avatar

June 21
2013

Why So Cis?

by
mkcis
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg

[Trigger Warnings for discussions of rape and transphobia throughout].

Yesterday brought something of a storm on social media, with Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik at the center, having unleashed the furore by making a couple of transphobic comments on Twitter. The Border House Blog has an excellent summary on the events, but for the sake of completeness, I’ll reiterate:

Folk on the web had noticed that there was a synopsis for a dubious-looking panel on the upcoming PAX Australia titled “Why So Serious”?, which, as one might expect, basically boiled down to people saying, “stop taking games so seriously!” to anyone who voiced any concerns with regards to the game industry’s less-than-stellar track record when it came to bigotry. Complaints were made, and the panel slightly altered their synopsis.

PAa

It didn’t make it much better. So folk contacted Mike Krahulik about the event, and from there, things escalated to the extent that Mike posted the following tweets.

cwgabriel5 cwgabriel3 cwgabriel2

(Screenshots courtesy of the Borderhouse Blog.)

And, following that, Mike posted an email discussion between himself and Sophie Prell, a trans* woman who formerly contributed to the Penny Arcade Report; the discussion can be found here.

In a statement for GayGamer.Net, Mike described the event thus:

This morning when I got up my email and tweets were all about a panel at PAX Aus. We will have a panel that will discuss if all this social justice stuff is good for the games industry. We don’t make the panels they are submitted by the community and we try and let pretty much anyone have a space to talk.

So this morning I was told I was a bigot and I was giving a stage to bigots. I said no one has to go to the panel but then I was told I was cis gendered garbage and I should die.

so.

at this point I should have stepped away from the computer and played with my kids but I didn’t. I went on the offensive and I made things worse.

I don’t dislike or fear anyone based on what they are or what they think they are. I try and be friendly to everyone I meet in person.

I honestly don’t think I am wired right for this fame stuff. I like to draw cartoons and play games that’s really all. I can’t be what all these millions of people want me to be. I’m not a role model, I didn’t even fucking go to college. I have beliefs that lots of people will hate. I have opinions that not all our fans will like. If I was just some normal dude it wouldn’t matter but the things I do and say are placed in another category. I need to be aware of that responsibility. When I feel attacked I attack back like I did as a kid. I can be an incredible asshole when I want to be. It’s like my super power. I’m very good at being mean. That’s been good for making funny comics but it’s not good when it hurts people who are already marginalized.

To be fair, I hate tons of people. But it’s never because of their sexual orientation or their gender situation or anything superficial like that. I honest to god don’t give a shit about that stuff. I only hate people because of the way they act.

So, back up, what’s the big deal here?

This isn’t the first time Mike has brushed off folk who are saying “Hey, that isn’t okay” – a particularly prominent example of this was the “Dickwolves” comic, which features a character claiming to be “raped to sleep” by the eponymous presumed canines. Many people – some of whom were themselves survivors of rape and sexual assault – said, “Hey, that’s not okay”; and the creators response was a sarcy, snarky comic strip that dismissed those folks’ complaints entirely through facile mockery, followed up shortly by kind-of-sort-of apologies – or, more accurately, a call for everyone to stop talking about it.

Rape is not a topic that can be thrown about with gay abandon – it requires understanding, compassion and respect to even discuss the topic, let alone make jokes about it; we can say “no subject should be off-limits” or that “rape jokes make rape easier to talk about” all we like, but when people with more (often personal) experience in the topic tell us otherwise, we have to consider that maybe our theoretical devil’s advocacy isn’t as pertinent or relevant as their own lived experience. We don’t need to wait for a famous white man to talk about it first to make it a legitimate viewpoint.

The reason that Mike Krahulik’s comments yesterday weren’t okay though is because, regardless of whether it was as a result of a backfiring sarcasm-coping-mechanism, the comments Mike made are still very much part of a much bigger culture (that also permeates the games industry, community and subculture) where people who are trans* are already sidelined, marginalised, silenced and ignored across the board. Everyone knows and understands this, even if they haven’t really considered why that might be. We know people who are trans* don’t often make it to positions of power as disproportionally well as, say, cisgender men, and we even know that trans* people are at risk getting threatened, attacked or killed just because they’re trans* – and yet, we’re still in a position where cisgender people think it’s okay to just dismiss trans* people and their concerns. Today, it was by someone who claims to know how damaging it is to be silenced, which makes the sting that much more fresh.

