We recently spoke with Ray and had a 101 lesson in the RPG (roleplaying game) world. Ray runs a podcast called 'insert quest here' interviewing RPG game designers around the world and works as an Artist (of MANY platforms).
Ray uses she/they pronouns interchangeably as you will learn why in this interview! Ray used to live in Awabakal country (Lake Macquarie, NSW) but they are now traveling around Australia by themselves in what she affectionately calls her spaceship – a van converted into a live-in-studio. **(I was treated to a tour of this spaceship via zoom, and I can confirm, it's QUITE the spaceship studio)!!
Ray, tell us a bit about how you found yourself travelling through time in your spaceship?
I am about to turn 30 and I have ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which I have been living with and diagnosed since my early teens. The way that I have learned to be productive is to utilize task switching. Rather than ‘normal’ productivity, with ADHD it is very difficult to focus on one task and it is more productive to switch between tasks – I have hundreds of projects going at once. Maybe 40 writing projects in development at the moment, woodworking projects, model-makings, and the van (aka spaceship) is an ongoing project in which I just installed new lighting. When you have ADHD you are often really productive but it doesn’t look that way when you have many things happening at once. When I'm given the freedom to control my own time, I can be surprisingly effective. I don’t do things I’m not interested in anymore, which helps.
So tell us a bit about your journey in the queer world?
I categorize my identity as bisexual, gender fluid, trans, non-binary, and polyamorous. Polyamory is the newest one but I find the gender-fluid aspect hardest to navigate at times. It’s hard to feel that your gender fluidity is being acknowledged by other people. My Gender Mood (as I describe it), can change moment to moment and other times it’s stable for days or months at a time. It’s not just about the physical expression of gender.
"There is no world that can keep up with my Gender Mood. I am not a Shape Shifting Slime Monster that can reconstruct my body at will. "
I have always felt like my bisexuality (which I realized at about 12 years old) didn’t feel that strange. However, when I finished high school, I felt really out of place in queer spaces. It’s a common experience for bisexual folk. However, I also felt alienated in straight spaces.
There is a common narrative thread in Trans Media/Trans Identity in the way we communicate trans experience to wider audiences. The thread of ‘I always felt this way' and it may be true for a lot of people. But as a gender-fluid trans person – that is not true to my story at all. I wasn’t born like this, I didn’t always feel that way.
As I came into more knowledge about gender identity, I came into being gender fluid. I see it as a shifting project. My gender is always changing and being developed. In the same way that my sexuality is, my gender identity is in flux, my entire personal construct is also in flux. I often find the ‘born this way’ narrative alienating personally. I think it can exclude people who may change their gender identity and feel a connection to the trans community, or feel that they can’t because they didn’t always ‘feel this way’. There is more discussion happening around this. I think it is entirely possible for your gender and sexuality to change. It's fluid. None of these things can be forced.
Have you experienced any homophobia/transphobia along the way?
One of my biggest experiences of homophobia – I’d been out to my family since mid-high school, and when I was 26 I got a boyfriend for the first time. I grew up as a man. My mum saw that I had a boyfriend and said ‘you’re changing so much for this boy’. It hurt so much. That she hadn’t seen me my whole life, had misread the narrative of my life. It was wild to me, that she had tried to make me change so many times through my life and then had commented that I was changing for another person. Rather than that, I was changing for myself coincidentally during the same time as having a boyfriend. I’d been living in poverty for a while, and my mother would help me buy food. The wedge grew wider and I became more independent. She showed disrespect towards my partners and me. She didn’t validate my feelings and tried to pretend nothing had happened to try to make amends. Which is really hard. But these are my hardest moments, I haven’t had to deal with much institutional discrimination but family antagonism. I have always felt like my family wasn't my family but rather obligations. Whereas my relationships with my friends and partners have felt way more important to me, I’m far more emotionally invested in them. We support one another and don't use each other.
Would you call them your chosen family?
Indeed. Although I feel weird about using the term and the negative connotation of the word ‘family’. That’s my own personal issue associating family with toxic possessiveness. Like when we talk about community, in Australia I think we often mean Locality. A community isn’t just where you live and being near to one another. A community is supportive. Newcastle (Awabakal & Worimi country) – has a large queer community, but I didn’t necessarily feel connected to them. I feel more connected to Adelaide and Melbourne and Seattle communities – usually from writers workshops or the role-playing industry. The internet is good for this.
So you obviously meet a lot of people online through your job?
I do. As a Podcaster, I am tangential to the gaming world. I’ve expanded my interviews and talk to a lot of game designers. Most are in USA and Australia. But I’m trying to expand on that. I’ve talked to people in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore. My podcast is called insert quest here. Through that, it’s been great learning the ways that role-playing games and communities around them are different around the world, and the ways that we are all approaching the practice of making games differently. Like, what took people from playing a game to making a game and the ways people get to that point are so different. It’s wild the different paths people take. I guess that’s comparable with the different paths people take in their journey with their gender and/or sexuality.
Do you feel as though your ADHD and journey with your identity are in any way entwined?
I was diagnosed in the early 2000s with ADHD and went through treatment back then, whereas someone I spoke to yesterday who’s just recently been diagnosed is going through current treatment and it is so different. With ADHD, you can get stuck in the past in what you have done, what you could have done better, and you can’t break out of this space. It can be quite mentally painful, but it also allows me to be more introspective. It might be easier to switch out of that thinking if you aren’t ADHD, whereas it may have forced me to be more introspective. For a lot of people, they have never been forced to be introspective about their gender and have just accepted ‘this is what I am’ but what if you DID think about it. For some, they may then look at their gender, and come back to the same place. But at least it was chosen. Self-chosen definitions are so much more powerful. Everyone is so unique and different. We aren’t even the same moment to moment. I’m not even the same person I was when I started this interview.
Is the RPG world empowering for trans folk?
I publish a lot of my games on a platform called itch.io. It was developed for game developers to publish without having to go through large companies. It’s a digital storefront accessible to more people, smaller teams, and people with less money. The benefit of Itch is you can dictate how much of a profit Itch takes, which is very different to the traditional models. Some of them take a huge cut of profits. Most game designers for RPG, have a presence on Itch.
Itch is a place for Queer Game Developers to share their content. It’s not exclusive to Queers, but there is way more queer content there than other spaces. Other platforms are concerned about their ‘image’ and cut out a lot of queer content and thus Itch focusing on supporting artists mixed with the low costs has made it such a great place for Queer Game Developers. The artists have the freedom to post whatever you want so there is a diverse queer range and the artists are so supportive of one another, it is more accessible to other marginalized communities as well.
There a lot more people of color posting on there. The Philippines is a country where game designers are unable to access Kickstarter, so sites like itch.io give people like this a platform who have traditionally been unfairly shut out of game publishing platforms. Lots of creators on Itch create free or discounted copies of the games so people who need financial assistance can still access games. For example in my store, every time someone buys a game on my site, it generates a community copy that anyone can claim with no questions asked.
There are great community initiatives, like creating bundles of RPGs to raise money for racial injustice, gender reassignment surgeries, all sorts of things. The bundle raising money during Black Lives Matter to fight racial injustice raised about $8 million dollars. At the moment, they’re doing one to raise money for aid and support in Palestine. It is a huge platform.
That really is amazing. Where can people find your games on Itch or your podcasts?
You can find me talking about games and all my other hobbies on Twitter
You can find my games on my itch store.