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The "Gayming" Community Resonates w/ the LGBTQ Community

By Left of Str8 Podcasts Intern: Merry

30 Days of Pride: Day 13 Blog Post

Studies show that although only 5% of the US as a whole identify as LGBTQ+, 10% of the gaming community do, and also spend more on them as a whole. This phenomenon could be caused by a number of things, but I am going to focus on two today – the ability to meet and socialize with other members of the community, and the ability to explore your identity in a safe environment.

Many games today include a social aspect either in addition to or as a core part of the gameplay. MMORPG’s have always been huge, but with games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft hitting the top ranking charts with their huge multiplayer aspect has increased community within video games exponentially. Even in countries where being gay is against the law, gamers are able to meet and communicate with people like themselves in a way that might not be possible in the real world.

The digital world has always been a space for LGBTQ+ people to discuss their sexuality and gender (check out our interview with Mat Skallarud for more about the history of online LGBTQ+ spaces), and video games aren’t an exception to that. Going back to 2006, games like World of Warcraft had LGBTQ+ only guilds for people to join and socialize, and nowadays it spreads from communities inside of games to those outside, with reddit communities like r/Gaymers and r/TransGamers springing up for people to discuss their favorite games, share fan art, and plan groups to play with.

Games also allow people to experiment with their identities in ways that they may not feel brave enough to do in the real world, before they have to start transitioning or living in their identity in the real world. In the very simplest of terms, identity is a mixture of how we view ourselves and our place in the world, and how the world sees and treats us. Someone just coming to terms with either their sexual or gender identity can experiment in a place with much lower stakes than the real world – for example, playing a character with a different gender than theirs assigned at birth, or entering a same-sex relationship.

This might be in games that you think of when someone says a life simulation, like the Sims franchise, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley, or role playing games where you can enter into relationships, like Baldur’s Gate 3, Mass Effect, and dating simulators, but it can reach games far outside of that.

I’ve spoken about my experience with my gender identity in games before when I spoke about my gender journey, but I cut out a lot of it. I have always played the male characters in video games for as long as I can remember. I used to tell myself it was because I preferred the designs, but a part of me loved being referred to as male pronouns in those games. In fact, now that I’m non-binary, I am suddenly comfortable enough to play women in video games. The first game I can expressly remember doing this in was Pokemon, which may come as a surprise to some people as your gender tends not to affect the game outside of your model, and maybe what gender your rival was. But for me, when I was asked by the professor of the game if I was a boy or a girl and I pressed “boy”, it gave me a thrill that I could never quite place until I was later.

A good friend of mine realised that she was transgender while playing women characters in an online fighting game, realising that she enjoyed seeing a part of herself in a more feminine form.

Another friend realised they were agender because there was never a gender that they really aligned themself with when they played different genders in games. There was no difference for them when they were playing a man as there was to playing a woman, a non-binary character, or even an animal or inanimate object.

In fact, a lot people that I am friends with discovered their identities through video games. And it’s not just us, either. I mentioned before the communities of r/Gaymers and r/TransGamers, and those are full of people who have similar stories.

I wanted to leave this blog post off with a little joke slash test. If you’re a trans person, please let us know your favorite video games.

I bet I can guess at least one of your top five.

Want to find out more? I found the following articles useful for my research and you might too!

For LGBTQ+ Individuals, Video Games Offer Community, Escape by Nick Zagorski

Venn Diagram of LGBTQ+ and Gaming Communities Goes Here by Nick Fiorellini:

Identity in Gaming by Low Five Gaming

The Connection Between the LGBTQ+ Community and Video Games by Katherine Bosworth

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