Moving on to a new blog

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I’ve come to the conclusion that this blog — as much as I’ve enjoyed it for the past six years — has become an SCA-focused project.  And the problem with that is that I’ve stepped away from the SCA, almost certainly permanently.  So where does that leave this project?

Sadly, the answer to that is “defunct.”  I’m not going to shut down this blog entirely, but its continued existence is going to be archival more than anything else.  Frankly, I don’t see myself making much in the way of new content for the SCA, and trying to reboot this blog into something new feels… restrictive.  This blog is what it is.  I’ve enjoyed writing it, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it, but I feel like I need something new.

So I’ve decided to start a new blog, The Hungover Pundit.  I plan on posting shorter articles a lot more often than has been my habit here.  It’s still in early stages, but I’m going to be getting it fleshed out properly in the next couple of weeks.

I hope, if you’ve enjoyed my writing here, you’ll follow me to the new blog and continue to support my work.

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Interviewed for an Article on the SCA

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Last December, while I was still a member of the SCA, I was contacted by a couple of student journalists at The Tattler, a student newspaper in Montgomery County in the US state of Maryland. Isabel Danzis and Grace Harrington, two student reporters for the paper, had been speaking to members of the local SCA group on issues of sexual assault, white supremacy, and the culture of silence within reenactment and LARP communities and someone had referred them to my blog, as I’d written extensively on those issues over the previous few months.

After some back-and-forth — not least of which was my making it clear that I don’t and can’t speak for the SCA in any official capacity —  I agreed to be interviewed via email for an article which they expected to publish in the January-February issue of their campus news magazine. The article wasn’t completed for the January deadline, and was pushed back again and again. Other things happened in my life during that time, of course, and by late March I’d decided to quit the SCA, and still there was no news on the article. Frankly, I’d started to wonder if I’d ever see it.

Fortunately, I received an email this afternoon that the article was published in The Tattler’s March-April edition, fittingly focused on the challenges that young people have coming of age in a toxic culture, and that I could read it via their paper’s Issuu app, which was linked to the homepage of their publication. The link to that issue is here, and the article The Dark Side of Medieval Reenactment is on pages 17-19.

Ms. Danzis and Ms. Harrington, the student journalists I spoke with, were extremely thorough in their investigations and I, particularly as someone who has a college diploma in journalism, was quite impressed with both the depth and breadth of their reporting. I have sent them an email expressing my admiration and thanking them for letting me be a part of their work. I hope they both go on to prosperous journalistic careers, and I encourage everyone in the SCA to click the link, go to page 17, and start reading.

That being said, they only used a small part of my interview, and not what I thought the best parts of it were, either. Okay, okay, I’m mostly joking: My ego can handle sharing space a number of other SCA interviewees, especially as one of them is Gigi Coulson, the Society’s interim Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer whose job, let’s face it, is to answer the sorts of questions they were asking.

Plus I think I kind of overwhelmed them with the volume of my answers.

However, I think what I wrote back to Mss. Danzis and Harrington stands on its own and lest I be accused, as a now-former SCAdian, of pulling a ring-and-run, I’ve decided to include it below. The italicized sections are the questions I was asked, my replies are in ordinary format.

This interview occurred via email over several days in early December 2018.

For how long and in what capacity have you been involved in the SCA?

I’ve been a member of the SCA for almost fifteen years now, and have in that time served in a number of officer’s positions at the local-group level, including a term as Seneschal of the Canton of Petrea Thule. Senechal is our “medieval” title for a local chapter president. I don’t currently hold any offices, but I’m active in the Niagara-region chapter of the SCA in Ontario, Canada, The Barony of Rising Waters, and for the past five years I’ve written a blog that frequently touches on SCA issues. Rather to my surprise, my blog has recently become quite popular in SCA circles.

What issues do you think affect the SCA, if any?

The SCA, like any other hobby organization, has two major concerns: first, recruitment and retention; and second, legal liability. Recruitment means bringing new people into the SCA, retention means keeping them participating long-term. Legal liability is largely focused on preventing trouble or at least not being sued in the event of trouble. One of my concerns, which many participants share, is that the SCA’s current focus on legal liability issues doesn’t seem to place a priority on preventing harm to participants but rather preventing consequences from damaging the organization. This has led, in my opinion, to a serious failure in accountability for problem players.

We’ve heard from other sources that many creative anachronists aren’t interested in talking about these issues because they draw negative attention to the SCA. Why do feel that it’s important to talk about these issues on a public platform (on your blog)?

This goes back to the recruitment and retention issue; there’s a fear that if the SCA gets bad press that people won’t come out to play or will quit in response. There’s also fear that openly addressing problematic behaviour in the SCA might make the Society as an organization the target of legal action; if we kick someone out they might sue us. There’s an unofficial attitude among both the general membership and Society’s leadership that if you talk about a problem – like harassment or racism or sexual assault – that the public will somehow turn on the SCA and we’ll be ruined. This has unfortunately led to a situation where the corporate culture of the SCA is very opaque when it comes to addressing problems and a few bad actors have taken advantage of that.

Keeping problems quiet might have been a viable strategy in the past – the SCA is more than fifty years old, after all – but there’s two problems with keeping things hush-hush: First, it’s morally wrong to cover up problems because the problems don’t actually go away, they just happen underground; and second, covering stuff up simply doesn’t work in the age of the internet. One of the reasons that I’ve started writing about this sort of thing on my blog is that I think the attitude of “don’t talk about it” is actually harming the SCA community.

Have you faced any backlash or consequences (both in either an official or social capacity) for any of the comments that you have made on controversies within the SCA?

I really sort of burst onto the discussion with my blog this past summer, because I weighed in on a controversy that was happening down in Florida. Long story short, the King of Trimaris at the time began using their position in a very trollish manner, deliberately trying to upset people and promote at least one openly racist person over the wishes of the community. The problem, in my opinion, wasn’t so much that there was bad behaviour, it’s that there’s really no mechanism in place to hold that person – or anyone, really – accountable for their actions. It’s the lack of accountability that’s the real issue here, and I’ve been very vocal in challenging both the Board of Directors and the leadership at all levels to come up with a solution to that lack.

I have not suffered any official consequences for writing about these issues; there’s been no censorship or threats, or anything like that. For all that we’re re-creating a medieval atmosphere, it’s still the twenty-first century and freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our civilization, so even if someone wanted to officially punish me, they wouldn’t be able to. As for unofficial consequences… well, that’s a bit harder to judge. I’ve been the target of several anonymous threats by people who didn’t like that I was critical about the King of Trimaris. I’ve had internet trolls harassing me for calling out a lack of accountability in internet forums, and so on. I try not to worry about that stuff because, well, everyone who puts themselves forward on the internet has to deal with trolls.

Closer to home, I know for a fact that there are a number of people who are upset with me on a personal level for some of the criticisms I’ve made about the SCA and I do feel kind of bad about that. Peer pressure is a very significant concern in a hobby community and I won’t deny that I’ve felt some of that in recent months. On the other hand, I’ve gotten an enormous amount of support and encouragement from a great many people, and I have to say the support has vastly outweighed any negatives.

Your blog has recently attracted a lot of attention both within the community and outside of it for your comments. Why do you think that people are interested in talking about these issues now?

I think that the increased attention on my blog was largely a matter of lucky timing. I addressed an important issue at a time when it was on a lot of people’s radar, and people seemed to like what I had to offer and started sharing what I wrote. I went viral, or at least as viral as you can get in the re-enactment community. I then took advantage of that and began writing about serious issues more often and there’s been some momentum because of that. I can’t take too much credit, though: I think that people are genuinely interested in making changes in the way the Society for Creative Anachronism operates, because those changes genuinely need to happen. I’m not the only person who worries about the long-term viability of the SCA, and I think that a lot of people are looking to have a discussion about how to effect the necessary changes.