As Sophie Prell mentions in her email discussion with Mike, his statements are his personal opinion — but that opinion has been formed, directly or indirectly, because of centuries of uncritical, unreasoned and unexamined opinions that suggest that our biology is the ultimate deciding factor in whether we are “men” or “women”, which is not only presumptuous and simplistic, but also unscientific and inaccurate! The fact is, there are a plethora of different types of people who don’t fit into this schema of “there is only biological sex, of which you can be male or female”, but that’s exactly the myth that’s been used when Mike Krahulik talks about “the physical reality of your body” – there is more to being a man or a woman than biology, and even then, biology isn’t a cut-and-dried matter. And not only is Mike’s opinion speckled with a lack of critical thinking, it’s also being used to silence a group of people who have been and continue to be consistently and systematically silenced.

oak

The gender binary is just a convenient (and, often, inconvenient) shorthand, not something hard-coded.

Transphobia takes many different forms, and it’s not always intentional, not always overt, and not always obvious. When someone dismisses trans* people that sharply, and then goes on to perpetuate myths that continue to make the world a tough place for trans* people to live in, that’s transphobia – in a sense, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve got trans* friends, or you’re queer yourself, or that you don’t consciously discriminate against trans* people. Regardless of your intent, the outcome is the same – the world gets turned a darker shade of shit for people who are trans* because of your actions, and willfully ignoring that doesn’t help anyone.

At this point, it’s pertinent to bring up the fact that many folk think the backlash was unjustified, that if someone just sat down and explained why these things weren’t okay in a cool, rational manner, people in the industry would listen. There is constantly a call for trans* people (and other oppressed folk) to “open up a dialogue”, “address both sides of the issue”, or “start a discussion”.

The fact is, that’s exactly what people are doing and have been doing for decades, but it continually gets passed over as being “politicised”, “irrational”, “self-segregating”, “divisive”, “personal opinion”, “Tumblr shit” or “social justice warrior material”. The fact that people are asking for conversations to begin is testament to the fact that they are so unaware of the topic (and won’t research it themselves) that they don’t realise these conversations have been underway for years. Is it any wonder, then, that people are frustrated, and must now use their anger to have a chance of being able to say anything? Is it any wonder that when people who are trying to speak are now having to shout to be heard?

Mattie Brice, editor in chief of re/Action and a trans* woman, said this to GayGamer:

Mike’s behavior isn’t a surprise, and really, he doesn’t seem to care about trans* issues enough to actually look into why he’s continually being called out. At this point, for my own health, it’s best I try my hardest to ignore him and hope he never appears on my social media. I feel sorry for those within Penny Arcade and US PAX committees who are trying hard to create the opposite picture of the company, and are continually undermined by his actions. PA is a big ship with a lot of influence, but it’s also a ship that’s been on fire because of its captain. It’s becoming harder and harder to sympathize with anyone affliated with him.

(Emphasis mine)

While vast swathes of cis folk are still barely coping at with the entirely-theoretical-for-them trans-101 stage, trans* people are leagues ahead, dealing with the situation and how it affects their own lives, critically thinking, discussing and putting forward solutions; we could do with at least having the respect to listen to them on a topic that they know more than us about, often both at a theoretical level and a personal, experiential level.

It’s also relevant to point out that Sophie Prell herself states in the email exchange that she didn’t agree with the backlash against Mike Krahulik, nor did she believe Mike was being transphobic – but then, just because she does not believe that to be the case doesn’t invalidate or take anything away from the people who do. We can’t rely on people to be unanimously against something for us to begin to consider it, after all.

transgenderflag

Mike Krahulik makes a poignant remark in his statement – if he was Just Some Guy, we’d largely be ignoring his statements. But that’s just the point, not only of this specific discussion, but of anti-bigotry movements in general – people with power need to be careful not to misuse it against the powerless, especially those made powerless by people and institutions that the empowered affects or is affected by – otherwise it becomes an intersecting web of oppression that it’s enormously difficult to get out from once you’re in it – to the extent that people would sooner dismiss folk who are suffocating in that web than try to take it down.

There is something positive to take away from the event, however – people all over the web quickly, succinctly and concisely responded to Krahulik’s statements to say, “this is not okay”, whereas ten years ago, we would most likely have just had a couple of Proboards forum threads – hell, maybe even threads on the Penny Arcade forums themselves – populated by cis, white boys dispassionately debating the topic with no real vested interest other than playing devil’s advocate for the sake of dreary discourse.

