“But why does it matter?” Orlando is why it matters.

You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the mass shooting at The Pulse – an Orlando LGBT club, which was the largest mass shooting in US history since Wounded Knee. Some great things have been said by some great people. Chuck Wendig’s recipe for a mass shooting is fucking chilling and amazing, as is John Scalzi’s look at the complete and total copout of offering thoughts and prayers without doing anything further.

(Yes I realize it’s a bit sketchy to link to two cishet white guys after a tragedy affecting mostly queer brown people, but both of these pieces are about cishet white guys speaking hard truths to other cishet white dudes.)

And as someone who feels queer-adjacent without actually owning the identity of being queer (at least at present – since I very much present as cishet and 100% benefit from that privilege), I’m conscious of not wanting to take up space that should be claimed by queer voices speaking out on their own behalf. However. There’s a thing that I feel needs saying, and since I haven’t seen anyone else saying it…

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

One of the biggest ways that trolls try to silence me is to say that what I write here isn’t important. Who cares about what I think? After all, it’s just games. It’s not like it’s a matter of life and death, right? It’s all just pixels on a screen / images in a book/board game/card game – right? RIGHT?

IT’S. JUST. A. GAME.

If you’re someone who calls yourself a gamer, or are someone who would say that playing games is a primary hobby, how many hours per week do you spend playing games? All types of games? Seriously. Think about it and come up with an average number of hours per week.

Now think about that as a percentage of your life. How does that number compare to the time you spend, say, at work? Doing housework or other chores? I know that personally, I spend about as much time per week playing games as I do parenting my kid – and I know that I don’t have time to play as many games as a lot of my friends do.

Find something else to do with your time

Now think about the kind of reasoning behind saying that writing about feminism and games is a waste of time because “it’s just a game”. How does that work exactly? If you casually throw around the term “fag” and use the specter of homosexuality and queerness as something to shame the men around you into falling in line with narrow definitions of “acceptable” masculinity? How does being part of a game make expressions of hatred for queerness and queer people somehow magically acceptable?

Even if you’re not someone who engages in hateful speech or behavior – you don’t call other guys “gay” as an insult, you don’t tell women to shut up and get you a sandwich, any of that stuff. Being prepared to accept hate because “it’s a game” frankly isn’t much better. If you spend half (or more, even) of your leisure hours not “rocking the boat” in the name of “just having fun”, what makes you think you’re going to magically be any better at it when you find yourself around people using gendered/racist/anti-queer slurs outside of the context of games? What makes you think you’re even going to notice, when you’re spending such a huge percentage of your life learning to not see your friends engaging in hate?

What we do in our leisure time MATTERS, because our leisure is a huge part of our lives. And for most people, at least for just about all the Millennials I know, our leisure defines us far more than our shitty, dead-end, low-wage, soul sucking jobs.

Well done… I thought games were suppose to be fun, i am almost sure they’re not political. Because you know why? THEY’RE GAMES! They are pixels on the screen that doesn’t hurt anyone

I have spent a large portion of the last five years writing honestly about my experiences – my thoughts and feelings about the sexism I experience and why that matters. And yet, the thing that gets thrown at me over and over again is who cares. Who cares? WHO CARES?

I care, and you should too. 49 people are dead and 53 are injured because of our culture of homophobia and intolerance. The shooter wasn’t an entirely unique phenomenon formed out of the ether. He was informed by a culture of white supremacist patriarchy that told him that his rights were paramount. That being gay is un-masculine. That people who are women and queer and brown are less and other, and that their feelings and lives don’t matter – not the way men’s do.

While I agree with some of your analysis, I also think you sometimes take your analysis to the extreme side finding bias where it might only exist in the mind of the viewing.

Our culture told the shooter that only his thoughts mattered. That his FEELINGS of disgust were more important than the victims’ LIVES.

Do you ever get tired of being unhappy with entertainment? Have you considered seeking out entertainment that is geared toward women more?

Who cares?

Fuck you. Instead the question should be why DON’T you care? Why are you so prepared to disclaim the hurt of a fellow human being? Why are you okay with drawing lines around what is and is not acceptable for someone to feel hurt by?

for someone who’s not being heard that sure is a lot of words, fatty

It’s just a game?

It’s not a game when the games we play reinforce the stereotypes that caused the Orlando shooter to think it was okay to end the lives of people who don’t meet his narrow definitions of acceptable performance of gender and sexuality.

