18/10/2021 By RuneLite
All throughout June, Game Rant conducted a series of interviews to highlight the LGBTQ community, specifically LGBT-identifying streamers on Twitch. June was chosen as Pride Month to commemorate certain events, like the Stonewall riots, that helped pave the way for the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Pride Month is a time where a lot of LGBTQ individuals are approached for sponsorships and opportunities purely based on their identity, which is fantastic in theory but not in practice. Oftentimes, companies may exploit the voices of LGBTQ individuals to seem inclusive but not follow through other days of the year.
Game Rant is committed to highlighting these voices year-round, not just during Pride Month, but June seemed like as good of a time as ever to have a Pride Month Streamer Spotlight to highlight LGBTQ streamers on Twitch. The individual profiles composed for every featured streamer were meant to highlight the amazing work each creator is doing within their own space. There were also a series of questions asked of each creator in regards to their LGBTQ identity and how it impacts their life on Twitch. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity, featuring answers from Twitch creators MermaidRoyal, PikaChulita, JeffBrutlag, LuxieGames, Breadwitchery, QueerlyBee, AshleyRoboto, and TaylorRynai.
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Game Rant: What advice would you give to any LGBTQ person looking to get into streaming?
MermaidRoyal: I would say, number one, grab some mods that are your friends. Even if you're just starting, grab like two mods so that you're not alone. Number two, find some queer streamers that stream the things that you stream and network with them in the way that you network on Twitch—which is hanging out in their chat and become friends with them. That's pretty much how networking works on Twitch. [laughs]
Number three, though, which I think is the most important, is you do not have to be a "certain version" of yourself to be accepted on Twitch. You don't have to be like the "popular gays," I guess is the way I would phrase it, to be a "good" streamer. Queer people are not a monolith and queer streamers are not a monolith, we are all very different from one another and that's okay. We all co-exist and know of each other but we don't run in the same circles, and that's okay. You don't have to be friends with everyone to do the things that you need to do.
I think that the last thing is to have fun. This is a journey that's supposed to be fun and exciting and invigorating and you're going to learn a lot about yourself in the process. Live streaming is something that kind of bears the bones of your soul in a way that other mediums don't because you're not allowed to edit it and do it over. You're kind of just there with yourself for one to four hours every stream and you learn a lot about yourself in that way.
PikaChulita: First and foremost I would say, but then also put an asterisk with it, you do not owe anyone an explanation about your identity or about your sexuality. This can be applied to any aspect of your life, really. You do whatever you deem fit and whatever you feel comfortable doing. But if you are one of those people that is out about their sexuality and is open about their sexuality or their identity, do not water that down for anybody, for any brands, for any companies, etc, etc.
I know that's one of our biggest issues when you're a marginalized individual and you're wondering, "What company is going to want to work with me if I'm flying this Pride flag all over the place, or there's rainbows everywhere, or whatever other kind of Pride flag, I'm just flying it and I'm this and I'm doing that." And it's not something to worry about simply because there are brands who will work with you.
Second of all, anybody that won't accept you for your sexuality or your gender identity is not a company that you need to be working with in the long run. The money is not that good to be, quite frankly, a sellout. Or to have something as unfulfilling as working with a company that does not accept your identity. So, be unapologetically you, do not let anybody tell you that you cannot be successful doing content creation streaming while being out or being open about your sexuality or gender identity.
JeffBrutlag: Find a community on the platform that you feel comfortable with. I think because there are so many different identities out there and there are so many different dynamics when it comes to groups of LGBTQIA people on the platform, you may feel like, "Oh, I'm just going to start looking at people through the LGBTQIA tag," or now that Twitch has all the other tags, looking through all these various tags to find streamers with communities that you might resonate with. I would urge you to find some that you feel really comfortable with while you're starting to stream. To me, streaming feels so much more fun when you have people you know that also do it or when you're doing it for a group of people that you really feel comfortable with.
Because when you're there and when you're doing your thing on stream, I think it's nice to feel like there are people there who also have your back. You want to feel genuinely supported by your community. And for me, I would say just don't be afraid. Just click that 'going live' button and see what happens. I think a lot of people get scared of the potential hate they can get, but I think that those are all just strangers on the internet who have a lot of work they need to do on themselves and their actions have nothing to do with you. So, I would say just click that 'start streaming' button and see what happens, you never know what could happen.
LuxieGames: First of all, hell yeah, I'm proud of you, that's great. Stream! But protect yourself. Don't use your real name, don't put your last name on the internet, block a lot of words. There's a lot of useful things you can do to safely protect yourself to stream where you don't have to deal with people being mean to you. And when you're smaller it feels like you'll do anything to have someone in your stream, and you're like, "Oh, I can deal with this person." If they're rude to you and they're rude to your community members, then eventually it's worth it not to have them. But for me, I went from streaming Runescape all the time, which is a super toxic environment, to streaming whatever I wanted with an incredible community and I couldn't do it without them.
And they're so nice and sometimes I lay in bed and I'm like, "How did I get this mostly queer, mostly female audience? What on earth did I do to get blessed by this incredible queer energy I'm surrounded by?" But if you can, like your regulars become those people, it'll draw in more like that. And I think that is super important. You don't think about it, but that's very important. Also, please don't just play a video game and not say anything. Unless that's what you're going for, that's the only advice I can give you is don't just turn on Call of Duty and not say anything bestie, you have to talk. I'm so sorry to tell you this.