But we didn’t have that quite as much this time round, and I suspect it’s not thanks to all of the “theoretical debates” of those dispassionate white boys, nor those people who continually ask us to “step off the soapbox”. It’s because of those other, Othered people – in particular, trans* people – who have continued to strive to make their voices heard both within the industry and without, slowly whittling away at the man-shaped monolith that is the games industry to change it from a monogendered marbled monoblock to something fluid, dynamic, and engaging.

Further reading:

Trans Respect, Etiquette and Support 101 by Micah Bazant

Not Your Mom’s Trans 101 by Asher

Why Invisibility Isn’t a Superpower, by Zoya Street

avatar

About Mitch Alexander

(Writer) Mitch Alexander is a Game Design student from Glasgow, Scotland. who usually talks about things you get into deep discussions about at 3am, like Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, The Mothman Prophecies, The Invisibles, or how creepy monkeys are. They're so, so creepy.

43 Responses

  1. You know, as a straight guy I never had to think too hard to wrap my head around trans stuff. I guess it always made sense to me that your biological parts don’t directly determine what societal gender role you fit into. Never really understood what was so incredibly threatening about the idea that a person who looks and acts like you think a woman would act is really a man (or vice versa).

    The nightmare scenarios thought up by some straight men I know, like picking up a hot lady at a party only to learns ‘she’ was biologically male never seemed that scary to me. That’s probably because I don’t pick up random people at parties, and if I knew someone well enough to jump into bed with them I’d hope they were honest enough with me about what genitalia I could expect.

    I suppose also as a straight guy who likes pink things and stuffed animals and Style Savvy, I resent people asserting that I should change myself to fit their gender roles. I’m happy being a dude, and my wife is happy being married to a dude who collects Calico Critters.

    So basically, I have no sympathy for straight people who can’t figure this out.

    • avatar Emily Crosbie says:

      I completely agree with your comment, just because you don’t fit the gender roles society thinks you should have does not mean you are a Trans* person. I am, and have known something was different from a young age and then knew exactly what the problem was when I was sixteen.

      The thing is, whislt I know I am a woman (I plan to begin my Transistion in my finale year of University) I also know I won’t fit what society expects that that means. I hate pink, dislike the idea of frilly dresses and am rubbish at knitting (some one did once ask that odd question if being Trans* meant I could knit). Yet, I enjoy guns, explosions, steampunk, heavy metal music and mecha, all of which people don’t really asociate with feminity.

      It has meant I have had to explain to people what the difference is between personality and gender, but for the most part they listen and eventually agree and just see me as the tomboy I am.

  2. avatar Andrew says:

    “…populated by cis, white boys dispassionately debating the topic with no real vested interest other than playing devil’s advocate for the sake of dreary discourse.”

    I take offense with that. From the looks of it, you’re saying that because I’m a cis, white boy on the internet my opinion is automatically invalidated. Not only do I feel marginalized for the way I was born (as a cis, white boy) but also that I have no real chance in trying to have any sort of discourse in the matter.

    • Andrew, I don’t think Mitch was annoyed at white boys having opinions or discussing the matter at hand. But I think there’s a difference between having this discussion with trans people involved, and not having trans people involved.

      For example, you and I could talk about what it might be like to be a black person, and might even gain something from it. Or we could be totally off base. How would we know if we never talked to a black person?

      Basically as more trans people feel comfortable openly discussing their lives and the issues that affect them, the more well-rounded the debate has become… and will continue to be.

  3. avatar Anon says:

    Andrew, this is an issue about trans* people, not cis people. This isn’t your place to whine.

  4. avatar Talarian says:

    Yelling obscenities at people who disagree with us get us nowhere. If they were on the fence, you just alienated them. If they actively disagree with you, you won’t convince them otherwise by ranting, and if said ranting is public, you come off as the douchewaffle rather than the party you’re trying to convince.

    Yeah, it’s frustrating not being heard, but writing a potential ally off as “cis male garbage” does nothing to help your cause or evoke sympathy. You don’t need to be quiet, but you do need to be polite and rational.

    As a minority, making allies in a majority-run society is incredibly important if you want to be able to get the rights that you’re entitled to. Yeah, it’s not fair, but it’s reality. Look at same-sex Marriage in the US. Show that we’re human, like anyone else, convince our friends, family, and allies to help our fight and bam, now things are getting somewhere. Yelling at the bigots has not helped (though it is cathartic!).

