Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bad News, Good News, and...

...I'm not quite sure what kind of news. Hopefully, interesting news at least.

I lost another Myrmidon two nights ago. Once again it was my own stupid fault, I kept myself in the kill zone just a little too long. That's the bad news, as you might have guessed.

The good news was when I got my insurance payment for 40 million, and I ended up with about 120 million I bought myself a Megathron. Yeah, a fucking battleship, my first one, great except for just a few things.

First, I didn't realize until after I bought it that I need to have Gallente Battleship trained up
to Level 2 in order to just fit it, much less fly the thing in the first place. That'll be done by the time you see this post. Of course, another little problem is that I haven't been able to make it my active ship yet, so I'm not sure exactly how much I'll have to pay to insure the thing. The estimate is about 30 million. I've got 27 million and I haven't even started fitting it yet. Oi.

I clone jumped to Korsiki and flew the Thorax back to Gallente space last night. I expect I'll be running some missions with it for a while to build the wallet back up to the point where I'll be able to put the Megathron in space. A pain to be sure, but worth it in the long run, I think.

I'm also thinking about retaking the Agony Unleashed Basic PvP class and then moving on to some of their other classes. Now that I'm not in E-Uni anymore, I've been thinking it would be a very smart idea to get a refresher because I haven't really had much of a chance to use these skills at all since I first took the class. Retaking the Basic class won't cost me anything, so it's something I can do without slowing down the process of getting the Megathron ready to go. I've set up a jump clone at the AU staging station and I still have the frigs and mods I originally put together for the class, making it very easy to do without taking a lot of extra prep time in the process.

More soon...til then, fly safe.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What's New?

Actually, right now pretty much everything.

Yesterday, Nealla made me a Director in our corp, with the same authority level as he has. Pretty cool, though I really need to become more familiar my new abilities and how to use them. Nealla's also begun helping me learn the finer points of research and manufacturing. I really started out with pretty much zero experience in these, aside from one basic instructional mission I did a while back. We're also working together to decide the direction of the corp, and plenty of other related issues.

Of course, this is all totally new to me. The only actual grantable role I've ever held in this game before now was being approved in E-Uni for Freshman hangar access. Now, like Nealla, I've got controlling authority in every single aspect of our corp which can be had. I have a feeling this is going to be a hell of a lot of fun as we grow and really develop into something worthwhile.

I've also begun adjusting my own gameplay in light of my new role. I'm training skills I probably wouldn't have bothered with for a while otherwise, and I'm saving certain types of salvage and loot that will be useful in our manufacturing. I'm still running missions, of course. Right now, it's still the most effective way for me to make ISK and help the corp get off the ground.

As you might imagine, I'm having a blast doing it. As much as I liked being a member of E-Uni and interacting with the people there, I'd gotten into a bit of a rut in terms of just doing the same things over and over most of the time. One of the problems was that my standings are best with the Gallente Federation Navy, and when I tried to start operating from Korsiki I frequently found myself returning to Gallente space to run missions because I was able to make so much more ISK there that it just didn't make sense with the limited available playtime I've had in recent weeks to build my standings up in Caldari space to a similar level. I just didn't have the time to put into doing it in any sort of a timely manner. I've been looking for new things to do in this game, and in making this move, I've now got that in abundance.

In addition, it's the chance to put my RL values into practice in EvE that makes this adventure especially exciting to me. It's not very often such an opportunity presents itself. And again, it's also the newness of it all. In some ways, I'm now playing EvE in a completely new way, a way that makes it more interesting and involving and less monotonous than before. Not that I didn't enjoy it before, but it had been a while since I'd really explored something completely new and different about this game.

I'm trying to be careful because I don't want to imply any sort of real preference here, it's really far more about personality than sexuality, but it can sometimes be a lot more comfortable to interact with people who get it, who get you, those who you don't need to explain stuff to or watch what you say around for fear of possibly offending or of being offended. After having to be so careful in that way in so many aspects of our lives, it can really be nice to be able to just let your guard down and just speak from the heart sometimes without having to worry about how others might take it. That's something I find in GLBTA chat and nowhere else in-game right now. I'm hoping that when Stonewall Interstellar really finds its wings, we'll be able to boast a second place where that's true as well.

Anyway, I spent the better part of the day in-game yesterday, but I've got just too much stuff to do in order to do so today. Frankly, I'm amazed I managed to squeeze in the time to write this post. I'm hoping to be able to jump in for a while later tonight, though. Fingers crossed.

Ok, that's about all I've got time for right now...til next time, fly safe.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm A Big Girl Now...

...well, in EvE, anyway.