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Breadwitchery: I would say, be as much I would say that when it comes to being an LGBTQIA individual streaming, and often other marginalized groups as well because you are effectively a public figure at that point, you are in a position where you can be seen as representation or you can be an advocate or educator, which is great to be if you would like to be. I think that's really fantastic that people can learn about LGBTQIA experiences and hear those voices on certain issues and that kind of thing from creators, especially because Twitch has that sort of down-to-earth, creator to viewer communication. But I would say don't feel like you have to do that. Like, I'm not out of the closet in certain aspects of my identity because they are private to me and they're for me and I don't want to be seen as a representation, like I don't want to be put in the position of advocate. So I would say, don't feel like you have to be an advocate for everything and an educator for everything.
I feel like it's one of those things where if you're a creator you're put on the stage and a lot of eyes on you and people expect you to be a representation of everything that you identify as and to be super out about it and that kind of thing, and there's a lot of community in that and there's a lot of support in that and it's great, but if you personally prefer to keep parts of your identity private, that is totally okay and it doesn't take away from your queerness or how fantastic you are as an advocate for certain movements and that kind of thing. Don't feel like you have to give all of your identity all of the time and be there for every question that everybody has. Of course, at the same time, I absolutely support creators who are advocates and educators and representation and that kind of thing and they're doing fantastic stuff and I like to think that one day I can be one of them.
QueerlyBee: Find community. I surround myself with a ton of other queer creators and that is very uplifting on hard days and you can get advice from them, especially queer creators who have been at this a little bit longer and have tips and tricks. It can be such an affirming space to be in as a queer creator, it's very supportive, very encouraging. It's nice to have a place where you can use your preferred name, your preferred pronouns, you can present how you want, like it's your platform and people don't have to know you as anything different. And you can provide that same kind of space and energy for the people in your community, which is also really beautiful. I've had people try names and change them back, try pronouns and change them back—I don't care, like this is a safe space for you to do that.
But also I would advise them to protect themselves and protect their community. Like you are obviously at risk for harassment and you need to put security measures in place and if you're going to designate a space that's inclusive, number one you need to make sure it's actually inclusive and not just about the identities that you hold. So making sure you have rules, moderators, protection, do your research, make sure your Discord has some safety measures.
Because you're curating a space for at-risk people and if you're not doing your due diligence to protect them to the best of your ability, you're kind of contributing to putting them at further risk because you're getting them all together somewhere where they could then be harmed. So you need to put in all the efforts you can on your end preemptively to keep them safe. It's not a perfect system, but you do have to try to put in those preventative measures.
AshleyRoboto: Being on Twitch and being in the LGBTQIA space has made me meet so many people like me. So many like-minded people, and honestly it will broaden your circles in regards to meeting people in the community and you'll make so many more friends who have the same experiences as you dealing with the same kind of stuff. And I think if you are LGBT and you're thinking about streaming I would always say, "Just do it." And be in the community, interact with other people in the community, make friends and stuff, because it's so wonderful and there's so many amazing creators in the space that you can discover and make friends with. But then, in regards to just being a new streamer in general, just go for it.
Don't invest a ton of money into a ridiculous setup because you don't need that to start. I started on a laptop with an extra monitor with my laptop camera, my laptop microphone, and that's just how I started streaming and then I slowly upgraded. Because sometimes you get into streaming and you realize it's not for you, which is fine, but if you spent thousands of dollars on a setup for something you decide is not for you, that's a huge blow. If you just try out and maybe get cheaper stuff, because there's so many better cheaper alternatives than when I started streaming, and the streaming industry has come so far in regards to making streaming more accessible, so yeah, just try it out.
Get some stuff, see if you like it, get some friends—that honestly is the most key piece of advice that I could have. Because I know there's so many people that say like, "When I started streaming, I streamed like, zero viewers," and that's so rough. I'm very fortunate that when I started streaming I had two of my best friends hanging out with me from day one, so I was never alone and I think that helped me get used to streaming and talking to my camera and my chat right off the bat. I would always recommend if you can do it, I would try to do it because that was super, super key for me, I think.
TaylorRynai: Just do it. Like many other things being LGBT, you have to just dive in and see what comes because there's no way for anyone to fully express what it's going to be like once you get in because everyone's situation is different. I am a pansexual person, but I'm currently in what translates as a heterosexual relationship and I look like a cis heterosexual woman if you're just looking at me in a camera. So, my experience is going to be slightly different from say, a trans woman who is presenting not necessarily as a feminine woman. Their experience is going to be very different from mine.
So your experience is going to be different from mine and anyone else's so you just have to jump in. Just dive right in and then whatever happens you just have to take in stride, that's where your mod team comes in, your friend group comes in, your support team comes in, because if something happens, they've got you. There's no way to go in and for it to be perfect, you just have to be able to roll with the punches and punch back if necessary.
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GR: How has your LGBTQ identity impacted your streaming?
MermaidRoyal: I think that my identity just keeps shifting. When I started streaming I was she/they, now I'm they/she, I'm also more nonbinary than I was when I started, which is fun. I'm also just more queer than I was when I started, like I just feel more queer every day which is really fun [laughs] My identity has given me the freedom to experiment and talk about things that otherwise I would not have felt comfortable talking about. Something I say on my channel all the time is that queer gender, sexuality and identity cannot be encompassed by the English language. So it's very important for us to figure out how we feel first and then try to figure out what predisposed labels we fit in. Because I think that a lot of people are just like, "Oh I'm this now, but wait, that doesn't fit." And it's just like, "It's not gonna fit."
