What a strange world we live in. Let's make no bones about it: in D&D you can play a dwarf with three penises married to a genderfluid asexual baboon if you really want to. Your imagination has no limits. Why buy a book giving you permission to enact the values you supposedly hold dear, when you can just do it anyway?
But so much for that. Lately I've been good about using the blog for fewer rants. What I'm more concerned about is the reaction to this announcement. And no, by this I don't mean that I've seen hundreds of blog posts or forum comments or had any conversations in which people have been expressing their opposition to sexfluid elves (who were always pretty genderfluid at least anyway, weren't they? I mean, come on). No: the reactions I have seen can be categorised as follows.
- Roughly 50% saying "So what?" (The correct reaction.)
- Roughly 50% saying "I wouldn't game with anybody who would have a problem with this, and I'm glad WotC have done this because it means people who are on the Wrong Side of the Debate will be flushed out and I won't have to game with them as a consequence."
I don't believe that the latter 50% actually proportionately represent half of all gamers. I think they are a tiny minority. But they are becoming ever more vociferous. For these people, social interactions, particularly the games one plays, are not just part and parcel of being a human living in the world, but are vehicles for expression of political stances. For them, being on the Wrong Side of the Debate doesn't just make you misguided or even stupid. No: it makes you worthy of being only an outcast, a pariah, somebody with whom no interaction of any kind can be permitted, least of all pretending to be elves together (sexfluid or otherwise).
I hate that kind of thing. I think it is awful. I look back in my life and think of all the great friendships and conversations I've had with people who hold diametrically or at least very fundamentally different views to mine: Communists, atheists, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, born-again-Christians, Northern Irish republicans, Scottish Nationalists, UKIP voters, Manchester United supporters, Black Supremacists, White Supremacists, gun nuts, Daily Mail readers, Guardian readers, radical feminists, Australians, even fans of Doctor Who. In the abstract I might have thought, or still think, that the views of those people are wrong - in many cases even odious, dangerous and appalling. But almost invariably, when opinions are filtered through the good humour, self-deprecation, negotiation and common sense of face-to-face conversation, they are revealed to be absolutely no reason for anybody not to enjoy another person's company.
My heart sinks that so many intelligent people are turning their back on the possibility that those who violently disagree can get along. Not to be melodramatic about it, but what future is there for our poor sad species if we get to the point where people are no longer even willing to put certain differences to one side for the sake of having a bit of fun? I mean, hop on a plane to Israel or Kashmir or Belfast and you'll find endless swathes of charitable organisations trying to get people who would willingly actually kill one another for being on the Wrong Side of the Debate to just get together and enjoy a meal or play football or music or whatever. They do this in the entirely creditable and sensible belief that having people set aside their differences to do fun things together might actually help find ways round problems. Meanwhile in nerd land people are busy sticking their fingers in their ears and proclaiming loudly how vehemently opposed they are to playing D&D with imaginary people who wouldn't be in favour of sexfluid elves.
When I write down the list of types of people who I would categorically rule out playing D&D with, it's really very tiny indeed: it's just people I personally don't get along with or people whose behaviour has been such in the past that I would have difficulty trusting them. In other words, people I consider to be dicks. If you are going to be a dick about your opinions, whatever they might be, then fine - that qualifies you as somebody who I probably wouldn't willingly associate with. But in life I tend to find that actually most people aren't actually dicks (except on the internet, that is) - even people whose views I would actively probably find repellent if written down.