It took me a week or two to gather my thoughts on this topic, but I want to talk about some of the less positive experiences I had at GP Boston/Worcester. I’m not surprised that there were uncomfortable aspects to the event, per se… I’ve basically grown used to there being a low-level stream of unpleasantness whenever I go into what is typically a very male-dominated public space. But just because I’ve grown used to it doesn’t mean I should stop talking about it; talking about these things is how we cleanse them from our community, and it helps other people who have negative experiences to know they’re not alone.


I mean, I doubt it’s just me! People suck.




Anyway, I got to GP B/W Friday night, just in time to make their FNM “Foiled Again” event. I’ve seen this event at several different GPs now, and I generally try to take part in it when I can. Typically, they’re four round sealed tournaments, usually for around $25. What’s fun about them is the generous prize payout: you get a promo foil for entering, and then the winner of each round gets two packs and another promo foil. The loser of each round doesn’t get the foil, but they DO get a pack. So the generous prize payout and the Friday night slot mean that you generally end up in a pretty chill pod of people, unlike the vibe in the single-elimination grinders.


Beyonce Happy

So, I was playing in my event when I ran into a dude, first round, who was wearing a patently inappropriate shirt to the event. In this case, it was some busty anime chick literally tittyfucking a sword. Which… human sexuality is a wondrous thing, but I like to think I’m not the only person who is appreciative of the female form and yet still thinks it’s inappropriate to have something like that on your shirt. It was off-putting, an aggressive display of female objectification, and it put me off my game for a hot minute. Here’s the punchline, though: the guy wearing it seemed like a total sweetheart. I don’t think he even realized how off-putting his sartorial choices could be to a lady planeswalker. And that’s the bigger problem at these things. As I’ll explain in a second, it’s not that the trolls don’t come to these things; they do, and trolls are awful. But the real issue is all the reasonably decent folk who never had to think about the way their decisions affect other people. Which, I get it. If you’re in a homosocial group environment most of the time, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is like you, and compensate accordingly.


Worf Facepalm

But the trolls do exist. And again, they are pretty fucking vile at Magic events. Now, I’m a very liberal person when it comes to my politics. I believe that the purpose of a government is to maximize the happiness of its population, and I believe that we as citizens have a generalized duty to not be shit to one another. As such, I have a pretty fucking negative response to people who proudly display their adoption of a different ideology, one that’s focused on greed and hatred and fear, and for whom the purpose of a government is to oppress and murder those who are different by dint of race, religion, or sexuality. In practice, this means I am very wary of the “proud white Republicans” in our nation; I grew up in one of those old landed gentry families that voted GOP back when the candidate was Eisenhower, and I’ve seen the reasonable people peel away from that party over time. What’s left is a hateful rump of people who delight in the culture conflict, being fed by pseudo-libertarians who fund the advocates of the police state in return for some short-term tax relief.


Biden smh

Which is a long way of saying that I was primed to have a negative reaction to the guy who intentionally put his Ron Paul playmat facing his opponent, even before he showed off his cum-facialed pornstar wurm tokens. Blonde and brunette, for lifelink and deathtouch! Because classy.


Dep Ugh

That type of intentional social aggression is hard to handle. Since I wasn’t playing the kid, I didn’t really have much standing to complain about his conduct, but I was playing right next to it; it affected me. And it’s not like I expected much better from a seventeen-year-old-looking kid who could have a bright future ahead of him playing Hitler Youth in History Channel reenactments. But it happened! It was an unpleasant experience that has stuck with me ever since.


If you care about other people, not just individuals but in the abstract as well, there’s a fairly easy litmus test to see whether or not you’re an asshole when you’re coming to an event like this. If you’re brandishing symbols of your politics to make people who disagree with you squirm, you’re an asshole, and you make the event less pleasant for your participation.


MU Frustrated

It’s funny, because the only people I ever see wearing explicitly political clothing/accoutrements at these events are proud libertarians, with their Ron Paul or Cato swag and their infallible belief that their privileged position validates the universality of their views. I’ve run into many libertarians over the years, and the only thing that seems true of the whole collective is a misplaced belief that all it takes to succeed in the world is hard work. It’s crazy to see that ideology trumpeted at a Magic tournament; if ever there was an object lesson on the ways in which hard work and inherent smarts aren’t enough to win in an overpopulated system, it would be LSV not top-8ing every tournament he enters. Luck plays a role, in life and in Magic, and to act as though it doesn’t is to blind yourself to a very basic truth about life.



But trolls are trolls, and we haven’t yet as a society figured out how to weed them out and reeducate them forcibly.* They’re not the only problem though. Magic also has a surprising issue with non-normative gender expressions, which seems strange in a community with a statistically higher-than-average number of trans women actively engaged in our events.


