Now that it’s two and a half years later, I need to set the record straight about certain things. A friend recently wrote a blog post discussing an attempt to smear his reputation, and I realized it’s time I addressed a similar situation. Certain people in the East Coast larp community have tried to paint me as a QAnon supporter, when nothing could be further from the truth.
QAnon is dangerous, crypto-antisemitic, and designed to drive angry white people crazy. It is a threat to the safety and security of the United States, and it is responsible for further normalizing hatred. QAnon is an integral part of the pipeline turning New Agers and conspiracy theorists into full-on violent racists. There is nothing good about it, except maybe that it makes dangerous people more visible to the rest of us. I hope I’ve been very clear on this point.
Let me begin by addressing my own actions soon after the January 6th insurrection, and why they were wrong. I made a Facebook post in which I said Jacob Chansley (the shirtless guy with the antlers) seemed like “a nice guy who was radicalized by QAnon”. To be clear, I do not consider “nice guy” to be a compliment – it isn’t the same thing as being a good person. To me, “nice” means being superficially polite and friendly, and that’s all. MRAs and incels are fond of saying things like, “Women say they want nice guys, and I’m a nice guy without a girlfriend, so I guess they really want a**holes.” If that’s what a “nice guy” is, how good could it really be?
Beyond that, one of the first things any writing teacher will tell you is that “nice” is almost always the worst adjective to use. Pick something more specific, something that conveys more depth: are you trying to say the person is kind? polite? well-behaved? considerate? service-oriented? compliant? “Nice” could mean any of those things, or one of many more. It’s just not a good choice, unless you want your reader to picture someone plain, bland, and forgettable.
I know of at least one play and one movie that have pointed out the connection between “niceness” and superficiality. In the musical Into the Woods, the witch sings, “You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice.” Similarly, in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Clementine categorically refuses to let Joel call her “nice”, even though he thinks it’s a good compliment: “Don’t you know any other adjectives? There’s careless and snotty and overbearing and argumentative . . . I just don’t think ‘nice’ is a particularly interesting thing to be. . . . It doesn’t reveal anything. Nice is pandering. Cowardly. And life is more interesting than that. Or should be. . . . I don’t need nice. I don’t need to be it, and I don’t need anyone else to be it at me.”
I also said that Chansley seemed manic to me. While I do have personal experience of what mania feels like, and how a manic person talks, I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist. I should not have tried to diagnose anyone over the internet. This was not an attempt to excuse any of his behavior. Rather, I was trying to say he seemed like QAnon had driven him crazy, like it has with so many other people before and since. I did not do a very good job of making this understood.
This is because I was already starting to become manic myself, most likely from the stress of worrying about the insurrection. I ended up in a psych ward for several weeks, starting a few days after the post. That helps to explain why I made such an ill-advised post, but it doesn’t excuse it in any way. I own this body, and this body did those things. I feel great regret and remorse for scaring or otherwise harming people (never physically) when I was in that mental state.
Some of the players, and later the staff, of the larp Velvet Noir reacted to the post in extreme ways that are nevertheless completely understandable, given the situation. This was a group of LGBTQ+ people, most of whom were BIPOC and/or Jewish, and some of whom lived in or around the DC area. It was just a few days after the insurrection, and none of the offenders had been caught yet. Many of the players and probably some of the staff (not sure) were in literal fear for their lives, and now it looked like someone from their safe space larp had fallen to the dark side.
Which is why I can forgive the way they fixated on some of what I had said, while ignoring the rest. All they paid attention to were “nice guy” and “mania”. They decided that this meant I was identifying with Chansley, and that I was excusing his actions because he was “mentally ill”. After that point, they were unwilling to listen to any explanations I offered, and took most of what I said as white supremacist dog whistles. It turned from a public shaming into an almost textbook moral panic very quickly.
I don’t fault the VN staff for what they did next, even though it hurt, and even though several of them should have known me well enough to know better. I received an email informing me that I was kicked out for “tolerating white supremacy”, which I absolutely do not and never have. But with that many people afraid of me, in the state I was in at the time, I believe the staff did what was right to protect their community. Some of them did talk to me directly, and I was not in a place where I was able to answer their concerns coherently. The needs of the group were most important, and I have eventually made peace with that.
I wish that peace had come before I sent several angry emails to the staff, even after being told not to contact anyone from VN again. It felt like I was being punished for something I hadn’t even done. With time and retrospect, I realize that most white guys who’d say something like what I said probably do tolerate white supremacy. I can understand how people in fight-or-flight mode could easily miss that I’m not a man and even that I’m afraid of white supremacists too, in the moment.
The person who wasn’t even part of the Velvet Noir community, who escalated things by sending out-of-context screen captures from private conversations to the staff, on the other hand… I don’t forgive them for making everything worse, by sticking their nose where it didn’t belong. They are a popular larp and tabletop author who has worked on many more projects than I have. I still admire much of their work, even though they stabbed me in the back. I went to them for advice about best practices for social justice language in a conversation unrelated to larping, about how many non-binary people consider themselves trans. Somehow, this convinced them I needed to be destroyed. Our chat went silent, and like 40 minutes later I had been kicked from Velvet Noir. At no point did they ask me to clarify what I meant or why I was asking. Instead, they presumed malice on my part and instantly leapt to hostile action.