We saw that the SCA mission statement has changed to expand the SCA’s sphere past western Europe. Have people been generally welcoming of this change or has it been meet with some backlash?

Over the past few years the SCA’s Board of Directors has been working on a new series of policies to modernize the Society as an organization. While one of my criticisms of the BoD is that they act very slowly, I’m certainly not going to deny that they are working towards changes. This summer, for example, the SCA adopted a social media policy for the first time in its history, and that was relatively well received. They also adopted a new mission statement, and that was a little more problematic because the wording specifically limited the official focus of the Society to western Europe. Whether this was intentional or accidental has been the subject of much debate but there was an immediate and very vocal backlash from the membership about that limitation which was seen as arbitrary and unnecessary. To their credit the Board of Directors realized that this was an unwelcome change and in August they issued a revised mission statement that removed the wording which focused on Western European culture. Some people have been critical of the revision, fearing that it’ll change the fundamental character of the SCA. I disagree with that assessment: as a friend of mine said about the revised mission statement “If you build a bigger playground, more people will come out to play.”

Since the change in the mission statement has there been an increase in minorities joining the SCA or has it still remained relatively few?

The theoretical effect of the change to the mission statement has been to open the SCA up to any culture that existed before the seventeenth century, not just European ones. Whether that’s actually happening isn’t too clear yet – it’s still early days. From a practical standpoint, the SCA has largely been focused on European history for the last fifty years, so I suspect changes will occur slowly. But a barrier that existed has been removed, so I hope there will be some momentum that builds.

How did racism used to be treated in the SCA and how has it evolved over time, if at all? Have people become more willing to talk about and find solutions now and if so, what do you attribute this change to?

Because of the European focus of the SCA over the past fifty years, the Society is largely made up of people with a European heritage, that is to say, white people. Because of that minorities have been, well, very much in the minority. That leads to an environment where unconscious racism, systemic racism can flourish. I want to make it clear – the SCA is not now and never has been a place where open racism is accepted or made welcome… but it has been a place where problematic behaviour has been let slide, and some of that behaviour has been racist behaviour. I’m happy to report that there is an increasing groundswell of feeling in the Society that such things can’t be allowed to continue, that they need to be confronted. A lot of that simply stems from changes in our wider culture; the SCA doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and what our parents and grandparents might have considered acceptable simply doesn’t fly with younger people anymore.

White supremacy also seems to be an issue relating to the SCA. We have heard from other sources that white supremacists have “appropriated” medieval culture and taken many historical symbols for their own use, but there are no white supremacists within the SCA itself. However, we have heard of at least one incident of a white supremacist gaining office in the Kingdom of Trimaris. How would you say white supremacy relates to the SCA? Are there any white supremacists within the SCA, or is it just an issue of white supremacists connecting with medieval culture? How does the issue of white supremacy change people’s views on the SCA?

There’s been a lot of attention paid to this issue in the reenactment world, and people are genuinely concerned. A few years ago there was a controversy in the HEMA community – Historical European Martial Arts – that neo-Nazis and suchlike were deliberately moving into these groups and forcing out non-whites as a kind of cultural gate-keeping exercise. There’s also concern that these violent white supremacists are using groups like the SCA for combat training: when I look at the images of Charlottesville where you had these alt-right types with helmets and shields and clubs and then I get into my armour and pick up my shield and rattan sword to do SCA heavy fighting, well, there’s definitely a part of me that wonders.

The concern about white supremacist was also demonstrated a couple of times in the last year within the SCA: There was a situations in Caid – the SCA kingdom in southern California – where the King and Queen wore garb decorated with swastikas. Swastikas are an actual medieval pattern, of course, and in the middle ages they had no negative connotations. But they do have that connotation in modern times and there was quite a bit of uproar over it. To their credit, the King and Queen apologized and stepped down, but it definitely raised some questions in people’s minds as to whether or not it was a deliberate signal to white supremacists.

The Trimaris situation is a bit different – there’s not a lot of question that someone was acting in bad faith, but there is a question whether they were doing it as a white supremacist or just to be a troll. The situation is being investigated by the Board of Directors, but while that goes there’s not a lot of official comment about it, which brings us back to my concerns about accountability and transparency, of course.

Are there white supremacists among us? Yes, I think there are. But they’re a very small minority, and the vast majority our membership is horrified by the idea that there might be some kind of infiltration going on. These two incidents in Caid and Trimaris have definitely opened people’s eyes to that possibility, and the community is increasingly sending a firm message that they are not having it.

We have heard from other sources that there has been a problem with sexual assault in the community. Do you think that sexual assault is a problem within the SCA? If it is, have people been held more accountable than before? If so, what you attribute this change to?

Sadly, sexual assault and harassment is an ongoing problem in the SCA, and in LARP and re-enactment communities in general. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. And right now, there really isn’t much of a structure in place to deal with this sort of thing in the SCA; as it stands the Society can’t even ban a problem player without a criminal conviction. This has led to what’s called a “missing stair” attitude, that is, if you go to a friend’s house and there’s a missing stair they tell you to “just step around it” rather than trying to fix the broken stair. In the SCA new players, especially women, are sometimes warned “don’t be alone with this person” and so on, but nothing is done to remove the person in question because there’s simply no set of rules in place that would allow the SCA to remove them. One of the things I’ve been advocating for is creating structures and rules to remove that sort of person so that the SCA is a much safer space.

You mentioned in your blog some aspects of homophobia in the SCA. Is homophobia a typical part of SCA culture?

I’m an LGBTQ person, and have been openly LGBTQ my entire adult life. I have, on occasion, run into homophobia in the SCA. Groups like the SCA are a microcosm of our society as a whole, so problems like homophobes carry over. Even having been on the receiving end, my personal concern about homophobic incidents aren’t so much that they happen, but that there’s not really a method of addressing them when they do. Just like the concern about sexual assault, there’s not currently a structure in place in the rules to address the issue. That needs to change.

In your opinion, how has the SCA overall changed recently in terms of dealing with racism, sexism, etc?

When you talk about the problems of racism and sexism and homophobia in an organization, it’s really easy to think that’s all there is to the organization, which would be a mistake. The problems are a very small part of the whole, obviously, or people simply wouldn’t participate. The vast majority of people who participate in the SCA are well-intentioned and don’t want these things to be in our community. This isn’t a new attitude, but I think people are more inclined to push back against the problems then they have been in the past, partly as a reflection of the larger changes in our culture. The #metoo moment is happening in reenactment communities the same way it’s happening everywhere else.

Changes in attitude are important. But I also think that changes in the rules are important too. Of course, the SCA is a volunteer organization run by a volunteer Board of Directors, which can limit the speed at which changes occur to the rules. The BoD is definitely trying to bring the SCA forward to reflect these cultural changes; people like me are pushing them to move faster.

Leaving the SCA

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It’s been a difficult and tumultuous few months in my life for a variety of reasons. As I posted back in December, I am having a difficult time with my mental health and PTSD. I am seeking professional assistance with these issues, but it is frankly not helping all that much.

In February, however, an incident occurred that confirmed to me that the SCA is not a place where I can be anymore. As anyone who follows this blog knows, I’ve been posting about the situation in the reenactment community in general – and the SCA specifically – where white supremacists, racists and bigots are infiltrating the subculture and the apparently inability (or unwillingness) of the powers that be to prioritize the safety of LGBTQ people, people of colour, and other vulnerable minorities in the SCA. I have received a lot of criticism and harassment for that… up to and including death threats.

That begins to wear on you after a while, especially with everything else that’s going on with me and in the world.

