Diversity continues to be a hot topic with the Magic player base, and while it is a hot topic, it certainly is not a new one. Members of our community have hoped for and requested diversity in the game they adore and have started to receive appeasement slowly but surely. In the most recent Magic story set on ‘Kaladesh’, Yahenni from the card ‘Yahenni’s Expertise’ is a non-binary Aetherborn philanthropist who is put in a situation to save their own life by extreme means or die, later joining up with the renegades. Also from ‘Kaladesh’ is ‘Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter’, a lesbian woman who is an inventor that rebels against The Consulate after the death of her wife, ultimately assisting Nissa and Chandra Nalaar with their task on her plane. Prior to Oviya we welcomed, ‘Alesha, Who Smiles at Death’ into the multiverse with ‘Fate Reforged’. Her story revealed that she is a transgender woman who proclaims her chosen name proudly as one with her clan, owning her identity and her accomplishments. She points out to others the importance of knowing your identity, being true to yourself, and valuing your worth and talents. On the heels of ‘Fate Reforged’ was ‘Dragons of Tarkir’ which featured Narset as a Planeswalker who experienced sensory overload and found interactions with others taxing and difficult. Doug Beyer confirmed that being on the autism spectrum, neuro-atypical, or neurodivergent could accurately describe Narset. ‘Theros’ gave us the first and hopefully not last appearance of, ‘Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver’, a non-binary Planeswalker who uses fear to their advantage, having previously traveled many planes using their abilities on a voyage of self-discovery before ultimately settling on Theros. In, ‘Consipracy 2’, ‘Kaya, Ghost Assassin’ made her grand entrance and gave black women a smart, fearless, and resourceful representative.
The newest Commander set, Commander 2016, has brought with it, ‘Kyanios and Tiro of Meletis’ a gay interracial male couple who defeated the tyrant Agnomakhos on the plane of Theros. Initially they were feuding rivals who ultimately fell in love and fought together against tyranny. Their flavor text reads, “Look what we fought for. Look what we built together.” For me, this couple means so much to me in these times that we live in. I live in the United States and our recent presidential election brought out the best and the worst in people, and there is so much that could be accomplished if we worked together instead of tearing each other apart. If Kyanios and Tiro can make peace with each other, and with themselves, to band together against oppression, evil, and fear, we can as well. While Theros and the multiverse are fictional places, they can teach us so much about how to learn to be better and show us how to make our universe a more accepting place.
Not long ago, Huey Jensen came out and told our community that he is gay. He stressed that it was so important for him to come out as a visible figure in the community because he recognized, like many of us do, that people in our society (even within our own microcosm) are being oppressed by people in power. We need to take that power back, and be true to ourselves and build with love and understanding instead of destroying with cutting words and poor actions. I believe that fully applies to how we treat each other at FNMs, GPs, and everywhere Magic is played.
While at SCG Columbus, I played adjacent from a player that did not understand my gender pronouns pin, which reads, “My pronouns are They/Them/Their. Example: They have a cool gender.” I explained to him that I was non-binary/gender fluid and that while I present predominately as female, that I do not use female pronouns. You never know how people may respond when you tell them these things, but I try and believe that most people are non-judgmental. After explaining to him what non-binary and gender fluid meant, he was fascinated and thanked me for educating him on the subject. The following week, one of the employees at my shop asked me how to appropriately address people who come in the store that may be non-binary. Back when I indentified as female, I asked my co-host of ‘The Girlfriend Bracket’ Erin Campbell what to do in these situations, and her suggestion was to ask someone how they identify or what their pronouns are; I imparted this same advice to our shop’s employee and they were grateful for the knowledge. These are the types of interactions I always hope to have. So far, I have not openly encountered any type of discrimination while playing Magic, even when I still indentified as female. It comforts me to know that my local community is supportive, but saddens me that not all MtG communities are.
While representation in a trading card game is not important to some players, to others it is everything. I believe I can speak for many players when I say that I had a difficult time when I was growing up and I was confused on where my place was in this world. In the town I grew up in, I was one of perhaps a handful of bi-racial children and I often felt very different due to my darker skin when my classmates were predominantly white. There were times throughout my formative years that I felt like I would never truly feel right anywhere. I remember my mother bought me an American Girl doll named Josefina and while I was not much for playing with dolls, I recall feeling happy that they had created a doll that looked like me and was representative to my heritage as a Mexican person. In this world there are people that are often marginalized, stereotyped, or unwanted within their own communities and a game like Magic, especially with a diverse cast of characters, can offer a much needed escape. Seeing characters that are gay or non-binary, people of color, or female gives us a place to fit in, a place to call home. We are strong and we belong. It is my hope that representation in the game I love will show other players our community is diverse and needs love, acceptance, and support.