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Teala's Wickedly Cool Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

RealID and the Transgender

Posted by Teala Thursday July 8 2010 at 3:16PM
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Please read this with an open mind. It is a very real and serious subject and I am going to do my best to do it justice so that I can shine some light on another area of how realID will effect another segment of the gaming community that needs to have their voices heard on this subject. I hope that people who read it are mature enough to handle such a subject and that if you decide to comment please comment in a manner that is not degrading to the subject or the people I am writing about. Thank you in advance.

RealID what can I say, in the last couple of weeks my eyes and ears have been constantly bombarded by it, on forums, in the news, on Youtube and even from my own friends. You can’t escape it if you’re a gamer that frequents the various forums and tech sites that deal with gaming. Blizzard has created a massive backlash in the gaming community the likes of which haven’t been seen since SOE pulled the NGE debacle on the players of Star Wars Galaxies. I was actually for realID up until I changed my mind. Read on to learn why.

What realID will do is allow friends to form social networks using there real names to stay in touch in games and across realms for World of Warcraft produced by Blizzard Activision. No matter what toon you are playing if you are in a friends realID network, then they will know when you are on. OK this is cool.  Makes it simpler for heavy raiding guilds to keep track of who is on and who isn't.   This can be a problem if you wish to be left alone to do some farming or solo gaming, thankfully there are options provided in game to avoid unwanted tells from people when you are busy.  

Then there is the bad things. Say I befriend Will. Will has a list of friends now using realID. On that list is my name. My name is now also visible to all Will’s friends. It does not tell them if I am on(the only way they might know this is if I was also a realID friend with them) it only provides my name. OK cool...and not cool.   This is why it is not cool at all.  

Here is a subject that has not been brought up and should have been because it has some serious ramifications to some of WoW’s player base - transgender players.

I am involved in a gaming website dedicated to players that are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and yes...transgender. I recently read a thread by many WoW players that are transgender and this realID thing terrifies them. It doesn’t just scare terrifies them. There is good reason for their concerns, just watch or read the news and you’ll learn about a transfemale or transmale that was beaten or killed when someone found out that the person they have been sharing a drink with, or went to a movie with turned out to have been born the opposite sex they are now projecting. Movies have been made on this subject like Boys Don't Cry (1999) starring Hillary Swank who portrayed a transmale(female to male transgender) and was eventually outed and killed by the girls family - even though the female herself that was involved in the relationship didn’t care once she found out - it was the family that didn’t like it. Anyway, that is beside the point...the point is with realID it brings up a very touchy and personal situation for many players that play the game World of Warcraft that are transgender.

It is one thing to be gay or lesbian or bi, we have our own issues....being transgender...that is a whole other aspect of the real world that many people just do not get or understand and have a seriously hard time wrapping their minds around. This is understandable. This misunderstanding can lead to some serious backlash that can get people killed. Yes - killed - murdered - there is no other way to say it. It happens more often than not and it is a sad state of affairs that this kind of thing takes place in the 21st century.

Here is the issue and I am going to say this in the simplest terms possible so that it may make it easier to understand. Some gamers are in the processes of changing their bodies to fit their minds. That also means they are changing the way they live to fit how they perceive themselves, not only the clothes they wear, but their names as well, so that they may project the proper image within society to be accepted as the gender they identify themselves with. They are trying to fit in. That is the simplest way to put it. That also means that these gamers may also portray themselves in games as the gender they identify with. So what does this mean and what does it have to do with realID? A lot, because there are a lot of transgender players that play World of Warcraft...and many people maybe hurt physically, and surely most will be hurt emotionally if realID is implemented without giving this some serious thought on how to handle this very real and touchy subject in a manner that will cause the least damage to all those involved.

Here is an example(based on real world events - names changed to protect the identity of the people involved).

