For the past ten years, I worked as a graphic artist for several wholesale to the trade companies. Recently, I worked in the Advertising Department of Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, LA. During that time, I was a graphic artist and then the administrative assistant to the advertising director. In addition to my work in graphic art and advertising, I developed myself through two degrees. First, I earned a B.A. in Humanities with a major in Mass Communication from Dillard University in New Orleans, LA. Then, I earned an A.S. in Video Game Design from Full Sail in Orlando, FL. I moved in Massachusetts this year and entered the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth, MA.
A gaymer is defined by Perkins Coie and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a gamer who also identifies as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The characteristics include: social and political marginalization, pride, dignity and a common purpose & activity. By individual accounts, gaymers became aware of this common purpose by playing online games and feeling discomfort by hurtful language expressed by other players. Despite the language, the gamer community contends that it is inclusive of all. While this is technically true, cultural norms within the gamer community are a challenge for any who self-identify as part of the LGBT community. The gaymer group identity is a promise to these individuals of a safe haven from: heterosexism, sexism, ageism, racism and general bigotry. Effective community leadership ensures that this is so. The roots of these ideologies, however, differ from the real world understanding.
There are several prominent social and message board sites relevant to the gaming public. Somethingawful.com #8,179
A few sites provide online communities relevant to the gaymer community:
(Rank# out of 30 million by webstatsdomain.com)
Since 2000, self-identifying members of the gaymer community relied on online communities to build a social network of online contacts. These contacts would normally carry over into multiplayer sessions. Gaymer community sites often host chat and discussion for their own guilds and clans, or groups of players that assemble for a common goal in a massively multiplayer online game. These sites host users that often take advantage of the anonymous quality of the Internet. While this a boon for those avoiding explicit persecution, anonymity does not preclude offensive language or content.
In “Dude, you’re a F-g”, C.J. Pascoe describes the kind of language used in online gaming forums as “gender policing.” Young boys will use the term “f-g” as a disciplinary mechanism to regulate others in terms of sexuality and gender, according to Pascoe. This activity is divided along lines of race as cultural norms and ideals of masculinity & heterosexuality will differ. While the study focused primarily on young males in high school, a similar situation occurs during activities related to online gaming and online gaming discussion. 4Chan and Reddit members engage in these activities as well. The gender policing on these sites is explicitly distinct from systemized homophobia. Members that engage in gender policing are not exclusively heterosexual or male. In fact, individual accounts suggest that members that use gender policing are liberal in acceptance of homosexuality. Issues of gender in gaming discussion include relationships with females and the “trap” meme. The trap, as defined by knowyourmeme.com, is a young male who is indistinguishable from a female who may entice otherwise heterosexual males into relations. Claims of misogyny, while not exclusive to the online gaming community, have caught the attention of organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center.
In order to define social and political marginalization, I first looked at the practice of self-identification in the United States. In 1997, the Executive Office of the President Office of Management and Budget announced revised government-wide standards for reporting data on race and ethnicity. These revisions were a response to the responsibilities the government assumed to enforce civil rights laws. Furthermore, these revised standards allowed for individuals to self-identify as multiple races and ethnicities. Before these standards, less than 2% of the population self-identified with multiple backgrounds. Checks for this self-identification relied upon input from both the individual or “respondent” and the data collector or “observer.” The Office of Management and Budget stated that these categories were social-political and independent of genetic, biological or anthropological qualities of the respondent. Multiple race reporting was opposed by several state governments and agencies and certain tribal governments. Despite opposition by tribal governments, Census data from 2000 and 2010 noted a 26.7% increase in the Native American population.
In 2010, the National Center for Transgender Equality released a bulletin describing the Census and its impact on the transgender population. In the bulletin, the NCTE suggests individuals report the gender (male or female) that they most identify with further noting that “transgender” is not yet an option in self-identifying gender in census data. On the matter of sexuality, the bulletin notes that the Census reports all same-sex couples as “unmarried partners.” With the passage of the Matthew Shepard act by Congress, the definition of hate crimes extended to those committed on the basis of perceived sexual orientation. While not evidence of the support of self-identification of sexuality or gender as a social-political construct, the act is an acknowledgment of the violence and marginalization imposed externally.
The New York Times reports an emerging trend in younger individuals who traditionally identify as being part of the LGBT community. The articles introduces a new rubric, LGBTQIA. Q defined as “queer” or questioning. I defined as “intersex,” an interviewee later expresses a similar concept as “bi-gender” or being interchangeably male and female. A defined as “ally” (friend of the political cause) or “asexual” expressing an absence of sexual attraction. The article notes that the trend among younger individuals is to view identity as “distinct from sexual orientation.” The goal of this expansion of the identity, as the article notes, is the upending of gender roles of the binary male and female.