These are boxes that we created to try and make sense of what's going on in our brains and I think that if I hadn't come to Twitch already having those experiences, I wouldn't have been comfortable enough leading those conversations for other people. I think that's another thing you have to know as a queer streamer is that people are going to ask you questions and they're not always going to be trolls trying to be bad people. It's sometimes going to be people who are confused and want to figure out who they are and you have to be ready for that. You have to be ready, but you also have the option to shut those conversations down and you don't have to have them.
But for me, I think that it's very important to have those conversations as someone who is visibly nonbinary in this space. Like, I have to be prepared to have the conversation of like, "What does it mean to be a nonbinary femme who presents very femininely and can be perceived as a woman? What does that look like, how does that feel, how do you know what your pronouns are, how do you know how you identify, how do you navigate those spaces?" And I think that having a glimpse of that identity before I came to Twitch helped a lot.
PikaChulita: To be honest, it's only impacted me in, like, a positive way for the most part. The reason I say that is because I am bisexual/ pansexual, but I am also considered what's conventionally attractive and I am feminine, I am what's considered a femme, so I experience things like fetishization and things like that, but I do not experience the same struggles with my queer identity with how other people treat me as other identities might. For example, I do not have the same struggles as a gay man might. I do not have the same struggles a masculine-adjacent lesbian woman would.
I have that privilege within the queer umbrella... not really, like I said fetishization, it sucks and it's bad, but I do not really have that struggle of the same sort of life-threatening or well-being threatening struggles as some other queer identities might. So, I think I've had the privilege of having my experience be mostly positive, where my sexuality has allowed me to help other people with their sexuality. For people who have been bi-curious or questioning, or wondering if they are bisexual/pansexual, or just making people feel comfortable within my space by creating a safe space for all queer, nonbinary trans folks. I really have not had a negative experience on Twitch because of my identity as a queer Black woman. Being Black and a woman, yes, but not being queer. But I always acknowledge that is a privilege that I have, because most other queer folks on Twitch do not have that.
JeffBrutlag: Oh it affects everything. It affects how I interact with people, it affects how I run the community, it affects my perspective on the games we play. There often becomes this discussion, especially before Twitch implemented all the identity tags, because I think they were trying so hard to only make the tags content related to the point where people were wondering "Is LGBTQIA content?" And I say yes, because we can't not bring our perspectives when we're creating content, it's not something we can just remove.
It's something I'm always thinking about, it's something that I always bring to the table because it's the life that I live. It's always going to be a part of my content. And as far as my community goes, I think for me as someone in the LGBTQIA community, I know I would personally feel like it would be a disservice to not make my community safe for every identity in the community because I know I want to feel that way in any of those spaces too.
So, I think to me, my identity helps me realize that because I am somebody who's grown up gay and felt not welcomed in spaces, I would hate for any other identity in the umbrella to feel that way too. So, I work to make sure that everyone's voices are heard, whether they're in the LGBTQIA community or not, because there are so many other people of color, so many disabled people, people with mental health issues that may come in and want to feel like they have a place there and aren't feeling ostracized because of something they can't control. Having that identity and having that level of sympathy to where I know at least on some level they've felt, at a core, like I did as a gay person growing up, so being LGBTQIA+ on Twitch definitely made me want to make that space safe for anyone who needs one. And anyone who's willing to make that space safe for them.
LuxieGames: A lot, actually. I think that when I first started streaming I didn't know what I wanted to talk about and who I wanted to be. This has been a weird thing I've traveled through life with because before this, I worked at Disney and I had a weird following on Instagram because I was a queer princess at Disney and that was very not heard of or not seen. And then that's all people wanted to talk about with me, and it got a little frustrating. But it was nice, because a lot of people would be like, "It's so nice to see you do a job that you do that I don't see queer people do all the time."
I normally say I'm queer because it's easier, but I'm married to a woman and I am bisexual, but it's just easier for me to be like, "I'm queer and I'm married to a lady." It changed my entire community because I did the advice that I said. I started banning people that made me uncomfortable and I started focusing on the cool queer people in my chat and cultivating relationships with them and they started cultivating relationships with each other and a snowball effect of friendship in the stream.
And it felt wrong as soon as I was in a long term relationship with my now wife, it felt weird to not talk about it because it was such a huge aspect of my life, but also I didn't want to deal with if something happened to our relationship and I'd have to coddle all these people's feelings like I did ten years ago when me and my ex broke up and the internet heard that and was sad by that. It's very nice but sometimes it's weird because it's a weird thing sharing any part of yourself, but it has been very helpful for my community to grow into the people I want to hang out with all the time. But it's also hard, I think, because the more you share about yourself, the more people feel like they want to know about you.
It's a give and take and I'm happy that I can be a person to show you that you can be out and be queer and be successful and have a job and be respected and it be normal. I think it's much more normal now, but growing up it was not something you ever really saw talked about. So it's important, but it's also one of those things where sometimes it's like one of those days where I don't want to talk about being gay, let me talk about a video game instead.
