Dungeons & Dragons is a table-top roleplaying game first published in 1974. Spanning over five major editions and with 23 published adventures for the most recent edition, there is no doubt that Dungeons & Dragons has had a massive impact on pop culture.
But what is often overlooked is the inherent queerness of Dunegons & Dragons, and TTRPGS more broadly. Since its publication, D&D has mostly been associated with cishet white men. Yet the mere concept of roleplaying as a character different from yourself is a vessel for sexuality and gender expression.
When I think of the queer aspects of D&D, I think of three major categories: fluidity, community, and mythmaking. All of which can be connected to The Legend of Auntie Poe by Shing Yin Khor.
Continue reading Your Turn to Roll: Dungeons & Dragons and Auntie Poe
In the play Angels in America by Tony Kushner, Prior Walter, a gay man suffering from AIDS, is chosen as a religious prophet, and eventually refutes his position. By making a sick gay man a prophet who stands up to otherworldly figures, Kushner challenges anti-gay sentiments and proves that those infected with AIDS are more than their disease.
Act Five of Perestroika places Prior in heaven, as he attempts to bargain with the angels that have blessed him with their knowledge. Prior speaks to the angels: “I’m leaving Heaven to you now. I’ll take my illness with me, and. And I’ll take my death with me, too. The earth’s my home, and I want to go home” (Kushner 279). The author chooses Prior’s words carefully to demonstrate his self assurance. Prior does not ask permission to leave heaven, but rather, he states that he is leaving the religious duties to the angels. By standing up for himself, Prior begins to show fortitude. Most importantly, Prior explains that his illness, AIDS, will still be with him when he returns to earth. Even though he wishes he could recover from AIDS, he recognizes this disease will be with him for the rest of his life, up until his death. That simple recognition displays Prior’s strength. But AIDS does not define who he is.
By writing that Prior is actively “taking” AIDS with him, Kushner conveys the idea that the illness is secondary to Prior’s humanity. Throughout the AIDS crisis, sick gay men were often recognized as just their disease and nothing more. Their interests, passions, and hobbies were overlooked because bigots were so focused on villainizing them. Prior’s character combats these ideas, and shows that people living with AIDS are more than their disease, and are strong enough to fight against bias.
In a passage on page 172 from This Bridge Called My Back by Gloria Anzaldúa, the author claims that, through both writing and queerness, one must challenge the heteronormative ideals held by society.
Anzaldúa first puts her emphasis on writing; “Shock yourself into new ways of perceiving the world, shock your readers into the same” (172). The word “shock” conveys a feeling of urgency and extremity. This makes readers feel motivated to write, while also providing encouragement that they can make an impact.
Anzaldúa then writes, “If you are going to spit in the eye of the world, make sure your back is to the wind” (172). She utilizes this idiom to illustrate the existence of queer people in society. The act of simply being queer is a disregard of societal norms; therefore, it is to “spit in the eye of the world”. Anzaldúa continues this thought with the claim that the world will retaliate against this queerness. By explaining that the opposition will travel back to you (“… make sure your back is to the wind”), she is explaining how the world believes being queer is an act of violence.
Overall, I think this passage, and most of Anzaldúa’s essay, are showing how queerness is inherently radical. One cannot be queer without being radical, and therefore, she wants readers to utilize their queerness to create change in the world. She does this through writing, but the concepts are applicable to all forms of activism. Because, standing idly while your community suffers, is a waste of your voice.
“Last Call” from Saeed Jones’ Prelude to Bruise is an violent exploration of queer yearning and the speakers’ submission to their sexuality. Readers are introduced to violent imagery within the first line; “Night presses the gunmetal O of its mouth / against my own” (Jones 16). Night is personified as a gun, which is an inherently dangerous weapon. What is interesting is how the speaker responds; “I can’t help how I answer” (Jones 16). The speaker understands that this kiss is dangerous, but he is willing to give in. The speaker continues, describing his interaction with this person. Saeed writes, “He is the taste of smoke” (16). The use of a metaphor emphasizes how the speaker envisions this person. If a simile was used instead, describing him as or like “the taste of smoke” the gravity of the situation would be lost. Jones utilizes enjambment to emphasize the sexual nature of the situation; “Need another double-black / kiss” (16). “Kiss” begins a line, despite it being the end of the sentence. Jones wants the reader to understand that this is a romantic and sexual encounter, and that is why it is so dangerous. Furthering this point are the last two stanzas; “…before I let the lake / grab my ankles & take me into its muddy mouth. // They say a city is at the bottom of all that water” (16). I interpret this line as the lake is the speaker’s sexuality, which comes with danger and struggle, but the city is his life when he lives as his true self.