Queer erasure & my interaction with Arin Hanson

EDIT 1:55 AM Mar 17: I think this post by Em is important. Please don’t attribute things other people have said about Arin to me. This post is the complete contents of my statements.

EDIT 2 2:57 AM Mar 17: I’ve been in further communication with Arin.

EDIT 3 4:07 AM Mar 17: Getting called out. An apology.

Hello everyone. I’ve gained a lot of new followers recently. I’m glad you’re around.

I wanted to talk about an upsetting interaction I’ve had with and pattern of action the LGBTQ community has encountered from Arin Hanson. I want to make it clear that none of this comes from a hostile or malicious place. I love Arin’s work and that of the rest of the Game Grumps family.

After a number of private conversations with other individuals in the Game Grumps fandom recently, I began to grow somewhat frustrated, like many others, with Arin Hanson’s habit of not confirming his sexuality and avoiding saying he was straight, and multiple examples of him promoting that ambiguity. (Examples include describing his sexuality as “cool” on his website, Egoraptor.net, and listing himself as “interested in men and women” on his personal Facebook profile.)

In my view and that of those I was speaking with, a queer person in a leadership role of the gaming entertainment/let’s play community would have a tremendous and unique opportunity to positively influence the lives of queer youth.

Many LGBTQ youths use gaming and online video game culture (like Game Grumps and Egoraptor’s animations) as an escape from the stressors of everyday life. Queer youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

The problem is: the escape can itself be a challenge. Two thirds of gay and lesbian individuals described the gaming community as “hostile” in 2006.

As I’ve encountered here on Tumblr and offline, many young queer people greatly enjoy let’s plays like Game Grumps and look up to the successful and idiosyncratic roles people like Arin have carved out for themselves in society. Knowing this, I decided to reach out to Arin today with some information about the influence he could have in coming out if he is queer or speaking about these issues if he is not. My complete interaction with him (to date) and some further thoughts follow.

Edited areas are in [brackets].

My first email to Arin at 6:23 PM EST, Mar 16.

From: [My name] [My email]

To: Arin Hansonwaffledino@gmail.com

Subject: Being sincere.

Hey Arin.

I saw one particular answer in your Reddit AMA last month about wishing more people would be sincere with you about how they feel about your work and criticising [sic] you. I’d love to do it in person, like you said you prefer, but I don’t think I’m gonna get the chance soon, so I decided to write you now.

I’m a big fan. Your work was funny and important to me since I first saw Metal Gear Awesome at the age of thirteen. Like a lot of your fans, the things you’ve created have brightened my days, and your story of creating a place for your passion all by yourself is inspiring.

You’re a leader of a community, and one of the founders of a culture of gaming entertainment that now encompasses 10 of the top 50 YouTube channels, thousands and thousands of fans and employs hundreds of people in the US alone.

This community has a problem. There is a significant amount of queer underrepresentation in the gaming culture. Very few major community leaders in the Let’s Play and video game media spaces are queer, or willing to say so. This is a significant issue. Queer youth are more likely to play video games and look to online gaming media for entertainment. Games and works like yours are an escape from the day-to-day stresses of life and a chance to engage the imagination. Your story is one of many of people who have turned that imagination from playing games into life-changing success.

Queer youth have a lot to escape from. Queer young people are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Half of all young transgender people (if you want any information about what being transgender is, I’ve written a quick overview [link to my personal tumblr removed]) have considered suicide, and a quarter of transgender youths attempt it.

I am young, I am a gamer, I am queer, and I am a survivor of a suicide attempt. Many people in my position could use a role model in the gaming entertainment community.

Your story is inspiring because it is one of hard-won personal victories through dedication and perseverance. You don’t let what other people think of you stop you.

Your Facebook lists you as interest in men and women, and throughout your career, you’ve never explicitly stated that you are straight. That’s why I’m writing you.

There is no shame in being bisexual, transgender/gender non-binary or queer in any way. Your success and your wonderful relationship could be inspiring to so many people, and the world would have your back if you were to come out.