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Breadwitchery: I think that it hasn't impacted how anybody sees me, necessarily, but it's impacted how I worry others perceive me and also it's done a lot of good. First off, I identify as being on the aromantic spectrum, which is basically not having romantic attraction, but I'm on the spectrum in that I will super duper rarely experience romantic attraction. So if I was to date somebody and I was public about it on my stream, I would then feel super awkward and be like, "Oh no, they're going to think that I'm not on the aromantic spectrum anymore because I had like, an exception sort of thing,” and I get in my head about that, but I have to remember that I'm on the spectrum, people who are on the aromantic spectrum do sometimes experience romantic attraction. So I think that's sort of an internal queerphobia I have of myself.
Second off, I identify as nonbinary which falls underneath the trans umbrella and I've done a lot of research into the trans community and I don't identify as a binary trans person, but I basically go between feeling like a woman, which is what I was identified as at birth, and feeling like, agender. So I think you could call it 'demigirl,' but demigirl makes me uncomfy because I'm a woman. And I am very open about that and when people have questions about that I'm very happy to answer them and that sort of thing.
QueerlyBee: Obviously, Peer2Peer Live came out prior to Twitch tags with the whole tagline of "identity is content." For me, that rings true like, in every story I tell about myself or stories I tell in-game, there are queer elements to it. Whether it is directly queer relationships using mods in the game to make more in-depth queer storylines in The Sims or Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. It plays a part in everything not only in gaming, but it plays a big part in conversations we have.
We talk about things like identity, current queer discourse, like I did study higher education and worked at an LGBT resource center and have worked with queer youth for a long time. So I do have young queer 16 to 18-year-olds who come and maybe haven't had a lot of exposure to the IRL queer community, especially with the pandemic, who sometimes get so caught up in online queer discourse about things that, at the end of the day, don't matter.
Like, people's lives are at risk and there are parts of our community whose safety is at risk who need us to not get so caught up in discourse about things like the validity of neopronouns. We do talk about those things and I do try to use my background in educating as a way to connect with people and to engage in conversations where we can have disagreements and differences of opinions and navigate those together and understand where each other is coming from on a pretty consistent basis. My queerness infiltrates every aspect of the content that I make.
AshleyRoboto: I deal personally with I guess LGBT imposter syndrome, almost. Because I'm bisexual but I'm in a hetero-presenting relationship, so from the outside looking in you could not "tell" which sometimes makes me think I'm not queer enough to be in the space, even though I know I am and that kind of stuff. Knowing that I'm not the only person that feels that way, I try to be very vocal about my identity and try to be very vocal about the struggles that I have with it.
And I think trying to be open has been a really key part of my journey because I feel like if you're open, you attract a lot of people and viewers from the community too, and so you have a community that has a lot of shared experiences and stuff to talk about. I know that when I was growing up I lacked seeing a lot of representation of different sexualities and identities in the media, so I try really hard to be more vocal to be that representation for someone.
Because sometimes you'll feel more comfortable about yourself seeing other people be comfortably themselves and know that it's okay to be out and comfortable and things like that. I know there have been a few people that have told me that seeing myself and other creators that are out and vocal has helped them feel comfortable coming out and feel comfortable being themselves and that's like, one of the most amazing things I've seen is knowing that me being here has helped other people be more comfortable.
TaylorRynai: I get a lot of people in the chat who say that they came in because I'm using the LGBT tags and they feel like it's a safe space where they can come in and be themselves and that's really important to me. And then I've shared my relationship situation with the chat as well where I'm a cis-gendered pansexual woman in a queer relationship. And everyone's like, "Oh, it's so nice to hear someone be open about that." I'm just trying to say, "Hey, I'm open to literally everything."
Like I don't care what you do, I don't care what you see me doing, we're all just people living and I think that gives comfort to a lot of people in the LGBT community. Where it's like, I can just go there and be myself and I can talk about what's going on in my life and nobody's going to judge me because Taylor has put her whole life on the table already.
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GR: What is one thing you think Twitch could do or change to better accommodate LGBTQ streamers?
MermaidRoyal: I think Twitch, as a platform, needs to get better about moderating its own chat. There have been so many times where I will go on actual, official Twitch content and have to close the chat because it's so disgusting and they don't moderate their own chat. Which I think is because they don't have the resources to do so, but I think that as we go into implementing the tags that it is very, very important for us to feel safe being featured on those channels and to implement some type of moderation to those channels.
Which I think is happening, and it's not going to happen all at once because Twitch is a huge company and it's going to take a while for the culture of Twitch to change because it's been years and years and years of it being this kind of "gamer culture" or "gamer humor," which doesn't exactly line up with the identity and community aspect that Twitch is trying to strive for at this point.
PikaChulita: Well, funny enough as we're connecting this interview, they just implemented the whole tagging system. Now that came after the platform created prior to this identity-based tagging system by the folks at TransLifeline, and they created Peer2Peer Live. It's something that TransLifeline created because they had been talking to Twitch and trying to get Twitch to do this identity-based tagging and their "defense" was that they did not want to bring more harassment.
It's like they didn't want to put targets on people's backs, and my response to that was always the fact that our existence as marginalized people is that we inherently have a target on our back just for existing and it's going to happen regardless. We're always gonna have a target on our back, there's going to be harassment whether these tags exist or not. So if that's the case, the way I like to word it is let us determine the terms of our harassment of our existence because yeah, that may bring increased trolls and harassment, but it'll probably also bring increased community.
Finding other people out there who are just like you, that share the same identity as you, and for a lot of people, these people have been telling you that those pros are gonna outweigh the cons, but they didn't care to hear it. Then all of the sudden, after almost two years, a year and a half of asking, they finally brought it to fruition. And it's a step in the right direction, I think it's fair to acknowledge it's a step in the right direction while also acknowledging there's still a lot of work to be done.
