I follow an awful lot of LGBT activists on my twitter feed. (Go on, you know you want to follow me I’m @luvlymish – obviously!) A few months ago there was a lot of noise about a particular issue (as there is periodically). This was that Zoe Quinn – apparently a game developer – had accused the Fine Young Capitalists of transphobia and was organising a boycott of their attempt to get more girls involved in game development. The fact that they’re a Radical Feminist group (short hand in the LGBT circles I move in – RadFems) meant that an accusation of trans phobia did not come as a huge shock to me. One thing that has seemed common to RadFems is that they’re pro challenging gender stereotypes to the extent that anyone trying to actually change gender (transwomen, transmen etc.) seems, by that action to be reinforcing the gender stereotype identity and even binary (I know that’ll piss some trans people off – sorry).
TANGENT:I admit that this is an idea that I have struggled with myself, coming to the conclusion that it is the gatekeepers of the medical processes of transition who are the problem. Rather than the transpeople themselves who are often actually trying to challenge gender stereotypes more than the gatekeepers will allow them to whilst they’re transitioning. But it took years of discussion and thought to get to that realisation. Anyway, back on topic.
There was a lot of bitching back and forth about whether Quinn had raised a legitimate argument or whether she had just made a point because she didn’t want to be associated with the Fine Young Capitalists etc.etc. It all seemed pretty standard stuff for your usual Feminist/Quiltbag identity based argument with a whole load personal attacks thrown in.
Now of course it’s ended up spilling all over the internet as a massive argument that is somewhat away from the tangential part of the argument I originally stumbled on back on my trans activists twitter feeds. There’s even a BBC article on misogyny in gaming, three women game developers have received death/rape threats off the back of it and Adam Baldwin has apparently dubbed the whole thing Gamergate.
As far as I can see though, this is a QUILTBAG identity argument writ large. It’s unusual only really in that it’s involved some Default Men in an identity argument, and even then ‘Gamer’ is still only emerging from being a subcultural identity to mainstream so it’s not that odd that there should be an identity argument there.
The thing is, it seems weirdly equivalent to what’s happening in the trans community at large at the moment.
When I first came out to myself and got involved in LGBT politics the ‘T’ stood for Trans – not specifically transgender, transsexual, transvestite but all of them, entirely deliberately. Politically so that the trans-section of the community was represented (there are less trans people generally than Ls, Gs or even Bs she says with her tongue slightly in her cheek) but also so that it avoided the ugliness of the identity arguments that plague our beloved QUILTBAG. Now though, there are arguments because the nuance and the detail of the problems faced by your average transvestite are different to those faced by your average transsexual and that’s without shoving whether you’re transitioning from M to F or F to M into the mix. Annie Sprinkle and Kate Bornstein are some of my favourite sex positive activists who are coming from that previous generation where trans was an all-inclusive label and they’re coming up against a generation who don’t have to keep together because T’s are well represented and the transexuals can tell the transvestites that they think they’re conforming to societal expectation. The transvestites can tell the transexuals that it’s like they’re just taking things too far. And of course bitter arguments and rows errupt.
Gamer isn’t an all inclusive label anymore, previously you could assume that anyone behind a screen was just like you really but now people are asserting their differences and bitter arguments ensue about the identity. And just like with any good QUILTBAG argument people’s personal lives are used against them and accusations of sexism and misogyny are thrown around, points about general groups are taken personally if someone identifies with any part of that group and the ethics of all sides seem bound up with trying to throw mud at the others.