The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 
Here are my qualifications: I have been reading Penny Arcade since 2002. I have attended five PAXes including being an Omeganaut at PAX Prime 2012. I donated to both PA Kickstarters and Jerry Holkins follows me on Twitter because I paid $300 to the first one. I have evangelized PAX to friends and as recently as last month argued that you could attend while still having moral reservations about Penny Arcade creators' opinions or outspokenness.

I can admit now that I was wrong.

As a transgender woman I took great offense at Mike Krahulik's comments how "only women have vaginas" on Twitter (both times it has happened). When he went on to post an "apology" in the form of an email conversation with Sophie Prell (a transwoman games journalist who was formerly employed by Penny Arcade), I got even more upset. Since then he has posted another "apology" which I do not accept and do not view as an apology at all.

The view that "only women have vaginas and only men have penises, if you have a vagina you are a woman and if you have a penis you are a man" is a reductionist view of transgender rights and shows no sensitivity to the struggle that transgender people face getting recognized in light of society's backwards standards and prejudices. During the entire debacle Krahulik has kept a firm stance on this opinion, merely rejecting the notion that believing it makes him transphobic or a bigot. He comes to an understanding with Ms. Prell in the email conversation, but unfortunately she does not speak for me and I do not accept the idea that he can believe this and not be transphobic.

The more I have thought about this over the past two days, the more it has troubled me. Despite being such a big fan of their work, I really have no interest in participating in events they are hosting or giving their company any money. This pains me as I love going to PAX and will miss it dearly but this matters more to me. Like I said before, I was wrong when I said that you could separate the two PA guys from their event.

Every time the PA guys have gotten into a fight over something hateful they have said, they have two defenses: stop censoring me and I am not a bigot, I am a nice guy. Here, look at my family and friends.

I strongly believe in free speech as well, and in no way am I saying that Krahulik should be barred from saying "only women have vaginas" or whatever else he wants. It just means I do not have to give him or his company my money or time any more.

But with regard to being called "transphobic" or a "bigot", unfortunately sometimes you have to take it on the chin.

I understand why he gets defensive, I have been called a "white supremacist" by other feminists and I had a similarly harsh reaction. I am not a member of the KKK and think racial equality is important but unfortunately for me it goes so much further from that. When you are the privileged party, you do not get any say as to how you are labelled for your actions. That is just how it works. Saying "I am sorry, but you cannot call me that" is not an apology, it is a call to arms.

When someone calls you out in this manner, the correct action is to say "I understand, I will do my best to change" and then shut the fuck up and try to learn what you are doing wrong. Even though I am transgender, I still come from a place of considerable privilege and I have to think about it every single day. Choosing to not use these opportunities to learn and grow is always an option, but you are going to get called a "bigot" or worse and you have no recourse.

I do not expect everyone to be understanding of the nuances that come with things like someone transitioning genders or living genderqueer. Yes, the world is changing quickly and you cannot keep up with all the new things that are offensive to say or do, but that is no excuse for not trying and taking the opportunity to learn when presented to you. Saying "thank you but I will keep believing what I want, just stop calling me names" is patronizing and amounts to refusing to dialog at all.

I am not sure what it would take at this point to make me feel comfortable enough to attend a PAX or read Penny Arcade again in the future. A real apology from Krahulik with an admission of guilt and promise to learn why the things he said remain so problematic would be a good first step.