I would also like to see an in-house pronouns option instead of having to do Chrome extensions to make it a thing, to add that to the tagging system, and to also take bans and stuff more seriously. So those I think are the main two things, like I said they brought in a tagging system which is great, but they could refine it and they could also take harassment and queer-based discrimination more seriously and make it an unbannable offense, as far as I'm concerned.
JeffBrutlag: I don't think there can be enough moderation tools in the world. I think they can always be doing more to help our moderators make sure they can catch things. I also think they could do much better with featuring us. It doesn't just have to be during Pride Month. I think because Twitch has created such an atmosphere where the loudest, most intolerant of gamers feel like their voices are valid because they don't really do anything about the comments they say, they just kind of let them happen. So we see Black queer people get featured on their Twitter and all the comments are these disgusting, like, you would never say that to somebody's face so why would you say it there?
They just need to do better at actually highlighting the LGBTQIA community on Twitch because we are around on Twitch all the time, not just Pride Month. Like you don't have to just contact us during Pride Month, you don't just have to put us on the front page during Pride Month, like we're here all the time. And the more you show that this community is here all the time, whether the people accept us by exposure or they just get bored of trolling us because they can't come up with anything anymore. More representation is gonna work out in the long run for all of us.
LuxieGames: Wow, could you just block words? It's so easy. Or maybe stop letting people make bot accounts as easily. Also, it shouldn't have taken everybody that long to make tags, like there's a lot of stuff I think they could do, it's hard, I know that it's hard. The internet is hard and I know people get mad at Twitch all the time, and I respect that. But to be 10 years old in the world as a company is so tiny, and to have gone through so much growth in such a short amount of time, especially over the past three to five years, is a lot and the company has grown exponentially. I think there's so much they could work on but for me, sometimes I can only imagine how many times they're like, "Time to start a new branch of Twitch because we're growing so quickly that we don't know what we're doing."
So it's more about trying to find people that actually listen to you, because it feels like sometimes people not listening at Twitch, maybe we could listen a little better. There's just too much, I think, to pinpoint but I feel like, they put people up for these really cool things, and they put them up there, and then they don't protect them at all. And I think that could change—just protect them, that's all they're asking. If you're going to give them this cool opportunity, then the least you could do is turn around and make sure they're not being harassed and followed home and bullied to the point where they don't want to stream anymore.
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Breadwitchery: I will be honest, I think a lot of the Pride Month stuff is fantastic, they had a really good diversity of creators that I saw being promoted. When it comes to LGBTQIA creators, I feel like the first thing that every marginalized group has been asking for really, is making sure that the energy is there every month, not just during their advent month. Make sure that Black creators are being given the spotlight and the front page and opportunities all the time, not just during Black History Month. Make sure that LGBTQIA creators are being given the spotlight all the time, not just when it's time for Pride Month.
So I think featuring creators consistently and also featuring them for things that aren't just them speaking on their identity. Like, I would love to be on panels and features and the front page and stuff being nonbinary, that would be great, but I would also love to be on panels about like, narrative and video production and that kind of thing and just be a nonbinary person who just happens to be there. And that's true diversity and inclusion to me is when you're in the room all the time, not just when they need you.
So I think that's really important, but I will say I think they've done a really great job this Pride Month, and I do love the Pride emotes and I love all the creators that are being featured and I'm really happy for them. Also, of course, just making sure there is always an individual of that group in the room when they're making decisions. So if they were making a post about asexuality, ask an asexual person before you post it. Like, have some people look over it and don't be like, "Oh, Jerry the intern is a gay guy, we'll ask him. He'll know about that." Posts can be quite insensitive if you don't have a person who is directly related to them giving input.
QueerlyBee: Logistically, add pronouns into chat. We have an extension for it but it's made by an outside source who's not being paid who has to update it all the time on their own time and of their own accord, which should not be the case. And Twitch recently added "he/him," "she/her," and "they/them" under the tags, but with us only having access to five tags, so many of us are already limiting our identities down, especially if we need to use any gaming-related tags. So now adding pronouns into the mix, you've really limited people.
Plus, I need to be able to see the pronouns of people in my chat, not necessarily do I need them to know my pronouns. They're going to figure that out, I can tell them that, I'm one person. I can't memorize the pronouns of the forty different usernames that are in my chat and I want to respect people and validate them in their identity and we've had to go really out of our way to find tools and make tools on our own like a pronoun channel point redemption checks and things like that and the extension. So I would love to see them integrate that feature more thoroughly.
I would love to see them uplift more trans creators and nonbinary creators and all the queer community, but specifically I do feel like Twitch lacks an understanding that cis queer people can still be transphobic. For the longest time we were trying to explain to them for the last two years why the LGBTQIA+ tag wasn't serving the queer community well enough and it's because I can raid into a cis gay man's stream with the LGBTQIA tag on and they can be very transphobic because they just don't understand our lived experience. Sometimes I feel like they could do better at not just uplifting the queer community, but making sure that different identities are represented. It's definitely on the mend with including more diversity of queer voices, but it can always be better.
