Today was a big day for me. Not just because I had an opportunity to hold another seminar on judge diversity at my region’s latest judge conference.

But also becuase, mere moments before I did, the news of Supreme Court decision – to make marriage equality in all fifty states of my homeland – broke. And with it, so did I.

I’ve been on the verge of tears ever since. I never thought this day would come. I’m so deliriously happy, and I had to share it with you.

Today is a historic day, and one I won’t soon forget.

Jim Davis’ Article

NOTE: As I reread this, I realize it could come across as my being an apologist for Jim. His mindset, no matter how much I disagree with it, is a thing that exists. I feel like having it be out in the open, no matter how harmful it may be at first glance, also opens up an opportunity for some real good to be done, the chance for real dialogue. But I know that there are others who agree more with my last paragraph – having it on a site like SCG is an implicit endorsement, which may ultimately make a chance at enacting real change as a result nearly impossible. I hope this is not the case, and I welcome dialogue in any event – that’s the best way for me or anyone to learn, after all. -Vi


I’m sure most of you have gotten wind of the controversy that got stirred up over the past few days in response to an article by Jim Davis where he presents his view on women in Magic.

Just for sake of completeness, here are a few useful links:

Women In Magic: the Gathering” by Meghan Wolff

“Women And Magic” by Jim Davis

A rebuttal by L3 Judge Anastacia Tomson

A second rebuttal by AJ Sacher

The apology issued by Star City Games

Mark Rosewater’s response on his Tumblr blog

As for my own viewpoint, here goes:

I’m actually glad Jim Davis wrote the article. Why? Because it puts into writing a viewpoint that is very pervasive among a lot of Magic players – and, more importantly, it gives us a chance to voice why that viewpoint is harmful and counterproductive.

I know Davis meant well, that he genuinely was trying to help. In fact, there was a time when I myself may have made similar statements. But I’ve grown a lot since then, learned a lot about how privilege and systemic bias works, and have, myself, moved into a position where suddenly I’m on the other side of the equation.

The fact is, we can post articles and links where we discuss how to make Magic a more diverse place, but for people to actually internalize it, they need to put it into their own context. Context matters, especially since someone might think that they have the right idea, and therefore never actually think to challenge their own opinions. And Jim’s article puts into concrete words the feelings that may be simmering, diffuse and unformed, in the minds of a lot of Magic players.

Jim’s article gives us a concrete set of arguments to present counterpoints to, rather than a vague sentiment that remains unvocalized. And, as a result, gives us an opportunity to present a context to discuss these problems that are still pervasive in Magic, in a way that makes sense to a lot more people than merely repeating how important representation and inclusion is – after all, what Magic player doesn’t want equality for all. It’s just that they may misunderstand how to achieve it.

I want to talk a little bit about representation, and about my own experiences. I’ve always been shy, I’ve always been a bit unsure in my own abilities as a Magic player. I had – and still have, in some cases – a huge amount of anxiety about going to tournaments. I was always afraid that I would be so bad that I would ruin other people’s enjoyment just by playing against them. This was what kept me from going to FNMs for the longest time.

And then, when I started to be more open about my gender, that anxiety compounded itself with the fear that I would be ostracized or discriminated against based on my gender presentation. And this wasn’t even necessarily an unfounded fear. I’d seen it at Magic events I’d been to – I’m ashamed to say, I even recognized that I’d seen it in myself. So, even as I started to play more and get better at the game, I still stayed away.

What made me feel safe going to Magic events again? Well, the new USC rules were a part of it, as were the Judge community, who were super supportive during my coming out and subsequent transition. But one part I haven’t talked about a lot are the women in Magic who showed me that you could be a woman, that you could be trans, and still feel accepted and welcomed by the community.

It was thanks to people like Feline Longmore, Melissa DeTora, and Erin Campbell that I felt that there was a place for me in the community. If Jim had his way, though, those people would have never been made visible enough for me to ever have encountered them, and Magic would have had at least one fewer active player.