It’s not a game when the games we play reinforce the culture that teaches men that their masculinity has to fit the narrowest confines possible, that they have to mutilate themselves emotionally in order to be acceptably masculine, that teaches them that empathy is a weakness not a strength.

It’s not a game when the games we play reinforce the idea that we as a community don’t care about the suffering of those who are not cishet white men.

I think whoever wrote this has too much time on their hands and needs to get laid

It’s not a game because REAL PEOPLE ARE DEAD. They are dead for realsies. They won’t get to call pause for a bio break or a snack run, they won’t get to say brb – kid. They’re DEAD.

Also, I realize when you read this rude comment it will set you off and you will rant on twitter. Maybe you should focus on things that actually matter.

It’s not a game because real people are afraid to go to the bathroom in public. To go to work. To leave their goddamn homes. They don’t get to call pause on the hatred, on the wondering if some violent asshole “standing guard” over a public washroom is going to make them a statistic.

It’s not a game because people like the shooter don’t come from a magical thought vacuum. They are created by a toxic culture of hatred, and culture is something that we all create.

So why do I care? Because I can’t not. There’s just too much at stake.

30 thoughts on ““But why does it matter?” Orlando is why it matters.

  1. I have been a constant lurker and reader of your blog since you started. I used to follow you way back at the “Old Purple,” as well. I’ve had mixed reactions to your posts, most good, some that made me spew coffee all over my monitor. All I can say is we view game art and feminism differently.

    This time, however, as a queer-identified woman, I have to speak up. Even though I’m quite certain you’re going to delete this comment straight away.

    I sympathize, understand, and support your words concerning the homophobia that a lot of our western culture tolerates and inflicts on others. I’ve heard my fair share of needlessly ostracizing banter at gaming tables throughout my gamer-life. I am glad you’re speaking up on that topic.

    I also greatly understand your vitriol and resentment at the comments you’ve been bombarded with in the past. That talking about these subjects is seen as trivial, when in fact they aren’t. Real people are affected every day, real feelings are hurt, and real perspectives of victimization are had.

    Now comes the caveat, and it’s a doozy…

    The individual man that perpetrated these horrible murders of innocent people was not a cis-het, white, male, gamer. Your words above describe him as such, and implicate other cis-het, white, male-identified gamers as being guilty by association with this one man’s actions. I can understand where you’re coming from concerning the fact that he was a man, that he was born in the United States, and probably had his head filled up with a lot of patriarchal garbage throughout his life.

    Yet the objective truth of the matter, as the news is finding out and reporting on this, is that the man who committed the murders was named Omar Mateen. He was 28 years of age, he identified heavily with his religion of Islam and was possibly radicalized before commiting his acts, was severely mentally ill (this isn’t the case of ableism, he was deluded, had anger issues, was a notorious abuser, and his ex-wife described him as such), he was employed as an armed security guard (with weapons training), and he openly supported the actions of ISIS – which he stated in a phone call before the shootings, he was performing the murders on behalf of. He was also a person of interest with the FBI concerning his Islamist sympathies, but was found not to have been radicalized, at the time.

    No where in the above information that the investigators and press have gathered, is he described as a cis-het white male who enjoys elfgames. His motivations aren’t the same as many of the horror stories I’ve heard from fellow LGBTQ+ people on places like the Paizo LGBT thread, or on other gamer friendly hubs like Google+ gaming groups. This wasn’t a fedora-clad neckbeard using the term for a british cigarette as a substitute for the word ‘lame,’ nor was this an act of some bent asshat at a gaming table telling me I had to have a straight relationship in a game of Monsterhearts, because he didn’t want to get into all the mushy ‘gay stuff’ sex relationship rules.

    I’m trying to remain calm as I write these words, but it seems you’re throwing a lot of our allies (those who are cis-het, male-identified, white, liberal, non-religious-or-more-open-with-their-beliefs) under the bus in a mass guilt-culling.

    This exact same thing happened with the San Bernadino shootings. All the narrative-blinded outlets (and I’m quite sure Chuck Wendig as well, given how skeevy and underhanded he is with his continuously warped view of reality he has), went off about how that event was caused by white men, white male toxic masculinity and all the rest. Again, we threw entire communities, some people who were our allies, and swaths of people under the bus for a perceived narrative of hate against a group that is probably one of the most diverse (in viewpoints, sympathies, ideological memberships) groups out there. We blamed the whole thing on the evils of white cis-het males. Then we find out it was a couple (male and female, married) from Pakistan, who were radicalized Muslims who had ties to ISIS and other terrorist groups.

