EA Employees: It Gets Better

The “It Gets Better” campaign has had its fair share of critiques and attempts at constructive criticism. At the same time, the videos it has produced often have the effect of leaving me very teary-eyed.

Therefore, while I will still examine EA games as I have always done (particularly as BioWare is among their branches), their posting of this It Gets Better video definitely leaves me with a positive impression (trigger warning for coming out stories and retelling of threats against LGB persons):

In an industry mired with so many examples of heteronormativity, and often outright insulting jabs at the LBG community, seeing something like this is heartening. Whether or not it was intentional, seeing a broad, diverse range of faces and voices is also appreciated.

About Denis Farr

Denis Farr is a white, androgynously gendered, TAB, German-born and U.S.-schooled, male-sexed queer person (with a penchant for other male-sexed queer persons) who started writing about games at Vorpal Bunny Ranch (in other words, he's loquacious). He has continued with this endeavor, expanding his writing to both GayGamer.net and here at The Border House. A strong proponent of expanding diversity in games, his focus is often on how characters are depicted in games, and exploring the language we use to explicate games themselves.
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16 Responses to EA Employees: It Gets Better

  1. Renee says:

    Ummm, while I do think the It Gets Better campaign has had its share of problems, including rendering the Transgender community even more invisible than it already it is, I have to wonder why the post here erases the “T” and others from the LGBTQIA+ family?

  2. Denis Farr says:

    Renee, largely because I feel one of the main complaints of the project is that it is not trans inclusive, and focused almost largely on sexuality, so I did not want to paint it as if it were something more. If you feel I am mistaken, I would gladly change it.

  3. Renee says:

    Hi Denis,

    No, I don’t necessarily think that’s necessary. I confess, everytime I see a new It Gets Better post that proclaims to have the LGBTQIA+ in mind, I roll my eyes, because they almost always tend to ignore the trans community. And, frankly, if any one was really concerned about the violence trans people suffer we would have had a campaign like this a long time ago. I was asking my question earnestly because I wasn’t sure, but thought maybe that’s the answer you would give.

    I, and others, expressed concerns here before and been roundly ignored, but since you’re actually responding, maybe it’s worth bringing up again. First, I have a little bit of an issue with the use of the word “transgendered” in the side bar. “Transgender” without the “-ed” is sufficient, and considered appropriate by most these days. Likewise, some contributors like to refer to us as “transmen” or “transwomen”, when in fact there should be a space between “trans” and whatever follows; we are men and women and sometimes other genders that have yet to be defined, and mishmashing words together like that de-genders us.

    I know this has nothing to do with your post and sorry to dump that on. I suspect you already knew these were issues. I don’t know what else to do; I am ardent gamer and I like reading this blog, but I don’t feel very welcome here, especially when I see my voice (and others who have voiced the same things) ignored.

  4. Tami B. says:

    Hi Renee,

    I want to go ahead and address your concerns. I changed “transgendered” in the sidebar to “transgender”. Being that my partner is transgender and I wrote the sidebar, I should have known better! I’m sorry about that.

    As far the language used in individual posts, I will adjust our editorial standards and send an email to the authors to make sure everyone is aware of the proper use of the word “trans”.

    You are definitely MORE than welcome here, and I appreciate you calling us out on these things. I’ve been busy lately with a new pup and holiday chaos, so I thank you for your patience. Please continue to let us know (and feel free to email us at editors@borderhouseblog.com) if you have any further concerns).

  5. Renee says:

    Thanks, that’s very cool of you.

    I don’t know about “should have”; lots of people *in* the trans community are still stuck on the old…our language evolves as our activism continues to grow. For instance, I’m still not up to speed on using “trans*” with the asterisk. There was obviously ill-intent meant, I was just disheartened because this was my third attempt at pointing this out, and I know Lisa Harney has done so at least once before.

    Anyway, it’s in the past now. I appreciate your concern and maybe now Denis can have his comments section back. :-)

  6. Renee says:

    Umm, that was supposed to be “no ill-intent.” Whoops!

  7. rho says:

    Renee: I think I’m one of the authors who’s been guilty of not responding when you pointed this out in the past. My mental health hasn’t been great recently, so I didn’t really feel able to discuss the issue in a constructive manner. Even so, I’d like to apologise. I know what it’s like to feel ignored, and it’s no fun at all. I’m sorry that I put you in that position.

