April 2, 2013

Being Taken Seriously

Hi. I’m going to blog for a sec. That cool? Cool.

I read, over and over, all of these stories of women in tech and gaming being completely and totally insulted, disrespected, and disregarded on twitter like… constantly. I’m not one to get angry at politics and things of that nature outside my pet issues. It’s a flaw, I guess. But I find, more and more, this is a pet issue for me. These stories make me hurt, and make me furious, and make me thankful that I am surrounded by awesome people and awesome co-workers for the most part and don’t have to deal with this bullshit.

But it’s more than that, I guess.

I grew up with all male friends, doing “male” things, and generally loving how I spent my time and who I spent it with. When I finally got to be myself, I didn’t lose many of the people I grew up with. As a result, they know me. They know what I am capable of. They know my passions. They know when I should be taken seriously. They know I’m female. It doesn’t really affect things at all, besides a few jokey jokes that I know are jokes that, frankly, I’m glad they feel comfortable making, because it means my identity is clear in their heads, which means a lot to me.

But it makes me wonder. Because when we’re really in the groove, doing things we used to love and still do, they forget. Simple slips, simple mixups, and quickly corrected. Nothing I’m angry or even annoyed about, though they do sometimes catch me off guard. Example: We started playing Magic again. We hadn’t done that in years, way before I transitioned, and when we play, I find that pronouns sometimes slip the wrong way. It’s like a muscle memory. Automatic. Nothing meant by it. It’s there, though. And it makes me wonder if a lot of the respect I get in the sort of areas these women are talking about in their horrible stories are because of my background. That I’m still, in some respect, in that “male” box in some dusty, discarded box in the back of their head, and that affects things.

Recently, my brother and sister-in-law had a party, and invited a couple I had never seen before. CJ and I struck up a conversation with the guy of the couple, and as things do around us, the conversation turned to video games. I quickly had a revelation while this conversation was going on: he would never look at me. He was having a conversation with CJ, and not with the both of us, because I was the female, and thus not a gamer. Even when I’d chime in, clearly knowledgable, he’d quickly move back to CJ, even to respond to things I said. Not in an insulted or frustrated way or anything. In no way am I saying this guy was being mean. He had a super cool wife and super cool kids and seemed really nice. He clearly didn’t realize he was doing it. CJ didn’t realize it was going on until I talked to him afterward either. If I had pointed it out, he would have apologized like crazy. But it wasn’t an important thing.

Compared to the kind of stories you see out there every day, this was obscenely minor and in no way a big deal. But it stuck in my head afterwards, as I realized it was one of the first times I had ever been disregarded for my gender like that. (That might not be true, now that I think about it. I faced a lot of pushback trying to head up the makeup crew on shows back in the day. But first time for my REAL gender, anyway.) And I sat there and pictured that happening to me every day on things like that, where I really care and know a whole damn lot, and fuck, the thought was pretty awful.

I read this stuff and I wonder why I never see it, really, in my life. Is it because of residual “maleness” or just knowing better how to communicate with them, having lived among them? (I feel like I am a better communicator because of my past, but I don’t think that’s what the problem is in all the stories I hear by a long shot.) Is it just that I am a really awesome judge of character and surround myself with the coolest dudes? (That is certainly true regardless, but may not be affecting this particular thing.) Am I just somehow better at sticking up for myself than most? (Feels unlikely where I’m standing.) I really don’t know.

All I can agree on is that it’s total bullshit that this stuff happens to people, and I’m glad people are pushing back.

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