Tag Archives: lgbt

A linkspam of startling elegance (31st December, 2010)

  • Activist burnout: Dan Choi, an activist working to end DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, US miliitary policy against openly lesbian, gay or bi people serving), made his burnout and hospitalisation public: I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things: veterans gay or straight carry human burdens, Activists share similar burdens, no activist should be portrayed as super human…
  • Jess on Slacktivist Uprising: There is more than one job, and more than one tool. Many oppressed groups, including women, still face bias that’s engendered in (or at least not counteracted by) the law. But law is at least starting to catch up to justice, while social discourse, including among progressives, lags behind… For the finishing work — for lifting tenacious ugliness to the light, for uncovering the frameworks of privilege, for crafting a progressive movement that truly values everyone it represents – we need different tools.
  • Siobhan Quinn lists 60 women she knows who work in engineering, product management, design and executive roles.
  • Geraldine Doyle, Inspiration for Famous ‘We Can Do It’ Poster, Dies: Geraldine Doyle of Lansing, whose face became the inspiration behind the iconic World War II image of Rosie the Riveter, has died, according to her family.
  • Record Set for World’s Youngest Chess Champion: Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old chess player from China, became the youngest world chess champion on Friday, toppling a record held since 1978… Ms. Hou had an earlier shot at the women’s world title in 2008, when she was 14, but lost in the championship match to Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia. She said that Ms. Kosteniuk had simply been too good at the time.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Queer geeks, femininity and gender presentation

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters.

Here’s another clothing question, although I suppose that it could be expanded to gendered behavior in general. I’ve read geek women (on this site and other places) who find that wearing masculine clothing pushes others to respect their technical competence in a way that doesn’t happen when they dress femininely. I admire those who demonstrate that being awesome works just fine in a skirt, thanks. At the same time, I’ve been moving towards more masculine dress/mannerisms to see what types of gendered presentation actually work for me.

On the one hand, I want to explore the gender spectrum and see where I’m comfortable and what works. Where I’ve currently landed has the bonus (in some ways) of looking less like I must be straight. On the other hand, I don’t want to contribute to the meme that a woman in STEM has to look like a man to be respected.

I suspect this is another political/personal question, and that it might be a queer geek version of the more mainstream question of “How do I balance the expression of my own femininity and my desire that femininity not be mandatory for all women?” I’m looking less for advice here than for discussion and other perspectives.

On LambdaFail, women writing m/m erotica, and the queerness and/or misogyny of slash fandom

This won’t be news to anyone who moves in fannish meta circles, but I thought it warranted a post for those who might not have encountered the discussion before now.

Back in September, the Lambda Literary Foundation announced that henceforth their awards would be restricted to authors who identified as GLBT, rather than (as had previously been the case) anyone who was writing GLBT-oriented works. This excluded, in particular, a growing segment of the book market consisting of male/male erotica written by (presumably straight) women.

Discussion ensued as to whether such fiction was appropriating gay male culture and offensive to gay men, or whether the backlash against m/m erotica written by women was just another instance of women’s sexual expression being policed by men, as it so often is. A round of Oppression Olympics ensued, with women on one team and gay men on the other; both groups are in the right, being similarly subject to the kyriarchy and privileged (or not) on different axes, but few commentators approached the debate from this perspective in the early rounds.

Recently, the discussion has spread to slash fandom on Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and elsewhere, and this (IMHO) is where it gets really interesting, because that crowd is nothing if not introspective, verbose, smart, and well practiced in massively hypertext discussions of complicated issues.

Slash is m/m erotica written (usually) by women about (usually) male characters from TV, movies, books, etc. Many of the most popular slash fandoms are geek staples such as Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Buffy, superhero comics, and so forth. Unlike the professional m/m erotica market, slash writers are generally working with existing characters, often from fandoms that don’t pass (or barely pass) Bechdel in the first place. Many slashers use their writing/reading to explore sex and gender in a relatively safe online environment that might not otherwise be available to them. And, it turns out, many or most slashers are themselves queer, despite stereotypes about “straight housewives” and the like.

So, fandom being fandom, and things being always more complicated, the discussion coming out of this is pretty crunchy. Some of the questions/themes I’ve seen covered include:

  • Does romance/erotica ignore or erase difficult issues (eg. discrimination, oppression), and should we care? Or does escapism get a free pass?
  • Do fanfic writers have a duty to write the other respectfully and realistically when the “other” in question is gay men/MSM? How do we do this?
  • Why do fanfic writers write about male characters so much more than female characters, anyway? Is this internalised misogyny?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in reading up on some of what’s been posted, take a look at the linkspam and metafandom communities, which have been collecting links to interesting posts on the subject.

National Coming Out Day: LGBTQ geeks

In the US and many other countries, today is National Coming Out Day. I thought this might be a good chance to talk about the experiences of LGBTQ geeks and how they intersect with the experiences of female geeks.

  • LGBTQ geeks, like women, are a minority in geek communities. AdamW mentioned it the other week in this post:

    My personal experience is as an even more unusual minority in F/OSS than being a woman — I’m gay. (I’ve mentioned this before but I don’t really make a point of it, so some people probably don’t know). I can’t even recall anyone _else_ openly gay in the F/OSS community at all — I’m sure there are a few, but it’s a very very small number.