    Mike’s friend Sophie had the exact correct idea. Engage with him politely, explain where you’re coming from, and bam, sympathy evoked and he has a slightly better understanding of why what he said was wrong. And that’s how we will win the war.

    • Do you honestly believe that oppressed folk haven’t already thought of just being polite and rational? Have you listened to folk who have talked about these issues at length about WHY they choose not to be polite and rational? If not, I really recommend it, because it demonstrates that the people who profess, advise or adopt an approach of “just be nice and maybe they’ll stop hating us” tend to be people who were never really at risk of getting ignored, silenced, attacked or murdered in the first place. It’s a bullshit idea that basically relies on hoping that people will stop attacking you because you’re acting submissive, and it doesn’t work – steps forward in emancipation and human/civil rights have never been won because people were “nice”, it’s because people fought, argued, marched and DEMANDED those rights.

      What use is the support of a person who will only respect you if you give in to them?

      And what use is the support of a person who dismisses your political position not because they’ve thought about it, not because they don’t agree with it, but because you were slightly angry? If they’re so incredibly short-sighted that they don’t understand WHY people are angry, and why that’s justifiable, I would not count them among my allies. And let’s be honest – these people are the kinds of folk who will change their opinion once enough of their friends have changed theirs, rather than actually believing in something.

      It’s not “frustrating” not being heard – for trans* people, it’s deadly.

      And mate, that feature is not a “rant”, it’s not me “yelling obscenities” at anyone, and I didn’t write anyone off as “cis male garbage”. The feature was polite and rational, and the fact that you’re picking me up on it just demonstrates what the “polite and rational” argument is – it’s just a way of saying “calm down dear” and dismissing the argument based on its tone, rather than its content: this link might be of some use to you – http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Tone_argument

      • avatar Talarian says:

        I wasn’t commenting on your article specifically (which was actually quite polite and well-reasoned), I was commenting about the folks on Twitter attacking Mike Krahulik directly. Apologies if that part wasn’t clear.

        I have been physically attacked for being gay. I’ve had friends commit suicide because they couldn’t handle the stress of being different. I know it can be deadly if you’re not heard. I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it, and what you do in those situations is very much different than what you do in response to someone making an off-hand comment on Twitter.

        I never said be quiet. I never said don’t fight, argue, march, and DEMAND your rights. What I said was don’t lash out at possible allies.

        • Maybe what you do is very different, but when I’m confronted by the owner of a website with a readership of millions, many of whom are cis folk who don’t know any better, and that guy’s making it spouting horrible ways of treating trans* folk, I definitely do go “Naw, that isn’t alright.”

          If you go back up to the article, check for a bit that says “use their anger”, which redirects to an excellent essay by someone discussing why it’s reasonable and often justifiable to “lash out” – oftentimes, it’s the only way they get ANY recognition. This whole idea is one that’s cropped up in social movements the world over, particularly so during the civil rights era where the only way Black folk could have any say in their lives was by “lashing out”, as you say.

          • avatar psudo says:

            I don’t think Martin Luther King Jr ever preached about lashing out.

            I don’t want to just be snippy and meant to comment on this train of thought in general but your last example bothered me. I can understand your anger but I bet you don’t support the death threats Gabe has received in the last few days do you?

            I don’t think you have to lay down your arms to win some kind of pitiful approval, but do we just fire off our guns at the slightest provocation? They got Gabe to fire back angrily because many fired at him in a way that didn’t promote peaceful understanding or respect.

            I don’t think we got to a point where anyone actually learned anything. It just made all sides look like school yard bullies.

          • avatar Emily Crosbie says:

            I agree with Mitch, as I have tried the “calm and collected” approach. Earlier in the year a BetVictor add had Morice dress in drag, and while the add did not directly attack Tran* people, it did perpetuate several harmful mythes, including dressing female to get to areas we shouldn’t (I don’t, I still use the gents, with some odd looks), sexual deviency and that we are all really obvious. I carefully explained how they demonstrated these mythes, why they hurt and even suggested that Morice could have selected any number of disguises, or at least made a better attempt at his female one (I never go out without shaving, I mean thats just moronic).

            And guess what the response was. Like Mike, no real apology and I was told that as the Advertising Standards Agency had cleared it as ok my argument was invalid. The advert still pops up from time to time and I turn the TV off to avoid seeing it. It’s stuff like that which makes people want to shout, because we aren’t listened to otherwise.