    As far as the issue of language goes, I personally much prefer to refer to myself as a transwoman rather than a trans woman. To my mind, I see “transwoman” as being a portmanteau of “transsexual woman” whereas I see “trans” alone as a word and it just doesn’t feel right to me. I always think “Trans-what? Transatlantic? Trans-fatty acid?” The use of “trans” on its own (with or without an asterisk) to imply either transsexual or transgender bothers me because it feels as if it’s trying to avoid saying “transsexual” as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

    I’m not saying that you’re wrong here; not at all. Language is a funny thing, and I know how incredibly emotive it can be sometimes. I’m just trying to say that it’s not a simple issue. Different factors can be linguistic triggers for different people.

    Thinking about it now, I think that for myself personally, I’m going to start using the full term “transsexual woman” to describe myself, and to describe generic others who would fit the description. Yes, it’s a bit longer to type than the alternatives, but I personally find it both clear and proud, with both “transsexual” and “woman” being given the full space that they deserve. Of course, when referring to specific individuals, I’d rather go with their preferred terminology.

    As to the actual subject of the post, I do not like the “It Gets Better” campaign one bit. I feel as if it should be called “For some people it gets better whereas for others it really doesn’t, and those of us who have been lucky enough to fall in the former category would like to talk about our privilege a bit.” I applaud the intent, but I think the execution is horrible.

  8. Renee says:

    Hey there,

    You’re right, of course. I know some people who prefer “transwoman” or “transman” as well. That doesn’t work for me – being trans, or transsexual, is how I relate to and came by my gender, it’s not my gender – but I completely respect a person’s right and need to be able to label themselves. I saw a thing recently from screenwriter Russel Davies who says the problem isn’t so much with labels as the fact we just don’t have enough of them – like a million not enough – and I kind of agree with that. I’ve always sort of took the position that the route of least offense is usually the best, but maybe the actual best is to consider listing both, since they’re both valid.

    That said, I submit that “trans” the way it’s used in transatlantic” is different than the way it’s used in “trans woman”. In the former case, it’s legitimately being used in its role as a prefix to modify the root word. In the latter, it’s a short for “transgender” or “transsexual”. Using it as a true prefix in conjunction with “man” or “woman” (i.e., “transwoman” or “transman”) means it’s being applied to change the meaning of those root words, and that’s what doesn’t feel right to me, for me. I am a woman, not a modification of “woman”. Transatlantic is not Atlantic, transhuman is not human, and for me transwoman does not mean woman. For me, I’m not ashamed of either, but I have separate words that describe those elements of my identity and I just prefer to use them separately (and it sounds like that’s your preference too, just not the shortened version).

    Anyway, I’m sorry things have been rough for you and I hope this isn’t a stressor for you now. You weren’t someone I was expecting a response from at all, although I do appreciate it. And yes, I know it seems like an after thought at this stage of the comment, but your feelings about It Gets Better mirror mine exactly.

  9. Denis Farr says:

    Renee, I’m glad your issues have been resolved, and I don’t consider it comment hijacking. You had valid concerns, and as we seek to create a safe space, I’m glad this discussion was able to take place (and that one of our editors was on-hand to correct previous issues).

    The complaints about the campaign itself are certainly valid, and from a standpoint of looking at it objectively, I often ask, “But what if it doesn’t?”

    I think there have certainly been many, many critiques in regards to the campaign from such an extent, and many well-worded essays on how the campaign itself comes from privilege of class, sex, race, gender presentation, etc. (those are the immediate that jump to my mind).

    For me this was largely intriguing because while it is a PR move, it is one from among the more LGB (again, I don’t include T because they largely don’t address trans issues–an issue with the industry at large) aware companies; particularly when I consider the Sims franchise and some of BioWare’s work.

    Renee, I was unaware of using trans with an asterick, so before I start to use it, I’ll look into it and educate myself; thank you for making me aware changes were going on in that realm.

  10. Renee says:

    Hey Denis (and thanks for encouraging this space for all of these conversations),

    I think “what if it doesn’t” is the really important question. I mean, for all my complaints, and for all the times I disagree with things Dan Savage says and does, giving kids hope is never a bad thing. But at some point the community has to find a way to reach out to its youth and help them in that interim space between high school and whenever “better” is supposed to happen. And it’s not that there aren’t people doing that – it’s one of the reasons I jump at any opportunity I get to speak at colleges – but we need more. Lots more.

    In regards to the whole “trans*” with an asterisk thing, there’s not a ton of information out there about it just now. It’s a new development I haven’t even been able to trace the origins of yet. In general, it’s meant to be an inclusive way of referring to trans identities (i.e., transsexual or transgender, and not necessarily just man or woman but also non-binary identities). I actually have some issues with it, in that I’m not sure everyone is working with the same definition (does it include transvestites and crossdressers and drag queens, who are part of the trans community?). Regardless, it’s gaining steam, and most of the discussion that’s happening about it seems to be in the comments sections of some of the more mainstream feminist blogs (that’s where I’ve seen the most of it, anyway).