As with any marginalized group, "Twitch can you please stop taking 50% of our income?" it's just a reality of whether you're queer or any other marginalized group that the accessibility piece of being asked to basically work a part time job for just miniscule pay and no benefits is a pretty insensitive ask to marginalized communities who do not have that time or that luxury and it automatically places a barrier in front of us. Especially for folks like myself who have to run myself into the ground to be able to do this and work enough to make enough income to survive. I know you have to make a profit, I get it, you're a company, it's fine, but 50% just seems really excessive, especially that there is this huge barrier to accessing being a Twitch Partner.
AshleyRoboto: I always think, this doesn't just go for LGBT, this is pretty much any marginalized creator on the platform, definitely work more with cracking down on hateful name creation, blocking accounts. I know it's a difficult thing to do to block an IP or whatever the heck like that, but I always see people with really hateful names or really hateful messages that repeatedly make accounts and stuff. Just, trying to protect marginalized creators more from that stuff is key and I think it's an area we're still lacking a bit.
I enjoy that they finally added all of those tags, that has been a long time coming and they're finally here and I'm very glad that there's more discoverability of that variety, which I've noticed it already works. Like I know people find me through the bisexual tag, which is interesting and really cool. I think it just needs to be cracking down on harassment and especially being more vocal against it as well because I feel like it's a thing that gets talked about on Twitch official live streams, there is a lot of issues with moderating their channels and there's a lot of hateful commentary in the chat, like if there is a Black creator or gay creator on there it's always terrible to look at the chat. I think that is super key, just starting at the source—do your work, moderate channels better, and do things like that.
TaylorRynai: I think that they could do a lot more in terms of the follow-botting issue. First of all, I was follow-botted once and all of the names were really rude and I don't know how those names got through when you choose your username. I feel like Twitch could do something about that because if my emotes can't go through if they have a certain word in them or if AutoMod is catching certain words in the chat, how is it possible that you have a rude word in your username? I think Twitch could definitely handle that. I don't expect Twitch to be troll police, that's not what I necessarily expect them to do because that's asking a lot, but I do think they could put certain tools in place that would go a long way in helping us be troll police in our own streams.
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GR: What has been most rewarding about being an LGBTQ streamer?
MermaidRoyal: I think that giving people the space to be themselves is probably one of the best rewards that I could ever ask for. I think that people understanding that they can be themselves and be happy and fulfilled and successful and live the lives that they want to live is so rewarding to me and it's worth every bad day that I have. I don't have that many anymore, but I still do here and there, but it's worth it. I think that it's worth it to be like, "Hey, you can be all these things" or "You can be this that or the other and still live a very full life." Because a lot of times we are taught and indoctrinated with the idea that those full lives are reserved for people that fit closer to what is "acceptable."
PikaChulita: Knowing that I can offer a safe space to other queer folks and to let them know that they are loved and wanted and accepted. Because I've had so many people who have found me through front-page slots, the LGBTQIA+ tag, different ways that it wasn't from them knowing someone that was following me or it wasn't through Twitter, which is where I have my biggest following. They just happened to find me in the directory somehow some way, and they were queer and they quickly realized in coming into my stream from my rules, from my bio, from the fact that I added a heart gif of the POC and trans inclusive Pride flag to each of my stream scenes and they'd pretty much immediately find out they were safe and wanted and welcomed there.
It's just been an amazing feeling because I know that existing in the Twitch space as a queer individual, you can go to a stream and somebody may drop an f-slur, somebody may say something homophobic—you never quite really know what you're going to get, so I've been told by folks in my community that it's been a relief for them in knowing that I exist to keep queer nonbinary and trans folks safe and to protect them.
Just knowing that I'm doing my part; even though I am a queer woman, I'm still cis-gendered, so whether it's keeping my other queer folks safe that may also be cis-gendered or the ones that are transgender, nonbinary, etc, etc, knowing that I can do my part even for them and knowing I can do my part as a friend to even the communities that I may not fall under is just, it helps me sleep at night. Or when I'm worrying that maybe I'm not doing enough, or I'm worrying about numbers, that's sort of what brings me back to my life and a good headspace.
JeffBrutlag: The most rewarding part for me has been getting to learn from communities within the queer community that I hadn't really gotten to communicate with much. I didn't really grow up with a lot of queer friends, there weren't a whole lot of queer circles I felt I could be part of until I started hanging out online more. So getting to be the streamer that's open to learning about these experiences I've learned that once you make a space that's comfortable for people, they will open up just because they feel comfortable about it.
So I've gotten to learn a lot about the trans experience, part of it got to help me learn that I'm nonbinary, so it's been really rewarding to see. It's a direct result of putting in the work to make a space for people, like you get some sort of benefit out of it. And of course, that shouldn't be the reason you do it, but it's just a very surprising and refreshing result to see when you make people feel comfortable just by being you and creating the space you want, they will help you and increase your worldview.
LuxieGames: Oh, my community a thousand percent because at the end of the day, I have a community where people can be themselves and I get to see that and they get to talk about it and they have a group that can extend and be there with them. I remember being young and being in the closet and sitting on Tumblr clawing my way through tags to try to find queer people like me that I could follow. And that's what it's like for people that follow queer people, like I know that somewhere, someone is like, "Look at these cute gay people!" because you don't get to see it very often. So I'm more than happy to put out content like that because I know that somebody was that for me.