In mid-February, several things happened within a 24-hour period.  First, I got an entirely well-meaning message from an online acquaintance that the BoD was going to start “enforcing” the new social media policy against people who “claim to represent the Society” and this warning included the information that my blog was allegedly something the BoD was concerned about.  Now, I want to be clear: this was not a threat, nor an official message from the BoD; it was just a heads’ up from someone claiming to be in the know.  I also want to be clear – I haven’t any received official message since then from any source regarding this blog.  That message may have just been a false alarm, or someone misinterpreting something. I certainly didn’t ascribe any malice to the message. But the anticipation of a potential hassle – officially or unofficially – definitely did not put me into a good mood regarding the SCA’s secretive and opaque governance structure, which I have been openly critical of for months and years.

Later that day the second bomb landed, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ever since the Trimaris Incident over the summer the BoD has been reportedly investigating Balder Langstrider for his inappropriate behaviour on the throne at Pennsic. They were also investigating the behaviour of Ronan of Blackmoor, the person Balder controversially elevated to the Order of Defense over the wishes of the Order and, indeed, over the wishes of the vast majority of the Peers of Trimaris. Both Balder and Ronan have a record of racist, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ and especially anti-Left statements online. (Both have also locked down their public profiles since last summer, so many of these statements are no longer publicly available, but screenshots are still circulating widely.) It was widely rumoured that during the January BoD meeting the question of sanctions against one or both of these individuals would be raised. This, of course, would occur behind closed doors, and until an official judgment was made no statement would be released, as per SCA policy.

On February 15th a post that Ronan Blackmoor had recently made was brought to my attention. He’d apparently posted to his Facebook page a triumphant announcement that he and Balder had been “completely cleared” of all accusations of wrongdoing and that there would be “consequences” for all the “leftists”, “SJWs” and “SCAntifa” who had brought “fake charges” against him. (For clarity, I did not see the original post but was shown a copy-paste that someone took from his page while it was still unlocked.) The post went on for some considerable length and was very, very ugly. It rejoiced in the fact that he could threaten, abuse and degrade others in the SCA and nothing could be done about it.

That was the last straw for me. The BoD had said nothing official for months, and now couldn’t even refute – couldn’t even address – this so-called Peer’s disgusting diatribe because of some asinine policy of “fair treatment.” Combined with that morning’s “warning” that my blog was somehow seen as a problem and the complete and utter silence regarding my complaint against the SCA Reddit moderators back in November… I was appalled. I was furious. It just wrecked me, emotionally. I had gotten death threats and reported them through the proper channels and I couldn’t can’t get a response to my complaints – or even an acknowledgement that I’d made them. And this guy gets to strut around and claim to be cleared despite ample evidence and crow about vengeance?

I’m not trying to be histrionic here, okay? I’m not looking for sympathy. But I cannot understate how devastating this was to me: I found myself, for the first time since I was a teenager, contemplating suicide. That’s how bad a headspace I was in.

Let me make this clear again: I am not doing well. I have to prioritize my well-being and the well-being of my family. And that day I understood that my well-being can clearly no longer include my participation in an increasingly toxic subculture like the Society for Creative Anachronism.

As I wrote the next day on Facebook: “I have, in real life and over the past year, watched things I fought for, cared passionately about, and literally bled for be overturned with the stroke of a pen. Twenty years of effort and struggle, of activism and hard work, gone. And I’m left with scar tissue, with PTSD, and with the bitter knowledge that I have wasted my fucking adulthood, that nothing that we struggled for will last longer than the next smarmy demagogue who wants to throw students or LGBTQ people under the bus. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been stalked. I’ve been abused. I’ve reported these things to the people who are supposed to do something about it and I haven’t even rated an email of acknowledgement.

And that’s in real life. So why the hell should I go through the same bullshit in a hobby?

Everything I’ve tried to do to fix the SCA is a pointless fucking time-sink, and all the effort has done is make me hated by half the kingdom and burned a lot of bridges. It’s clear that the BoD of this organization doesn’t prioritize the safety of participants, especially LGBTQ or people of colour, and in fact has actively condoned and tacitly reinforced racist, bigoted and hateful behaviour within the Society.

I’m tired. I’m so tired and beaten and broken. The SCA isn’t helping me feel better about anything, and as today’s ugly bullshit has proven, it’s actively making things worse.”

Yeah, that’s a pretty strong statement. And I’ve calmed down a bit in the six weeks since I wrote it, and read over it again… and I can’t think of a single word that I’d retract.  Because that’s been my experience of the Society over the last couple years, and I can’t keep doing it.

That night my wife and I had a discussion and I decided to quit the SCA.

I announced it on a friends-only Facebook post and said I was going to take a few days off social media.  Later that week I logged back onto Facebook and discovered that a (now-former) friend and Peer of our kingdom had written a diatribe on their page about “whiners” and “cowards” who “give up on the Society” – obviously referring to me.

That hurt. A lot.

I didn’t even bother to respond to her on Facebook. I simply blocked her. Then I quit every single SCA page I’ve ever belonged to. That toxic behaviour, from a Peer of our own damned kingdom, someone who I thought was a friend and who damned well knows what I’m going through… well, that was the only confirmation I needed that the SCA is not something that I can participate in any longer.

Is this a retreat? Am I abandoning the SCA? Am I letting the bastards win?

Perhaps.

But leaving the Society because it keeps making me feel like shit is a legitimate decision for my mental health. It doesn’t make me part of the problem. It doesn’t make me a whiner. And it certainly doesn’t make me a coward. It makes me someone who is taking care of himself.

I cared about the SCA. I believed in it. Part of me still wants to believe in it… which is why it hurts so much to leave. This wouldn’t be so terrible if I didn’t love it. But I can’t keep being betrayed and hated and abused for trying to fix things.

So I’m done, I’m out.

I’ve since been told – and confirmed through a Google search – that the SCA’s Board of Directors created the position of Diversity and Inclusion Officer during the January BoD meeting. The new officer apparently attended an SCA event here in Ealdormere shortly thereafter, and a number of people contacted me letting me know that there had been an excellent discussion and that they were hopeful about the DIO and their impact on the future of the SCA.

Good. I wish the new DIO – and all future DIOs – only the best. I genuinely hope they’re able to effect the desperately needed change in the Society. I think it’s long past time that the SCA generally and the BoD places a maximum priority on inclusion and safety for all participants in the Society.

But I have absolutely no confidence that they will.

I certainly think that they’ll try, but my experience of the Society – both at the international and kingdom level – is that they’ll be fighting an entrenched and toxic culture with no interest in change and no mechanism with which change can be effected. I hope that the people who are going to try are able to succeed… but I can’t keep breaking my heart over this. There’s far too much going on in the real world that is taking up too much of my energy. The Society used to be a place for me to recharge.

It isn’t anymore. It’s become a place that’s taking up too much of my very limited emotional energy and well-being. And I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s going to get any better.

I’ve left the SCA.

Three A.M.

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I woke up at three A.M. last night because the police were hammering down the door again. I wake up a lot of nights to the police using a battering ram on the door at 1130 Water Street or the Seven Year Squat, or with the cops firing tear gas on the Côte dAbraham, or surrounding us in some nameless building or kettling us in the streets. In my dreams rubber bullets ricochet down alleys and narrow laneways and tear gas canisters arc through the air trailing fluffy white trails that sear your lungs out and taste like plastic cinnamon. In my dreams figures in riot armour with empty plexiglass faces hunt me through dark and sweltering streets. In my dreams I crawl in the filth behind dumpsters while lights play on the brick above my head and the cockroaches skitter through my clothes. In my dreams they catch me sometimes and I hear the screaming again, although I’ve learned to wake myself up when the screaming starts.

