To Speak and To Keep Silent

You might have noticed I didn’t post here for a year. I thought a lot about just letting that slide past without acknowledging it. After all, I had a baby — of course I have less time for the SCA and to blog! But that would be a lie by omission. It’s true that having a child has totally shifted my world and that I’ve been so busy that I hardly have time for anything, but that’s not the whole truth. And I think I want to talk about some of the rest of that truth.

A lot of it is deeply personal — I’m recovering from some very intense and frightening experiences around my pregnancy and my son’s earliest weeks, and have turned inward to process. The energy I normally turn outward has been directed toward healing myself and caring for my loved ones. Everything else faded into the background. I feel zero shame about that, and in fact I am intensely proud of the work I’m doing; I’m the best version of myself that I’ve been in a very long time (maybe ever!). I also have been open about all this because I believe strongly in ending all stigma around mental health, especially postpartum/for new parents.

But there’s more on top of that. The truth is, I am really questioning this whole hobby. I’ve been open about all this in my own social circles, but I want to talk about it here.

(There are cusses in what follows.)

Let’s go back a few years, first. Many of the responses to the push for inspirational equality were shitty to the point where I questioned if there really was a place for me in this organization. It’s pretty fucking demoralizing to have have to ask for a seat at the table, to have a large number of people argue with the very idea of your request, and then to have your request put to a popular vote. The final “compromise” language added to Corpora still bothers me, and while it’s heartening to know it’s finally being revisited, the whole experience really left a mark on me.

Now events over the last year (and change) have made me question my place in this game far more urgently. First, I’ve been personally struggling with what it means to devote my time and energy to playing pretend when the real world I really live in is in such peril. The political reality in the US right now is horrifying and I want to give all the energy I have to making things better. I’ve gotten active politically in new and exciting ways, and that has taken over the time and brain power I used to have available for taking on SCA service. Not to put too fine a point on it, but right now I can’t justify running a medieval nerd club event or holding a medieval nerd club office when I could be working to get children out of concentration camps.

On top of that, some of y’all in this game have never done equity work and it shows. That whole CAID swastika trim situation was… depressing. Most folks in my circles came around eventually, but damn, it never should have been that hard. Even if we had gotten to the point of someone not really realizing that, hey, maybe let’s not wear swastikas, especially in the midst of a terrifying global rise of white nationalism, there’s this simple rule that a lot of folks seem not to get that when marginalized folks say “this harms me,” the correct response is to listen.

That was not what happened. Every comment and Facebook post defending the wearing and display of swastikas stood as a statement that this game isn’t safe for everyone. Every comment and Facebook post decrying the “angry internet mob” told me that many of us can make room for symbols that are inextricably linked with violence more readily than we can make room for dissent. Anger at an outcry over a hate symbol is not brave, it is in fact exactly what allows marginalization to persist. It’s the oldest tool in the bag. If we are so fragile that we cannot withstand criticism of those in positions of power, we are doomed. If we do not have a place for indignation, I can’t stay, because I just can’t be silent when social justice is at stake. I’m not trying to be insufferable, I mean I literally can’t shut up, even when it harms me to speak up.

There is a fundamental disconnect between different parts of this big conversation, the same disconnect that I see writ large on our social and political landscape. I know where I’ve chosen to stand in the real world, and I am honestly no longer sure if standing there is safe or even possible in this dream we claim to be building together. Things have calmed down since first this broke, but for me the damage may be too deep to move on. (I know it was for others — I have friends who left the SCA over all of this. There is no neutral, you either support marginalized people’s safety or you don’t, and too many of us didn’t and we lost good people as a result.)

Maybe I was wrong to think there was really a place for an outspoken antiracist dyke in a hobby devoted to recreating medieval Western Europe. I have struggled for years with this hobby being the whitest part of my life and I have feared becoming an accidental mouthpiece for white power. I am heartened by many of the institutional actions taken in response — the BoD statements, updated Corpora, etc. all gave me hope that we can make this work. I can also choose to take solace in the how many people have spoken up — it must have been a lot to get a response from the BoD so quickly — and focus on everyone in my sphere who has actively taken a stand for safety.

But is this really a place where I can raise my kid? Can I really engage with the parts I like and overlook the rest of it? The CAID trim incident was not isolated. There have been other deeply troubling issues that have come to light, individual and institutional racism, sexual violence overlooked and predators allowed to stay and play… These aren’t questions any of you can help me answer, sadly, and I’m not even sure what would help me find answers. I’m pretty invested in this dumb game, but I feel like I need to get serious about figuring out if it’s worth the investment, and how much it’s really invested in me.

I’ve been reasonably open about wanting to bail, as have others. The response hasn’t always been what I would have hoped. To be perfectly frank, I AM being dramatic! I DO want to get a reaction from people when I say I might quit! I want people to be outraged, I want those with privilege to leverage it to fix these issues! My participation in this organization is conditional, and should be more valuable than the participation of racists, white supremacy apologists, misogynists, sexism apologists, homophobes, trans exclusionists, and other people actively doing harm.

Also don’t tell me I can’t quit. I’m tired of seeing cis, straight, white folks say anything along the lines of “If the good people all leave the assholes win! You can’t quit, you have to stay and fight!”

Here’s the deal:

1) Marginalized people don’t owe you shit, if folks have to bail for their own well being do not grump at them about it.

2) This is supposed to be fun. If it’s work, it’s not fun.

3) If you have the will and energy and privilege and patience to fix it, thank you! Not everyone does.

As a queer woman, my enthusiasm for fixing this game is very, very low. I have to fight for my space in this world already. I am already allocating my world betterment energy; when I come to an SCA event it’s to get my medieval geek on and have fun, not to do the same social justice activism that, while fulfilling, is also draining. I don’t owe the SCA shit. If the assholes win, we can start a new and better game. If you build me a place where I can play dress up and make historical food and not have to put up with bigotry, I’ll be there with bells on; I’m no longer sure the SCA is capable of being that.

I also want to point out that I’m able to say this stuff out loud in part because I know I’ll probably get a lot of words of support. I’d like to challenge each of you to consider who in our community is also questioning if they belong but won’t speak up about it. What are we doing for them?

I found the SCA when I was 17. If I were 17 today and found the SCA, I don’t know that I’d stick around. If we want to make it to AS C, we as an organization must do some major work to become more attractive to new (young) participants. Our choice is whether we want to attract the ones who carry tiki torches and chant “blood and soil!” or the ones who want to wear rainbow armor with their multiethnic friends and already know their way around gender pronouns.

Time to choose.

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