I have screencaps of my own, but I won’t post them or name names because I believe doxxing is wrong. If you want or need to know who this person is, we can discuss it privately. I still worry about how influential their name is, compared with mine.
Here are some facts about me that made this situation particularly hurtful:
- I have severe trauma from more than ten years of school bullying. Not only did the dogpile of comments on this post aggravate this trauma for the first time in a great while, but no one from VN (or their friends) seemed to notice or care when I said that I was in sensory overload, close to having a panic attack. I informed them that I was having a mental health crisis, and it did not matter to them. There’s a word for that: ableism.
- People from VN also did not listen to my local friends, when they said I was not trying to imply anything, or when they said I was not doing well and might need to go to a hospital soon. All they saw was that I was responding to white people, and not responding to BIPOC people. Most of my local friends are white, and I was on the verge of a panic attack, so I started only responding to people who were making supportive comments.
- Not only do I consider “mentally ill” people responsible for managing our own mental health, to the extent that we are able, I actively oppose the medical model of mental illness. I chose my undergraduate school, the California Institute of Integral Studies, specifically because their psychology program centers on understanding so-called mental disorders through lenses like the socially constructed disability model, neurodiversity, Mad Studies, systemic prejudice, and the ACEs study of toxic stress. It’s probably good that people who are out of their minds aren’t legally liable for property damage, but treason is a whole different matter.
- Before the post about the guy with the antlers, I had made a post about how I was in contact with aliens from outer space. If that doesn’t scream “Take the next thing I say with a grain of salt”, I don’t know what does.
- I have a distinct memory of when I knew I was significantly more anti-fascist than my parents. It was in middle school, and I was playing Wolfenstein 3D on my DOS computer in the basement. My dad came down, saw that I was killing Nazis, and said, “Shooting Nazis makes you just as bad as them.” I was dumbfounded. Seriously? Then why did we fight WWII?
- Finally and most importantly, a couple days before this all happened, I made this meme and distributed it strategically in pagan and Heathen groups on Facebook. It was already on Know Your Meme by the time the VN people decided I was a white supremacist sympathizer. I made it for two reasons: to reassure Norse pagans and Heathens that they wouldn’t necessarily be scapegoated for the attack, and to help the authorities track down Chansley more quickly.
I have done what I can to make reparations to people who don’t want to see me or talk to me. I’ve avoided larps in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and DC since this happened. I was asked to leave the Golden Cobra Discord server the year this happened, and I complied. When attending my first Intercon this year, I asked the staff to notify some of the people involved that I would be there, so that it wouldn’t be a surprise for them. I’ve publicly offered to apologize, or listen to whatever they want to say, a few times. So far, no one has taken me up on that, so I’ve had to assume what they still want is no contact. When I noticed a few VN people on the Intercon Discord server, I asked them if they would like an apology, or if they’d like me to avoid them. One of them responded that he wanted to avoid me because “I don’t like to be around QAnon supporters”. When I told him I’m not a QAnon supporter, and that QAnon scares the crap out of me, but that I would avoid him anyway, he blocked me.
This exchange is one of the main things that convinced me I had to write this blog post. Because how does “I think QAnon radicalized this guy” turn into “I support and like QAnon”? Radicalization is generally considered BAD. It means the person is becoming / has become an extremist who’s very open to violence. This feels like the worst game of Telephone ever, and the end result is the exact opposite of what I meant. While I think most of the people involved were acting in good faith, it only took one or possibly a few more malicious people to turn almost everyone at that game against me, over something I didn’t even say, after I told them I was in the middle of a mental health crisis. It boggles my mind how I could ever have considered myself in a safe space, among them. Sure, they were comfortable with me wearing a dress and makeup, but did they really see me? Nope, not at all. When push came to shove, all they saw was someone who looked enough like the insurrectionists to make a convenient target for their rage and fear. I can take it, but what about the larger problem? Since when is publicly shaming someone, and stoking one’s friends into a moral panic, acceptable as a first resort? I have to agree with Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, that it seems to happen more now than in the past, and seemingly over smaller and smaller misunderstandings.
Some people may call this a non-apology. That would be right and wrong. It’s not *just* an apology. It’s also a few other things: a call-out of those few people I think were really acting out of malice, a political position statement, and an attempt to process some of the worst bullying that’s ever happened to me. It’s also about damage control. There are people out there, still spreading false information about me because they think it’s true. I can’t allow that to go unaddressed forever, so here we are.
To the people who have thought ill of me, because of something I didn’t say and wasn’t implying: I forgive you. We were all under tremendous stress that day, and it’s clear from the comments on the original post that I was failing to understand why your stress was worse than mine. I hope you will accept my sincere and humble apology for the ways my confusion and stubbornness hurt you.
To people who don’t know me, and have heard either the other side of this story or nothing at all: I wish your introduction to me and my work had been different. I hope you will give me the opportunity to show you how kind, compassionate, and anti-fascist I really am.
And to the person (or maybe several people) who escalated the situation, in order to punish me, or make me a pariah, or take my game-writing career away from me: you have failed. May others see through your false charisma, and the ways you use the language of social justice to create domination and injustice. People like you are why the right thinks all leftists are dangerous and authoritarian. I hope that one day soon you’re able to get the help you need, so that you don’t harm anyone else.