Pleasantries and introductions.
As far as names go I am primarily known as Vee in meat-space, and mystermerry online.
On June 28th, 1969 in Manhattan, New York, the Stonewall Inn, a known hotspot for LGBTQ+ individuals, was raided by the police. The subsequent demonstrations that followed this particular raid would come to be known as the Stonewall Riots, sparking a wave of change that made way for many advances in LGBTQ+ rights in the coming decades. It is why June is known in many places around the world as Pride Month.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I’ve always had a mixed relationship with the word “pride”. Sometimes, I see it as a statement against the shame that society has placed on us, pride being an embracement of ourselves as being good enough as we are. Other times, I see it as just standing out, being vulnerable and authentic to a world that constantly questions pride. Pride Month, however, has always been about community. The Pride Community, LGBTQ+ individuals coming together in support of one another. Everyone else coming out in support of them.
From its inception, NISEI began with the goal to embrace this community, a byproduct of the desire found in the wider Netrunner community. As a member of the Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion Team (EDIT) I have compiled an assortment of perspectives and experiences highlighting LGBTQ+ voices here at NISEI in honor and celebration of this wish, and of this month and everything it stands for.
The individuals I spoke with were Jo [Tamijo], Serenity [RealityCheque], Patrick [bluehg], and Akira [Blonde Haired Hacker Girl].
("Pride Az" by GirlKailer)
mystermerry: First off, could you all introduce yourselves a bit?
Tamijo: My name is Jo. I’m an enby from North-West England.
bluehg: My name is Patrick. I have a husband and two dogs and I play card games and do art things!
RealityCheque: I’m Serenity, Community Manager here at NISEI.
Blonde Haired Hacker Girl: I’m Akira, or Aki. I’m that girl who can’t seem to play a game without running it.
mystermerry: Could some of you share how you got into this lovely game?
Blonde Haired Hacker Girl: I’ve been into CCGs since I was 12 with the Pokémon TCG, then Magic - I dread to think about how much I’ve spent on them. In 2012 I had just moved to a new house in York and didn’t really know anyone - my partner at the time had left me and I was kinda lost. My friend showed me Netrunner which had just released that weekend, the next day I found myself buying a Core Set and deck building. I really do think the game saved me from a quite low and scary part of my life.
Tamijo: I got into Netrunner proper after quitting playing Magic: The Gathering because of various reasons, including discrimination and general problematic behaviour from other Magic players. I had tried Netrunner once before and ran into a few walls and problems, so decided to give it a miss. My partner had a Core Set, so we decided to try and give it a go together, and we found it really, really interesting. I almost immediately bought a pretty concise collection in late January of 2018, and very quickly completed it.
bluehg: I got in at the end of SanSan, right before Data & Destiny came out. I played a friend’s Core Set, then immediately bought into everything.
mystermerry: Does your husband play Netrunner with you?
bluehg: No lol. We play lighter games together with friends though, like Coup, The Mind, and Codenames.
mystermerry: Coup is great 😁.
bluehg: I think he just likes lying. He always turns the tables against me. “Kill Patrick because he’s really good at this game!”
mystermerry: How did you all feel Netrunner dealt with representation, specifically LGBTQ+ representation? What were your initial reactions to Netrunner in terms of its inclusivity?
bluehg: Freaking. Amazing.
Blonde Haired Hacker Girl: I brag about it, the fact we have canonical gay, trans, and NB characters, as well as a card that uses “xe” pronouns in its flavor text - amazing!
bluehg: I loved that all sorts of races, especially mixed race people (like myself), were included. And kind of subtly, the gender split is so organically done. I did a count of all the apparent genders of the runners once, and it was like 48/48/4 [percent] male/female/nb (e.g. Apex, Q, Adam, etc.).
Tamijo: I fell in love with Quetzal straight away for obvious reasons, but I think it really helped that there was so much racial diversity in the cast. There are plenty of non-cis characters who aren’t just set dressing, as well as a higher number of people who just aren’t men, which is nice. The actual stories and lore aren’t really of a huge interest to me, though. I know some of the general events that happen, and that’s enough for me to follow along. I’m much more interested in the people who play and make the game.
mystermerry: What was everyone’s experience getting into the community?
