of characteristics about its protagonists - a certain grit, a certain desperation, a certain level of edginess)... but in all those cases, I might imagine this character's sexuality to have a lot of subtle (or overt) impacts on his worldview and how he sees the situations immediate to him.

    Thinking that might have a huge impact on the character, and how he is portrayed. Sharing that might have a different impact, also huge.

    So, to say that this character's sexuality (and in those examples I presented, more accurately: his experiences with his sexuality) didn't have a hugely formative effect sounds weird to me.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: MatrixGamerthink that's really the point anyway isn't it? Sexuality isn't very important outside of sexual situations - which account for most of our lives.
    Yeah, I think you're totally wrong here, or deluded. Not in a bad way, but this is one of those not gay: don't get it moments, which I'll nevertheless try to elucidate. The bzzzt... wrong stems from the fact that almost all modern societies are still dysfunctional when it comes to sexuality in general and same-sex relationships in particular. As evidence: still, today, almost all LGBT folk have to endure some process of coming out. With that in mind, try to imagine the days, months, years or decades between the moment you think to yourself "hunh, I guess I really do like smoking the pole. Fuck! What now? I know, hide! Maybe they won't hurt me,"* and the fuzzy time in your life when your coming out process (which is honestly, still a whole fucking lifetime's worth) has pretty much plateaued, and everyone in your everyday life knows you're gay.

    Imagine that period of time when you become painfully aware that everyone is assumed to be straight**. Every billboard is aimed at not-you. Every magazine is about a life that is not-yours. Every time you meet a new colleague, co-student or friend and as part of the normal sizing-up of are we going to get along they assume you're straight***. You get the picture, I hope. The entire fucking world is trying to invalidate your identity in a really passive-aggressive way.

    So now, to take peccable's example, let's hypothesize a new colleague at your workplace, who comes to your desk and is trying to form a functional working relationship with you; one that extends beyond the mere formalities of office interaction, because we're human. He's gay, and he's out to everyone in his life to date, except to you, because you're the new kid on his block. And there's the photo of you and your wife. Awesome. Yet another bloody person to come out to. Boring, but necessary, because otherwise some silly bugger will try to fix him up with a niece or sister or cousin or single girl friend. (Yes, this has happened to me. More than once.) Trust me, you end up having to come out to almost everyone, sooner or later****, and for me it got really fucking old about 20 years ago.

    Sexuality isn't very important to you outside of sexual situations, because your sexuality conforms to the norm that our society presents. By and large, LGBT people just don't exist. There are more and more exceptions to this rule, thank fuck, but still: we just don't appear. It's a big deal when there's a gay couple in a print ad, heaven forfend that a national TV channel ad should have one.

    Sexuality is significant to some of the rest of us almost all the fucking time, because we do exist, despite what the universe tells us again and again and again.

    I'm bored of writing about this right now, and I have to go raid, but I hope this made some sense, and maybe explains why a lot of us homos actually do think it's necessary to "broadcast" our sexuality early in a social relationship. It's a whole lot easier than dealing with the shock and awe when you try to set me up with your sister and I throw up on your shoes.

    So, to get back to one of the points I tried to make in the podcast, and probably lost in the noise of ranting, this is what I'm challenging setting and scenario designers to address. Even more challenging, do it without being facile or using tedious stereotypes. For game designers: can you exploit this dynamic for functional play, or do you end up with shitty psychodrama improv?

    Posted By: peccableOh -- and one thing I noted in the interview. I think Alexander says at one point there's no gay characters in modules/adventures anywhere he's seen. One came to mind when I heard that. I think the example adventure in the Blue Rose RPG core book involves a young gay guy who's fallen in love with a handsome young stranger, which his local culture doesn't particularly approve of. Rather sweet, as I remember. The game itself also involves a couple cultures that have no issue with homosexuality, and there's even specific world-terminology that's used to identify different gender preferences.

    -d-
    Glad to hear that there's some LGBT content in modules did someone else mention some in WotC/D&D published content? Refs, please.

