Trigger Warning: This article contains instances of transphobia and violent threats.
(If you are reading this article just for the petition, you can find it here.)
For many, gaming is an escape from the “real world” and a way to relieve stress. It can be almost therapeutic to insert yourself into a fantasy world in which you don’t normally belong. Unfortunately, modern-day bigotry has seeped into online communities so that for many marginalized people, even gaming can’t be an escape and they still truly do not belong. At least, that’s what bigots would like them to believe. I, myself, am not welcome in many communities because I am queer and I am a woman, but this story isn’t about me; it’s about the countless trans individuals who are being persecuted and excluded from Blizzard’s private Diablo III clans.
Clans are, by definition, an exclusive club which players use to recruit the best of the best, or simply to gather like-minded people and have fun playing together. So why does Blizzard seem to have a problem with transgender people making their own clan? Certainly they have no issue (currently) with LGBQ+ people forming clans, as evidenced by the Gaymers clan. And in fact, they also allow all-female clans to exist. But with the exclusion and censorship of the prefix “trans-”, they are barring trans people from joining together and getting some peace from the day-to-day transphobia that they face. It could be said that they are guarding trans people from harassment of the word “t****y” but even that argument doesn’t hold water as the prefix “tran-” is most certainly still allowed.
This is, of course, not the first time that Blizzard has had trouble with the LGBT+ community. Originally, the mature filter would censor the words “homosexual” and “transsexual”. Both words are technical terms, used often in the LGBT+ community, but I suppose that Blizzard wanted to protect them from harassment and abuse. So surely, the actually harmful slurs “f*g” and “f****t” were also censored, correct? This, as it turns out, was not the case. While individuals were no longer able to identify as “homosexual”, they could most certainly still be victims to these vicious slurs with nary a bit of censorship. In fact, a World of Warcraft player by the name of Sara Andrews was issued a warning for recruiting members for her LGBT+ friendly guild via in-world chat. She was assaulted with accusations of “insulting speech” and “sexual harassment” for simply wanting a safe space for herself and her comrades. Sara’s choices became clear: continue recruitment for the guild and have her account banned or remain silent and isolated. When the story became public and made national news, Blizzard finally yielded and allowed for such guilds to be made. However, it seems that in their reactionary rule changes, they forgot the “T” in “LGBT+” and continue to exclude transgender people from finding safe community today.
A trans woman named Olivia Quin and a non-binary trans guy named Lucian Clark set out to create a guild called TransGamers. What the couple found out, however, is that they were stopped by the useless and bigoted censorship of the prefix “trans-”, a ban which extends to World of Warcraft’s guilds and possibly StarCraft, as well. Expectedly angry, Lucian “ran with the idea” and went to Blizzard’s support team with the plea that the ban be lifted. These are the responses he received. Following support’s advice, he made a forum thread with the main goal of attracting developer attention, as well as possibly receiving support for his cause.
The reality, however, was much different. As you may have noticed in Lucian’s service tickets, despite his pleas, neither support nor the moderators did much about the onslaught of transphobia and hatred he received. In Lucian’s own words, “They deleted the harsher ones, like telling me to kill myself and comparing being queer to bestiality, but they left a lot up saying that trans people are mentally ill and the like”. What the mods left up, however, is simply appalling. One man even threatened any open trans player by saying “he would actively stalk trans people in the game to harass them to show ‘this is what thye [sic] get for being open’”.
Lucian was obviously startled and dismayed. He stated in a Skype interview with me, “But yea, I feel…pretty disheartened from not only the forum response, but not even mod support. No mod stepped in to tell people to lay off the transphobia or personal attacks. Nada. For a post that hit max post count, and with deleted posts, I know mods had to have seen the thread and never intervened, never said anything. How is that supposed to make me feel as a trans person? If it is anything other than safe and welcome, then they are doing that right.”
Having taken matters into his own hands, Lucian created a petition with the hope that Blizzard would see how many people disapproved of the ban and would be convinced to change their discriminatory policies; he also started the petition as a way for other trans people to give their opinion on the matter without being assaulted by bigotry as he had. Lucian published an article about the issue, which I encourage you to read, as his own words are far more meaningful than mine because I am not a member of the trans community. Lucian, and all of the players who suffer under this ban, could use the support of anyone in or out of the gaming community, whether you identify as trans or not. I hope you will join me in signing the petition for the right to their own safe space. Every gamer deserves to escape, not just the deafening majority. I leave you with Lucian’s own words and once again encourage you to add strength to this protest, whether it personally affects you or not.
“Honestly, I want Blizzard to think of the type of community they are creating and allowing by forcing people to remain silent about who they are. They are not making a safe space for trans gamers and are doing quite the opposite. This originally started as a simple want for a Diablo III clan for trans gamers, but has shown the issue is ingrained into much more than that. Blizzard lacks policies that include not only transphobia and cissexism, but misogyny and sexism. They lack gender specific Code of Conduct clauses on the forums, and thus, in their games. This issue has expanded to beyond Diablo III and into the company as a whole and how they deal with things regarding not only being trans, but gender in its entirety. No mod ever stepped in to say that the transphobia that I and the other openly trans gamers was experiencing was against the rules. I have a feeling that if homophobic language and ideas were being thrown at gay players, they would have stepped in. However, as a trans player, I recieved [sic] no support from Blizzard. I recieved [sic] no support from customer support either, simply being told to tough out the bigotry I was experiencing in the forums and hope that someone would see what I was going through. So far, I’ve recieved [sic] no support from Blizzard staff. The threaf [sic] is now closed due to posting limit and did not recieve [sic] a single post from any forum of Blizzard employee. What kind of message does that send to trans gamers? We’re not as small of a minority as some think, and since when does the size of our population matter? We play games to escape the bigotry we experience in our lives, no [sic] be reminded of it. Clans and guilds allow us an extra level of escape, and that is simply not being provided to trans gamers via Blizzard’s games.”
If you believe that every gamer should belong, please, sign this petition and spread the word: Uncensor the prefix trans- from Diablo III clan making.