    I’m not sure whether or not gay men are less common than women in F/OSS — it seems unlikely to me — but they are certainly a less visible minority, since guessing based on physical appearance or name will get you approximately nowhere. And gay men (as well as lesbians and other non-straight folks) are subject to homophobia in geek culture: insults like “faggot” are common in gaming, on IRC, etc. In that much, there is a similarity between the two groups, both of which are marginalised and excluded to some extent.

  • I guess it should go without saying that the set of female geeks and the set of non-straight geeks overlap, but sometimes people seem to forget or ignore that. We see this when people suggest that adding beefcake to porny presentations would make women happy, or that women should be pleased when men comment on their appearance or sexual desirability. Being asked if you’re at an event with your boyfriend gains a whole new level of wrongness. And efforts to appeal to women in technology, gaming, etc, often assume heterosexuality and gender-normativity, featuring boys, dating, weddings (opposite sex only), and traditional families. Queer women, in these situations, can feel even more uncomfortable than straight women do.
  • And then there are times when female geekdom interacts with queer geekdom and weirdness ensues. I had an experience at a convention, where a man was getting in my personal space, touching me, and so on — nothing terrible, just putting his hand on my shoulder and being over-friendly. When I asked him not to, he said, “Oh, it’s OK — I’m gay!” When people have (or lack) different kinds of privilege, the negotiation around it can get incredibly complicated. Does being gay exempt this guy from facing his male privilege?
  • I’m not highly qualified to speak for transgendered/genderqueer/intersex geeks, but there are another set of issues that come along with that. Rachel guest-posted yesterday about one aspect her her experience as a trans geek, and I hope we’ll be able to have more discussion on related topics going forward.

Like many other feminists, intersectionality is something I’m just starting to come to grips with. How about you? Do you have stories of being an LGBTQ geek, or of how LGBTQ issues intersect with feminism in geek communities?

Yes, there are women in gaming… and some of them have Y chromosomes

Rachel Walmsley is the head of documentation for Dreamwidth Studios. She’s also a geek, a gamer, and a transwoman.

Hi, I’m Rachel, also known as rho, and I am — amongst many other things — a woman, a geek, a gamer, and a transwoman. Skud has invited me here to discuss some of the issues and experiences that I’ve had being both a transwoman and a geek, and I’m delighted to do so.

There are a whole lot of issues I’d like to go into at some point, such as privilege issues from the perspective of someone who’s been on both sides of the line or how feminists can sometimes exclude transwomen (accidentally or otherwise) but to start with I’d just like to discuss something a little lighter.

As I mentioned above, I’m a gamer. Video games are my poison of choice, but all forms of gaming are good. For transgender geeks, games are a wonderful escape. For as long as I can recall and certainly since before I realised I was transgender myself, I always used to play female characters in games wherever I had the option. Whether it was perfecting the timing on Chun Li’s spinning bird kick or just being sure that my @ sign was definitely a female @ sign when I was playing a roguelike, I was always drawn to female characters.

Role-playing games were the best, of course. Back when I was struggling with my identity and wasn’t generally able to be myself an immersive world with only a computer for company and nobody to tell me that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be was ideal. I suspect most people feel the allure of getting to be someone else for a while, but for transfolk such as myself it’s a particularly strong one.

Time has passed, though, I’ve transitioned, and I’m at ease with my gender identity. Mostly. One of the things that can still make me anxious on that front — in a huge twist of irony — is gaming. For starters video games today are no longer the solitary affair that they once were. MMOs are all the rage, and even my not-at-all tech savvy dad has heard of World of Warcraft. From a gaming perspective, this is great. From an escapism perspective, not so much.

Many female video game characters are, unfortunately, designed primarily to be aesthetically pleasing to the straight male primary audience (and in many cases, the straight male game designers and artists). Far too many games have the problem of “Wait? That’s meant to be armour? I thought it was lingerie!” for their female characters. Male characters get tough leather or iron armour whereas female characters wind up in a skimpy piece of cloth that wouldn’t keep you from catching a death of cold, let alone serve as protection against incoming arrows or fireballs.

This leads to a lot of male players creating female characters for no reason other than to ogle their pixelated behinds. I’ve even seen guides to in-game trading that explicitly recommend that the player creates a female character to get extra trade, and that they should pretend to be female and helpless to make other players more willing to trade with them. The author of this particular document didn’t seem to realise either that some of the players might actually be female or that females are not generally helpless and pathetic.

The default assumption then becomes that anyone playing a female character is actually male which leads to the whole “there are no girls on the Internet” thing. I’m sure that pretty much all women gamers have encountered this at least once, and probably many many times. It’s annoying at the best of times, but for a transwoman who has had to battle to be seen as a woman in the world at large, it’s doubly annoying. The final kick in the teeth for me comes when there’s voice chat involved. I don’t have a feminine-sounding voice, and while on the phone it’s a simple matter to correct someone who assumes I’m a man, when gaming, it’s a lot harder to convince people.

After all, there’s no such thing as a female gamer.