This non-normative thing doesn’t pop up too often for me directly. I may be trans, but my aggressively queer presentation generally means people read me (correctly) as a dyke. And honestly, even when it is something that affects me directly I generally gripe about it for a bit and then get over it. But, as a human being with the capacity for empathy and a trans history, it infuriates me when my friends and loved ones have to put up with this shit.


POI punch

So, this is the story of why I yelled at a judge. I was watching my queer, vaguely androgynous but still obviously a woman, ladyfriend play against local (and immensely skilled) player Terrence, when former HotC writer Li noticed they had made a mistake in play. It was an easy one to overlook, a case of Threads of Disloyalty on a Courser of Kruphix because they forgot it was CMC 2, not power 2. It was easy to make, but something that required judicial intervention to set right. And this judge comes over, some white dude who was either new to the circuit or local to MA, since I’ve grown to recognize most of the judges at these events. From the start, it was not something I would describe as being a positive interaction. The judge makes a big initial thing about not being able to tell Dana from Terrence, and I correct him. He then misgenders Dana, and I correct him louder. Even if I was too quiet initially, everyone else heard me the second time. But he does it again, and I lose my temper, and raise my voice to a volume that he couldn’t help but hear.


Hocus Pocus Calm

Meanwhile Dana is mortified, because it didn’t make her feel nearly as upset as it did me, and because she’s worried my outburst is going to negatively affect her judge call. And that should say a lot: a woman Magic player was worried that the white dude judge was going to penalize her in game for a mistake he made that was loudly called out by an observer.


Nicki twitch

He was clearly thrown by my anger, but then he took a second to actually look at the players, and realized his mistake. He apologized to Dana and then to me, and made the right (neutral) call, and then tried to explain to me how he was on autopilot or something. But that’s the type of shit that women Magic players have to deal with, particularly ones who are not presenting themselves as being sexually available for men. I’m willing to wager that there aren’t a ton of Magic players being misread as women; if there were, maybe they’d have a better sense of how alienating it can be when you’re being so publically othered by a person in a position of power over you.


Emma Stone resigned

When you’re othered, it makes it feel like you’re not welcome in a space. And when that’s in a space you have every damn right to be in, it can be distracting, infuriating, and send a person on tilt. That’s what happened on the final day, as I claimed my free draft from winning the first time around. As we got our eight-person pod together, where again I was the only woman, one of the other players had a young-looking hanger-on who wouldn’t stop talking to him throughout the draft. I wish a judge had said something, but again, the entitlement in those situations creates its own sort of reality. It wasn’t awful at first, but then the kid starts talking about how some lady they had interacted with the previous night had been hairy, and how unbelievable it was to him that a woman would have body hair.


Broad City

And again, it was a case when a Magic player in these spaces has an issue with non-normative gender expression. Look, women have hair. Some women feel empowered removing it, and do so regularly. Good for them! But some women don’t, and some people are totally cool with that. You’re not entitled to have every woman you interact with be groomed in such a factor as being specifically sexually enticing for you and you alone. And to loudly behave in such a manner, standing right next to a woman who is shooting you violent looks… it’s either clueless or aggressive at that point, and neither one is particularly okay.


Sarcastic thumbs up

This is not to say the trip was universally unpleasant, though. I worried, when deciding to talk about it, that even discussing some of these issues would be perceived as some sort of sour reflection of the trip as a whole. I enjoyed GP B/W! As a whole it was run well, not SCG well, but they’re universally regarded as the best. I like Modern, even if the middle part of my run felt like I was being punched in the face repeatedly by my most unpleasant matchups. And I love hanging out with the people I know from my community, people like my fellow Hipsters and other local Magic friends who I haven’t seen as much ever since I cooled off on the local tournament scene. But these little flaws in our community keep coming up, and I’m not going to stay silent just because talking about this feels uncomfortable. Although, don’t get me wrong… it does.


Jake thumbs up

Anyway, that’s it for this week. Some housekeeping to note, as you may have heard I’ve taken up biweekly writing duties on SCG’s Dear Azami column. If you haven’t been reading it you should definitely check it out, it’s basically Savage Love but for Commander Decklists. In general, I would like for there to be more submissions by women, though, so if you know any other women who like Commander but don’t necessarily feel at home in the competitive scene, have them submit their decklists here and I’ll see if we can get some different voices in the mix. Every chosen submission gets a $20 gift certificate, it’s a lot of fun! I’ll still be writing here, though, so keep an eye out for future columns from me on my Pauper Cube, and on my own Commander decklists and tech updates.


Jess Stirba is not the fighter she once was.


*If this idea is abhorrent to you, and a sign of my liberal fascism or whatnot, please take a second to remind yourself that the Texas GOP has gay conversion “therapy” as a plank in their platform. Trolling is a choice, sexuality isn’t.

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