    In short… Yes, I agree with you and sympathize with your feelings concerning this. I understand and support you wholeheartedly concerning the gaming community being more open to its LGBTQ+ members. We still have a long way to go. But, with this given situation, you opened up a pandora’s box that you could have handled a little bit more gently.

    49 innocent people are dead, 53 are injured. This is a terrible event. My heart goes out to the families of the people who were lost and hurt. I am absolutely enraged that this was motivated by homophobia. But, part of that motivation was religious as well as psychological. Not because of geek culture. Not because of some grognard that acted like a total bag-of-dicks at a gaming convention. Please, place the onus of the event where it belongs.

    And as someone who fights and is continually disappointed with people mis-using other people’s pronouns on social media… It’s just as bad when someone mis-attributes a person’s ethnicity, religion, social group, ideals, and sexual identity/preference as well. This wasn’t the work of male cis-het white gamers. This was the work of a madman religious homophobe.

    And in case you need to grill me for cred or whatever a lot of people like to do whenever I step foot into a game store or open my tumblr account…

    I’m female-identified, Canadian, queer, suffer from severe anxiety disorder, atheist, and greatly support the furry and goth communities.

    • I’ve also heard rumors that Omar Mateen had asked men out on dates, used a gay dating site, and had been going to The Pulse for a few years before the shooting. So whatever mental state he was coming from, it was likely not a place of white-het privilege, since he he seems to be neither.

      Though this doesn’t change that, on some level, toxic masculinity was probably part of his problem.

      • When you hear the news of a mass shooting like this one, and you know before any of the details are released that the perpetrator was a man? Toxic masculinity was DEFINITELY part of the problem.

    • [Mod voice: I’m not going to remove your comment, although I disagree with it very strongly, because the erasure of queer voices in reaction to the tragedy is a thing and I’m not going to be part of that. Also, as I pointed out in response to Misha, while you are framing what you say strongly, I also feel like you’re approaching the conversation with respect, and I want to allow room for strong emotions in respectful discussion, because I don’t think that they’re incompatible.

      That said, your comment has a lot of “not all men” sentiment, which is something I historically delete, as it’s a pretty common derailing tactic. I’m not going to defend why I’m qualified to talk about toxic masculinity without actually hating men – “I married a man, many of my closest friends are men”, etc etc. Because I’ve done that too many times and I’m not going to waste time and energy doing that again. I DO NOT agree with a lot of what you say, and further comments engaging this line of conversation will be removed for derailing.

      That said, I hear that you feel strongly and I’m sorry that you’re hurting.]

    • For fuck’s sake. I didn’t say that video games caused the Orlando shooting, learn to read. I’m not a COMPLETE moron.

      I said that the culture of hatred for women, brown people, and LGBT that caused the shooter to believe what he was doing was justified is reinforced when we give those same sorts of hatred a free pass in our community because “it’s just games”.

      I know that this is the internet, but sometimes people express complex ideas with nuance from time to time. Deal with it.

  2. [Comment removed]

    [Moderator’s note: For all that you and Jacqui are coming at some of the same stuff, and I strongly disagree with a lot of it, Jacqui is at least being respectful in her disagreement, which you are not. I don’t have to put up with rudeness and incivility on my own blog, just because the issue being discussed is an important one. This is MY SPACE and you are a guest here.]

  3. In reply to Jacqueline and Misha, while I agree the killer wasn’t your typical white supremacist, being of Afghan descent and all, I think what wundergeek might have wanted to point out is that he was born and raised in the US. Ok, his parents were immigrants, but he went to school in America, he had a job here, a life. He was an American, and as such was exposed to precisely the western patriarchal culture wundergeek is denouncing. It’s not just his dad’s influence, or his fundamentalist approach to Islam, that made him a criminal homophobe, it’s also the society he lived in, and this society was America, the West. Saying it’s only Islam, only his Afghan background, that turned him into a radical, is like saying every immigrant from that part of the world can never be truly American. Which sucks, really.
    That being said, I do think wundergeek made an oversimplification when talking about white suprematists vs brown people in her post. The shooter was brown too, and white supremacists would have kicked him out of their meetings.