There are young people in the gaming community whose lives you could change by coming out. People who are bullied or feel isolated could find strength in your story and your support.

You have a unique ability to help. You have a unique ability to save lives.

I and so many others would be so proud of you if you were to use it — or clarify that you are straight if you, in fact, are.

If you ever want to talk about any of this, email me at [my email]or call/text me at [my phone number]. When I’m not watching gaming stuff, I’m a queer rights organizer in [state].

No matter what, thank you for all the laughs over the last eight years. I hope for nothing but success for.[sic]

Sincerely,

[My name]

Arin’s first (and currently only) email to me, at 7:45 PM EST, Mar 16:

From: Arin Hanson, waffledino@gmail.com

To: [My name], [my email]

Thanks for the email. My Facebook page is a private page so it doesn’t represent my public interests. Even so, I viewed it more as that I’m interested in meeting men and women, regardless of the context. I’m married.

I am straight but I don’t have a problem with anything else. I know being in the public light allows me to be open about issues but I choose mostly to stay away from that kind of stuff. I’ve considered it, but right now I use my platform for comedy, which is what people expect of me.

I appreciate your reaching out and I understand and empathize with this cause. I’ve grown up with gay, bi, and transgender friends and have always been overwhelmingly supportive. I suppose that’s all I can really say for now. 
Thanks again!
My second email to Arin, at 12:59 AM, Mar 16.
Hey Arin. 
I appreciate you taking the time to respond, I know you’re busy. Thank you for clarifying the issue re: your sexuality.
I wanted to say that there are significant parts of your response that are very troubling to me, and have made following up difficult. In the spirit of sincerity, I wanted to tell them to you.
I think it’s problematic to consider public bisexuality as incompatible with marriage. There are many prominent and successful bisexual individuals in happy and rewarding marriages. Public figures as varied as U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema, actress Megan Mulally and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong are bisexual people in long-term and successful marriages.

I am highly disappointed that you have chosen to do “what people expect of” you by only engaging in comedy. Your story is one of subverting expectations and not allowing yourself to be influenced by the establishment, a point of pride you discuss at panels and on your show. Your co-host Dan Avidan displayed how important the opening of a dialogue by important community leaders can be when he discussed mental health issues on the show, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
I’m afraid you might take what I’m saying as an attack. I don’t intend that whatsoever. But you seemed to clearly indicate to me in your email that comedy is more important to you than “engaging in that kind of stuff.”
It’s upsetting to see the issue of your discussing LGBT acceptance in the gaming community referred to as “that kind of stuff.” Two-thirds of gay gamers believe the gaming community is “hostile” to gay and lesbian gamers. It’s a simple message, and it is deeply concerning to see you openly describe that you’ve put your public image before relaying it and before using your platform to help young people who look up to you find acceptance.
I will always consider myself a fan, and I will always find much of your work funny and uplifting. I hope you understand my disappointment, and I hope you know it doesn’t come from a malicious place.
I believe that prioritizing comedy, public image and expectations over having a conversation that can be of value to queer youth and potentially save lives is brutally self-serving and morally unacceptable.
I’m not asking you to stop being a fan of Game Grumps, or stop posting on tumblr about them, or stop liking Arin Hanson or any member of the Game Grumps family. I’m disappointed in the way that he comported himself in his interactions with me and in his consistent habit of claiming ally status without taking the actions to earn it.
I am only posting my personal thoughts. I am not responsible for and do not necessarily approve of the individual actions and statements made by members of the Game Grumps fandom who were upset by my interactions with Arin.
If I receive any further emails about this I will update you. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to a civil dialogue about this issue in our community and beyond.
Thank you to everyone who sent me a nice ask or IM recently. It means the world to me.
EDIT 1:55 AM Mar 17: I think this post by Em is important. Please don’t attribute things other people have said about Arin to me.

EDIT 2 2:57 AM Mar 17: I’ve been in further communication with Arin.

EDIT 3 4:07 AM Mar 17: Getting called out. An apology.