    (also, that kind of goes back to what rho and I were talking about, and that casual readers might not get: often these terms and grammar usages and such get introduced as “right” before the wider trans community gets a chance to weigh in and properly vet them. Terms like “transgendered” and “transwoman” have been the targets of activists, like myself I guess, for years, and they have been trending downwards for a long time now, but there are people who legitimately prefer those terms).

  11. Brinstar says:

    I just want to point out that stuff done in public by a company that is intended to be a positive thing (and which is received as generally a positive thing) doesn’t necessarily come from the PR department. From my understanding (based upon comments from EA employees), this video was not initiated by EA’s PR department; it was a project initiated by LGB employees. Perhaps this is splitting hairs, but I do think it is a little disingenuous to the well-intentioned employees who created the video to suggest that the PR department drove the creation of this video simply to get good press. Even if the result was EA getting good press, this doesn’t mean that the primary goal was to get good press.

    And secondly, I think the It Gets Better campaign is stupid. It’s awesome that companies like EA, Pixar, Google, etc. support queer people, and it’s awesome that some of their employees are in a situation in which things got better for them, but their experiences are not universal.

    I become irritated at the videos where happy people in (relatively) secure and stable life situations advise viewers to talk to trusted adults, teachers, etc. A lot of people are not in a situation where they can trust anybody, and a lot of the time adults are the people who are the least trustworthy or least likely to be accepting. It is pretty fucking rare to have a teacher with whom you can speak to about your sexual orientation. Why is it useful advise to talk to a teacher about this? For a lot of people, it won’t get better. For a lot of people, people who lack power or freedom, coming out might make things worse for their particular situation.

  12. Jayle Enn says:

    I appreciate the idea behind the campaign, but it really is a self-congratulatory sort of gesture more than anything else. These kids need a safe support system, not strangers speaking to the Youtube-flavoured ether. Unfortunately, just sweeping in and offering such a thing would be of little help either– nobody likes to be patronized, especially not by people they might (rightly) assume consider them pet projects.

    On the other topic at hand, as a trans person and an older-ish-school geek, I really don’t care for the whole ‘trans*’ idea. For me, the wildcard carries connotations of command-lines and CRTs, dehumanizing at worst and flippant at best.

  13. Chris says:

    @Brinstar,

    I understand where you are coming from, but I think that the IGB campaign is doing some good. You are correct in saying that it truly doesn’t get better for a lot of people — but a little hope can sometimes go a long way.

    When I was in High School I was part of a program designed to help out kids who were being bullied. Really, all we did was “be there” and show that not everyone was a bad guy.

    I see this as a similar thing. I know what we did wasn’t enough to help everyone, but every little bit can help someone who really, really just needs that smile.

  14. Ashelia says:

    I think the IGB campaign won’t ultimately accomplish much, but I do have to admit that I enjoy watching the videos. I guess it gives me hope that people can live good lives and overcome extreme things while standing up for who they are and what they believe in.

    But if someone were in the position of hiding, of being bullied, and surrounded by people who didn’t understand them… IGB’s videos wouldn’t really do a thing.

    So it’s a double-edged sword. I like watching them (I really, really love to see people who are happy and who had things get better) but I know they are futile.

    I also think it depends on the school and the situation on whether their advice is useful. It’s funny, in college we had this great support for homosexuals to come out–it was tremendous, a good friend of mine could tell the RAs and get support and advice. It helped him so much since he’d come from a family that was not supportive. However, they weren’t supportive of rape victims and depression. I actually did take this kind of advice (ask for help, approach a teacher) in college–not about sexuality, but about some very big problems–and got completely derailed for it. So for me and my situations, the advice would have sucked. But for someone else, maybe it would help (like my friend who ended up coming out and telling everyone, even his profs, frosh year).

    I don’t know–really rambling here, it’s hard to express it. I feel like the advice is situational and personal, so it won’t be right for everyone, but even knowing that, I like the videos a lot.

  15. anna says:

    @Jayle Enn

    Whenever I see ‘trans*’, the splat makes me think I’m looking at a regular expression, and I immediately think “So that matches tran, trans, transs, transss, transsss…” Either that, or if I’ve been reading a lot recently, I’ll scroll down looking for a footnote.

    As a trans woman, I personally continue to prefer ‘trans’ as an abbreviation of trans(gender|sexual).

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