    • When the victims were all queer brown people, and when violence against LGBT people disproportionately affects brown people, the fact that the shooter is himself brown does not change the fact that LGBT people of color face the highest rates of violence. For that matter, being FROM a group doesn’t make you magically immune to internalized hatred of that group. I wish that was the case, but it just DOESN’T.

      • Hi, sorry for the late reply, I was out for the day. I agree with you, of course being from a group doesn’t shield you from prejudice and hatred towards said group. My comment was more about what I perceived in Misha’s responses (since deleted) to be an essentialist approach to the killer’s alleged motives. To me it sounded like he was going for the argument, that this shooting is only, or mostly, about ISIS and radical Islam, that Muslim fundamentalists are supposedly the ONLY problem our society faces (which is obviously not true), etcetc. All of which is bollocks of course.
        Then I said I found the reference you made to white supremacists out of place, I didn’t see where the shooter would fit in with them, but I easily concede to you that I don’t know that much about the American far-right and their ideology, I am not American, you probably know your stuff better than me on this.
        My main point was to say let’s not reduce this shooting to “ISIS’ latest attack” (especially since the shooter’s actual link to ISIS looks kinda tenuous), because then the homophobic (and, as you point out, racist) nature of the deed will be erased, and most of all, let’s not essentialise Muslim people, too often they are already being equated with terrorists. And I’m French, believe me, these days in my country I see and hear soooo many people putting all the blame on all Muslims all the time.

        Oh, and lastly, I realise after writing this wall of text that none of what I wrote is about your post’s main point, which is about games and how they matter, and how we should be actively conscious of the stereotypes the help reinforce. On that we 100% agree, I hope the rest of my comments won’t sound too derailing.

  4. Hey, I’m a publicly out bisexual Canadian, and I think your article is really reaching, and crass in the wake of this tragedy: propping up a hate crime against us, and using it to further your own feelings about games.

    Every day I wake up to anonymous and non-anonymous messages in my email and tumblr calling me a fag or faggot. I’ve been doxxed and threatened with death before, and needed to file a police report about my address being made public. There’ve been many times where I’ve shared gay fan art and art made by fellow LGBT gaming enthusiasts, and I’ve been told by cis/straight people to “tone it down” or “Hey, not everything needs to be gay, okay?” I’ve gotten pushback from people in my varied circles, and I’ve been unfollowed by more than 100 people after coming out with my orientation.

    That all sucks, and its an unfortunate reality of publicly embracing who I am, and being a part of several gaming communities.

    But this? This violent tragedy is so far removed from commenting on the state of ‘gaming’. No matter how well intentioned this article might be, it’s ghoulish.

    Yes, gaming in all its forms has issues with the LGBT community, and needs to improve…but goddamn, could you have waited? I feel like you are trivializing our fears and struggles…just to make a point about games.

    • [Edited to tone down my comment and remove some profanity, since I shouldn’t have hit post quite so quickly]

      The point that I was laying out that you obviously have failed to grasp is that GAMES are part of CULTURE – which we all create. And when we turn a blind eye to sexism, homophobia, and racism, we reinforce stereotypes that inform the sort of bigotry on display in events like Orlando.

      I am ALSO saying that the willingness of those in the gaming community to dismiss the pain of those who try to talk about marginalization… who tell me to calm down and stop trying to make everything about sexism, who tell YOU to stop “gaying” everything up, who tell PoC to stop making everything about race… The willingness of people to dismiss the suffering of those who are not white and male when it comes to issues of gaming is merely a symptom of a larger problem. And that if we’re going to solve the LARGER issues in our culture, people have to be able to have empathy about the small stuff before they can begin to have empathy about the larger, harder-to-confront systemic issues that are terrifying to deal with.

      And if you find that “reaching” or “crass”? Here’s a comment that someone left on this post this morning:

      Because I had the indecency to say that our unwillingness to confront hatred in our leisure activities has larger implications for the culture as a whole, someone told me that the best thing I could do was to kill myself in a comment that managed to combine misogyny, homophobia, racism, fatphobia, and ableism into one hot mess of hatred. These hatreds are NOT unconnected. The people who tell me that I deserve to die for having opinions about games are THE SAME GODDAMN PEOPLE who are telling you to stop making everything so gay.