When I wake up at three or four or five A.M., I’ve learned to lie still and let my heart slow down. I remind myself that there’s no battering ram at the door because if there was the dogs would be going nuts. I tell myself that there’s no tear gas or pepper spray. I stare at the dark for a few minutes, then take off my CPAP mask and get up and go to the bathroom. When I do this I try not to wake my partner, who has to work in the morning. Three A.M. is a convenient time for a pee and a glass of cold tap water before I go back to bed. I try not to wake the dogs, who will want to be let out of their crates and jump up on the bed with us and who would wake my partner when they do, even though I’d very much like them to cuddle me. After a while I go back to sleep and then I sleep until morning. I rarely mention the dreams to my partner, but she knows.

She knows. She’s not stupid and she’s right there.

I woke up at three A.M. last night because the police were hammering down the door again. I wake up most nights like that. Not quite all, but most. In fact, it’s a notable morning when I wake up having slept through the whole night, if not dreamlessly then at least having dreamed of something… normal. I get up in the mornings and let the dogs out of their crates, and since I’m not rushing off to work I go back to bed and they get to cuddle for a while, and then I make coffee and we start our day… which will not include any loud or crowded places if they can possibly be avoided, and if they can’t then we plan very carefully how to minimize my exposure to them so I don’t have an anxiety attack.

Most days I have problems with anxiety. It usually starts exhibiting itself as irritation and snappishness. I have the tendency to make snarky comments in traffic. Actually I have the tendency to make snarky comments at any given time when I’m anxious but I’ve learned not to say them out loud unless I’m in my car where people can’t hear me… and I should knock that off when my partner is in the car because it upsets her. On the average day, with care, I can go out, get groceries, prepare dinner, walk the dogs and so on, as long as I’m careful not to get myself into situations that will set me off. When I get close to that point, I usually announce to her that “I’m done with people” or “I’m peopled out” and that will be that. Occasionally I’ll announce that I’ll meet her outside if we’re in the checkout line at a store or she’s in the middle of something. At that point she’ll drop me at home and then head out on her own to finish whatever it was we were doing when I hit my limit.

This is normal for us.

In the evenings I read a lot if it’s been a comparatively bad day, or play video games if it hasn’t been. I’ll get a stiff drink or two into me and go to bed. And I know I’ll probably be up at three in the morning.

That’s a good day for us. The bad days are worse. Thankfully infrequent, but worse.

The last time I had a major anxiety attack — and by that I mean, a sweating, shaking, want-to-puke and collapse and scream major anxiety attack — I was riding the carousel down at Port Dalhousie with my niece. She was three at the time, and wearing a blue Thomas the Tank Engine t-shirt. I was standing beside her, helping to hold her on a carved white horse with a blue bridle. I was wearing an olive-green shirt and my sunglasses were tucked into my breast pocket.

I can remember these details so clearly because one of my sisters took a picture of me having the attack.

In the photo I’m flushed and sweating and the “smile” on my face is more of a rictus than anything else. At the time I was mostly conscious of the need not to throw up and I was concentrating on my breathing and keeping my niece on the carousel horse, because at three her balance was not great. After the carousel had stopped I sat outside the building and tried not to barf and made small talk with the sister who had taken the picture while my niece rode again and again with her mum and my partner, and I got some video of it which everyone said was adorable. My sister posted the picture on Facebook and everyone agrees it’s a charming photo of my niece and her uncle, and it is charming as long as you don’t know that in that moment I was hearing screaming and sirens and they were coming to drag me away again and there was no way to run.

This is something that happens.

I try not to put myself in situations where it happens – loud and crowded, hot and humid are sure-fire triggers – I know not to go to the mall on weekends or during peak shopping hours, for example. But sometimes it sneaks up on us. People bumping into me unexpectedly or grabbing me from behind in a crowd can trigger it. We don’t go to dance clubs even though my partner really loves to dance because I can’t and she doesn’t want to go alone. It never occurred to me that riding an antique carousel with my niece on a muggy summers’ day would be a problem, and I fiercely resent that intrusion into what should have been an idyllic family picnic.

I know why I have this problem. It’s no surprise to me. There’s no mystery. I spent the bulk of my twenties as a social justice activist in the most direct ways I could think of. I was a street medic. I embraced the black bloc and direct action. I can even pinpoint specific incidents that contributed to specific nightmares. I’m proud of my activism, let me make that absolutely clear. Even today, after more than a decade off the front lines, I still think of myself as an activist first and foremost… and it’s all ramping up again as we head into another struggle for 2019 to oppose the rise of the alt-right and fascism here in Canada.

I’m sure the political scene, both here and abroad, is a contributing factor to my anxiety worsening. I’ve had people tell me that I should get off the internet, to stop reading the news for my own good… but I can’t look away. I can’t turn a blind eye. I don’t have the right to turn away. There’s a fight coming and we need everyone, everyone, to stand up and resist the racism, sexism and homophobia of the alt-right. Whatever it costs.

The thing is, though… it has been getting worse. Time was I could sleep through most nights and have a bad dream every couple-three weeks at most. Now it’s five or six nights out of seven. My daytime anxiety is getting worse. So at the insistence of my partner, a few months ago I was referred to a mental health program by my family doctor. The process of setting it all up is going slowly – as non-emergency things do in the Canadian health care system – but its progressing. Among other measures, I’ll be joining a “cognitive behavioural therapy” support group and a “mindfulness meditation” class. I’m a little fuzzy on what these will entail or how they will help, but we’ll see how it goes.

Even if they don’t help I don’t expect they could make things worse, so I go along.

This is my experience of PTSD and anxiety. Having known a number of people who suffer from the same thing, for a variety of reasons, I know that my experience is generally typical while being unique in the details. I know former soldiers and current paramedics and prison guards and even fellow-activists who struggle with this. Some need prescription medicine. Some self-medicate with too much booze or weed. Too many of them don’t get help.

I’m trying to break that pattern.

I should wrap this up. It’s getting late and I need to go to bed soon.

A Tough Post to Write

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After nearly a month’s absence on this blog, and a couple of months of silence on the SCA front, I think I need to let folks know… I’m not doing well.

A lot of the not-doing-well revolves around my PTSD issues, which under the stress of the last half-year has become increasingly difficult to ignore or work around. In fact, the problems related to my PTSD have become sufficiently strident that I’ve reached out to mental health services, and I had my first meeting with a psychiatrist yesterday to start the ball rolling on a plan to get me better. I’m not sure how much of that I’ll be discussing in a public forum, but suffice it to say that these issues are taking up a lot of my mental and emotional energy at the moment.

Exacerbating this problem is the fallout from my ill-considered attempt to call out the sole moderator of the “unofficial” SCA Reddit, a person calling themselves eadmund, an anonymous and self-appointed individual with no oversight and whose virulent homophobia under that name on various subreddits is absolutely disgusting. I say “ill-considered” not because I was wrong to call that person out… but I should have gone in with more backup. I’ve spent months dealing with a flood of bullshit from eadmund’s supporters, wading through a tide of gaslighting, griefing, flaming and harassment which has thankfully tapered off some since I deleted my Reddit account.

Perhaps I should have stuck it out… but at a certain point you just have to ask yourself whether a given hill is worth dying on. And the SCA Reddit is not a hill worth fighting for: It is so hopelessly compromised by trolls and homophobes – encouraged by a moderator who has no accountability whatsoever – that it cannot be saved. I’m not going to re-hash that battle here, because there’s no point. I’m sure that eadmund and his coterie of trolls are strutting around, pleased with their “defence” of the SCA Reddit and “free speech.” As it is I can barely muster enough emotional energy to state, unequivocally, fuck those assholes and I hope the BoD lands on the SCA Reddit like a meteor aiming for the dinosaurs.