Earlier tonight, I officially left EvE University and joined a new corp created by a friend, Nealla Fraer, Stonewall Interstellar. It's a corp that's welcoming and supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allied pilots. We're a pretty small group right now, but I think we'll grow as time goes on and as more players find out about us.

As excited as I am to be taking this new step in my EvE career, it's also a little sad. I've truly enjoyed my time with E-Uni. It's without question the best group/guild/corp/bunch of folks I've ever had the chance to game with. I've met several folks who I'm quite fond of, learned a hell of a lot from, and just had a great time playing with in general. I leave E-Uni knowing that should I have the opportunity to assist during an attack or just be in a position to help them out in some way in the future, it'll be my pleasure and honor to do so. It's the very least I can do for all I've gotten from them. I can truly say I don't think I could possibly have been more fortunate than to have spent most of my first seven months in this game with such a great group of people.

Even so, I've been casting my sights outward for a while now, and when Nealla asked me if I wanted to join I felt it was the perfect opportunity to take that step and explore aspects of the game I haven't as yet. Add to that the fact that I'm able to do it with someone who's already a friend and help create a safe and welcoming corp for GLBTA pilots in this game (not that E-Uni isn't absolutely wonderful in that of the many things I love about it), and I knew this was the chance I'd been waiting for.

I will admit it's kinda weird not having a corp chat with lots of people in it at any given time, but that's ok. We're just a few days out of the gate right now. It's a new experience, and one I'm looking forward to with great anticipation. Needless to say, you'll be reading a lot about it here as time goes on.

If you're interested, we're recruiting. While I'm sure most of you right now have jokes formulating in your heads about gays recruiting, we are looking for pilots of all specialties, and no, you don't need to be any one of those first four letters in order to qualify, all you have to be is cool with people who are and talk about it sometimes, along with everything else. We're doing a lot of research and manufacturing, so if these interest you, we're especially interested in talking to you. Just get in touch with me or Nealla in-game and introduce yourself.


By the way, if you've got an EvE blog or other game-related site and would like to do a link trade, please get in touch with me. I've been thinking about creating a decent-size link list for this blog, and I'd like to do it in a way that helps promote this blog as well. You can post here, or get in touch in-game. EvE-related sites only please.


Ok that's it for now. I'm beat. Til next time, fly safe.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Wow. I'll admit, I'm pretty stunned.

When I wrote ""Gay" Is NOT A Dirty Word!" several days ago, it was my hope that maybe it could inspire some policy changes or something along those lines, but nothing prepared me for what I discovered when I checked out the E-O forums yesterday.

What I found was a DevBlog by Kieron saying that both ISD and the Aurora events team were basically being disbanded and would be replaced with a new system for handling their duties once their policies and procedures have been reviewed by CCP. Of course, I'm nowhere near arrogant enough to believe for even a minute that my post alone brought down the ISD, especially given the fact that the events team, which I never mentioned, also got the axe. At the same time, I suppose it is possible that what I wrote here might have added to the issues CCP felt needed to be addressed with a revamp of the system and guidelines under which the forums are moderated.

In all honesty, I didn't expect this when I wrote my post. I felt strongly about the issue I addressed and my hope was (and is) that I'd be heard, agreed with, and changes would be made as a result. That, in my opinion, is both the best and the most someone like myself, someone who's both a regular player and a commentator of EvE, can hope for. As activists of any stripe know well, you can't realistically expect to be able change the entire world as an activist...the best you can really hope for and effectively work toward is changing your own little corner of it for the better, or, at least, doing what you can to help that change occur. While again I certainly can't rationalize taking any sort of credit for the changes in this case, it nonetheless does feel like a victory anyway.

There's a lot of overlap between what I do in RL and in this situation. Many, in fact probably all, of the community organizations I interact with in the course of being an activist and community commentator rely chiefly on volunteers for many, if not most, of the non-leadership positions within their organizations. As CCP has no doubt learned, there's a very big difference between what you can expect in terms of work performance between paid employees and volunteers.

Paid employees usually (if they're good) take a certain proprietary view of their jobs. When what you're doing is putting food on your table and paying your rent, it's hardly surprising you'll tend to take it more seriously than when you're doing something without pay, solely for personal fulfillment or enjoyment. It's also not unexpected that unpaid volunteers who are volunteering essentially to become more involved with something they do for enjoyment will be more likely to want to do things their own way, and try to bring their own attitudes and desires into the process more aggressively and more often, and take more liberties in their jobs than those who have the added concern of protecting a paycheck.

