From left to right: moderator Adam Koebel, 8BitDylan, Ferociously Steph, Distracted Elf, UGRDanny and Anne Munition. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.
Anyone in downtown Long Beach this weekend no doubt saw the sea of purple descending on the city streets, eventually revealing themselves to be gamers of all walks of life in town for one thing: TwitchCon.
While the free video streaming service made sure to cater to its diverse crowd by providing everything from cool swag, food trucks, lounge areas filled with bean bags, an arcade, artwork for sale and screens everywhere for those full-time streamers needing to go live to entertain their subscribers, nothing quite possibly showed its serious investment in Twitch affiliates and partners (and the casual user) than their array of panel topics.
Panels ranged from “Streaming with Disabilities” to “How to Stream More with a Full-Time Job” to “Social Responsibility for Influencers” and even the delicate subject of “Being Political on Twitch.” These panels didn’t just touch on heavy, important issues but they were well attended, provoked thoughtful Q&A’s from audience members and featured panelists who tried their best to stay after each panel to answer any lingering questions.
During the hourlong session of “The Gayest Panel at TwitchCon,” moderator Adam Koebel led a panel of five LGBT+ streamers in a discussion on their experiences of what it’s like being “a little rainbow in a big purple world.”
Panelists included 8BitDylan, Ferociously Steph, Distracted Elf, UGRDanny and Anne Munition.
All acknowledged that as “out” streamers, their chats were prone to touch on heavy topics from curious subscribers or the inevitable trolls but at the end of the day they said they don’t shy away from such conversations if it means they can become teachable moments.
“I try to educate people on trans issues all the time,” said Ferociously Steph, who identified as a trans woman. “The more people we reach the easier it is for everybody.”
“As public figures we have to talk about it,” Distracted Elf, also a trans woman, added. “Exposure makes it easier for all trans people at the end of the day.”
Panelists also acknowledged that having intersectional identities can also further exacerbate bullying.
Anne Munition, a gay Asian streamer (and very talented gamer, according to her peers), said her abilities would sometimes be called into question for being a female gamer and she would constantly field questions of whether she is single or straight—depending on her outfits of the day.
UGRDanny, a gay African American streamer, admitted that he sometimes would be harassed for his race first.
“When I started streaming I didn’t see any African American who was gay,” UGR Danny said. “That’s why it’s important to do panels.”
When asked about brand capitalism, and if being an out LGBT+ streamer has affected their business, all panelists agreed that it did.
“Yes, but those are business opportunities you don't want in the first place,” said 8BitDylan, to which every panelist agreed. “It’s a bad business practice for [them] to not accept people for their identity.”
Anne Munition, on the other hand, admitted that not being a typical straight white male made her “brand safe” and allowed her to cash in on her identity.
“I've had a lot of opportunities because of the diversity checkboxes I fill,” Anne Minution said.
Audience members also offered up thought-provoking questions, including what to do if someone online tells you they are suicidal.
“It’s important to remind yourself, while you want to help and be there for them, you're not a professional and when you take that on it's tough,” Distracted Elf said. “It's about providing them with resources.”
Another audience member asked how straight white men, with the power they hold, can be more proactive on social media.
“People can respect your opinion first,” noted Anne Munition. “As a white dude you have a lot of power to help disenfranchised people.”
“Do it always, but you have to read the room, there is a time and a place,” said Koebel, who also quoted fellow Canadian Neil Peart with this line: “And the men who hold high places must be the ones who start to mold a new reality closer to the heart.”