Still, good things have been happening. At their Coronation, King Evander and Queen Marioun gave the Baron and Baroness of Rising Waters a writ summoning me into court at Baronial Birthday Bash, the 30th anniversary celebration of Rising Waters’ establishment as a barony – and an event held approximately twenty minutes from my house, so it was a good bet I could make the effort to be there.

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I was not the only person in this Kingdom to be given such a writ; their Majesties have apparently decided to dial back on the Ealdormerean custom of just surprising people with a summons in court and instead giving them enough warning to show up and dress nicely, a approach which I wholeheartedly support. After a couple of months of jokes about Their Majesties summoning me to be hurled from a tall building, last week at the event I was given an Award of the Orion for my efforts at period-accurate armouring, along with a lot of good-natured ribbing about being given an award for being pretty.

Another thing happened at Baronial Birthday Bash which gave me pause, though. I was quietly taken aside and spoken to about something that had happened on-line. Not here on this blog, but in an SCA discussion group. A few weeks ago, there was a brief upset about a Midrealm archery event where the organizers had decided to make “Canadian-themed” targets, including our national flag, for the attendees to shoot at. I do not want to re-ignite the discussion around that event – it’s been hashed over, apologies have happened, lessons have been learned, let’s move on – but during the online discussion around that event I had rather forcefully stated that it was “so incredibly, offensively inappropriate that a mere apology doesn’t cut it. People need to lose offices over this.”

The friend who approached me over this issue was also a friend of the organizers of the event, and they just wanted to make sure that I understood the effect my comment had.

I wasn’t being criticized for making the comment, let me make that clear. The concern my friend had was that people saw what I wrote and got on the lose-offices bandwagon because it had been me who wrote it. I’d made a statement, and because it was Fulk Beauxarmes who made that statement, people got behind it.

It took me a few moments to understand what they were driving at, and I instinctively rejected their statement because after all, I’m nobody… but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And the truth is they’re right to be concerned because in SCA circles, I’m not nobody anymore.

Ever since this blog went viral back in August, I’ve become someone whose voice is one that is heard in the SCA. And it’s heard internationally. I checked my WordPress statistics this morning, and I’m averaging about two hundred views from around the world, per day every day. And this is at a point where I haven’t written anything for bloody weeks. Time was, I’d be lucky to get two hundred views per month. Every time something happens in the SCA I get messages asking for information or my opinion. (Heck, this morning, I had a request for an interview from a campus paper in Maryland.)

Why do people read this blog? Because I write well. Because I write clearly and interestingly and forcefully. Because I give a damn about what I’m writing about, and that resonates with many people. This is not a bad thing; my friend wasn’t criticizing me for expressing my opinion forcefully. They weren’t even telling me my opinion was wrong. They were telling me that I’ve become – in marketing parlance – an influencer in the SCA… and that I need to start thinking about how that influence can effect others.

I made a statement about a minor controversy in the SCA that other people agreed with and acted upon. That’s not, in itself, a problem. But I did it without thinking about the consequences, and it caused a friend-of-a-friend considerable upset when they found themselves the focus of the community’s negative attention because of what I said. And that is a problem, because I never intended that.

I’ve just spent weeks as the focus of a small group of assholes who deliberately and maliciously decided to target me for daring to condemn a moderator’s public homophobia and challenge their comfortable little fiefdom of power. The notion that someone else would suffer a similar situation simply because I’d run my mouth without considering the consequences is… well that’s pretty upsetting to me.

It’s taken a few days of hard thinking, but I think I understand what they were trying to tell me. So… to my friend (and you know who you are) and to the SCA community as a whole, I want to be clear: Message received. I’m going to be more conscious of the fact that my word carries weight in our community.

I’m not saying don’t listen to me. I’m not saying stop reading what I write. I’m not even saying I won’t use my influence, from time to time, to try and effect change. What I am saying is that I’ll do it mindfully.  I’ll do it deliberately. I’ll do it with the understanding that people read what I write and view my opinions as worth considering and acting upon. And I’ll go forward with a conscious acknowledgement that my status as an influencer in this community is a privilege, and one which comes with a corresponding responsibility.

 

Lord Fulk Beauxarmes

 

There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled because they are wrong.  This is a dangerous notion.”   –Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie

What the Democrats Need to Win in 2020

I’m reading this morning’s post-election analysis from the US Midterms, and as a Canadian looking in from the outside, my general take is this: Trump sort of won. Democrats sort of won too… and the Republican Party lost big time, but they don’t know it yet.

A Democratic sweep of both houses of Congress would have been a defeat for Trump… but the US Electoral system is so jerrymandered against Democrats that this was extremely unlikely. The Democratic party went into this race with bricks tied to their ankles… and they still gained. If you look at the popular vote compared to the seat count, it’s clear the Democrats enjoy a support base that is both diverse and deep… and one which is being systematically disenfranchised. They made advances despite that, and are now more politically relevant than before. But it’s a long time to 2020, and they need to get their shit together. More on that later.

Trump… sort of won. He didn’t get drowned in the “Blue Wave” that never really materialized, but I don’t think he won as big as he’s claiming. With the Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives, he’s lost the ability to quash investigations against himself and, should he make the effort, there will be real, immediate consequences of any such attempt. Trump is now politically vulnerable in a way that he wasn’t before the midterms… and he’s too stupid or too arrogant, or both, to comprehend his vulnerability. That’s going to make the next couple of years noisier and more chaotic than the last two… which is an absolutely exhausting thought, but there we are.

The Republican Party… lost. Big time. Yes, they maintained control of the Senate, but in both House and Senate moderate Republicans were ousted in favour of right-wing extremists. The GOP, as a big tent party, as the “Party of Lincoln”, is dead. Period. It is now the Party of Trump. The moderates and undecided voters have been driven out. For a generation, at least, the face of the Republican Party will be one of populist white supremacy and nativist paranoia. In the short term they may remain strong, but the trend of history has always been towards liberalism, and young people are voting like never before. The GOP has doubled down on positions that will not — cannot! — win in the long-term.

Which brings us back to the Democratic Party. Long term, I believe that progressive ideas will win out. Short term, the Dems need to get their shit together. They need to come up with a progressive, inclusive platform for a popular, bridge-building leader for the 2020 presidential campaign. They have no shortage of potential candidates, so what they need is an open, respectful and positive primary campaign to present a candidate who can do for America what Obama did… provide hope.

Which might be difficult, considering that the same Old Boys Network of white, wealthy Democrats that put Clinton to the fore is still calling the shots. In fact, it’s been floated recently that Clinton might run again, which would be an even bigger disaster the second time around. During the last election the entrenched privilege structure within the Democratic party anointed Hilary Clinton as the next President and treated both the primaries and the election itself as irritating formalities. It was hugely disenchanting display of public arrogance and contempt for the electorate and I honestly believe that’s what cost them the election.

(Yes, Clinton would have done a better job than Trump. A small lump of green putty would do a better job than Trump. Who could do a better job wasn’t really the point: The Dems treated the 2016 election as a victory lap and they got beat. Hillary Clinton needs to accept that she’s not going to be President. Ever. It’s not fair. It’s not just. But it’s reality.)

What the Democrats need to do is find a young, fresh candidate, probably male and white(ish), pair him with a more radical female person of colour as a running mate, and then run them on an openly progressive platform with more depth than simply “Screw Trump.” Sure, Screw Trump should be a plank in the platform, but they need to be deeper than that. They need to offer the American electorate real, progressive choices. They need to address real, important issues. They need to be aggressive in shutting down GOP mud-slinging and insinuations and attacks. They need to shut down and call out GOP lies. And they need to be able to fight down in the gutter, which is where Trump and the new GOP will drag them.

Most of all, they need to humiliate Donald Trump.