That isn't in any way an indictment of any ISD volunteers specifically or of volunteerism in general, it's simply a reflection of human nature. When push comes to shove, protecting one's paying job just takes a greater priority in most cases than volunteer work, especially when it comes to playing by the rules. Not every volunteer does so for altruistic reasons. For many, it can be an "insider" status that's the draw. For others, it may be the opportunity to insert one's own agenda into the mix in a more impactful way than can be done as a mere participant.

Not everyone wants to be a leader, and fewer still are really capable of actually being one, but certainly more than enough want to be that companies and organizations which rely in whole or in part on a staff of volunteers to handle certain jobs can find themselves with a situation where too many people are going "I, I, I..." instead of "we, we, we...". When that happens, the entity employing these volunteers may have to periodically take a step back, look honestly and critically at the overall situation, and ask the question "Is what we have here what best serves the interests of our organization and what we do?". If the answer is "No", then changes will likely have to be made, and I suspect that's what happened here.

Another reality of working with volunteers versus paid employees is that when you're offering some form of authority or power over others as a aspect of the job, volunteers are more likely to see that power as a perk and a status symbol than as a responsibility. Some volunteers will likely be much more enthusiastic and possibly even overbearing in finding ways to wield that power. After all, what good is being given power over others unless you use it, right?

On the other hand, paid employees are more likely to simply see authority over others as a means to an end in getting their jobs done, and will use it in that way, instead of going out of their way to use their given authority just because they have it. In addition, the larger the group of those in authority, the more likely it is that someone, or several someones, are going to choose to put their own agenda and interests before those of the entity which gave them that power in the first place.

I've had a lot of time over the last several days to think about these issues. I've been a forum moderator on several different boards and email lists, and I've dealt with these issues from the top of the authority food chain as well as from the bottom. With all the experience I've had as not only a moderator but also one who's been subject to moderation myself, I've got a pretty clear idea of the kind of changes I'd like to see here.

I don't know if CCP is looking to hire people to take on that job, but if they were to offer it to me, I'd take it in a second (I am, as a matter of fact, looking for work right now), and I think I'd be damn good at it. I've been through best of it and through the worst of it, and I think I've got an insight into this kind of public discussion forum and how they function which would allow me to recreate the moderation system for the E-O forums in a way that would be more welcoming, more inclusive, more worthwhile, more enjoyable, and more in concert with the actual game itself than what we've had until now.

Among the first things I'd do is get rid of the word filters, or more specifically, the way in which they've been being used. Personally, I think it's kind of silly to ban cursing in a game intended for teens and older, but even if CCP wanted that I'd try to avoid having to ban any words which can be used in polite conversation. Words that are exclusively used as slurs are another issue, and there's no reason not to exclude words that are only used as slurs to express hate. Curses, on the other hand, are used in common (if not polite) discussion a lot, and if they're not being used to attack others there's really no reason to ban them. In fact, banning these words and replacing them with asterisks actually makes forum readers think about them more as the mind automatically tries to fill in the sentence with correct word.

Basically, I'd try to use the game itself as the best model of what CCP wants EvE and the official media around it to be, and use that as guideline. Key to this goal would be taking an issue on the forums, examining how it's handled or dealt with in the game (if at all) and then using that as a guide to formulate policy.

For example, if I were charged with dealing with the word filter issue, I'd ban words like the N-word and other racial, ethnic, religious, etc. slurs, but only those words which have one, clearly offensive meaning. Words that have common, acceptable usages wouldn't be subject to this. I'd then deal with bigotry, bias, and other offensive posting on a case by case basis. In other words, I'd make the guidelines for moderation of the E-O forums based more on what people actually do rather than the specific words they use.

A good example of what I'm talking about is the use of the N-word. You can hear it said on hip-hop songs all the time by black performers and no one bats an eye. Yet, let it come out of the mouth of a white person in a public forum and it will often be seen as bigotry and a reason to fight. It's not as much the word itself that causes the problem as the context in which it is used and by whom it is used. The words "faggot", "queer", or even "girl" (when used by men) can elicit much the same kind of context-based responses which can vary greatly depending on how they are used and who's using them. Again, it's not so much what's actually said that's the issue as it's the meaning behind the use of the words in the first place.

Another thing I'd do if I were recreating this forum for the better is to allow more personality and localism in the topics and discussion groups. Have a bunch of people who are gay and want a gay-relevant forum for EvE players on the E-O forums? Submit an application, go through a screening process to ensure that you're not trying to create a hate group or other such negatively-based discussion group and that such a forum would have enough interest and participation to make it worthwhile, and let the players have at it.

