Building Community…One Dice at a Time!
As a young queer man, I spent a large portion of my time surrounded by straight friends in high school. One of the activities I remember fondly was playing dungeons and dragons (D&D), but it was never something that the other gay guy in school wanted to do. I recently learned that D&D is an experience that is shared by a number of the queer guys around me.
When you think of ‘Gay Culture’, often the images that spring to mind, rightly or wrongly, are pride parades, circuit dance parties, or gay bars. All of these are fine and well, but these places have been daunting for me. Hidden away are the undercurrents, the less publicly flamboyant, and the shy guys who want to explore themselves and others in spaces that aren’t as crowded or loud.
For me, this is the appeal of Dungeons and Dragons. The essence of tabletop roleplaying games, particularly D&D is a form of collaborative storytelling. Participants create, control and develop characters and with each other, as well as their ‘dungeon master’, the person in ‘control’ of the rules, build a narrative and a cohesive imaginary world.
This appeals to a wide variety of people, both the extrovert and introvert, as demonstrated by the massive popularity of D&D, but for the 2SGBTQ+ community specifically, this serves a deeper cause: it enables queer players the opportunity to explore aspects of their identity in a low-risk environment that we have a level of narrative control over.
Rolling for Backstory…
Enter Max’s Community Maximizer project and why I wanted to create Daddies and Dragons – a 2SGBTQ+ space for Ottawa’s guys into guys into D&D!
On a cool November evening, a dozen guys gathered to start creating characters: within the group we had rangers who are silent observers who track enemies in the wilderness, warlocks who are spellcasters who have made a pact with a powerful being,and barbarians who are big brutes who hit first and ask questions… well… never. Some came from Elvish backgrounds – tall, graceful, wise, others came from dragonblood – proud, green and very scaly. All came with a sense of adventure.
Their task was given by Durnan, the owner, and barkeep at the Yawning Portal, Waterdeep’s most popular gay bar! Mysteriously, several of their drag performers had gone missing over the last few weeks – and the only common factor was that they had all come from the nearby town of Oakhurst. Could our team of adventurers track them down?
The answer was constructed by a group of people who had never met. A group of 2SGBTQ+ guys who knew how to roll the dice and take the chances. A group of guys who, every Tuesday evening, spent their time getting closer to a story they were all writing together.
May the Dice Guide You!
It was exciting for me to see the magic of Dungeons and Dragons in a space dedicated to guys into guys. It’s a magic which is very real: magic borne out of a group who may or may not be found in a circuit party, but who choose to be whoever the hell they want to be in a safe space with each other. For me, watching this group of a dozen guys meet new folk, share their experiences, including their coming out stories, their hopes and plans for the future, and plan to build a social group moving forward was a reward I will cherish. It also helped boost my confidence in my ability to plan social events.
The experience of getting my idea from my head to reality taught me a lot about the need for these encompassing spaces. Organizing a large group was challenging, but in the end, we all came together over our shared joy of the adventure. This wasn’t the first or last queer D&D group, however, it was fun and rewarding to go from being the ONLY gay man to playing a game I enjoy with other guys into guys. Being a Community MAXimizer also helped build my confidence. I’m not always comfortable planning social events. I sometimes feel like an outsider in the gay community because of my interest. However, having folks not only attend AND want to return was exciting.
If anyone feels like their community isn’t heard, isn’t respected, or isn’t celebrated enough in the 2SGBTQ+ Ottawa scene, I would not hesitate to suggest starting a MAXimizer project – the resources, support, and long-lasting relationships you will build are truly wonderful.