And I mean humiliate him. Not only with investigations and committees and charges, but also in debates. Face to face. If I were GOP strategists, I’d be looking very hard at ways to keep Trump from having to talk to his opponents for the next election, because if the Dems are even half awake they’ll pick someone smart enough to run rings around Donald Trump in a debate. It’s not enough to beat him — Clinton won every debate, after all — you have to beat him in a way that emasculates him. He needs to be shown to the electorate and the world be petty and weak. And stupid. And incompetent. And a coward.

Donald J. Trump is all of these things, of course. He is a national embarrassment and a disgrace, utterly unsuited to be President of the United States, and he proves it every day. The next Democratic candidate for President has to be willing to take the gloves off and whip Trump like a rented mule on national television. Trump has to be beaten so badly as to be made a public spectacle of contempt. He needs to be shown as a worthless, stuttering wretch; to stand naked, blinking and blustering in the harsh light of his own corruption, dishonesty and failure; so glaringly exposed in his disgrace that he is not even worth pitying. Trump has lived his life creating a larger-than-life image of himself… almost a self-parody. That needs to be torn down and the real, lonely and pathetic loser at the heart of it exposed.

It’s going to be ugly. It’s going to be harsh. It’s going to be one of the lowest points of the American Republic. And I genuinely wish it wasn’t necessary… but people are dying. People are dying. Children are being held in cages. The most powerful democracy in the world is gravely ill and the Trumpists are already dancing on its grave and scalping tickets for the funeral.

The midterms are over. The Democrats are in the fight in a way they haven’t been for two years. The Republicans have doubled down on the cancer that’s going to kill them. Trump… remains Trump. Everyone is predicting an ugly fight leading towards the next Presidential election.

The Democrats need a platform with the courage to offer hope and real change, and they need a Presidential candidate who can fight in the gutters if need be and not get too dirty doing it.

It’s going to be the Democrats’ election to win or lose… and the fight starts today.

A Tragedy in the SCA

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Last night an announcement on our Kingdom Facebook page came to my attention.  Issued from the Society Marshal, it was shocking news:

On Saturday, October 6, a brother in arms to many of us lost his life in the pursuit of our game. The Society’s Equestrian Marshal, Master Terafan Greydragon, died while competing in an equestrian game at an SCA event in Kentucky. The Society is investigating the matter and is fully cooperating with the authorities. The Society Marshal is conducting an investigation to determine what might have led up to the accident, and what specific measures should be taken to ensure that this does not occur again. Upon the completion of our investigation, the SCA will make the results available to the public. We have reached out to Terafan’s family to express our support for them at this moment of loss. We ask that Terafan and his family be held in your hearts.
– Alan Gravesend, Society Marshal

I’ve received a couple of messages asking me if I had any details; apparently since I was the first to compile a cohesive story on the Trimaris Controversy, folks figured I might know what was going on.

I only know what everyone else knows:  There was a tragic accident during an equestrian demonstration at an SCA event in Williamstown Kentucky.  A local news website covered the story, but there are not many details available.  The local NBC affiliate posted a story stating that he was airlifted to Cincinnati and was declared dead on arrival.

The Society for Creative Anachronism, as well as the relevant authorities, is investigating the incident and will report on their findings at the appropriate time.

I’ve also gotten a second-hand statement from a Reddit post, and while I have not been able to verify it, it purports to be the statement of a family member and contains some more detail:

It comes with great sadness that my younger middle brother, Peter Barclay has died. 53 years old, raised in Las Cruces NM. He was at an equestrian/medieval event in Ohio, when his metal tipped lance, used for catching rings (not jousting), hit the ground and flipped. It impaled him under his sternum killing him. He was air lifted but died in route. He led a distinguished career as a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Army. He leaves behind his wife Deborah A. Barclay, and daughters Amy and Taryth. Survived by his father Jack Barclay, older brother John Barclay and younger brother Charles Barclay. He died doing what he loved, but will still be missed. 😥. RIP Peter aka: Terafan Greydragon

The SCA, as I’ve observed before, is not a large community.  And over the course of the day it’s become clear that, while I myself didn’t know the gentleman, Master Terafan and I have many mutual friends and acquaintances.  Some of them were even present on Saturday, witnesses to what appears to be a tragic accident.

I’m not going to speculate about this incident beyond the bare sharing of what facts are known.  Like everyone else in the Society, I’m shocked by this event and will attentively await the results of the investigation.  And while it sometimes seems almost rote and formulaic to say it, I genuinely extend my sympathies to Master Terafan’s family and friends.  If you need a shoulder or someone to talk to, just ask.

I was going to write this post earlier, but I spent this Thanksgiving Day with my mother and my aunt.  Several weeks ago, we lost my uncle, my mother’s elder brother, to a sudden cardiac arrest.  Today was the first day I’d seen my mum and aunt — his wife — since the funeral.  I had several hours alone in the car today, to and from, to contemplate the suddenness of loss and the effect of bereavement.  I wish I had some pearls of wisdom to dispense to ease that could ease the pain of suddenly losing someone, I really do.  I’d have spread them freely today if I had.

As I observed in the wake of a different tragedy our community suffered more than five years ago, bad things happen to good people.  It’s a truth about the world, and I wish I knew how to fix it.  At least… At least, unlike the murder of Melissa Richmond, the loss of Master Terafan is the result of terrible mischance, not an act of deliberate malice.  (I had opined at the time that I feared for our community in the wake of Melissa’s murder, although five years later I’m relieved to note that fear proved unfounded.)

I don’t have any fears for our community in the wake of  Master Terafan’s loss.  It’s been a tough summer for many of us in the Society and sometimes it feels that it’s all coming apart at the seams… but it is another truth of the world that, when tragedy comes suddenly, people pull together.  They support each other.  In facing this adversity together, the community grows stronger.

It’s a bittersweet strength, but it’s a strength nonetheless.  And it’s a strength that the Society for Creative Anachronism has always had to draw from, like a deep well.

I never had the chance to know him directly so I don’t want to cause offense with a stranger’s sympathy, and I don’t know if there’s any comfort in this for his friends and family… but it seems that Peter Barclay died doing something he loved, surrounded by friends.  He made an impact in the world and helped build a community and touched many lives.  His loss is a shock and a grief that is resounding through the reenactment world.

Give his family the space and support they need in this difficult time, and take care of each other, everyone.

 

Lord Fulk Beauxarmes
Kingdom of Ealdormere

As They Should Have Been

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It’s been more a week since I wrote my last post, A Statement of Equity and Justice in the SCA, and the response to Ealdormere’s equity and inclusivity statement, the Declaration of Virtues, has been… mixed.

We attended another SCA event this past weekend – Huntsmans’ Harvest, one of Ealdormere’s premier archery events – and the Declaration document was present. The list of signatures on the parchment has grown ever-longer. Online, many Ealdormereans are pledging to sign it as soon as they’re able to attend an event, and many people from across the Knowne World are praising its language and phrasing.

Some, unfortunately, are not. I’ve had a few – not many, but a few — online interactions where people condemned the Declaration and anything like it as rendering the SCA hostile to “people who disagree with diversity” or, in one memorably irritating dog-whistle phrase “traditionally-minded” players. Apparently asking players to treat each other with respect is so profoundly offensive to some people that they feel that it’s a first step to their being driven out of the SCA altogether… just for being “traditionally-minded.”

Stop being disingenuous.  No one of good intent wants to make someone unwelcome in the SCA for a legitimately-held political belief, whether it’s being a conservative, or a liberal, or even having no political opinion whatsoever. But we also don’t want to want to have people feel unwelcome because of their orientation or their race or religion or their disability or whatever else… and sadly, due to some ill-intentioned people among us that has been happening.