          • avatar Zachary says:

            I understand what you’re saying about speaking up and making an oppressed minority heard…in the admittedly limited way that a CIS Heterosexual WASP such as myself can, and I understand that being shut down so much makes you want to shout, and justifiably so, but I’m not really understanding the controversy here. I don’t mean to belittle it, or deny it’s existence by this statement, but rather to admit my profound ignorance. I mean, Mike was pretty pissy in his handling of the situation after it started, but what was wrong with his original statement? All idealism aside, isn’t saying that most women have vaginas fundamentally accurate? Or is “woman” a sociological term distinct from any biology that may or may not impact sex/gender? Please don’t tear me apart! I’m just confused, and I apologize in advance for any offense my blunderings may cause.

          • Zachary, the confusion you have is entirely natural, and it comes from the vagaries of a language and culture that hasn’t dealt with this issue until rather recently.

            There’s a disconnect between biological gender (male = penis, female = vagina) and our social gender roles (man / woman). Most of us are “cisgendered”, which means that our biological and social genders match. “Transgendered” people, however are those for whom the two do not match.

            Some people are born with genitalia that does not match the gender role they naturally fall into. Someone like this may live as a woman, but be biologically male. Therefore, a woman may not have a vagina. However a female will always have a vagina.

            Of course, what makes this all even more difficult is that many people are not exactly male or female (‘intersex’). This is much more common than most would expect, and has been for all human history. It’s only recently, however, that ‘intersex’ individuals have been given the same chances the rest of us have to live life without being mutilated as infants or worse.

            I’m a straight male trying to make sense of this too, so if my specifics are incorrect that just goes to show you have difficult this stuff is to grasp. I welcome constructive correction!

    • avatar Andre says:

      There’s a reason the phrase “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” exists. In some cases, it’s unquestionably the best approach.

      However, in matters of personal rights, I find that approach risky. There’s a fine line between “being nice” and “trying to appease”, a line that has definitely been crossed before. I think here of LGB people taking ‘gender identity’ out of proposed antidiscrimination laws in an attempt to appease old white guys in suits who need to stop acting entitled appeasement.

      It’s not even something that just affects trans* people either. I’ve seen ‘straight-acting’ (horrible term, really) gay guys throw more obvious ones under the bus for ‘acting like stereotypes and making us look bad’. I’ve seen gay guys throw lesbians under the bus for trying to address ‘fringe women’s issues’. I’ve seen gay guys and lesbians throw bi people under the bus for making LGB people look ‘greedy’, ‘immature’, or ‘incapable of fidelity’. All of these moves are attempts to appease the mainstream, to assure non-ally types ‘Look! We’re just like you! We don’t like the same freaks you don’t like!’, a strategy I find entirely inappropriate.

      Of course, all of this isn’t to say that any and all social change should be done via guerrilla warfare or something. It’s to highlight the line between politeness and undeserved appeasement.

    • Anger and rage is rational, death threats are not. Our community, and in fact most communities, had to fight their way up, being nice wouldn’t have gotten us here. Look at Stonewall, look at the Act Up!, look at Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network, all have been instrumental to change in our society and none were polite or quiet. Those groups, combined with the softer, “let’s be nice and integrate” groups like HRC, have moved things forward. But without the outrage, the softer sides never get heard.

  5. You feel marginalised for being a white cis boy despite the fact that the vast majority of institutions in the world cater explicitly to your demographic, are openly hostile to anyone who’s NOT part of your demographic and will continually place you before them, and the people with the most amount of power and money in our society are almost entirely populated by people from your demographic?

    Mate, if you think you feel marginalised, think about how trans* folk must feel.

    David’s hit the nail on the head though – so, so many white, cis men are unprepared to acknowledge trans* folks concerns in a conversation, but will discuss the topic at length in a detached, dispassionate way on forums over and over, bringing absolutely nothing new to the table that trans* folk haven’t already dealt with.

  6. avatar Shawn says:

    Thank you for covering this. I was worried the issue would be ignored both because of GayGamer’s participation at PAX and because Penny Arcade is such a well-known, well-loved website whose fans don’t react well to criticism. Props also for getting statements from Mike and Matty (LOVE her).

    This whole issue was just another reminder of how fucking awful gaming communities can be towards marginalized gamers. I’m glad more and more safe spaces are popping up.

