I am 32 years old, British and living in multicultural London, I'm white, male, educated, able bodied, white-collar worker. I'm gay - ah, there we go. I was SO CLOSE to winning the bingo of social advantages.

Because apart from that little point I've basically hit the cultural jackpot, it's pretty easy for me to be gay. I feel secure in my job, the country and the area in which I live is not known for its homophobic violence and the people I associate with on a daily basis are very unlikely to cause me trouble because of my sexuality, and would get into trouble if they did. 

I'm just about the luckiest gay guy imaginable with regards to my social status. With that in mind here are 4 things off the top of my head that I don't feel like it's always safe for me to do:

1) Hold hands or otherwise show affection to my boyfriend of 8 years in public
2) Use terms of endearment with him within earshot of strangers.
3) Mention that I have a boyfriend in mixed company.
4) Correct a relative stranger that asks whether I have a girlfriend.

I could probably come up with many more. They might seem minor to you - if so, look at them again and please, really think about how undignifying they are. These are things that many reading take for granted, and this (and, for many people much worse) is the sort of thing that people mean about when they say mere 'equality' doesn't quite cut it. 

None of the above things are illegal for me to do, and it would be illegal for someone to harrass me for doing them. More laws can't fix this, after a point. The only thing that can fix it is a change in society's attitudes, and the only thing that can change attitudes is visibility. More visibility than there is already. You can tell that there isn't enough, because if there was, those four things up there wouldn't be an issue.

Outside of friends and family, visibility can come in 2 main ways:

1) Defiance - I could defy my feelings of lack of safety doing the above, consequences be damned. If lots of people did it, visibility would help to normalise people seeing, for example, gay displays of affection. As something becomes commonplace, it's harder to vilify or treat as weird or wrong.

But nobody can be obliged to defy at the possible expense of their safety. Another way is:

2) Media - anyone who makes any sort of media has an opportunity to use that position of power to represent those who are underrepresented. If people don't see it in public, the only other place they're going to see it is in books, films, games, websites, etc. 

This doesn't mean, say, putting as many gay people in fiction as straight people. That's not what is meant by representation. Rather, representation is about putting an end to the assumptions of western media (and yes, of course I'm generalising, thinking of some counterexamples doesn't erase the very obvious trend): straight unless required to be gay, male unless required to be female, white unless required to be some other colour, etc. Acknowledging that all sorts of people exist, and that there's no 'default' person. 

I am yet to find a single example of a desire to acknowledge the existence of a wide range of people stifling a creator, while there are plenty of examples of a minority's defiance causing them harm. 

So it's not surprising that when creators fail to represent underrepresented groups, especially when they reasonably could, this draws ire. I do feel there is a moral obligation to at least be aware of whether and how different groups are represented by what you create, and address problems where necessary. Because without those creators taking that step, the only other people who can stick their neck out are people who are especially vulnerable to getting hurt because of it.

Historically, people in that category have come through, but it only gets us so far. It only deals with surface level injustice. In order to stop the sorts of obstacles that even me, with almost all the advantages has to deal with, people in a position of influence have to take steps, too. 

Sorry if that inconveniences you, but I doubt it really does. If you genuinely feel put out by the fact that someone is asking you to consider how your game represents race or gender, read my list of 4 random things I have to put up with, then imagine kind of list someone far less socially advantaged than me could come up with, and then begin to get a proper understanding of what 'inconvenience' means. Because I'm getting tired of people feeling hard-done-by that they're now being asked to consider this stuff.

Comments closed because if you think you have an argument against this I haven't heard, you can e-mail me. (Hint: you don't)

Posted
AuthorPeter Silk