After an awful experience with biphobia and sexism on a Discord chat, I’ve had cause to reflect on the ways that gaming spaces are made welcoming, or not, for LGBTQ+ people. Community Managers often have their work cut out for them. As the conduit between the players and the developers, they often have to walk a tightrope to keep everyone happy. When it all goes well, it can be incredibly rewarding, but when things go wrong it can be catastrophic. A good strategy in community management is often hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Having processes in place for handling problems if and when they do arise makes it much easier to deal swiftly with any situations that crop up. This principle applies to creating community spaces that are welcoming for gamers of all sexualities and gender identities. This post will detail some of the ways that a Community Manager can build a space that is LGBTQ+ friendly from the ground up, with inclusivity as a key part of its foundations.
Have clear guidelines on behaviour rooted in respect.
Whether the space in question is digital or physical, it is always good to have standards by which members need to abide. Set this out unambiguously as soon as possible. Whether this is the welcome page on your discord server, or in an Eventbrite page before people purchase a ticket, it is worth explicitly setting your rules out for anyone involved. Not only does this give you and your moderators something to refer back to, but it also makes LGBTQ+ people feel safer from the start to see that discriminatory actions won’t be tolerated. Never assume that this goes without saying, bitter experience has often shown people in minority groups of many kinds that it often does not.
Brief moderators on how to handle homophobic or transphobic behaviour before there is an incident, and ensure they follow through.
It is essential that anyone in a moderation role is prepared for how to handle inappropriate behaviour before it occurs. Whatever your system, whether it’s: zero tolerance immediate ban; muting offenders; two strikes and you’re out; or another strategy; make sure that it is something everyone with any kind of authority position understands and enacts. The latter part is key here. If rules are applied unevenly then it undermines the entire community space.
Make declaring pronouns the norm.
Make it a standard for people to declare their pronouns. As a public-facing member of your studio, consider putting yours in your twitter bio. Have them on name badges at in-person events. This was something enacted at EGX this year, and a really lovely way to signal to trans and non-binary attendees that they are welcome and respected. As Tom Cole put it at the opening of Adventure X conference, ‘Even if you think it’s obvious, write it anyway!’
Listen to LGBTQ+ folks!
The final piece of advice is to listen to LGBTQ+ people in your community. Invite feedback from them, seek out their thoughts. Respond fairly and non-defensively. Even if you are LGBTQ+ yourself, no one person can represent a whole range of experiences, and nor should you. Listening is your most powerful tool as a Community Manager, and you should use it as much as possible. Ensure that you and your moderators are approachable if anyone does have issues or need to make a report. If at all possible, create mechanisms for people to give anonymous feedback.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it provides some tenets for thinking about these issues within your own community. The tips on this article were inspired by my own experiences, but also conversations on best practice with Gaymers Inc, London Gaymers, and Jess Rowan Marcotte. I am grateful to them all for their time and emotional labour on this matter.