      I can’t understand your experience as an out queer person. But until you experience anywhere near the levels of homophobia, racism, ableism, and misogyny that get thrown at me on a REGULAR basis, that have resulted in my developing anxiety and a fear a large gatherings of gamers, don’t you DARE presume to get self-righteous and accuse me of “trivializing” experiences of hatred.

      • The casual and callous hate you’ve received? That’s messed up. No one should have to deal with that. I’m sorry you’ve gotten comments like that.

        I still feel like using the shooting at Pulse, where 53 vibrant members of the Latino and LGBT communities in Orlando were murdered, as an example to point to when decrying sexism/ableism/homophobia and hate in ‘gaming’ is in poor taste.

        • Why? Should we “not politicize the tragedy?” Because that’s code for “it’s sad, but not sad enough to think or change.” 49 people are dead, 53 are injured, and who knows how many have been deeply traumatized and for DAMN sure now is the time to ask why that happened and how we can prevent it in the future.

          If you think games are trivial or that games make the queer experience trivial, you don’t understand games or queers or both. Hate is a transitive property: it will jump from one context to the next to the next. Every single time I have had hate thrown in my face for being queer, it’s come from somewhere else. Bigots aren’t that creative; they can’t come up with fresh hate and slurs and ignorance on the spot. They bring it in from elsewhere. They practice it elsewhere. And yes, absolutely, one of those nurseries of hate is gaming.

          There is nothing trivial about the very real phenomena that Anna is talking about here.

          • Oh, it’s absolutely worth “politicizing” a tragedy if that can lead to change that will reduce the chance of a future tragedy.

            We probably shouldn’t use the tragedy to politicize some unrelated cause, though. It’d be tasteless to politicize a plane crash to promote “black lives matter”, but would be sensible to politicize it to promote safety and engineering standards. Even though both are worthy causes.

            If you accept that the misogyny and other social issues in gaming contributed to this shooting, and believe that by fixing those problems we’ll reduce the chance of a future shooting – then you probably think it’s a great idea to politicise this.

            If you don’t accept that these gaming social issues contributed to the shooting, and this article has failed to convince you that they did – then you probably think this article is in very poor taste.

            The argument that bad behaviour in games can carry through to other aspects of life has some merit, although it’s hard to examine. Riot has made an interested comment on that topic: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2016-06-10-riot-uses-lol-chatlogs-to-weed-out-toxic-employees
            It’s worth noting that although Riot connected the bad behaviour online with real-world bad behaviour, that still doesn’t imply there’s a cause/effect link. It could just be that assholes are assholes in both venues.

  5. “This tragedy happened, this is why I, a straight living cis women, am important when I talk about my hobby”
    That’s what you saying are right? As a trans person I am telling you now that this is insensitive and offensive as hell

    • That doesn’t sound like what Wundergeek is saying to me at all. This isn’t about prioritizing the author’s voice and certainly not over queer voices specifically. It’s just that when a crime of this scope occurs, discussion about the societal issues like homophobia, transphobia, and racism that caused it need to be had in all parts of our culture and this happens to be the part where Wundergeek has a platform and expertise.

  6. Hi.
    Your whole position revolves around speaking up when we see inqeuity against minorities.

    I think it’s morally reprehensible for you, a cishet presenting woman to exploit this tragedy and the LGBTQ community for money and views.

    • It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a tragedy like this, but we each help in the ways we can. Wundergeek has a platform here that lets her speak to the geek/gamer community and she is using it to call out homophobia, transphobia, and racism in that community. The recent massacre makes that more relevant and more urgent, not less.

  7. The connection between Islam and this shooting seems much closer than between GTA and/or other Games and the shooting. Therefore would it make more sense to me to have a critical view on Islam and the teachings of it. And if Some will be offended by that, so what. The patriarchy that told this guy that Guys can only be forgiven in death wasn’t video games. It was the guy mentioned here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vev-OzHQy94&ab_channel=EarthWatch21

    • Um, Omar was said by his wife and family to be non-practicing, and he claimed allegiance to three different muslim radical organizations that are all opposed to one another. Islam has between little and nothing to do with why Omar shot up a nightclub, toxic western cisheteropatriarchy is.

      • If toxic western cisheteropatriarchy is what is turning people like Omar into mass shooters, doesn’t that make the case for restricting immigration into the west? No gay clubs for him to shoot up if dad kept the family in Afghanistan and no western cisheteropatriarchy to corrupt his sweet little soul.

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