Digital Scofflaw

Blog of writer, photographer, and artist Michael Robinson

Harassment is a problem in geek spaces

There’s no shortage of public accounts. People are ignorant of it because they don’t listen to the deluge of people who’ve gotten up the courage to speak out. People also confide in me or to private groups I’m a part of, and I have my own experiences.

This is real. It’s not a feminist conspiracy or a money grab by the media.

You might think that, as a gay person, I never felt the same urges that make a straight guy go bonkers for a woman and lose all self-control. You would be wrong. When I was younger and confused about my sexuality, I tried to play straight. I modeled the other boys and did what they did. I’ve got a teensy, tiny, itty bitty bit of bisexuality, and one girl triggered it. I crushed hard and pestered her for weeks, trying to turn her no into a yes.

I modeled the behavior of the people around me. I figured maybe that feeling would come back, and I could fit in with all the other guys. I understand what it’s like to be head over heels for someone, and completely lose yourself in pursuit. I get it. But being the subject of that pursuit when you don’t want it is terrible and isolating. I’ve been there too.

So what was the problem? I didn’t listen: she said she wasn’t interested. What you can do, as an enlightened and informed individual, is catch yourself when you do those things. Catch your friends and colleagues when they do those things. And if you don’t know what it is that you’re doing wrong, read and listen when people tell you about their experience. When you know, and when you see, challenge it.

Is it risky? Do you risk your livelihood if you rock the boat?

I can’t deny that.

Look, I’m gay. I risk being unemployable, and I risk losing a job if I get it, for being openly gay, and I have no recourse. I risk someone beating me for minding my own business. Someone might kill me for speaking up. But living an authentic life is safer for me than it was just ten years ago because people rocked the boat.

This is the price we pay, the risk we take, to see to it that our society is free and equal. Sometimes you have to demonstrate the principles you claim to have, and it can be risky to do that. You’ll note that in many of those links, people rocked the boat. They got people rehired. They got investigations going. They held vigils and protests and marches. People got loud and mad, and change happened.

And you know what? I’m not just talking to men. I’m not just talking to women. A subset of people reading this noticed the gender-neutral pronouns outside my anecdote and hoped it was more than a fluke. I’m talking to everyone across the gender spectrum and to everyone outside it. We are better than our instincts. We are better than our socialization. We can prove it. You can prove it.

Women: listen to people’s stories. Make yourself heard.
Men: listen to people’s stories. Make yourself heard.
Enbies: listen to people’s stories. Make yourself heard.

Be excellent to each other.

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30,000 words that changed my life

I have over 30,000 words of scenes, but only about 5000 words words of story. But it’s one hell of a story, and it’s just begun. I nudged myself to get a final draft out of the first episode after reading Gold Standard by Kyell Gold. I’m already 2000 words into the next episode and 1000 into a spinoff set in the distant future.

There’s a funny story about why it took so long to get here. 12 months ago, back when I started working on this world, I thought I was straight. Despite never being attracted to women or having any interest in them. But I had a lot of gay friends, and they always complained about the dearth of good gay characters in fiction. I was lucky to grow up in an accepting home, so I never had to worry about expressing pro-gay sentiments.

I started work on a story.

The main character was a straight guy who had a woman as a love interest. Typical hetero fantasy fiction trope. So I wrote a gay character. He was going to meet up with the protagonist in the second act and help save the world in the third. If you’ve read the story, which I’ll link here again in case you missed it, you’ll know the character as Rex.

The trouble is, I kept finding myself drawn to his subplots. I was obsessed.

I’m sure a lot of you know where this is headed.

I kept having dreams and fantasies. One scene had him hitting on a cute guy in the corner while the main character prodded the bartender for information. I was much more interested in the prodding that went on after the sun went down.

The truth is, I didn’t really know what it was to feel attraction. I see all the times it happened in retrospect, but I had no sense of it…until I tried writing this character. I felt things for him, in my imagination, that I’d attributed to my anxiety problems before since it always happened around guys, and a lot of my growing up involved abuse and insults from them. But why was I feeling it for a character I made? One I liked. As a person. Platonic, you see.

Right.

I finally realized it wasn’t anxiety. It was attraction. That burning that radiates from your gut to your head and toes and makes you feel good in all the right ways. That makes you obsess over a crush. That makes you want to adjust your life to be around someone, hoping they’ll give you a shot. And, once you reach a certain level of emotional maturity, you drop the last part because it’s a bit creepy.

So here I am, an average gay furry writing gay furry fiction, reasonably comfortable with myself for the first time in 30 years of living. Furries were a big part of it. They gave me a safe space to explore my sexuality and learn exactly who I am.

I know a lot of people are squicked out by furries, but the community is a friendly, safe, and open-minded space to think about things you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable thinking about. No one has shunned me after they find out I like anthropomorphic art and fiction, so I don’t think there’s as much hostility toward furries as many furries believe. Most of it seems to come from isolated internet communities that favor and enforce groupthink. Fursecution is not a thing. Except where it’s acting as a proxy for homophobia. But that’s for another post.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Episode 2, The Man Trap

1. And we get the instant transition to Captain Kirk, bringing us the full suite of familiar characters.

2. Mysterious shapeshifting woman going off to get Bob. Boldly going where several men have gone before.

3. Bob (??) is not happy to see the doctor and captain. Blueshirt, redshirt. Something is not right here. Bones is an idiot.

4. Who mourns for the buffalo? Yes, I’ve seen the whole series before. But I’m still rewatching it.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Episode 1, The Cage

1. These brain dudes are so rude. I bet everyone at the country club hates them.

2. It took a while, but all the cheap special effects started to grow on me. The transporter was a brilliant way to save budget on shuttle scenes.

3. In the future, they still use clipboards and paper.

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