All kinds of shared interests besides the game itself could be served and promoted like this, just as they are in-game. Not only sexuality, but nationality, ethnicity, lifestyle (i.e. popular culture interests outside of the game itself such as music style, profession, political views, etc.), and more could be valid EvE-related interest groups that could be given a place on the forums to be discussed by like-minded players.

With more freedom of expression, there would have to also have to be a certain additional amount of accountability as well. If you're allowed to create a new forum and there are problems and complaints regarding it, you're going to be asked why and what you plan to do about it. If you don't have a good answer or can show you're actively working on finding one, your forum is either going to go away or you're going to be replaced by someone who's better able to administer it.

One of the most basic overriding ideas I'd impose is that having the status of a moderator, paid or unpaid, or any other type of authority not offered to the average player is a privilege, not a right, and one that can and will be taken away if you abuse it or fail to demonstrate that you can and will use it wisely and in the best interests of both CCP and the EvE player community. Founders of these kinds of discussion groups and volunteers in general would be held to a high standard, with a hard and fast set of rules and guidelines to be followed. You break the rules, you pay for it in a significant and memorable way, just as a player posting there would. Break the rules too often or in ways that clearly indicate that you're looking to impose your own agenda and rulebook as the norm rather than CCP's, and you're gone, no matter who you are, how many friends you have, how long you've been doing the job, or how powerful or popular you are in-game.

I'd also create a zero-tolerance policy for any sort of real bigotry or other infraction that harms or negatively impacts the game or its playerbase in a serious way and makes EvE or the forums seem less friendly and welcoming. Yes, you'd be able to type the word "gay" and have it appear in print, but if you used it as a slur against another player you'd quickly find yourself whacked upside the head with the banning stick, plus probably lose the ability to apply to create or administer your own group forum, maybe even be banned from the game itself if it's serious enough. Do it repeatedly and you'll end up being banned in perpetuity or at least long enough that you're going to remember your mistake.

I'd also want to make sure that there would be a way to appeal a decision or action against a player that was both fair and effective. In-game, players with such an issue can petition to have it addressed, and if they're not happy with the result they can appeal it to a higher authority. I'd want to set up a similar system that was in concert with how CCP wants it done. If a moderator takes action against you in some way and you believe you're in the right, you'd have the right to petition and state your case, and you'd know that your petition would be carefully reviewed and investigated by those vested with the power to change the result if they feel it warranted. You'd also be informed, within the limits of what's considered appropriate for public consumption, of any decision made on your petition, what action will be taken as a result, and why that decision was made.

That may seem like a lot of rules (and this is hardly a complete list), but in reality there's a lot of space for individuality, personality, and just plain old fun in there, just as in the case of the game itself. EvE has plenty of rules, regulations, guidelines, and such things which impact the gameplay in significant ways, but the game is designed in a way that these things only come into play as necessary to keep the game balanced and fair, while still allowing the main purpose, fun and entertainment, to be the real goal, one that any player can seek and find within it, or even make it for themselves. In this way, I see no reason why the E-O forums should be any different from the game universe they focus on.

Anyone who's played a while knows it works. CCP hasn't made such things issues in-game except when they absolutely have no choice but to step in, and there's no reason why the same policies couldn't be incorporated into the forums with the same level of success. While there will always be those who create problems and require an authoritative response in the interest of the game and the players and a whole, the vast majority of EvE players participate in both the game and the forums because they want to play the game and talk about it. When the real troublemakers are dealt with quickly and effectively, the rest are them left to enjoy themselves, and most will do it in a way that doesn't mistreat or disparage others in ways that aren't acceptable within the EvE universe. When you get right down to it, the forums should be a positive and accurate reflection of what players find in-game, not the seemingly almost entirely separate entity unto itself with its own completely different set of rules of conduct it has been.

Yeah, I'd love that job, and I think I'd be good at it, in large part because I've given these issues as much thought as I have. I've been a forum warrior for a long time and I've learned a lot from it. I've also been a manager of both paid employees and volunteers that I know that experience would serve me in good stead in something like this as well. And hey, not for nothing, but when I'm motivated I can write up a storm when I set my mind to it, another skill that can be exceptionally useful in this kind of work.