And you're just trying to be in a community and see yourself represented in any way, shape, or form, so it's been very rewarding to have people come into chat to say, "I came out and my parents accepted me!" I think it's really nice to even have people be like, "I can't come out, but I can come out in this chat. I can't come out everywhere but I can talk about it here." And I just love that and I think that's great and it was what I had on the internet when I was younger, so I'm happy that people can have that at any age. Or, you don't have to talk about it to people in your real life, but you have a community where you feel safe enough to talk about it, and I love that.
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Breadwitchery: And I've had a lot of community members realize their gender identity and credit me as a major influence, which is almost scary but also very nice and very humbling and it makes me very grateful. I've had tons of community members start transitioning or identifying differently and crediting me as an influence and also crediting the warmth and the welcoming nature of the community I've created as part of it, which means so much and again is kind of scary but in that way of like, "Oh, I hope I'm doing good, I didn't realize I was such an influence, I hope it's a good one!"
And then also seeing people that are of more niche and underrepresented identities sharing the spotlight and being able to spread awareness of stuff, like for example demisexuality there's Negaoryx, and stuff like that. Because I feel like niche is a weird word, but I do feel like there's discourse within the community about this sort of thing where there are certain sexualities that are underrepresented within LGBTQIA. Because you say "LGBTQIA" for stuff but I have not seen, like an intersex person highlighted, so there is still underrepresentation within the community and I love seeing people that I think are underrepresented sort of moving up and being given opportunities and given spotlights and being able to speak on these identities and spread awareness of them.
QueerlyBee: It is seeing queer joy. It's seeing people be able to be in community with people like them when maybe in their IRL surroundings it is not that way. The inspiration for curating my own community was feeling alone and not supported IRL, and that is the case for many of the queer beans in my space and many of the queer beans in other queer streamers' space. So to see people have those opportunities to try new sets of pronouns, to try different gender expression, to try a different name and to feel safe to do so and to express their appreciation for myself and the other members of the community for seeing them for who they are when nobody around them is, is just so incredibly rewarding.
It is life-giving for you, it is life-giving for those who otherwise might feel very stagnant, very lost if they didn't have that space. Just being with other queer people on a regular basis is huge, especially in a pandemic and especially when the means to potentially access IRL queer communities isn't always there. I lived in rural Wisconsin and didn't drive—yeah there were queer gatherings, but how far away were they? There were just so many barriers and I feel like Twitch is a really accessible way for queer communities to gather and feel less alone.
AshleyRoboto: I think it's the community you foster and the awesome people that get brought into your life. Just knowing that me being a vocal LGBT streamer is helping other people find themselves and be less ashamed of their identity, if they were trying to hide it, and just feeling more comfortable being out and being themselves. Knowing that there's at least a little bit of a difference I can make that I think is the most rewarding part for me.
TaylorRynai: Hearing people say that they feel comfortable enough to be themselves in my stream or in the Discord or on Twitter when they're talking to me. It's important to me that people get to feel comfortable in the skin that they're in and the body they're in and the person that they are, all of that, that's very important to me. I spent a long time not really liking myself because of the way I look, I had to do a lot of work to get to where I am now and I want how I feel about me for everybody because it's really rewarding to walk around and be like, "I'm cool. I don't care what you say, I don't care what you say, I don't care what that person back there said, I know how I feel, I know who I am."
It's so rewarding to be that because I know what it's like to not be that and I just want this feeling for everybody. So if you come to me and you're like, "Your stream made me feel so comfortable, I was able to be myself," that is the best thing you can say to me. I would jump for joy, I might actually cry if you say that to me because I want that for everyone.
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GR: Do you have anything you’d like to go back and tell your younger LGBTQ self?
MermaidRoyal: Yes! I say all the time that I'm doing this for my fifteen-year-old self, like that's how this all started. I wanted to create some type of representation for my fifteen-year-old self who didn't have any plus-size Latinx people to look up to in the entertainment industry. And I think the thing I would go back and tell my eighteen-year-old self, which was when I figured out I was queer, is that "You don't have to have all the answers and it's okay to not have all the answers."
And I think that expecting yourself to have all the answers and expecting yourself to get it right and expecting yourself to be perfect is only setting yourself up for failure. That is the only way that you are able to fail. If you have put yourself so far in a box that you can't figure out how to get to the next phase of who you are.
PikaChulita: So I'm gonna be funny about this one, it's like I'm serious but it's also in lighthearted humor: "You're not straight! [laughs] Stop being in denial like you were, alcohol has nothing to do with your attraction to women, that is the real you! It's called liquid courage! Girl, accept it." Accept it and know that sexuality is fluid and you don't necessarily have to have a label if you don't want to have it. Go with whatever label you feel fits your sexuality and your sexual identity. There is no right or wrong.
Also to be mindful of falling into heteronormativity and recognizing and being able to unpack certain things that you may do or say or feel, and ask yourself if they relate to heteronormativity. That way you can allow yourself to be your true self and not be bound by heteronormativity in terms of what you identify as with your sexuality.
JeffBrutlag: So many things. I think all of it does come down to: “You don't have to be anyone else but yourself. And I, in fact, encourage you to only be yourself.” I had so many experiences, even just in my early twenties, where I felt like I needed to be a certain way in order for certain people within the community to like me. I was like, "Oh, this is how these gay people are doing things online, I must have to do that too in order to be liked." But the more I realized that's not what I want to do, I just want to be me, that was the moment that I started attracting people into my circles that I actually wanted to be around and that actually made me feel good about myself.