Personally, I am a member for a federally recognized Native American. This group identity provides for pride, dignity and self-determination. Federally recognized tribes have a nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government. This means that the incorporated bodies of tribes have distinct governments, specific history and hold political influence over the membership. Each tribal government, representative of the will of the membership, determines the criteria for membership in the tribe. This is usually done through a calculation of descent known as “blood quantum.” Other types of individuals include members of tribes not recognized by the federal government yet recognized by the state government. Other individuals may not be enrolled in a tribe; yet, they are accepted as part of the community by having recognized familial ties. In each of these cases, observer, either a member of the larger community or outside observer, and respondent input serve as checks for self-identification. Questions like, “where did you grow up?”; “Who are your grandparents?”; “Do you know members of other tribes in your area?”; or “Do you speak your language?” are commonly used as mechanisms to verify the identity of the individual. This method is similar in concept to gender policing employed by young males; yet, different in execution. The purpose of the policing by members of the group identity, from the view of this member, is the defense of the identity from dilution. Dilution means the loss of value or meaning. Dilution of an identity leads to confusion as to who qualifies as a member of the group identity. This defense of the group identity does not preclude someone from exercising the expressly personal right of self-identification. It does affect, however, the group’s acceptance of the self-identifying individual. Furthermore, the policing of an identity by a group leads to creation of a class system of identity. For example, the gamer community is a group of individual with a common activity. Details of that activity, “What systems do you own?”; “What games do you play?”; or “What is your gamertag?” help the group determine the class of member. In this context, gamers can be “hardcore” or “casual” which signify an individual’s devotion to the activity. Furthermore, protection by the group from dilution of the identity functions as a defense against harmful stereotypes. In the context of Native Americans, the group identity is reduced to caricatures in the promotion of professional sports mascots. The NAACP resolved to renounce these mascots as they affect the dignity and pride of the group.
Marginalization as defined by Black’s Law is, “the process of according less importance to something or someone moved away from the inner workings of the group. A social phenomenon of excluding a minority, subgroup, or undesirables by ignoring their needs, desires, and expectations.” In terms of a systemized practice of marginalization, I turn to the statement by Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God. In the book Hurston states that the black woman is the “mule of the world.” This idea is backed up with the qualities of: worked to death, ruined with mistreatment, and capable of incredible strength empowering her to bear impossible loads. Stacey Patton in a review for the Wellesley Centers for Women notes an assertion by black feminist think, Michele Wallace. That assertion was that the mule image and a subsequent image of the black superwoman resulted in a “conspiracy of silence about black women’s disenfranchisement and exploitation, within both black communities and the larger white-supremacist society.” This stereotype was a mechanism in the social and political marginalization of the black woman. With the definition of marginalization in mind, I assume the idea of privilege is a pass closer to or into the inner workings of society.
So then, who are the “gaymers?” By expressly personal right of self-identification, anyone can assume the identity of a gaymer. By assuming that identity, the individual assumes: political and social marginalization, a common purpose and activity, pride and dignity. By definition, the person also takes on the identity of someone associated with the LGBT community. As shown in the New York Times, the emerging trend works to expand the identity beyond the binary confines of male and female and into something distinct from sexual orientation. Still, we can assume all gay gamers, lesbian gamers, bisexual gamers and transgender gamers are gamers. Can we assume that all gay gamers, lesbian gamers, bisexual gamers and transgender gamers are gaymers? And if they are not gaymers than do they not share in the social and political marginalization, common purpose and activity, pride or dignity? If one does qualify to be part of the group, by what process does that person opt out?
Identity is the quality of “sameness.” The axiom is that “birds of a feather flock together.” Whether as an individual who shares in a common activity or as someone who identifies along the same lines of orientation or gender, there exists a commonality between the members of the gaymer community. In 2002, Rick Gage started Gamers Experimentations as a community for gaymers. It was a subdomain of his own web hub experimentations.org which provided members of the LGBT community an online space to discuss various facets of pop culture. In 2003, Chris Vizzini started Gaymer.org. Vizzini took his case to internet newsgroups regarding the creation of his service. In the news logs of Gaymer.org Vizzini writes:
“A lot of people replied to my newsgroup posts saying what's the point, what difference does it make if you are gay or not, you are just further separating yourself from mainstream society...gamers are gamers. This is not so. I've been to many sites where a reply to someone's post will be "You suck, f-ggot" or the like. I'm not a militant gay person either, I don't get all up in arms about the word f-g, but it does get a bit tiresome. It's not even so much about the use of the word (I use it myself)...it's the mindset of the people who use it in that way.
“Hopefully this site will evolve into something where people get together and play locally. This is Atlanta and there some homophobic people here. Personally, I'd rather not risk getting some nutcase who wants to crack my skull cracked open. Knowing there are risks like that, wouldn't you want something like this if you were gay? HOWEVER, this isn't only for gay people...I don't know why people are not getting this cuz I posted it every time in the newsgroups. If you are str8, bi whatever...I have no problem at all with you coming on here. Would be great as a matter of fact, but know that there will be gay people at game functions.”
Ultimately, the importance of the gaymer community lies in its common purpose. It is a curious rationale that does not explain any perceived separation. The common purpose is this, “I don’t care about any of this. I just want to talk about video games.” The gaymer is an individual that while a part of the gamer community does not want to waste precious time in-game explaining an identity. The gaymer does not want to waste a wall of text in forums on essays as to why a phrase or meme is offensive. The sameness of the gaymer identity is a promise that like-minded individuals will promote discussion and keep thing fun for the group. That, in the end, is the importance and need for “gaymers.”