Social Justice Advocates Handbook: A Guide to Gender Understanding I'm Heading to Cairo

Build Your Own World

by Sam Killermann · 2 comments

in Op-Ed

"Build Your Own World" Comic

Look around you.  Every product, gadget, building, company — every thing — was created by a person who is just like you or me or Uncle Jesse from Full House (kidding — nobody is like Uncle Jesse).  As you walk through your life, you’re surrounded by the accomplishments and influences of individuals of the past and present.  You’re surrounded by a world they built — for you, and everyone around you.

I, for one, am not entirely happy with the world that has been built for me.  I want to live in a world that is socially just, where individuals all have the same access to the good stuff — education, jobs, swedish fish, etc. — regardless of the identities they do or do not possess.  If you’re like me, you’ve likely thought, at some point, something along the lines of I want to make this world a better place to live in.

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But saying that versus doing that is apples to oranges.  So many things get in the way of acting, and we find ourselves constantly adding qualifiers: I want to make this world better… when I have the time, if I was famous, when I have the money,  if I had more energy, if I didn’t spend all my free time watching Full House and thinking of fun ways to pronounced “Uncle Jesse” (my fav: Uhhhhhncle Jesse).

Some of us are better at acting than others, but the qualifier trap is absurdly easy to fall into.  Let me give you an example.

Last week I made a comic explaining how to respond to bigoted language.  When I posted it on our Facebook page, a fan, Eric, asked how to respond “when someone uses non-inclusive or bigoted language online in video games?”  What he was referring to was the rampant use of slurs (homophobic, racist, and otherwise) in online multiplayer games — something anyone who plays can attest to.

My response, abridged, was “that bothers me, too, but it’s not gonna change unless someone does something about it” (I may have thrown a “dude” in there).  The “someone” I was referring to was someone who is more famous than me, has more money than me, or has more time/energy than I do.  Truly, it was anyone but me.

A few hours later I realized how flippantly I dismissed his question and the idea.  I’m happy I caught myself, because I realized that this was not only something I want to change, but also something that is within my scope of abilities and talents to change, and that I shouldn’t just pass it off “someone” to do when I can be that “someone.”

So I spent the next day developing what became Gamers Against Bigotry, which is an org centered around a pledge gamers can sign stating that they will not use bigoted language of any type.  Maybe it’ll help contribute to the solution of the problem, and maybe it won’t, but at least it has a shot now that it’s a thing, and not just a “what if.”

Why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you all of this for a few reasons:

1. I want you to encourage you to build your own world, to not take what was given to you as absolute, and move and shake and dream and create the world you think ought to be.

2. I want you to be extra aware of the qualifier trap that we all fall into, in hopes that you can prevent yourself from falling in and never getting out.  I know you want to make a positive impression on this world before you leave — you wouldn’t visiting my site if you didn’t.

3. I want to remind you that you can make the difference you want to make, but only if you’re willing to put yourself out there and try.  Atwood (one of my fav authors) wrote, “Thrown over a precipice, you fall or else you fly.”  A lot of us are so sure we’ll fall we never try to fly.

4. I want you to sign the pledge to end bigotry in gaming, though it’s mostly the first three– let’s be honest — this one would also be nice :)

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There are so many elegant quotes I could end this with.  Ghandi allegedly said “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Ray Davis said, “Status quos are meant to be broken,” and Ernie said “When I squeeze you, you make noise,” which could have been about his rubber ducky, or it could be a metaphor describing the relationship between cause and effect in social change.

Instead I’ll say this: you don’t have to ask for permission to smile.

Remember that the next time you hear yourself think/say some version of “I wish someone would do something about that.”  You can be the someone who does.

Written by Sam Killermann

Sam is a writer and performer who uses those skills as an ally to advance progress in the realms of LGBT equality and social justice. He tours the country speaking to college students about stereotypes, prejudice, and oppression, and writes for this site when he's at home in Austin, TX.

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