Advocacy for LGBT acceptance has been steadily increasing throughout the past decade. Events such as the Community Pride Parade seem to reinforce the notion that general attitudes toward gay individuals have improved significantly. Contrary to this, my experience in the army community for the past twelve years may indicate otherwise.
Viewer Discretion: The following post contains references and examples of homophobia, transphobia and bigotry towards marginalized identities.
Background (2005 – 2017)
The army community is fortunate to have, at least on the surface, moved on from the toxicity of past years. Speaking as a person who first joined armies in 2011, the old XAT army chatrooms were a cesspool. They frequently served as a breeding ground for extreme language and behaviour that would leave many speechless. Such activity was widely normalized in most corners of the community. A small number of armies, such as the Army of Club Penguin, gained a reputation for their considerable chat moderation. The Light Troops, Pirates, and a vast portion of armies permitted behaviour that would be considered problematic by today’s standards. The internet was still in a “wild west phase” of sorts.
As someone who has known about my transgender identity from a young age, I can speak with certainty that the environment of those years was not welcoming. Many individuals may defend themselves by utilizing a “free speech” argument. Though some would claim a majority of the conduct to be in jest and lacking maliciousness, it definitely contributed to a social fabric that discouraged diversity. Club Penguin armies, at the time, was a gaming community dominated by white male teenagers. Women were present but scarcely ever held positions of power. Some individuals were brave enough to be open about their non-heterosexual identities, though they were frequently subjected to targeted harassment. I could not recall a single openly transgender person who maintained notability.
Expressions of disdain towards minorities dwindled gradually, partly due to the mainstream adoption of progressive values within numerous larger countries, including the United States. This is in conjunction with the shift from XAT to Discord, the latter of which emphasises content moderation. As such, the widespread rejection of diversity seemed to come to an end.
Present Day (2018 – 2023)
In June of 2021, Club Penguin army veteran Max planned and hosted the first Community Pride Parade. This has since become a staple of our calendars, with identical events being held in subsequent years. Each parade featured consistently high attendance and a majority of armies present. Within the community’s mainstream, acceptance of diversity is most definitely at a peak. Our differences in background and identity have been recognized as a cornerstone of this online community. Though the iconic pride month parade has received acclaim from many, I’ve found that attitudes toward LGBT individuals have degenerated in many areas.
I can speak from recent experiences that the resurgence of real-life opposition to queer individuals has seeped into our online space. Though bigotry has always manifested in varying degrees within our community, vitriol towards diverse individuals seems to be ever-present. We have passed the days in which open discrimination was the norm, yet many individuals within our own community struggle to feel welcome or accepted. I have personally witnessed numerous recent occasions in which people who identify as LGBT have been berated, ridiculed, or threatened. This conflicts with our supposed consensus of appreciation and tolerance.
Nonetheless, the status of diversity and acceptance within the army community has undoubtedly improved. We should be proud of what we have managed to achieve. The community’s progression towards tolerance should be applauded, though the persistence of degradation of minority groups must be noted.
I do not believe we have truly conquered our malevolent past regarding the treatment of those who are often ostracized. Only recently did a Dark Vikings leader get banned from Club Penguin Army Battleground for targeted harassment towards myself, based on my gender identity. Towards the end of 2019, images of me pre-transition and my previous name were uncovered from social media and spread across the community, before I “came out” publicly. People who identify as gay, transgender, or queer have continued to brunt disdain and aggravation from others. We continuously pat ourselves on the back for our improvements in this regard while overlooking a persistent epidemic.
When saying this, I am not attempting to downplay the considerable achievements that we’ve made. It would be hard to imagine, in the pre-CPPS era, that Pride parades would become a norm within our community. The army community is more diverse than ever, with women and LGBT people occupying many positions of leadership and significance. Despite this, I cannot say in good conscience that there is no work left for us. I witness individuals being bullied out of armies due to their differences, members leaving their servers in disgust during pride processions, and much more. We may not have significant means to control the world around us, but we do within the microcosm of Club Penguin armies. It is for those reasons and many more that I believe Pride to be more important than ever.