    * Or LGBT variations on the theme. Note: I am being flippant. My sexuality is absolutely not wholly about sex. If I just liked to suck the occasional cock, I'd probably be happily married to a woman and spend more time in the gym steam room. Or the navy.
    ** Or for the majority case: a straight white male, depending on the marketing demographic.
    *** The obvious exception is guys who are clearly flaming and kidding nobody, which is usually a defense mechanism. Flaming == safe (and gets to have more sex with the football team, based on my entirely non-scientific homos-I-have-known survey).
    **** Sooner is definitely better. My office rule-of-thumb was to locate the biggest gossip in the office, chat for a bit, insert an (often completely fictional) throwaway anecdote about an ex-boyfriend, be very clear about his gender, and just let the gossip do the work. Anything for an easy life.
  • Addressing a few different points at once, here....

    Every believable character comes with an ocean of context. The easy way to get that context right is simply to make it the same as your own - I can play a straight, white, Canadian human with relative ease. If the character is not straight, not white, not Canadian, not human, then the whole of the context shifts.

    I can manage that context by ignoring it, by playing with it (often frivolously and probably callously), or by embracing it and trying to play out from inside of it, or any number of other approaches.

    It doesn't have to matter. But if it does, then how it matters, matters too (if that makes sense).
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: IskanderSo, to get back to one of the points I tried to make in the podcast, and probably lost in the noise of ranting, this is what I'm challenging setting and scenario designers to address. Even more challenging, do it without being facile or using tedious stereotypes. For game designers: can you exploit this dynamic for functional play, or do you end up with shitty psychodrama improv?
    Cool.

    I think that I addressed this pretty well in Perfect, a game about criminality in a Victorian Dystopia.
    The game basically posits a society in which most of the things we take for granted and love have been made illegal.
    In this society, inspectors subject you to "conditioning treatments" when they catch you committing a crime, attempting to brainwash the bad parts out of you, bit by bit.

    Public affection is against the law. Premarital sex is against the law (as is most premarital touching).
    Art depicting sexuality is against the law.
    Roses = banned.
    Because, after all, society will be much more decent and easily regulated once love is stripped from the equation.

    In effect, straight relationships are villanized and heterosexuals are asked to be invisible.
    So are homosexual relationships, but that's old news.

    The society basically says "we don't want to see it, and where possible, we don't even want you to do it."
    It's interesting watching people react to that, especially because in Perfect you are rebels and criminals - you react with a law by breaking it or observing it.
  • Posted By: Iskander
    Imagine that period of time when you become painfully aware that everyone is assumed to be straight**. Every billboard is aimed at not-you. Every magazine is about a life that is not-yours.
    In response to both this passage and your talk on inclusion...

    At my university, there's an anti-littering poster which depicts someone in a wheelchair tossing garbage onto the sidewalk non-chalantly, along with a message along the lines of "Littering is Bad".

    And I did a double take, and a triple take... because the message deeply confused me. Why were they depicting a person in a wheelchair? I understood the whole "littering = bad" part, and that showing a person littering would demonstrate the bad behaviour... But it took like 30 seconds to wrap my head around the very simple fact that they chose to illustrate a person in a wheelchair doing the littering because people in wheelchairs probably litter just like everyone else.

    I usually consider myself a fairly open-minded person, and challenge myself not to blindly accept a white-washed heteronormative world... to try and be inclusionary... yet this poster baffled me. Because when do you see any media depicting a disabled person when their disability isn't focal and paramount?

    This poster depicted someone who was incidentally disabled, and it caught me off guard in a major way.
    I watched for a minute, and others were taken aback by the poster similarly.
    It was effective because it was attention grabbing.
    It was attention grabbing because it was inclusive in a way that most marketing isn't.
  • edited September 2009

    Or you can play a game about wrestling with it. Please stand by. Game design in progress.

    [Edit: that's to Levi. I'm moving very slowly.]

  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanOr you can play a game about wrestling with it. Please stand by. Game design in progress.
    Absolutely, and awesome.
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