  7. avatar Branovices says:

    It seems to me people forget that something that is very important to one person falls well below the radar of another. Imagine saying “Boy, I’m starving!” in a restaurant as you sit down. Harmless, yes? Now imagine behind you is someone that spent years in a refugee camp in Guatemala, where starvation killed friends or family. You never thought about it because it’s not a part of your life, but that person might now be so outraged that it borders on violence.

    If you attack a person for being misinformed or ignorant on something outside their experience, it will seem out of the blue to them. Mr. Krahulik responded to what seemed to him like an attack from no where by making an attack that, to us, seemed to come from no where and everything escalated.

  8. avatar Michael says:

    Calling someone cis gendered garbage and telling them to die is never appropriate. It doesn’t matter who it is, or the situation. It just isn’t right.

    There will never be a time, no matter how bad things get, that lashing out is ok. Just because you aren’t shouting doesn’t mean you are being submissive.

    The man aggressively defended himself from an obscene attack. He went too far. He’s sorry for it. It likely won’t happen again. Maybe he will. He’s still growing, learning. Just like the rest of us.

    I fully agree with how Sophie Prell handled things. My applause to you Sophie. The world needs more people that can calmly and kindly explain their side to people.

    • avatar Dustafee says:

      Thanks for this Michael- also, Talarian. I agree with you guys both.

      I went through a lot of emotional turmoil growing up (in a Catholic family/community), and was subjected to physical abuse after I brought my boyfriend to prom. Today, I consider myself pretty safe and lucky, I can live openly and freely, and I’ve become a well rounded person. But I didn’t get here by being an asshole. It could be that violence and aggression are just so negatively ingrained in my mind because they have always been used against me. I don’t think people can win these battles by using aggression and anger as a means of communication.

      When someone yells their “argument/position” at me, I just turn my brain off. I don’t care whats happening anymore, no matter how frustrated you are (or how frustrated I was growing up in rural Canada)- freaking out isn’t a persuasive way to argue. Make friends and stop trying to push people further away.

  9. avatar Julio says:

    How about we talk about the PA “comic” (sic) itself?

    Seriously, it hasn’t been funny FOR YEARS…I used to like it , oh back in 2000…but it’s not funny anymore; it’s just plain stupid. Period.
    I have no idea WHY they are so popular and how they even got around to having their own conventions!
    So yeah, basically he’s an asshole and needs to stop with their “comic”, cuz that shit aint funny anymore.

  10. avatar leap says:

    I really appreciate Mike’s response to all of this. All you can really ask of people is to be aware of how their words and actions effect others. What he said was disrespectful and mean, but he obviously realizes that. He lashed out at people who were attacking him, which I can sympathize with very well. I’ve said things to people online that could be seen as bigoted just to get on one particular person’s nerves. The difference between Mike and others is that he’s actually aware of the effect of his words and he (as far as I can tell) is sorry for what he’s done.

  11. This. It appears Mike has learned something from the Dickwolves debacle. We all do insensitive shit sometimes, and it can be hard to keep your head when people attack you (sometimes with unwarranted ferocity) for it. I was very impressed with his newspost about the issue.

  12. avatar Emily Crosbie says:

    The problems with Suzanne Moore earlier this year pop into my head. After she said that woman strive for the ideal body shape of a “Brazillian Transsexual” things went slightly differently to begin with. The first couple of comments was actually someone trying to explan to Moore that she may have offended people with the article. Moore’s response was to disregard the comment and lauch attacks against Trans* folk, leading to attacks against her.

    I know this has nought to do with gaming but we can see simularities. It shows what happens sometimes if you try to be calm and explain, you become the villian so fast it will make your head spin. Maybe what Twitter needs is longer Tweet options, as it seems to be a battle ground for these sorts of fights, but I have never really heard of it on Facebook. Still, I think both cis and Trans* must find a way to exchange better without entirly resorting to horribleness, but we do still need to yell and push. Perhaps a revival of Gladiators so we can use all our hate in feats of strength and bond in our defeat of the Gladiators?

  13. avatar Lucrece says:

    The mistake he did is not shutting up. If he had let some snooty little rants on some blog/twitter die out by themselves, there would be no issue. It would go away. But he responded, and kept digging himself in.

  14. avatar Jason says:

    A very well thought out discussion of the issue – regardless people in the cis majority just simply refuse to engage in the existing discussion for reasons unknown. Perhaps it is a just a challenge to their beliefs that makes it difficult. I have to admit it is only because I know people who are trans that I better understand this issue.