I want to make something clear – I’m happy that the Declaration of Virtues was written and declared. I’m happy that the BoD has been passing policies making it clear that everyone is welcome in the Society and bad behaviour will not be tolerated. I’m happy that the College of Heralds is clarifying and expanding its list of banned hate symbols. And I’m very happy that people who are bigots — racists, misogynists and homophobes — are uncomfortable with these positive changes and are beginning to fear that they won’t be welcome in the SCA.

I am not happy that any these things were necessary in the first place.

The SCA, as I’ve noted before, has some systemic flaws that certain bad actors have exploited. That needs to be corrected. It is currently being corrected, which is a difficult and uncomfortable process. It is also a necessary one: some of the people I’ve been dealing with – including the person who used the infuriating phrase “traditionally-minded” – are demonstrably bigoted (a quick dig through that person’s Reddit profile revealed blatant homophobia, as a specific example) so my sympathy for their discomfort is limited, even at its most generous.

What it boils down to, for me, is that if you read something as judicious and polite as the Declaration of Virtues and think it’s aimed at you… then guess what? It’s probably aimed at you.

(Frankly, the Declaration is a much milder statement than I’d have preferred — if it had been entirely up to me, the Declaration would have been a lot less Kumbaya and a lot more Ride of the Valkyries. Of course, it wasn’t up to me, and I’m honest enough to admit that was probably a good thing.)

But those kinds of confrontational complaints, as I noted above, are not the majority. The majority of posts are from people praising the Declaration. A tiny minority is from people who oppose it as “political correctness gone out of control.” (I hate the term “political correctness”, by the way; I once had a friend who used a Chrome browser extension to change “political correctness” into “treating people fairly” and right-wing websites got a lot more honest.) Those responses piss me off, true, but at least I can get a good fight out of them.

But it’s the third category of responses that irritate the hell out of me: People saying things like “I don’t see why this is necessary,” or “Why can’t we just get along?” or “I just want to go back to having fun in the SCA and not have to deal with this.”  They are a minority, true, but not nearly a small enough one.  I’ve taken to calling these “blind eye posts”, because as far as I’m concerned what they’re really saying is “I’ve spent X number of years turning a blind eye, so why are you making me look at this now?

And I cannot respect that reaction.

We’re making you look at it because turning a blind eye is part of the problem. The reason that bad actors have been able to take advantage of the flaws in the system is that other people – otherwise good people – have turned a blind eye to bad behaviour for too long. It’s taken a couple of seriously egregious incidents in the past year – the Caid Swastika Incident and the Trimaris Controversy among them – for the flaws in the system to be laid bare in a way that many SCAdians aren’t willing to tolerate any further.

I’ve repeatedly stated on this blog that the SCA’s biggest flaw is now and has always been that SCAdians will tolerate any level of injustice and unfairness in order to preserve their hobby. Complaints that you just want to go back “to when the SCA was fun”… that’s a blind eye post. The SCA hasn’t always been fun for some people. We turned a blind eye to things we should have seen. We’ve accepted things we shouldn’t have accepted.

And we’re still doing it.

Actions like diversity statements are a small, first step towards fixing the problems. When we take these steps I expect pushback from racists and homophobes and other problem players because frankly, these steps are aimed at them. But when people complain because their goddamn comfort zone is being effected? No. Just, no.

The SCA, some will claim, is “just a game” and they want to go to events to relax. But the SCA isn’t just a game, it’s a community. And yeah, I guess I am a bit sorry that things are uncomfortable in your community right now. It’s my community too, and it is uncomfortable when you’re made to confront injustices… especially if part of confronting those injustices is being made to realize that you’ve been complicit in them. I know: I’ve had to do it myself in my own life, more than once.

But what we’re doing in our community, right now, is important. The bigots and the bastards and the bad actors, they’re going to fight it because they’re the problem. I’m ready to cope with that. But I’m really getting tired of seeing these distress of the privileged posts by people who just wish it would all go away.

It’s not going away. It can’t go away because if it does, this community dies. In the long run, it dies.

It’s a point I’ve made again and again over the course of this summer, and it’s a point I’m going to keep making: The SCA, fifty-plus years along, is at a critical juncture. We have to decide whether the Society becomes a larger, more inclusive and welcoming community where people are safe, or whether we want it to become a smaller, more insular organization where only certain people are made to feel welcome.

I’ve decided to fight for larger and more inclusive Society for Creative Anachronism. Partly because as a progressive I genuinely care about inclusion, diversity and equity in our community and – let’s be honest – partly because I’m a stubborn bastard who doesn’t want a hobby of fifteen years to go down the tubes due to stupidly self-inflicted barriers to growth. (That’s a real concern, by the way – look at the decline of Civil War reenactment in the USA. They built in barriers – racial barriers, gendered barriers, financial barriers and so forth — and their hobby has declined into such a small niche that it’s in danger of becoming nonexistent.)

Here’s the thing, though: The fight doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Most people in the SCA want the Society to be inclusive and accepting. They want new people to join. They want to retain members and have long-term friendships and have many years of special memories. They want to work together, to belong to something bigger than themselves, to do something important. They want the Dream.

Don’t say “I didn’t see a problem and I just want things to go back to the way they were.” Say “I see how it is and I want things to be the way they always should have been.”

I honestly don’t think saying that is too big a stretch for SCAdians.

 

Lord Fulk Beauxarmes

A Statement of Equity and Justice in the SCA

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In and around everything that’s happening right now, I feel it’s important to bring up a quick blog post regarding a recent event in the SCA Kingdom of Ealdormere.

This past weekend, at their Coronation and as the first act of their reign, Evander MacLachlan and Marion Golightly, Rex et Regina Ealdormeris, directed Ealdormere’s Lawspeaker, Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton, to read out the statement of equity and inclusivity that they had asked her to compose.

These are the virtues of the Kingdom of Ealdormere to which we aspire and strive in thought, word, and deed:

Honour: In all our acts, we strive to be true to the ideals that are the foundation of our Society and to keep our word.

Inclusiveness: We welcome those of all backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, or abilities, and will endeavour to make all spaces open and safe for all.

Kindness: We strive to be generous and considerate, breaking down barriers, drawing strength from our community, rejecting bigotry, combating hate.

Above all, Equity and Justice, respecting the rights of others, giving each person their due in keeping with the laws and customs of Society and Kingdom.

There shall be no place within our halls for those who by their words or actions reject these laws and customs, regardless of rank or status. We who here witness this document hold ourselves to this pledge.

This document shall not be sealed and is not complete. This strength of unity shall ever increase in perpetuity.”

King Evander and Queen Marion removed their crowns to sign the document, stating that they believed they needed to sign it as people and members of the Kingdom, not just as the Crown. They and urged all the people of Ealdormere to follow their example and do likewise – no titles, no ranks, just signatures. The document will be carried to various events throughout Their Majesty’s reign so that all who support this pledge can sign it.

I, of course, signed it as soon as I was able. I’m still about a third of the way down the page.

I’m proud that my Kingdom has adopted this statement. I’m proud that our new King and Queen made it the very first act of their very first reign. I’m very proud of my friend, Magistra Nicolaa, who wrote it and I’m proud that she contacted me (among others) for feedback and suggestions while she wrote it. I’m proud that the vast majority of the people of Ealdormere have taken it to heart.

After a summer of upheaval, I think a lot of progressive people in the Society are starting to feel fatigue around the changes that have been made and still need to be made (and I’ve no doubt the the constant shit-blizzard of real-world craziness flooding the media is not helping that sense of fatigue.) But – and I think we all need to remind ourselves of this occasionally – we are winning. We are making the changes that need to be made, and we’re reinventing the SCA as an inclusive and welcoming space.  However small the gains feel sometimes, however tiring it is to keep working for them, we are winning, I truly believe it.