So you’ve been playing World of Warcraft and you meet a nice girl in game and you both play in the same guild. You slowly get closer to said person. You even exchange real names and talk about possibly meeting some day. It does happen. Don’t say it doesn’t. People meet and hook up in MMORPG’s all the time is more common than you might expect. But I digress. The two players Joe and Stephani are best of pals in game and even on the phone and Skype. There is one little problem though...Stephani use to be known as Steve. Stephani hasn’t quite been totally honest with Joe about her situation. She is still in the process of finalizing her transformation. Like she still has genital reconstruction surgery to deal with and of course she has to have her name legally changed in the courts and birth certificate changed to show the proper sex...that also means when Stephani signed up to play World of Warcraft using her old name which was Steve Doe.

Stephani signs into game and soon gets a message from the guild leader of the guild she is in that all members must use realID, to make it simpler to keep track of who is on and who isn’t for raiding purposes. Stephani knows about realID and what it entails. It means people in her guild will now know her real, current name, and that means they’ll also know the real life issue she is dealing with and know that she hasn’t exactly been truthful with them. Due to the very nature of people, she knows she was taking a serious risk by not divulging her history and it will surely cause some issues within the guild and the relationship she has built up with Joe. What does Stephani do now? She tries to reason with her guild leader that she’d rather not do it for personal reasons. He ask her why...we all ready know your name so what’s the big deal? Stephani has a choice. Either she lies and says that the name showing is her fathers name because he originally set up the account for her or she decides to just up and leave the guild - oh wait she told Joe her fathers name was Todd. What is Stephani to do? She is in a serious bind. She has been with this guild for 5 years. They have built up a great relationship and small community within the game and suddenly she will have to make a choice that is surely going to impact the guild and her relationship with Joe. Stephani was hoping beyond hope that maybe her and Joe might one day become more than just friends but she needs a little more time to set things right so that when she does meet Joe he meets the girl Stephani as she sees herself.

Stephani is really scared now. Her life upto this point was actually going great. Now is heading into a tailspin all because of some stupid games policy. Stephani knows she was going to have to tell Joe one day about herself..but she wished it to be on her terms and now she is forced to either tell Joe before she is ready or just break it off with him and her guild. She is terrified of what might happen. What if the people in the guild do not accept her? What if Joe will no longer have anything to do with her? She knows that is a real possibility...but this...this whole thing just destroyed her plans to come out on her terms.

Stephani, though I used a different name for her, is a real player from the game World of Warcraft and though she feels terrible that she had to hide her past to move forward with her life, she knows that there are people out there that will fail to understand the real fear she has had to live with the last few years when she chose to transform herself from the Steve she was once known as to the Stephani people have come to know. She never wanted to hurt anyone. All she wished was for people to accept her as Stephani and she was doing it the only way she could. Stephani knows how society looks at transgender people and she knows very well the hate, bigotry and discrimination that comes with being transgender and she has done her best to navigate around such aspects of our society - until now. Now realID is forcing Stephani to make a choice that will have a very real impact on her life and the relationships she has created online in the game she has played the last five years.

Stephani now stands a real chance that she may have to deal with cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can lead to some serious problems with those that encounter it and sometimes it actually causes people to take their own lives. This is not a subject to joke around with. Real peoples lives are involved. It maybe just a game, but real people play it and real relationships are formed and when people are forced to relinquish a part of their soul in a manner that is detrimental to their well being due to some new, in and out, of game policy that doesn’t seem to have been thought through thoroughly enough - real serious issues arise that may cause someone to lose their friends and maybe even their life.

I can only hope that Blizzard comes up with a way for people, like Stephani, because this has devastated her. Seriously, realID could make it a lot easier for people to cyber bully and lead to even worse things...and that is something I do not think any of us wish to see happen - no matter who we are.

Blizzard needs to come up with a different solution to whatever problem they perceive to have, so that peoples lives are not turned upside down, realID is not the answer - in fact it looks like it will cause more problems than it will solve.