Any of you who follow me on Twitter will likely have seen me tweeting over the last few days about this (http://www.reactionzine.com/an-open-letter-to-games-media/) Open Letter to Games Press. To explain what’s been happening, I was contacted by a moderator at Destructoid who had read said letter and felt that Destructoid could stand to be a more inclusive place in terms of it’s community, particularly in reference to Trans community members.
We spoke on Skype for a while about my personal feelings about the Destructoid community, my personal hesitation to interact with the community ect. We discussed his fears of straying into overzealous censorship and a few other things. He then put me in touch with Dale and Andy at Destructoid over email to discuss things with them.
We’re now almost up to date. Today, that D’toid Moderator posted a blog on Destructoid.com (which can be read here: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Tristrix/an-open-response-to-an-open-letter-dear-samantha-allen–257040.phtml) responding to the initial open letter to games press, as well as our conversation. I’ve been asked by Andy to give my thoughts on the post and everything that’s happening, so I’m doing so here.
I’ll start off just by linking this article (http://www.theaveragegamer.com/2013/04/07/we-need-to-talk-about-birdo) for people who’ve not seen it. TLDR; I’m Trans and a Freelance Games Writer. I’ve faced discrimination in a professional setting fairly frequently in the last year. For those unaware, at the beginning of this month I received an anonymous Phone call while covering EToo in London threatening me if I returned which seemed to be Trans motivated. I bring this up because for me, Trans Discrimination is a real issue, something I do deal with on a regular basis which makes me at times consider giving up covering games. This is largely an industry where I feel unaccepted and excluded.
My point, Discrimination is a very different thing when you experience it rather than just seeing it.
First up, I hugely appreciate Destructoid reaching out to me for my opinion on all of this. The fact you’re involving me in the process here is hugely encouraging and gives me hope that things might eventually change. That said, I am one of the people you mentioned who avoids Destructoid where possible. While there are nice people there, as of late it’s become a place for particularly nasty attitudes unrelated to a genuine discussion of video games, which is what I come to the site for. I’m fine with people having differing opinions, but to share an off topic opinion about how I’m less of a human than everyone else in the comments hurts. While comments like “if you have a dick, you’re not a woman” are technically opinions that people are free to have, I feel they’re not in any way relevant to the majority of discussions of gaming and just serve to make me feel bad about a body I already hate as it is.
Just because something is an opinion, doesn’t mean you they should be allowed to share it without consequences.
“I will not use what little power I have to enforce an opinion.”
These are the kind of statements that worry me. There are a lot of things that are opinions that you can’t tell people not to have, just know that while those sentiments are on the site, Destructoid is not somewhere I’m keen to be. It’s not enforcing an opinion, they get to keep their opinion, you just need to put the message out that some opinions are both irreverent and exclusionary, which will keep me and others away.
“Here’s what I mean by that – as we discuss issues of gender and race and faith quite frequently on the site, ignorant opinions are going to be expressed. I dislike them and will call them out for what they are when I see them, but I will not delete them or ban for them.”
This is something that caught my eye as a point of definition. In this context, if there was an article that’s directly addressing Trans issues ect, then yes I can understand the argument for leaving ignorant opinions up and uncontested as moderators. This, however, is not the majority of your articles. The bulk of articles I’ve had upsetting comments in were not related to Trans issues at all, Anti Trans opinions served no beneficial purpose, they were just there to hurt.
In my view, if you’ve got an offensive but relevant opinion then that’s one thing, but offensive irrelevant views are where the real problem lies for me. If people comment on this blog about their trans opinions that’s one thing and I’d not censor, but I’d remove comments if people were spewing their Trans opinions over one of my unrelated reviews for example.
After reading the post, I (for the first time in a while) went into the comments section.
To the commenters who have been part of the D’Toid community without issue I’m really happy for you, it’s great to hear not everyone’s experience is like mine. That being said, the last time I commented on a Destructoid article someone unprovoked commented back asking when I was chopping my cock off, so everyone’s experience is different. Some may see that as a genuine question, but it was rudely issued with no context or need ect.
I’ll add that it’s much easier to take the often quoted stance of Censorship is never an option/ Censorship is just an equally bad type of discrimination when you yourself don’t have to face regular discrimination. I used to feel that way foolishly before I began transitioning, free speech is the be all and end all, but sometimes people out there are so nasty and upsetting I honestly feel like their right to free speech maybe should be trumped by my need to not be made to feel like dog mess on the bottom of somebodies shoes.
Removal of the chronic trolls would be a big step forward. It’s often the same names popping up time and time again, seemingly unscathed by the sites currently policies.
I’m not asking for mass censorship, just a stance on trans policies where I know if I’m offended by something I can bring that up and someone with knowledge of the issues at hand will step in and do something.
I wish self regulation was enough of a way to fix these issues, but in the case of Destructoid recently, it is certainly not enough. On the other hand, there is a feeling that the self regulation stance was in some ways a way to hope that the community would stand up on these issues and not need official intervention (which is obviously much more difficult for Destructoid to bring themselves to do). Mods could in theory fill the role they were hoping the self regulating community would.
I think honestly the important thing in all this is that you take some kind of stance. Maybe it’s a stance of educating those who seem ignorant, deleting who make an offensive comment and banning on a third strike. Maybe it’s something else. The important thing is you don’t sit back and watch it happen. You need to put something up on the main site that says to people that they’re safe on the site. Saying that while offensive comments may still appear on the site, someone who knows the issues will be there educating and deleting/ banning when needed. Something that says “We’re aware of the issues and will do x, y and z to make sure you feel safe and know who to reach out to if you don’t feel safe”.
I’m sorry if this has been rambling and not really hit the points it needed to, It’s been a tough post to write. I’m not sure what else to add, I just want a site I can come to without fear of people shouting discriminatory things at me under the guise of willful ignorance”.