On June 26, members of the Guild Wars 2 community gathered again for a community-organized event: A Pride March across Tyria that ran from Ebonhawke to Rata Sum. Although it was a virtual parade, it mattered just as much as a real world one. In the real world, Pride marches celebrate LGBT+ culture and act as a memorial to the Stonewall Riots and this year, Pride marches were especially poignant after the Orlando shooting that rocked the LGBT+ community. Last Sunday, community members on both NA and EU servers gathered together, donned colorful armor, adopted the iconic costumes of the real world parades, inasmuch as it was possible in the virtual environment, and held a festival around the central monument in Ebonhawke.
Prior to the march, guilds provided banquets and drinks, boxes of fun and fireworks. This party allowed the online community to come together and show their support for LGBT+ members of our community, and that support matters, especially after this past month. As Lyanna said, “It was amazing to see so many people, especially allies, turning up to support LGBT+ rights – especially for people such as myself who struggle to go to pride parades in real life due to anxiety and other issues.” The fact that a number of ArenaNet devs joined in the festivities also mattered. The welcome and support shown by the devs isn’t new and doesn’t represent a sudden change of heart. Inclusive stories and diverse characters have been a part of Guild Wars 2 from the beginning.
Support for Gender Diversity
One of the early personal stories for sylvari characters, those who saw the Green Knight in their dream, opens with the same-sex couple, Eladus and Dagdar, whose love for each other is shown in a desperate struggle to keep one another safe from the Green Knight. In addition to these minor characters, the prominent sylvari, Caithe and Faolain, were also a couple, although their relationship soured long before the events of Guild Wars 2. During the Living World story, players also met Marjory and Kasmeer, another same-sex couple. As two prominent members of the player’s story guild (the community recently voted on a name for this group of heroes), they are quite prominent. More recently, we also met Aid Worker Sya who chose to change gender after the attack on Lion’s Arch – she used to be Symon.
Staging the Pride march allowed many to share their stories during the traversal of Tyria. This ability to share within the relative anonymous space of a virtual community can offer individuals an outlet that they might not have in real life. As one of our other attending GuildMag writers explains, “It should come as little surprise that the original Guild Wars had a direct impact on me as a closeted gay teenager. To be more specific, it was the community that exposed me to people of all different backgrounds who were far more comfortable in their skin than I was. Not only that, but I made one of the closest friends I’d ever had. Someone who I eventually mustered the courage to come out to, and surprisingly, minutes later, he did the same. Guild Wars was a safe space for me and my friend to express empathy, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness without having a bunch of guys make jokes and then be told to grow some thicker skin. We really forged a special friendship in that game, and while we don’t talk as often, or play the same games, those memories stick with us.”
Of course being LGBT+ isn’t a prerequisite to joining in a Pride march, all that is required is a concern for human rights. The virtual Pride march gave in-game allies a chance to show their support as well and a number joined in the festivities. For my part, I purposely chose to march with a newly minted rendition of my old key farming character – chosen on purpose as an embodiment of gender fluidity. Sometimes Peat is male, sometimes Peat is female. I believe that people can be hampered when they insist on using a rigid classification system, and a person’s gender identity and sexuality should not be held to a strict dichotomy that limits their choice of who they love and who they spend their time with. I chose to take part in this virtual march because, like Lyanna, I couldn’t attend a real world march. Marching gave me a chance to show support for my friends – both in-game and IRL – in their struggle for equal legal treatment and recognition of our shared humanity. I am proud to be a member of the Guild Wars community, where such events as the Tyria Pride March are not just possible, but successful.
Just the Beginning
But the struggle for equal treatment, rights, and dignity is ongoing and some feel that ArenaNet could do even more to represent the diverse communities of the real world in-game. As my fellow GuildMag writer continued, “Guild Wars 2 could do more to make LGBT+ characters more visible, or more frequent. Kasmeer and Marjory are just about the only truly visible same-sex couple in game (you know, since Caithe and Faolain’s relationship ended on a pretty low note…) and the others you have to scour the ends of Tyria for.” More visible protagonists who ran the gamut of genders and sexualities could reach many people who are struggling to understand themselves and give them virtual role models. As ArenaNet has already explored the use of LGBT+ characters, continuing down this path should be easy. It shouldn’t be too hard to have two main male characters say “I love you, you know that?” platonically or otherwise. What’s most important, I think, is to change the relationship between masculinity and femininity and show that empathy and sensitivity isn’t a weakness, but a strength.
For now, we celebrate the in-roads we have made and look forward to the introduction of complex characters and future community events. See you all again next year for the second annual Tyria Pride Parade!