This past week was a harrowing one for the video game community as a whole, several members in particular, and for communities beyond. I wrote an article that was met with mixed response due to its vagueness, which was an attempt to not speak on any individual’s behalf. Yesterday evening I received an email from the individuals in question, who wanted to have an open discussion about what happened, and use GAB as a platform to share that conversation with the community.
These are two people I knew as much about as you did (next to nothing), so the conversation that unfolded was one that was as eye-opening for me as it was perspective-shifting. This has been an incredibly volatile issue in the community, but our discussion was anything but, as you’ll see below. We will be leaving the comments enabled on this post to continue the discussion, but will be moderating it with severe regard: if your comment is non-constructive, attacks either party ad hominem, or is the least bit toxic or bigoted, it will be deleted.
I realize that you likely have many more questions for Chloe and Allistair — as do I — but to say this has been an overwhelming ordeal would be a gross understatement, and both have expressed the need to spend time recuperating. Please respect this. Words of support for both parties are always appreciated, and can be shared in the comments below. I’ll make sure the appropriate party sees them.
Below is the reply-all email conversation as we had it Friday May 17, from roughly 6pm – 11pm CDT, only edited to remove some additional questions/discussion at the end, mostly involving me making double- and triple-sure people still wanted to publish this. It began with introductions, then I moved into asking questions (in bold).
I am Chloe, an indie game developer, I started a charity with misleading information, and confided in Allistair. We had a brief chat, and after the charity ended, I grabbed a knife and threatened to kill myself. Allistair with the help of another friend, Mike, talked me down. Another party called the police, and I spent the week in a psych ward. I’ve had no contact with Allistair until today, after being release from the Psych Ward a second time.
I’m Allistair Pinsof. I’m a journalist who revealed Chloe’s identity without her consent — the thing she feared most upon meeting me. I never would have dreamed that Chloe would choose to get back in touch with me, after what I had done. She continues to display strong character in difficult times. I’d like this conversation to show that she did make the right choice and all three of us together can make a positive impact by righting some wrongs.
I’m Sam Killermann and I’m the Executive Director of Gamers Against Bigotry. Allistair reached out to our organization to be a neutral party to host this conversation. I’ll do my best to lead this chat, but I want to make it incredibly clear that both of you can drop out at any time, and if anyone changes their mind about publishing this later just let me know. And Chloe, please do not feel like you have any responsibility to your fans, the gamer community, or any community to have this discussion.
First question: what are your main thoughts right now regarding this situation? For one another, and in general.
Well, I for one feel like a moron. I’m working with Bertie from Eurogamer to release the full story from my perspective, and I acted out of fear, when I should have just been forward with who I am. I feel like this outrage that is coming at my door was going to happen regardless, and it’s what I wanted to avoid from the start. I feel hurt, but not by Allistair, he did what he felt was right. I just wish people would stop fighting the both of us pretending to be doing this on our behalf. I also feel like I’ve lost something that was my refuge, somewhere I could go and was treated based on what I could do and what I said, not based on who I was as a person. Most of all, I blame myself for everything that has happened. I am a terrible person.
Chloe, you made a mistake, and you acted out of fear — things we all do. You’re not a terrible person. You’re a person.
Allistair, what’re your main thoughts right now regarding this situation?
Chloe sent me a letter today that could be, more or less, considered her life story. I suspect she shared it because she knew I wouldn’t have done what I did if I had read it prior. To read what she has been put through in life because of other people, from friends and employers to doctors, it suddenly became abundantly clear that society is the problem. The right situation would be one where Chloe wouldn’t need to acquire money to be who she is and one where it wouldn’t matter if people knew who she is. I did a bad thing but I don’t think that should define me as a person. I don’t believe in bad people. We all try our best and sometimes make mistakes along the way, and to define someone by their mistake is not fair. This entire event has informed me so much on people like Chloe. I’ve always been accepting, but only recently have I discovered that that doesn’t mean I can’t still be ignorant on what people go through, who they are, and how they’d like to be treated. I’m learning and I hope this exchange will contribute to that.
Allistair, I think many people think that being understanding makes up for their ignorance — it’s great that you’ve realized the former doesn’t excuse the latter. In a lot of the messages I saw you sharing over the past few days it seemed like you were really hung up on that. And it’s also important to realize, as I suspect you do, that Chloe’s story is just that: Chloe’s story, and her life experience.
Okay, moving forward.
You both have something in common now that most people can’t relate to, in that you’ve been targeted by innumerable strangers who have flung a lot of horrible things your way, in many cases not really having an idea of who you really are.
You’ve both already addressed that situation a little bit, but if you could say one thing to the mass of strangers on the internet who were supporting you what would it be?
I would say, if you want people to take you seriously as a skeptic, then do not run your mouth without having all the information, people have been doing this the whole time and it is just a shame. If you just want to yell and scream and crucify someone, then by all means, keep sending me your hate, I will be your whipping post for whatever problems you have in your life, and if it makes you feel better, then at least one of us is happy. I’ve survived killing myself twice now, it’s safe to say that I really don’t want to die, and I have a strong support group that is willing to help me when the time comes. I may slip up and actually get away with it if this continues this way, but I’m just one person, I don’t matter. I am not the victim in this scenario, I am the cause, I am to blame.
Chloe, what thoughts do you have for the people who were acting on your behalf and leading the hate campaign against Allistair?
And Allistair, what thoughts do you have for the people who were acting on your behalf and leading the hate campaign against Chloe?
I would tell them that you shouldn’t blame Allistair for what he did. I don’t think he should have lost his job, either. I know he really wouldn’t have done it unless he really felt like he had to, and to be honest, I did make it seem like I had a vendetta against IndieGoGo. Just leave him alone, he’s a good guy, and he’s been trying hard to make things right, even though he really doesn’t have to. Do you really think you are going to teach him a lesson?