Adopting a statement of inclusivity like this is an important step for our Kingdom, and one which I hope serves as an example to other Kingdoms in our Society. Yes, it’s only a single step, but it’s an important one and the SCA as a whole has been making more and more of these steps recently. The key now is to continue our momentum; the next step must be to ensure that the SCA is not only a welcoming space, but a safe one for all players, especially women and minorities.

The work’s not over, friends, but we’re making progress.
Lord Fulk Beauxarmes
Kingdom of Ealdormere

On Cookies

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This has been building up for a while and after a flurry of messages this morning I need to say it: First, I understand that my writing over the course of the summer has upset some people in the SCA. Yes, I understand that many of those people are in my own Kingdom. And yes, I even understand that a few of our local folks are extremely upset. It has been brought to my attention by a number of people that things are being said about me behind my back.

Look: If someone is saying something about me (or anybody) that causes you concern about harassment or safety, take it to your Seneschal or the Kingdom Lawspeaker (if you’re in Ealdormere) with proof if possible. If it’s not at the level where you feel you can do that, then it’s just talk and it says a great deal more about the person doing the talking than the person they’re talking about.

Either way, I wish people would stop passing this stuff along to me. If people are being nasty about me I honestly can’t do anything about it and frankly I’d rather not know. While I appreciate that folks want to give me the heads-up, when stuff comes back to me second- or third-hand there’s very little I can do but get stressed-out about it. I’ve known for a while that my writing might have consequences for me within the Society; I keep writing anyway. You may draw your own conclusions regarding the number of fucks that I’ve chosen to give.

Second, one of the things that keeps being passed along to me is that, due to the enmity I have apparently amassed, certain people are planning to block me from being elevated to a peerage or a polling order from here on. My response to that notion is simple: Yeah, right.

Not that I disbelieve the intent… I just don’t believe that it can be carried out. Nobody has enough power to override an entire polling order or peerage except the Crown… and since a reign only lasts half a year they are by definition transitory. The opposition of a single – or even a handful – of members of an Order isn’t sufficient to indefinitely prevent the elevation of a worthy individual. It can delay it, certainly, but not forever; You’d need a very large number of people determined to keep someone out. And frankly, if I’d managed to aggravate the majority of an Order, then I doubt I’d be comfortable taking a place in their ranks anyway.

And even more frankly – if the majority of an Order thinks you’re not worthy… then maybe it’s time to take a hard look at yourself and ask whether it’s the Order that’s the problem.

Third, this is all sort of theoretical anyway. I’m not on anybody’s radar for acceptance into a polling order, much less a Peerage, for a very simple reason: I haven’t earned it. I’m not going to be getting any award anytime soon and that’s simply not due to anyone’s hostility, it’s because I took a 30-month hiatus from the SCA and I’m just getting back into it this summer. Sure, I’ve written some stuff that’s gotten traction, but nobody’s ever been Pelicanned for blog posting. My crafting skills are journeyman-competent but definitely insufficient for an A&S award and I haven’t picked up a sword for anything other than practice in four years. I’ve already got an AoA and a Maiden’s Heart (Ealdormere’s award-level service recognition) and that’s fair, but I haven’t contributed enough recently to deserve anything new.

So the notion that I’d somehow be prevented from receiving future awards… doesn’t really matter to me. I honestly haven’t earned anything lately, and by the time I do earn something, I’m sure the fuss will have died down. If it hasn’t, or if people are holding grudges of sufficient weight that they’d act dishonourably… once again, that’s on them, not me.

There’s a whole mentality in the SCA regarding awards that I’ve thought a lot about. I call it “Cookies.” Do a thing, get a cookie. Awards and ranks and titles and so on… they’re fun, sure, and it’s nice to be appreciated but if you’re only doing something to get the cookie, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to care deeply about the cookies. I was in the SCA for almost a decade before I got my Award of Arms, and it used to upset me like you wouldn’t believe when newer people would be called up in court and get their AoA before me.

My being upset, I have to clarify, wasn’t so much that I wasn’t receiving awards, it was because I felt my contributions weren’t being recognized, especially when other people who hadn’t necessarily contributed at the same level were receiving recognition that I hadn’t. I felt like I wasn’t being seen. That’s frustrating, not just for me, but for anyone.

But of course I eventually received my AoA and a number of people commented that they couldn’t believe I hadn’t gotten it before that. The issue wasn’t that people didn’t think I deserved it, it’s that they’d assumed I already had it.  Of course, a friend of mine had the exact opposite problem – over the course of about fifteen years he received an Award of Arms three or four separate times. I suspect that says more about the early SCA’s lack of record-keeping as much as anything else. (For the record, my friend is a Laurel now, and rightly so.)

As a quick aside – the solution to people not getting the awards they deserve is simply to be active in recommending people for awards, regardless of who you are or what rank you’ve achieved in the Society. All Kingdoms have an online form for submitting award recommendations. Find yours, bookmark it, and use it often. There’s never any end to the deserving people in our ranks, so do your bit to address the backlog.

I’ve been in the SCA for fifteen years now. I’ve been active, I’ve served in several officer positions, I’ve helped organize events, I’ve learned to fight and helped teach others, helped newcomers get oriented, and run armouring workshops in my own home. I’ve done demos and promotions, I’ve organized and helped run deeds of arms, I’ve written and published a number of articles, and obviously I write this blog.

In fifteen years of since I joined the SCA, I’ve gotten two Kingdom level awards and a Baronial recognition. If I were doing things for the cookies, then it could be argued that I’m not doing it right.

I’m not doing it for the cookies.

Or rather, I’m not doing it for those cookies. The cookies I value don’t come with a scroll suitable for framing and a title I can use at Court. They don’t have a coronet or a medallion. They don’t appear the Order of Precedence. They’re far, far more precious than that.

In fifteen years, I’ve made more friendships than I can count. I’ve made memories. I’ve done amazing things. I’ve eaten amazing food. I’ve brewed terrible mead. I’ve dug holes and erected tents and fired pottery and loosed siege weapons. I’ve fought alongside and against and on one notable occasion up-and-over some of the great legends of the SCA’s list field. I’ve had astonishing experiences and read countless books and oh, by the way, I met and married an absolutely amazing person and I’ve carried her favour proudly on the list field for almost a decade.

And since I started this summer’s crazy ride by publishing Confronting Racism In The SCA (lo those many weeks ago in mid-August) I’ve made dozens of new friends. I’ve received numerous invitations to camp with various groups at Pennsic next year. I’ve had complete strangers send me messages telling me how much my writing has touched them. I’ve had people all over the world tell me that if I’m ever in their neck of the woods they’d love to host me at an event, give me crash space, and hang out. I’ve had a Laurel offer to take me on as their apprentice (which we still need to sit down and talk about.) I’ve had Kingdom officers from around the world solicit my opinions on changes to laws and policies. I’ve literally lost track of the number of free drinks people have offered to buy me… and anyone who knows me knows that’s got to be a lot of drinks; my alcohol-tracking ability is keenly developed.  I’ve had people whom I profoundly respect go out of their way to let me know how much they respect and care about me. I have helped make change.

People know who I am. They read my writing. Complete strangers recognize my arms. I have word-fame in my chosen Society and the respect of fine people. Against all that, what weight shall we place on a scroll and a title?

So don’t bother to tell me that so-and-so said this, or what that-guy thinks, or even what those-people threatened.  Report the threats for everyone’s safety, sure, but where I’m at and where I want to be… I’m getting the cookies that matter to me. And not to brag, but I’m getting a lot of them these days. And nobody can ever take those cookies away from me or threaten to blacklist me from receiving more of them in the future.

The rewards of the Society for Creative Anachronism that I’ve decided to value… well, I’ve already got them.

Fulk Beauxarmes