Regardless of what CCP actually chooses to do here or how they decide to do it, I do hope they'll do it in a way that makes the forums and the way they're run reflect the values the designers have made a part of the game itself. To my way of thinking, it's taking one of the very best parts of EvE, the players and the in-game social interaction between us all, and making it publicly accessible outside of the game. If done correctly, the E-O forums can not only be a place where people already playing EvE can come and interact with each other outside of the game, but also where someone who's never played can go and quickly come to understand the biggest reason why EvE is so special, unique, and so very worth playing: the people, the community of New Eden...often rowdy, sometimes raunchy, rarely (if ever) afraid to voice an honestly held opinion, but most of all, just a pretty great bunch people having some fun together playing and talking about a game we all share a great love for. When you get right down to it, there's really nothing more or less to it than that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

EvE TV: Third Take

I had the chance to watch episodes 7 and 8 today. I bet after my last post on this topic, you're probably expecting me to trash it again. Surprise...not happening. I try to make it a policy to commend as quickly and as enthusiastically as I condemn when I believe it's called for, and I'm very pleased to say it's called for.

These last two episodes show significant, no, massive improvement over the ones I'd watched previously. SpiralJunkie was clear and understandable almost completely throughout both. He's still gotta watch it when he does interviews, though. There were a few times, but only a few, where he lapsed into that fast-speaking conversational mumblespeak he tends to go into, but otherwise an excellent job. He's clearly making an effort and it shows.

In fact, my only real issues with these two episodes were not with the regular on-air staff or the production values but with the guest experts. Having a business reporter like Benilopax talk about the market and investment is a great idea, but this guy needs those same voice lessons I wanted SpiralJunkie to take. It was a little difficult to understand him just in general, and when the conversation turned to alphabet soup abbreviation references he became almost impossible to follow at points. Also, if this guy wants to wear a tie on the air, that's fine, but then he has to tie the thing right so that he doesn't look like he's just run into the studio after a quickie in the changing room. I also suspect it will improve his look and credibility immensely if he doesn't wear the same shirt and badly tied tie on every show.

Hippoking was very interesting contentwise, but watching him on-camera drove me absolutely batshit. I wanted to reach into the screen, grab him by the collar, and say "Look into the fucking camera, goddammit!!". This guy's eyes were everywhere, left, right, down, everywhere except where they should have been. It was so distracting and annoying at points that it actually became hard to follow what he was saying. He's good and knows his stuff, so if they have him on again they need to sit him down, point his face directly at the camera, and say "See that camera? Pretend it's the screen of your computer. You're in the middle of a pitched battle against BoB forces and you're fighting for your life. If you take your eyes off of that screen for even a second while that little red light is on, your mothership and your pod will be instantly destroyed.".

Really though, that was the worst of it. I'm thoroughly impressed by the level of improvement in this show in so short of a time. It's clear they're really working hard to make this show the very best it can be, and with great success. Therefore, I'll pay this show and the people who create it the very highest compliment I can in that regard:

EvE TV: It's now worth paying for.


I did send my previous post off to both ISD and Valerie "Pann" Massey, the woman who does EvE's PR. I'd contacted her a while back when I did a show about LGBT gamers to get her take on how these issues are dealt with in EvE, so I felt it was a good idea to do so in this case as well. I haven't heard anything from ISD as yet, but Val did get back to me to say she wanted to talk to me about it. I sent her my phone numbers and I expect to hear from her soon. I'm considering taking this topic on again on the air, but I want to see what, if anything, happens as a result before I make any decisions about if or how I'd do that. More on this as I have it.


It's been a hell of a busy time these last few days, so no chance to play a lot. I did jump in for a while yesterday though, did a mission, and had a very interesting conversation about an possible upcoming in-game career move. It's not something I'm prepared to talk about here just yet, but as time goes on I expect it will be. Again, more when I have it.

More soon. Til then, fly safe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Gay" Is NOT A Dirty Word!

Since I started playing EvE and writing this blog back in February, I've always made it a policy to keep my RL and in-game realities as separate as possible. With only just a few minor chips here and two major dents on the E-O and E-Uni forums inflicted on that wall over that time, I think I've done a fairly good job of it. Now, however, real life and EvE life have suddenly crashed into each other so directly and significantly that I feel I can no longer rationalize maintaining that wall any longer, that to do so, to remain silent and uninvolved, would be in direct conflict with the values I believe in and live my life by. And so, the wall has to come down now and it has to come down hard. Bear with me as I grab my sledgehammer and hang on. This is going to get messy.

I came this realization late last night, when I logged into EvE and read an MOD (Message Of the Day) as I checked to see who was in the GLBTA chat. Our moderator was furious about something and offered a link. Since the link didn't work in the IGB, I copied it, logged out, pasted it into my browser, and found myself at the third page of an E-O forum discussion thread. At first, I wasn't quite sure what was so upsetting to Nealla that he'd post such an angry message, so I went back to the first post and read all three pages of comments, but I still didn't quite get it until the final post from an ISD forum moderator put a capper on it for me.