Jim’s article was ultimately misguided and potentially harmful, but it didn’t come from a place of malice. And I respect him for giving voice to his point of view, as any time someone does that they open themselves up to attack. I hope that he has learned a lot about feminism and representation as a result of the reaction to his article, and that people who read it and also read the rebuttals can understand a bit better the struggles women in Magic go through, put in a context that is a bit closer to home for them. After all, the first step in enacting real change is by opening up people’s minds to other points of view, and I hope that was accomplished here over the past few days.

At the same time, however, I do worry about the fact that it was published on a site as prominent as Star City Games. That kind of implicit endorsement of these viewpoints is almost more harmful than the article itself. The response and apology were good steps, but I hope they will have the courage over the next few days to publish a measured and reasoned rebuttal to the original article.

If not, then the only way any good can actually come from this whole affair is if the rebuttals get as much attention as the original article, so be sure to share the responses as widely as you can!

Discussion Topic: The “M”-word

Welcome to another discussion topic. I enjoyed the feedback on the first one, so I hope for as much interest and participation on this one as well.

And, as before, because we’re talking about potentially not-awesome behavior, there may be some language that some might find offensive to follow.

I’ve heard a word used a few times in the German magic scene, and I’ve been trying to decide just how to react whenever I hear it. The word in question is “Mongo”, and it’s used fairly often by young people as a pejorative.

Here’s why I find it not-awesome: the first thing I thought of when I heard the term the first time (well, other than that it sounded like the villain from some Flash Gordon-esque serial), was that it was short for “mongoloid”, which us an outdated term to describe people who suffer from Down Syndrome.

And therein lies the problem: one of the Very Bad Things(tm) outlined in the IPG under USC-Major are “insults based on… disability,” which this clearly falls under. By that measure if one player calls another an “mongo” during a match, it’s pretty clear what we as judges have to do – separate the players and issue a Match Loss – or worse, depending on the behavior of the player in question.

The problem I have is that I had to think for a good amount of time before I even realized what the slur meant, and I wonder how many youths who use it actually know what it’s referring to. They could be easily forgiven for thinking it was short for “Mongolian” (not that that’s any better – see “based on… national origin” in that same paragraph), or dont even think it has any meaning whatsoever beyond “bad”. Does that change how we treat the infraction? (The answer is obviously “no” if it happens during a match – I leave it as an exercise to the reader why that is). But what about outside of matches? What if it’s between two friends? What if the word is used to describe cards, and not people. Is that USC-Minor then, or still Major?

And, most importantly, how do we educate the players that this isn’t something we want to see at Magic events, without necessarily jumping straight to the infraction (unless the situation is clear-cut, as in the example I pointed out above).

Or, if you’re a native German speaker, do you think the origin of the word is so divorced from public consciousness that we can’t really treat it as an insult based on disability anymore, in the same way that we don’t really treat “gyp” (as in “I was gypped!”) as offensive even though it comes from a slur used for the Roma people? (also, side note: don’t say “gyp”!)

I’d love to hear any feedback on the issue. Feel free to comment below, or write me an email at TimmyJohnnySpike@gmail.com, or tweet at me at @MTGViolet.

One last comment before I go, to put this all into perspective: at one of my local stores we have a player who has been coming to tournaments for years. He’s a really nice person, a good magic player, and well-liked by the community. He also happens to have be mentally challenged. I wonder, how would he feel if he heard that term used at a Magic event?

These issues aren’t just theoretical, they affect real people, real players. And that’s why they matter to me.

Thoughts on my judging future

Yesterday I had some nice chats with some fellow trans* magic judges. It’s nice to know there are more of us in the program.

I talked with them about some of my ambitions as a Magic judge to leverage my position and experience to broaden the diversity of the game and of the judge program, but I always come across the same stumbling blocks of what to actually do. I mean, it’s great to say “Hey, Magic should be a safe space,” but how do you actually go about making that happen?

