It’s tough sometimes, being part of the Magic community.
Not only do you have to worry about the deck you’re taking to FNM, your local metagame or which GPs you’re going to attend in the coming months, for some players it can be a veritable minefield of unasked or unwanted interactions.
I’ve seen a noticeable uptick in social media posts from women and other minorities who have had to deal with unpleasant situations, be it at FNM or at larger tournaments. It’s something that I frequently feel compelled to write about but find very difficult. In an article from 2015, Meghan Wolff posed the question that trips me up the most: “How do you talk about a need for change without leveling accusations, hurting feelings, or alienating some of the very people whose help is vital to making a difference?”
Because your help IS vital. I do a lot of things to make the community a better place, and I’m near constantly surrounded by people with huge hearts and endless compassion trying to do the same. Here’s how you can make a difference.
Lead by Example
I’m a lead-by-example person. I believe in being proactive in trying to change things – if you start making an effort, people will notice.
I’m not even talking about huge, sweeping life changes, just using your voice consciously:
1. If you’re streaming – or even just talking about an Arena match – use “they” or “my opponent” instead of “he”. Believe me, if you’re not a “he” it’s the kind of thing you tend to pick up on.*
2. Be proactive in calling out things. If someone’s being inappropriate – making sexist, homophobic, ableist or transphobic remarks, or acting in a way that makes you or the surrounding players uncomfortable – tell them it’s not acceptable. Even if it’s your friend. Particularly if it’s your friend.
A lot of the time, when women or other minorities call these things out we’re dismissed as being “unable to take a joke” or a “social justice warrior”. Knowing other people in the room have our backs when we’re brushed off is a huge relief. Discovering this without having to furiously plead with our eyes is tragically uplifting.
Recognise Your Advantage
Many of us have a lot of inherent advantages when it comes to the Magic community. It’s a game that was historically aimed at – and is still mostly played by – men. As such there’s a lot of discourse on women in the community – how to get more women playing competitively, how to make the community more accessible etc.
Despite some lingering issues, cis women now have this element of advantage. However for the trans and nonbinary community, the general level of hostility is still significant. Schemes like the Magicfest “I’ll Go With You” badges are a way for the cis community to use this advantage to benefit them.
Be a Voice
In any situation where a player is making unwanted, offensive or disparaging remarks to another player, my advice is usually “call a judge”. However, it can be incredibly intimidating to be in that situation and have to call a judge. Team Nova member, Ally Warfield, recently tweeted about her experience in a match, and it’s an experience I’m sure a lot of players will be able to relate to:
Spectators can – and absolutely should – call a judge if a player is making disparaging remarks or being openly offensive, including transphobic, sexist and xenophobic remarks.
It can be uncomfortable being the one to do so, particularly if you are a minority yourself. If you are not confident shouting ‘JUDGE’, find one, or speak to the Tournament Organiser and have a quiet word. If you’re not happy with their response, remember these people are human too – you can take these things higher. The judge feedback form and a guide to submitting feedback can be found here.
Remember: this is a situation in which people will genuinely appreciate your support.
Lift Others Up
One of the easiest actions as an ally is through amplification. Sharing the experiences of someone else in the community helps to raise awareness of issues that people might be unfamiliar with – for example, the experiences that women have in their local game store.
It’s important to remember that giving someone else a voice or visibility doesn’t make you any less loud or visible. Amplifying the voices of traditionally underrepresented people is an example of equity as opposed to equality – it’s opening a door for people who don’t feel like a community is for them because of the sheer underrepresentation. It’s one of the easiest ways you can help make our game a more welcoming place.
In the past few years there’s been a real movement for inclusiveness and diversity, with more women in feature matches and more female content creators coming to the fore.
Maria Bartholdi does an excellent job on coverage at the Mythic Championship, and Star City Games recently picked up Emma Handy to be part of their event coverage team. Autumn Burchett became the first trans/nonbinary player to win a Mythic Championship earlier this year.
It’s moving in the right direction, but we can still do better. Magic is for everyone, and in order to create a community that reflects this we need everyone to be on the same page. Standing up for and supporting your fellow players doesn’t only help in the moment, it cultivates a better environment for everyone.
Information on the I’ll Go With You movement can be found at the official site. To keep up to date on where to find the badges and what events we’re sending them to, follow me on Twitter @heyworstartist.
*Editor’s note: Ursula K. Le Guin’s analysis of the universal ‘he’ is, like many of her observations, well worth a read. A good overview can be found here.