    Personally, I find that the biggest problem for people trying to understanding gender is that biological sex and socially determined gender are dissociable concepts. The sex of a person, male or female (and rare intersex cases that are still considered male), has a strong bearing on how people are treated in most societies thus leading to confusion about whether or not gender is to be treated the same way. Gender is a social concept that is developed over time. I think this helps some people understand it because the differences between the two are completely alien to some.

  15. avatar Holly Green says:

    Thanks for this post, it’s given me a lot to think about.

  16. avatar Chris says:

    I Finally understand the phrase “first world problems”. It’s kind of sad that there was this pile on on Mike for simply engaging in off the cuff remarks with a bunch of overweening flagellants . His tweets were not offensive in the least unless mildly vulgar witticisms are poison to you. It’s kind of funny that he’s now donating twenty thousand dollars to the Trevor Project. Is that his pound of flesh or his mea culpa? People who spend so much of their time looking for things to be offended about are almost as sad as people who spend their time insulting others. Anyway, Peace.

    • avatar Holly Green says:

      The B.S. is strong with this one.

      • avatar Chris says:

        All I’m saying is that on overly zealous response, so narrow mindlessly focused on PC etiquette, is poison to free and creative thought. The Penny-Arcade guys cannot not be accused of being homo-phobic based on the body of their work but some people will take any chance to voice their faux outrage. Comedy cannot exist in a world where people’s feelings trump humorous observation and I’m frankly a little disappointed that he felt the need to pay a blood tax to assuage the delicate feelings of a few twitter trolls. If he wanted to donate money, that’s fine, but you can’t honestly tell me that 20, 000 $ could not be better spent on a charity that focuses on feeding the hungry or providing primary education to children in less developed Nations.

        This whole anti-bulling campaign is actually self defeating, in my mind, as it reinforces the notion that people’s opinions about you matter. All that matters in this world is your work and it’s troubling that there is a whole generation whose work is based only on notions of identity politics. Write a great book, start a company that makes things, don’t cash in or try to gain moral credibility for your victim mentality just to justify your existence. i don’t want to sound like your opinion doesn’t matter, it does of course, but this pile on penny-arcade is offensive. Noting he said warranted the response delivered by a few twitter trolls. There is nothing controversial with saying women have vaginas and that if you don’t, you’re not a woman. You might identify as a woman, which is fine I don’t really care, but you’re not a woman biologically speaking. The whole use of the word CIS is offensive in and of itself. You’re implying that only you,and those like you, possess the necessary fortitude to break out of enforced social norms. You’re saying that people who aren’t like you are brainwashed and if they only embraced your “enlightened” ideology they could embrace their full potential. If someone called me a CIS I would respond in a normal but confrontational way, much as Mike did. That doesn’t make me a bad guy it makes me someone who doesn’t much care for moral judgements voiced by overly reactionary pedants. I assume most trans people weren’t outraged by this non event and were probably bemused by the reaction of some and probably a little offended about how Mike’s apology was taken as some larger moral victory instead of a black mark on free speech. Vale.

  17. avatar freeyourmind says:

    I wholly agree with Talarian. The PA guys (while frequently crude and abrasive) have shown pretty regularly that their hearts are in the right place. Life’s too short to alienate allies just because they sometimes speak in ignorance.

    That said, Krahulik is making obvious attempts to correct that ignorance. And while money doesn’t buy everything, we should note that outside of the apologies made on the front page, he’s also made a $20k donation to the Trevor Project:

    http://penny-arcade.com/2013/06/21/going-one-step-further

  18. avatar tarothe says:

    Thank you for this article.
    As a somewhat trans person it always make me feel better to know that there are people who are aware and can accept that our world is not strictly black and white.
    As someone who does not feel any sort of connection with the label “man” or “woman” I often opt out of a conversation as I have learned that many people feel threatened by the idea that someone might not feel like either. As if, instead of trying to express who I really am, they feel as if I was trying to question who they are.
    Anyway, I am side-tracking.
    Thanks for bringing this up.

  19. avatar Limeade says:

    That was a really good write-up, Mitch. Thank you for writing and posting it. :)

    Telling someone that they should die is never okay. Never. Being harmful of others and sinking to a very dark place is not a progressive and positive way of dealing with issues that need to be addressed. It sullies the discourse and the arguments when people just start throwing out death threats/demands for someone to go die or kill themselves. That’s not helpful to anyone at all.