So I know that if I started to go down a road that I didn't really feel passionate about or that's not the way I wanted to express myself, I might not be where I am right now. So I would just say there might be a lot of pressure to do things a certain way in order to express yourself a certain way, but just be you. It sounds so cliche sometimes to say that, but I can't speak enough to how being you and expressing yourself the way that makes you feel good, you'll find people that love to see that and will empower you to do even more of that.
LuxieGames: For context, the first time I ever went on dates with Bean [her wife] was so long ago, but I don't think I would have ever known we would end up where we are now, but I also would have never imagined that my family and I would have ended up where we are now because it's shocking how much time can do. It doesn't do it for everybody, but when I was younger I was like, "My dad will never ever talk to me again," and my dad was at my wedding!
So there's a weird thing where you can never know what's going to happen and you can put all of this negative or positive energy out and think what you want to think, but the world is just going to constantly surprise you and sometimes, for the most part, it's better than you expected, especially as a gay person, it could go either way. I hate to sit there and be like, "It's going to change with time!" Because it might not for you, and it sucks and I'm sorry and I wish I could give you a hug, but for some people, it's wild how much distance and time could do for your family and I wish I could've told myself that.
And also, that people say things out of anger and it's very hard to forgive them, but they are just confused and old a lot of the time. And I think it sucks that gay people constantly have to be like, the forgiving ones, but we always do and that's why we're all in therapy [laughs] It's really hard to constantly be the person that's like, "Oh, they said it out of anger and they don't mean it." And it's really hard to be the bigger person, but it's very beneficial to be the bigger person as a queer person. So it's very hard and you don't have to do it, but if you want to do it, it could pay off. That's my advice to myself, if you want to put the energy in, they'll come around eventually. Who knows, they might even come to your wedding!
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Breadwitchery: I've had an interesting journey as an individual in terms of my identity, and when I was a teenager I thought that I was a lesbian. I mean I was a lesbian, but personally, my sexuality is fluid and I identified as a lesbian and had a weird relationship with my gender that I didn't understand. I was like, "I'm fine with being called a woman but also I'm not that? I'm confused." I would say that personally, to myself, your stuff is fluid. Not everyone's stuff is fluid, absolutely some people have very static identities, but your stuff is very fluid.
Always just go with it. Never feel like you're not enough of one label or that you're doing something wrong because you don't fit into a certain box that you think you're supposed to fit into. Just go with it; the way you feel in the moment is who you are. That's who you are and that's the most important thing, rather than "Am I behaving correctly according to this label?" The most important thing is "Am I behaving truly to myself?" Just go with that and you'll be fine.
QueerlyBee: That's such a weird question as someone who came out older and as someone who figured out their identity later in life. I guess I just would've wanted younger me to know that eventually, I would get the space to explore who I was. Like, I didn't have it, and maybe that's not only in queerness but in general, but queerness was definitely a fundamental part of it.
I didn't really get to date, I didn't really get to explore gender expression, I didn't really get to learn about queerness and it would have been nice to know that, "Okay, maybe I can't have it right now, but a time will come where you have the luxury to do self-exploration and figure out who you are." Because it didn't always feel like it would ever come, which I'm sure a lot of young people feel that way.
Whether they were going to be in my direct vicinity or not, there were going to be people who would support me and I have a really lovely queer advisor from when I worked at the LGBT resource center and he just taught me a lot about chosen family and there's something about curating a very queer community on Twitch that feels kind of like a chosen family. It feels like you get the opportunity to very intentionally surround yourself with people who share your values and who have a greater, deeper understanding of queerness and who validate you.
Even myself, it's hard exploring in front of an audience but it's also really cool to be like, "Okay, I'm going to try these pronouns" or "I'm going to try X, Y, and Z" and have everyone be like, "Yeah, let's go!" They're ready, they're willing, they're open for myself and anyone else in the community and that is just a special energy I can't explain. That's the beauty of queerness—it's magic, it doesn't fit in a box.
AshleyRoboto: I think the only thing I would really change is just showing myself more identities and sexualities and stuff at a younger age because I grew up in a really small town. I didn't even know that being gay was a thing until I was like at least ten and it still wasn't super explicit, like I didn't fully get it. So I honestly think showing myself from a younger age different identities, different sexualities, different things like that and just educating myself more would help me discover myself more and I think that's always important.
When I was more exposed to things, I was shocked. I was like, "How did I not know about this earlier? What? You can do this? You can be this way?" And then as soon as I did, I was like, "Oh my gosh, a lot more stuff makes sense to me now." So it was a lot of stuff I was confused about myself where I was like, "Oh, hey, yeah, no this makes sense." And I really wish that I didn't have to have that period of time where I was questioning myself and being confused.
TaylorRynai: First, I would tell myself not to be scared to tell my mom because that actually went a lot better than I thought it was going to. And then, second would be that you still have to take care of your heart, even when you're not straight. So, I had a lot of relationships with other girls in high school and I went into them thinking, "Oh, girls don't play with your heart, you don't have to be worried about that. Girls are cool." That's not the case! You still have to protect yourself, especially if you're not straight because a lot of people will try to play with you. I would just tell myself to be careful. [laughs]
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About The Author
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Marina DelGreco has been a gamer ever since she can remember. Her earliest memory of any video game was some Tarzan game for her PC that she remembers having a hard time beating. Her gaming wheelhouse is mainly comprised of Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, The Outer Worlds, and The Sims, but she's always looking to expand her gaming horizons. She even named her betta fish Garrus after the beloved Turian.
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