The thread was titled "Any other Homosexuals playing EVE and upset at CCP support?". The original post was from a newly-out gay player who was upset at the blocking of certain words from the E-O forums. He asked why words such as "gay", "lesbian", or even as commonly used and relatively inoffensive as "crack" were blocked. Even though I hadn't felt the question important enough to address publicly, it was certainly easy to understand why he and other players clearly feel otherwise. After reading the full thread from beginning to end, I decided that I too could do no less.

As I came to the end of the thread, a post by ISD forum moderator Jacques Archambault caused me to from from curious and mildly annoyed to downright furious, completely offended, and completely in concert with Nealla's feelings on the subject. It reads:

Please do not discuss issues regarding sexual orientation and adult content on the forums. We understand that many people feel strongly about this and inevitably a heated discussion arises between both sides. In the interest of maintaining peace and keeping the EVE-Online Forums a pleasant place to visit for everyone (irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, race, culture etc.), we kindly request to discuss adult themes outside of the EVE-Online Forums. Please understand that we have a teen 13+ rating and these kind of adult topics do not belong on the EVE-Online Forums.

As always, if there are any questions regarding forum moderation, please feel free to email the EVE-Online Forum Moderator Team at


And now, I've got my sledgehammer hefted and ready to go because it's time to tell you why this post made me see red.

Let's just get the basics out of the way right up front. I'm a transsexual woman. I was born male and lived in that gender for the first thirty-five years of my life. I've lived and identified as a woman and as a lesbian for the last ten and a half years. Both of these identities, as well as others I choose to label myself with, are integral to who I am and how I see myself. I could no more separate myself from them than I could change my skin color or my personal life history.

I take pride in who I am and how I live my life, despite the opinions of others who feel I have no right to do so. While my gender identity and sexual orientation were not conscious choices, my acceptance of words such as "gay", "lesbian", "queer", and others to define myself to other people certainly was. Labels, as opposed to orientations, certainly are consciously chosen. They are a way for people who's lives and outlooks on life differ significantly from that which is considered the norm can express to other people their pride in that difference, in their identities, and in themselves. They are the way we begin the process of helping others to understand who we are, what matters to us, and how we live our lives.

This is, as you might imagine, a pretty big deal for many of us, especially for those like the original thread poster, those who have only recently come to accept some of these labels and identities as their own. Hollismason was understandably upset that the very word he chose to define himself with, a word which is so commonly used it appears in most dictionaries and all over popular media would be banned from even so much as being mentioned in a public discussion area. As saddening as that is, though, I completely understand and share the anger and outrage so many Queer EvE players must have felt when Jacques said, in essence, that even simply the very mention of his chosen identity is considered by ISD to be derogatory and offensive. While I doubt it was intentional, Jacques further increased the level of offense by telling this young gay man that this action was taken in the interest of protecting children.

The rest of ISD's argument is even less credible. Jacques contends that the E-O forums have a "teen 13+" rating. Does ISD really believe teenagers have never heard words like "gay" and "lesbian" in common usage, or they would be somehow negatively impacted by seeing them in print? Considering what passes muster in video games rated "Teen" these days, the very idea is absolutely ludicrous.

Jacques also cites "maintaining peace" and keeping the E-O forums "a pleasant place for everyone (irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, race, culture etc.)" as reasons for the ban. The implications made here are nothing short of out and out anti-gay bigotry. The inference clearly made here is that simply the very inclusion of these non-heterosexual identities on the E-O forums would be considered offensive and unwelcome in and of themselves, devoid of any actual offensive context in which they might be used. In my opinion, the fact that words which directly describe a person's sexuality are censored but those which might describe the other aspects of human identity Jacques cites are not effectively puts the lie to this line of reasoning.

Given the evidence, there is no question here that banning these words are a direct, specific, and intentional suppression of gay and lesbian identity within the E-O forums. If this policy were universal in all aspects of EvE, it might be arguable that CCP simply felt the best way to deal with the issue was to completely eliminate it from the game universe across the board. It would still not be right in my opinion, but at least the policy would be consistent. As anyone who's played EvE for a while knows well, that simply isn't the case.

This is a game where alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and illegal drugs are traded as commodities, where violence, death, war, crime, and other happenings usually considered not-so-pleasant or even tragedies in real life not only occur regularly, but are considered the most entertaining aspects of the gameplay. It's a game universe where the Minmitar Gay Rights League roams the spaceways and where a chat called GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Accepting) can be joined in-game. To allow players this level of freedom in-game but then deny it to us in the discussion forums indicates that the erasure of non-heterosexual identities is a decision made and enforced by the ISD forum moderators, not by the designers of the actual game itself. That places the responsibility for this censorship and for the anti-gay bigotry behind it not on CCP, but squarely on the shoulders of the ISD forum moderators.