Tamijo: I joined basically every Facebook group I could find, found the Slack group, and got to a local GNK. I found it very difficult to interact with people at the GNK, but it was nice to find another enby there, and definitely incentivized me to return. I’ve generally run into mostly nice people who’ve treated me with respect, and when somebody doesn’t they are either open to the fact that they did something wrong, or there are other people who are very quick to make sure things don’t get out of hand, and help me feel safe again. I have managed to find a good community here, and they are even willing to put up with my frankly abrasive nature at times when it comes to discrimination.
Blonde Haired Hacker Girl: I’ve always found the community to be awesome, and I’ve never felt scared coming out to them. Most other card games I probably wouldn’t have come out to other players. I think the acceptance shows too, with how many more trans people seem to play Netrunner over other games.
bluehg: I’ve found the community has been very vocal for equal opportunity. It’s all I’ve ever wanted regarding diversity in nerdy hobbies. I felt like there was that commitment on both ends for inclusivity, both within the universe and in the community itself.
RealityCheque: Even before I took on my role as Community Manager I used to tell people in FB and Reddit groups “welcome to the best community on the planet”, and if anything I was underselling you all. If every group of people were like this, we wouldn’t need Pride as badly as we do.
mystermerry: Serenity, you’ve been a member of the Netrunner community for a while, but you’ve only recently come into the Pride Community. How has that experience been?
RealityCheque: About two months ago, I realised I am a trans woman and - me being me, hype about everything - couldn’t bear the idea of not doing something about it ASAP so I immediately began planning to socially transition. This involved hours liaising with HR on how to handle it best at work, breaking the news to my family, talking with my son’s school, etc… But the one place I didn’t have to worry about people’s reactions was the Netrunner community. There wasn’t even a moment of doubt that you wonderful people would be anything less than welcoming, but if anything I have been overwhelmed by the support offered by everyone. Just thinking about it brings a happy tear to my eye, because I know you’d all be just as amazing to a new player walking into their first event.
mystermerry: Does that make this your first Pride season?
("Clan Vengance" by Kate Laird, ©FFG 2017)
mystermerry: Opening it back up to the group, how do you all feel NISEI is holding the torch on inclusion and diversity?
bluehg: I think we’re doing well! Especially for a fan group where very few of us have any formal EDI training.
Tamijo: On the surface, one of the new characters is a trans man. NISEI has continued the trend of being culturally sensitive with things like ensuring Lat’s tattoos are all correct and such. When you dig a little deeper and look into the background of the people making it -where it really matters for me- there’s a bunch of LGBTQ+ people working on the team. I’m not going to specify who and in what way, but just taking a look at the pronouns of people on the team, some of which have changed since NISEI’s inception, it should be quite obvious. It makes me feel really welcome. On top of that, a few members of the team are those who have directly stepped in to help me in the past when dealing with “bad actors”.
mystermerry: Final question: what does Pride mean to you?
RealityCheque: SO MANY THINGS!
a) Appreciation of the brave people at Christopher Street who started this whole thing off, and without the efforts of whom I wouldn’t be as free to kiss my girlfriend or even be ME in public as I am.
ii) A reminder to the wider world that LGBTQ+ people are here, we ain’t going away, and we deserve to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights as everyone else.
3) Showing support for each other, including those who can’t be themselves for whatever reason.
four) Getting to spend time with a huge crowd of people who won’t judge you for who you are.
bluehg: Pride means… a lot. It means living life without shame. It means learning to love yourself. And it means compassion, empathy, and doing what we can for those who are still finding their own pride.
Blonde Haired Hacker Girl: Seeing people be who they are, despite the social pressures. The world has come a long way since I first tried to come out at 18, but still needs to go even further. I think it’s people celebrating their selves, and showing that they won’t be confined into what’s “normal”. It’s amazing.
mystermerry: Thank you everyone for sharing. It was really wonderful getting to know you all better and hearing about your experiences with the game and community. Thanks also to everyone reading to the end of this article as well. I wish you all a wonderful Pride.
RealityCheque: Always Be Awesome <3