Well, I can tell that neo-nazi guy I blocked on Twitter I won’t be replying to his job offer. Jokes aside, these people make it so much harder to do the right thing once the person decides to do the right thing. For example, when I pointed toward you on Twitter as a source to send Chloe support emails. Just by associating your name with mine, both sides instantly hated you when it’s your job to help trans* community. It’s so silly. It’s complicated and people have no time for complicated issues on Twitter.
In a strange way, the emails supporting my actions helped me realize faster what I had done was wrong. These aren’t people I want to associate with. I have so much respect for the trans* people and others who wrote me saying they can’t agree with what I had done but they could understand that I’m not a bad person. Those emails meant so much to me. I hope Chloe gets lots of emails like that and this can be one of them: I can’t agree with holding a false charity but I can understand that you’re not a bad person.
There will be people on both extremes who will never forgive me or Chloe. I always turn back to a Dr. Suess quote: ”Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Dr. Seuss is always a great place to turn. I’ll get back to him later. First I want to ask you both a question that you might not be able to answer, so please do not do so if you’re not comfortable doing so:
What’s the one thing you most want to hear from the other person right now?
For clarification, I still have my job. Not sure what the details are. My head is a mess and I’ve been concentrating on Chloe today but updates will probably go here. I don’t know how to fit that into all of this but it needs to be said somewhere.
I am glad about that. As far as the question is concerned: nothing. Allistair has already said some very nice things in this past hour that have made me feel like everything is going to be okay.
I’d like to hear Chloe say “I’m going to make it through this.”
I’ve been in a position in life that affords me a certain amount of freedom. Losing my job (which I’m not) was a reality I quickly accepted. But for Chloe, she has been put through so much that I can’t fault her for lacking strength at times. Through my interactions with her, I can see she tries so hard. That mass of anger and refusal to accept I faced this week on Twitter is the noise she must face everyday; to find courage to go on with that is remarkable. She can’t simply walk away from anything. She can’t just walk away from who she is or change herself to be what anyone wants her to be anymore than I can be a stand-up comedian. Chloe takes negative remarks to heart and there will always be negativity directed at her online. I want her to be strong and to tell herself she’ll make it through. I believe she can and I’m not the only one.
People can say I’m full of it for saying the above. After all, I put Chloe in direct harm and pushed her off a cliff that there is no getting back from. But even when I made that awful choice — which I’d like to apologize for again: I’m sorry, Chloe — I still believe Chloe is a good person and that she needs and deserves the surgery.
Wow. Can I just take a moment and say that I am incredibly floored by the direction this conversation has gone in, from both of you — that I’m really impressed by both of your strength and honesty and really just want to group hug right now? No? Sorry. Moving on. One more question from me — inspired by something said earlier — then I’ll open it up for questions from either of you:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” So, where do you go from here? And where should we go as a community?
A group hug would be nice. There was a no touching rule in the psych ward, though we had one patient that just kept trying to touch everyone, and it annoyed everyone. But he put his hand on my shoulder when I was crying. It’s very rare to have anyone comfort me like that, and I try to remember the experiences.
I can’t suggest anything. I have no idea what to do, I’ve been punching blind through this whole ordeal, and going about everything all wrong. I don’t know what to do, and I can’t say I know what I will end up doing. All I know is I’m way to stressed and I shouldn’t be at the helm of anything, especially the direction of an entire community.
Hugs. Hugs. Hugs <3 I’m glad I can continue to keep my job while miraculously not ending the world. I enjoy helping tell stories from perspectives or places you don’t often see. One thing I greatly miss from my days at my college paper is making a difference in people’s lives. Giving a game publicity isn’t quiet the same, though enjoyable in its own way. Supporting Chloe gave me so much satisfaction when I first met her. I hope I can continue to support her. I’d like to add-on the trans community to that and invite anyone to share game-related things going on in the trans community I can write about. Part of me is afraid that my name will always be associated with “does harm to the trans community” but I shouldn’t let that fear drive me away from doing good. And if people don’t want my support, that’s fine too.
I’m incredibly grateful for this education I received on ethics, the trans community, and who I am as a person. Knowing what I know now, there are many things I would have done different. I can blame others for my ignorance — and did at first — but it’s more satisfying to focus on informing others. I’m too close to Chloe to tell her story, should she want to share as it develops, but I’ll continue to support and help her in the way she thinks best.
There will be many people who will walk away from this with nothing learned. Your blog, Sam, will undoubtedly receive hateful and ignorant remarks, but if we impact enough people that doesn’t really matter. I’m like Chloe in that I always focus on the negative comments in my articles, never realizing that those comments don’t matter. What matters is knowing we try our best, learn from mistakes, and listen to others who mean well. If me, Chloe, and everyone closely following our story does this, we’ll have a better world to wake up to.
Chloe, you don’t have to worry about taking the helm, Starfleet Regulation 619 precludes you from command in that you’re emotionally spent, and that’s good enough for me (: … and you have a team of 20+ people from all over the world in the GAB staff who have offered their individual support, so don’t hesitate to call on it if you need it.
Allistair, if you’re sincere in that offer to take up trans-related gaming issues, I know a lot of folks who will want to take you up on that (some of the GAB team included), and if your actions follow your words I don’t think you’ll have to worry about your name hindering things.
I’m going to leave this blog post as it is, and not include any more thoughts from myself. I still need time to process everything that happened, but I will be writing a reflection soon. In the meantime, I want to point everyone to a wonderful organization that is dear to my heart: The Trevor Project.
From their site: “The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.”
If you need help, there are a ton of ways they can be there for you. Below are some links you’re encouraged to check out, as well as the number for their 24/7 lifeline where trained counselors are always there to support you.