Sexuality not only isn't an adult topic, but one which every teenager confronts and explores during their adolescence. Indeed, it isn't really sexuality that's being banned here, it's valid and accepted non-heterosexual identities which are being censored through the filtering of the words which define them. Does ISD really believe that every teenager who plays EvE or participate in the forums is straight? What about the right of gay and lesbian teens (not to mention gay and lesbian adults) to feel welcome and respected on the forums? Do they even care? As far as I can detect, the answer is a rather clear and direct "No.".

When you think about it, you realize that there's really no other possible reason than the homophobia of ISD moderators for filtering these words out of the E-O forum discussions. These words have perfectly valid and acceptable uses in polite conversation, it is solely their connections to non-heterosexual identities which are offered as the reason for their being filtered. Since these words are so commonly used and accepted in all aspects of real-world discourse but even those uses are disallowed in order to prevent even the possibility of their being used to describe non-heterosexual identities, the homophobia and discomfort of the ISD staff are clearly the true motivators at play here.

It's not an issue of context, as it should be. Of course, these words and others like them can be used to disparage and offend, but in order to truly prevent that CCP would have to take down the forum and ban all discussion. Those who are looking to treat others badly and express their hatred and bigotry toward those they don't like will certainly find ways to do so, without or without using those specific words. When such things do happen on the E-O forums, the ISD staff is quite diligent in editing and removing offensive posts and in sanctioning those responsible.

Yet, it seems that when it comes to EvE's queer players and our own rights to define and describe ourselves accurately within the limits of polite conversation, ISD apparently doesn't feel that we're entitled to the same benefit of the doubt, or even of the same level of effort to protect us from the the use of these words as attacks against us and the ways in which we live our lives. Rather than make the same kind of proactive effort in this regard they consistently make when other forum discussion guidelines are broken, when it comes to gay and lesbian players ISD uses only a computer-controlled, automatic gag filter to simply eliminate our identities from all forum discussions. Apparently, ISD just doesn't consider the comfort of gay and lesbian EvE players on the E-O forums worthy of the same effort they exert to ensure the comfort of those who are heterosexual. To call it bigoted and offensive doesn't even begin to cover it.

To those of you who are reading this and scratching your heads wondering what the big deal is, let me paint you a little word picture, in the hope it'll become more clear:

Imagine you live in a world where you're treated badly and disparaged, not because of anything you've actually done, but just because some people don't like or even hate you because they find the way you choose to live your life distasteful or even downright disgusting. You cannot attend your local church because the pastor and parishioners consider you so ungodly and sinful they aren't even willing to tolerate you worshiping in their midst. Your government leaders passionately speak out against your equality under the law and successfully deny you and others like you the most basic of civil rights protections, such as the right not to be fired from your job, regardless of your work performance, just because your employer decides he doesn't want someone like you working for his company, or even the right to enter into a legally sanctioned relationship with the person you love. If you rent your home, you can even be evicted because your landlord doesn't want your kind around. If you go to a local bar for a drink, you know you may be kicked out or be made to feel unsafe and unwelcome for no other reason than who you are, how you act, or the way you look.

And then, you try to escape that hard reality for a little while with an online game based in a fictional star cluster far, far away, set thousands of years in the future, and discover to your dismay that everything you were trying to get away from is still right there, in your face, and for all its fantastic sci-fi trappings the discussion forum focused on this universe marginalizes and demeans you, your identity, and the way you live your life, saddling you with much the same disdain and disrespect as the real one.

Starting to get it now? Welcome to OUR world.

As for the rest of it, why I care so much about this (aside from the obvious reason), let me take a few more swings and knock out the last few bricks from that wall. Many of you who have followed this blog regularly for a while probably know I host a radio show. You've probably also figured out that I'm a writer. Here's the parts you probably don't know:

I'm also a pretty well-read journalist, blogger, and op-ed writer. On my other blog (found here or here), I cover a lot of social and political issues, most of them LGBT or specifically transgender-relevant. My radio show is defined as "The LGBT Internet Radio Show That Puts The "T" First!", and covers much the same topics with a special focus on transgender-relevant content, as does my podcast. I do all of this, a lot of it without pay, because I'm also an activist, someone who has dedicated her life to helping people like myself become more informed and more in tune with the topics and issues that are important in our lives.