I’ve been holding seminars on the subject, and I have a blog that I update irregularly, but that all seems so little. I want to be out there, helping the trans* magic players who might be having trouble, showing TOs why it’s important everyone feels welcome, explaining to players why saying things like “that’s gay” hurts not only others around them, but themselves as well, but, like, how do I do that? How do I make my voice heard? I just don’t know, and that frustrates me.

I also want to start working towards level 3. I posted that on Facebook, and I think some people took that to mean “okay, I’m ready for L3 now”, but that’s not what I meant at all. I know I need a lot more experience, and I need to work on a lot of parts of my personality and character that are L3 qualities that I just don’t have yet. But what I meant was, I want to start improving myself so that someday, hopefully soon, I will be ready for L3. I know I have the potential, and now I have the drive too. If nothing else, I hope my being L3 will help with the visibility of women and trans* folk in the program.

Once I figure out what exactly I can do to forward my goals of diversity in Magic, that project can also be something I use to demonstrate my readiness to go the the next level. But I still need to figure out just what that will be.

Discussion topic: Unacceptable usernames

A few weeks ago I head judged my very first PPTQ. I was super excited leading up to the event, and eager to establish a working relationship with a new store. However, in the time leading up to the tournament, something came up that  slightly curbed my enthusiasm.

I feel obligated at this point to post a trigger warning, as the topics, while not particularly sensitive, might still be unpleasant for some readers.

The store has a Web page where people can pre-register for the event, which is fine, but the registration is done using a username rather than a personal name, which means there are some… Creative entries.

One of the user’s names caught my eye though: “iswearshewas18”.

This username is… problematic, to say the least. While it’s clearly meant to reference a common joke, the joke itself isn’t funny. Disregarding local laws and opinions on maturity and consent (which are definitely conversations worth having, but this is not the core of the issue), the “punch line” of this joke is basically rape.

Very funny, right?

So right here, we have a few things going on. Firstly, the registration page and the usernames chosen aren’t really under a judge’s jurisdiction. We can talk to the TO, but how do we represent our concerns here? How do we deal with the player in question, and do we even have that kind of jurisdiction as outside judges?

My solution was to write an email to the TO voicing my concerns. I wasn’t very familiar with the TO, so it was difficult for me to judge the tone to use with them. I opted towards pointing out that, these kind of usernames, as visible as they are, send a very negative message to anyone who might be browsing the site or looking to pre-register. I especially pointed out the notion of a young person who might want to start playing at magic events, but whose parents see this registration board with that user listed. What are the chances that parent will let their kids go to that event? Or any future one, for that matter.

But of course, there are other people who might be turned away. People who have experienced abuse before, perhaps. People who feel unsafe in a place that condones rape jokes. People who just plain don’t think rape jokes are funny and don’t want to associate with others who do.

The point is, allowing people to use these kinds of names contributes to Magic not being a Safe Space, and action really should be taken to avoid this.

Now, in my case, the player with that username never showed, nor could I find out their real name. I’m not sure what I would have done if they had enrolled in the tournament, so I thought I’d ask the community:

If someone pre-registers for an event with a username that is clearly problematic, how would you address the issue? What would you say to the player? Would you feel justified in issuing a penalty under the IPG, and, if so, what infraction would you see?
Comment below, or feel free to email me at Timmyjohnnyspike@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

GP Utrecht and Magic Stories

Just a quick announcement: as some of you may have seen, the Wizards coverage team was kind enough to interview me for a special segment about people whose lives have been  touched by Magic beyond just the game itself. It should air a few times during coverage of the Modern Masters weekend, so be sure to tune in and hear a little bit more of my story.
If the segment appears in an archived form, I’ll put a link to it here. It was an honor to be interviewed, and of I can reach at least one player out there who is maybe struggling with their identity, then it was all worth it!