Published on August 14th, 2012 | by ALICIA0
Spectacular Women in Geekdom: Mattie Brice
A: Thanks for agreeing to do an interview with me, Mattie! Before we start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your online presence? M: This is awesome, definitely happy to take any chance to promote the visibility of minorities in gaming! Currently, I’m starting grad school to study the narrative design of videogames while doing some freelance work as a game critic. Along with that, I’m involved with the social justice movement within the gaming community tied closely to the media.A: What was your first “geeky” interest and how old were you when you really started geeking out?
M: My oldest memories are of playing the NES! I was lucky to have a father super into technology, so I had videogames and computers in my house before most of my peers. I think my earliest memory was yelling at the dog in Duck Hunt! I hated that guy!A: Were you open about your interests growing up or did you hide them from your peers?M: Most of my close friends were into the same things, so I’ve always been all about videogames! I had a pretty mixed group too, so I’d play console games with some, PC with others, role play superheroes outside. I never got deep into intricate stuff because I was young, but videogames were always my top hobby.
A: What age were you when you publicly began identifying as a woman and how did your peers in geekdom respond?
M: Hmm, this happened when I was about 20. The friends I had at the time were supportive, and I am truly lucky to have had them. When it came to geek activities in general, people were okay in a “don’t talk about it” manner, which I guess is better than more confrontational options, but it wasn’t the most comforting.
I would say being publicly transgender in my current work within the past year is the best sign. I’m in a community with many different people who are awesome and supportive. However, there are many gamers who are dismissive and extremely aggressive towards me just because of my identity.
M: Things are changing, and I would say more rapidly in the past couple of years than before. More people are becoming aware of gender and sexuality issues, and more activists are present and keeping the conversation going. There are now many articles, panels, and blogs talking about trans* issues. This year, PAX has panels on online harassment and trans* topics, which says something about where the average gamer might be now. There are definitely communities and advocates wanting a safer place for all people, and it is easier than ever to get involved.
A: What could cisgender geeks do differently to be more inclusive and less “othering” of other trans* people?
M: This can be a tough one, because it often depends from person to person. Overall, making sure activities and language don’t rely heavily on segregating gender, and general gendered insults and homophobia are sensitive spots. Also, to never assume anything about a person and letting them speak for themselves.
If you are unsure about which gender someone wants to use, leaving it open with “they” is okay, and they can fill it in. Nothing is wrong with asking questions, but make sure you do so in private and ask for their boundaries first. Treat them exactly how you would treat others of their preferred identity. Just be consistent and don’t make it seem like you’re making exceptions for them.
M: Some current prominent trans* figures in gaming are Anna Anthropy and Carolyn Petit. Anna is working hard at making games and game development more accessible and representative of the diverse amount of identities in our culture. She continues to produce eye-opening works and believes everyone who wants to design games, can.
Carolyn is a writer for Game Spot and is one of the first openly trans* people I know I the industry. She balances catering to her audience and being socially aware like a saint. Carolyn is an example for others to show that we don’t need special treatment and can do what everyone else can, we just need an even playing field. Both women are constantly harassed but keep on chugging. They didn’t ask to be among the few public trans* people in the industry but handle it head on. I hope one day to add in transmen and other gender rebels to this list.
A: Could you let our readers know some trans-friendly video game, movie, literary, television or comic book titles?
M: Unfortunately, there are very few games that deal with trans* issues, but if you look through Anna Anthropy’s and Christine Love’s games, you will find queer friendly games, most explicitly Anna’s Dys4ia. They don’t have trans* characters, but Choice of Games tend to be on the more inclusive side; Choice of Romance is my personal favorite.
For you tabletop geeks, I recommend the RPGs Shock! and Apocalypse World, as both are very aware of social issues and allow for gender transgressive characters. Once it becomes available, there is a sex positive, women and queer friendly erotic comic compilation called Smut Peddler that I especially recommend.
M: I love to go to panels and tend to book my entire day going to them! Because I sometimes go as media, I have an interview or two to do, but I often get to be social with other writers in the industry and game developers. I should work on having a little bit more fun during the convention, I usually save that for the bar afterwards!
A: Are you comfortable talking about some of your biggest struggles being transgender in game culture? What are they?
M: I do like sharing my experience, and often, it’s unwanted by a section of gaming culture. Along with my extensive relationship with games, I also am academically trained in gender and sexuality studies, as well as other minority studies through sociology. However, a lot of people don’t see me as a “true” gamer, and feel like diversity issues are just opinions.
Whenever I write about trans* issues, I get rude comments and hate mail just for the very fact that I exist, not one the merit of my experiences and arguments. It can be very demoralizing, especially in an industry slow (but getting there!) to recognize trans* issues. It’s tough knowing your work is often overlooked because it is controversial to a loud group of gamers.
M: Gaming-wise, check out The Border House for resources and community centered on activism. This is often helpful when you need advice dealing with geek situations because someone knows a good advice tumblr or a site with good explanations about things like privilege. For in general, go to GLAAD’s pages for transgender issues, and you’ll find plenty of general advice for cisgender people as well as hotline numbers and ways to look for local support groups. Always know you’re not alone and there are people who will talk and share experiences with you.
A: Do you have any advice for other trans* people who are active in geekdom?
M: Look for geek activist communities and get involved! You will surely meet other trans* people and have a way to introduce your friends into trans* topics. Know that existing as a transperson in the gaming community on its own is activism, and helps normalize the idea of transgender folks being gamers. Feel motivated by what you like to do! We need more diverse game studios, media publications, and gaming tournaments!
A: Thanks for letting me interview you! I’m sure that our queer readers will find you just as inspirational as I do. You’re a rockin’ awesome woman in geekdom. We need more women like you.