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?
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.