I love what I do, and I'm passionate about it. That professional media job I've referred to here now and then? It was to be a host on a new LGBT radio network called GAYBC. It still may happen, but the network is now on hiatus because the founders are having trouble getting the funding to keep it going. If you read the US LGBT community political blogs and news media, you may have seen some of my work now and then. I'm pretty well-known within those circles, and more and more so all the time. While I do usually make my actual living as a retail manager, I've made it my goal to try to make my media work my professional career.

At the age of 45, a career change of this magnitude probably isn't the smartest goal to have, but being able to rely on those who were creating this kind of media when I came out in 1997 helped me to understand that I wasn't alone, that there was a place in the world where I was welcome and wanted, a place that not only didn't have a problem with who I knew myself to be, but actually welcomed and even celebrated it. After having already tried to commit suicide once, discovering that place probably saved my life, and so I've dedicated my life to ensuring that such a place will be there for the next newly-out Queer person who desperately needs it.

Hollismason sought such a place within the EvE universe, but ISD, their policies and their soulless word filter not only denied that place to him, but communicated to him and to every other Queer-identified EvE player paying attention that who he is and how he sees himself are neither welcome nor wanted on the E-O forums. He learned that his very identity is considered so vulgar and offensive by ISD that even the very word he chose to describe himself wouldn't even be allowed to appear in print. I see myself in his place ten years ago and I know how I would have felt if I had reached out for support and companionship and received the same kind of reception.

These aren't just words that can be used to express hate, they can also be used to express pride, community, culture, and to reach out others in love and support. Automatic word filters cannot make such value judgments, they can only do as they are told to by those who program them. Requiring human judgment to be employed in the vast majority of actions taken by ISD, but leaving Queer identities to be moderated solely by an unthinking, unfeeling computer program is the very lowest form of bigotry and disdain for our lives, our personal identities, and yes, our right to have that same pleasant experience on the E-O forums Jacques claims to wish to protect for everyone, not to mention being completely inconsistent with the far more inclusive and positive values incorporated into the game itself by its creators.

I love EvE. I wouldn't have spent the last six hours writing this post if I didn't. Still, I can't help but be offended to the core when I'm told that my own identity is being automatically banned by a computer program because some people find it so offensive that they believe children must be shielded from even seeing it appear in print.

How would you feel if it were an identity you use to define yourself were being rendered invisible in this way? How about if it were someone you love, a brother, a sister, a child, a friend? Would you be offended? You'd want to fight back, wouldn't you? If your answer is yes, then you do get it.

I'll be sending a copy of this post to ISD. Honestly, I really don't expect them to care much, if at all. Any group of people who are comfortable treating a different group in this way probably don't have much room their hearts for us or our concerns, much the same as in most parts of the world. Still, I guess I've got nothing to lose by trying. If you feel as strongly I do about this, I hope you'll take a few minutes and drop them a note to say so. Thanks.

And of course, I'll continue to play EvE. Indeed, it is the game itself which is an escape for the institutionalized, mechanized, and standardized anti-gay bigotry and homophobia which has insinuated itself into the E-O forums not because of those who post there, but because of those charged with protecting participants from it.

So, the wall is down, destroyed because it had to be, because I could not be true to myself and what I believe by continuing to remain silent. I know it's possible that some of you reading this may be put off by some of my revelations here. I can only hope that's not the case, that you enjoy reading what I write here for its own sake and that knowing I wasn't born female or that I'm a lesbian won't change that. I understood that I was taking a chance from the moment I began writing this post, really from the moment I lost a longtime friend when I announced my transition from male to female a decade ago. This is a reality all of us accept when we choose to be true to ourselves, and it is a reality I know I may be forced to now confront again as I bring this to close and publish it for all to see. All I can say is that I hope you'll stick around regardless. Oh, and one other thing:

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Waiting Out The War...'s not really intentional, but unfortunately it's the way it has to be. For the moment, at least.

Now is a particularly busy time for me in RL, but in a good way. Of course, less time to write and play, yadda yadda, you've heard it all from me before. Suffice it to say that my posting here will be less frequent for a while. Funny how even as harsh and violent EvE can be, it's my escape from RL, which these days seems to be just overfilled with things requiring my attention. For the most part, professionally, this is a very good thing. On the personal side of the equation, though, sometimes maybe not so much.

With E-Uni at war, I just don't find myself with the kind of time that I'd need to go make myself useful in something like that right now. Therefore I haven't been doing anything in EvE at all this week other than jumping in to catch up on EvE-mail and change skills. At some point soon, I hope to have some real time to devote, but right now it's just not possible.

No answers and no promises, other than I plan to play and write as often as I can. It just may not be as often as I'd like for a while. Hopefully, a short while.

Fly safe.