You Gotta Give 'Em Hope.
Yes, this is another article about GaymerX and why it is important, but I'd like to do things a little differently. Nick Tan and Blake Peterson have done a great job explaining how the atmosphere of acceptance the convention created affected them and everyone who went, so I'm not going to be redundant and restate any of that.
I'm gonna tell you about how being a gay woman has affected me my entire life, and how video games were a part of helping me come to terms with my sexuality. Understanding that journey is the only true way I feel I can express why this convention mattered so much to me and so many others.
I was two-years old when my parents divorced, and I ended up growing up with my mother who was a born-again Christian. Homosexuality was never discussed. For sixteen years of my life, Santa Claus was more of a reality to me than the fact that I was gay. I would resort to having fake crushes on boys just so other girls would stop asking me who I was into. It was terrifying for me that I had more romantic thoughts about other girls and absolutely none for boys.
This fear led me to become incredibly reclusive in school, resorting to hiding in the library at lunchtime just to avoid as many people as possible. I wrote a lot, I read a lot, but I didn't interact a lot. The most extroverted I ever got was when I would write skits in English class and have to perform them in front of everyone. That's when I realized that pretending to be someone else made me feel more normal than who I really was. In my free time at home I would resort to playing video games to ease the discomfort of my socially inept adventures into the world.
Luckily, my mom wasn't the "Carrie's mom"-religious type so our selection of video games was never completely determined by how much Jesus would approve of them. The only game I remember having to wait to play at my dad's was Resident Evil—maybe if it had been named "Ominous Residence" she would have allowed it into our house. My brother thankfully got a hold of Fable when it first came out on Xbox, and I remember being shocked by the idea of being able to choose to play as a women instead of just being forced to play as a man. Then add to that, the fact that I could lure female NPCs back to the inn for some fade-to-black sexy time. It allowed me to experience by proxy the things I had not yet come to fully realize about who I was.
The Sims allowed me to explore homosexual relationships as well, but I was still hiding who I was in-game. To avoid attracting attention from my parents or anyone else who happened by, I would create households in the game where I would place my Sim alone or with another male sim. Any relationships I created within the game would be with Sims who were not a part of the household I created, so I can sneak off and "whoo-hoo" with other lady sims in secret. I didn't want my parents asking me why I had created a household with two female characters in it so I never created one. During the first two years of college I came out of the closet once I found an amazing group of friends and realized that it was pretty damn easy to be gay and hide it from my family when they lived out-of-state.
Then Mass Effect happened. I had played Dragon Age beforehand, but the homosexual relationships in that game were a bit low-key. I've seen some of you criticize the gay relationship options in these games saying that they are poorly executed, but I assure you that is not the case at all. In fact, they are so close to perfect that they rival some of the better homosexual storylines that are becoming more prevalent on TV shows these days.
It is because of the Mass Effect series that there was not just more of a dialogue created about homosexuality in games, but also about the female image in games, which led to me writing my first article for GameRevolution.com. It was that article that brought me to the decision, at 24-years old, to finally come out to my family. Pretending that not telling them wasn't the same as hiding who I was just didn't sit right with me anymore.
I've been fully out for almost three years now, and I never thought anything would be more freeing than that until I sat on a panel at GaymerX and shared my experiences with a room full of my peers. At one point there was a meetup for the women at the convention, and even though I knew it wasn't completely representative of all of the female gaymers in the world, it was still an incredible experience. In one room there were about forty to fifty lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered women talking about games. It was like seeing a herd of unicorn, and realizing I was a fucking unicorn too!
I've been to numerous press events and attended GDC and E3 several times. Meeting fellow gaymers is rare at these conventions, let alone finding any women, gay or straight, to talk to. The atmosphere at almost every event is geared toward heterosexual males, and women are simply an afterthought. Once that kind of setting is put in place, it's easy to overlook the LGBT population.
In contrast, there was absolutely no point in time where an environment created by GaymerX made another group of individuals feel out of place. Many of the people I talked to came from other states in America where it is still legal for employers to fire someone for being homosexual or transgender, and homosexual marriage is still not a legal right. Then there were the people who came from other countries where being openly gay can get you thrown in jail or killed. So is it important for them to have a place they can congregate and be who they are openly for a few days? Absolutely.
We still live in a world where the persecution of homosexuals is a reality, and that is why conventions like GaymerX need to exist. I am damn proud that I got to be a part of it. My wish is that somewhere out there in a state or country where homosexuals are still being oppressed, where someone who feels as lost and terrified as I was when I was growing up, sees articles like this, any coverage of GaymerX really, and knows they are not alone.