    As a social justice activist, there are many many many many many many many… well, you get the point, days where I feel like my brain is going to explode at some of the injustices and ignorance that crops up. So, absolutely, I can understand people getting upset, and frustrated, and even angry at things that are incredibly painful to see/hear/read. Rightfully so! But! We all need to be a positive and progressive and coolly collected force when we come to the social justice and equality table to speak, otherwise our points and all our well-intentions and discourse and teaching will be tarnished by the negative. It’s difficult and can be a burden, but we’re a community that should find solidarity in each other and support one another for a better tomorrow.

    Another thing I wanted to comment on related to how often and aggressively social justice issues and equality issues are passed off as “political correctness.” And how political correctness has become some sort of reviled thing in mainstream society. “Gay romance in the game? Man, games are becoming so PC!” “Why’s everyone whining about NPC calling the lady protagonist ‘bitch’ all the time? Who cares, it’s just a word! People are so PC!” “It was JUST a rape joke, get over it! You’re being too PC!” Because being respectful of others and not wanting to oppress/harm them is now somehow a negative thing. We need to respect other people’s experiences and not diminish them as people/as a minority.

    Similarly, yet not specifically related to Mitch bringing up Sophie’s personal belief that Mike didn’t deserve the backlash and etc, is that people also need to keep in mind that we’re all definitely products of our society and environments. Whether they have large conscious or subconscious influences on us or small ones, they still play a part in our development and how we form views around us. That our larger culture is fairly saturated and entangled with things like rape culture, homophobia, sexism, racism, and so forth, doesn’t exempt the minorities of said groups to be homophobic, sexist, or racist themselves. In other words, a woman can still be sexist (ingrained misogyny via culture and environment; being saturated with media that says ‘this is just how things are’), just as a person of color can be racist, or a gay person can be homophobic etc.

    So even if a topic like this comes up, just because one trans* person says ‘oh, it’s okay,’ does not mean that it is okay collectively for all trans* people and trans* experience. That person may very well believe it’s okay, or that what is being discussed doesn’t bother/effect them, or they may be a product of our fairly toxic culture and environment with ingrained -isms and -phobias. Likewise for any minority in a conversation relating to minority topics. It’s why it is important to have a very diverse audience when discussing topics, imo. And why having more than just ONE person of minority status speaking for the related minority issue is incredibly important. No one person has The Voice to speak for everyone. :)

  20. [...] artist Mike Krahulik—”Gabe” of the comic strip, who had responded to the panel controversy by saying “we try and let pretty much anyone have a space to talk,” posted a series of increasingly [...]

  21. avatar Robinson says:

    I’m a little confused by some of the goals of transgender people (not intending to marginalize through generalization). Isn’t the objective to decouple societal role from sex identity? This is a goal shared by feminists, by gays, by mens rights activists, and many other groups. You can make the objective a little broader to say “Societal role should be decoupled from any other aspect of identity” and then this includes everybody who doesn’t want expectations to define them.

    Of course we have to recognize that expectations are entirely useful but only if we’re also willing to have them broken. Trans people are also seeking to change the vocabulary in their favor. This is a very difficult process. From wikipedia “Female (♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova (egg cells)” and “A woman /ˈwʊmən/, pl: women /ˈwɪmɨn/ is a female human. The term woman is usually reserved for an adult.”

    • While the existence of trans people isn’t new, until recently they were considered abberations that should be ignored. As it becomes clear that our language isn’t sufficient to adequately discuss a concept it must evolve, and it will, naturally. It is nobody’s responsibility to define it authoritatively, though some people make it their job to do so.

      Intuitively, I like the idea of using male/female to refer to physical biology (like the male and female ends of a cable). Why not use man/woman to refer to social gender roles? That way we could still discuss men and women mostly like we already do. Very rarely do we discuss the particulars between people’s legs in everyday conversation. So we can just accept that not all “women” are “female”, for example. I like that.

  22. [...] comments by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, GayGamer’s Mitch Alexander puts his finger on what exactly the problem was with the whole [...]

  23. avatar Salieri says:

    So we’re going to claim that the use of “male” and “female” in this context was hurtful because that’s not what those words really mean because they embody so much more.

    So. . . we’re just going to pretend there isn’t such a thing as genderqueer, then? Just gonna let the fact that we made a word/concept precisely because we wanted to differentiate the developmental/emotional/social from the biological?

    Yes, so long as it proves our point and makes some dude we don’t like look more mean? Okay. Awesome.

Leave a Reply


3 − 1 =