You asked! Answers to the top 15 FAQs from Inspirational Equality

The Inspirational Equality advocacy group provides answers to some of the most common questions it has received about the proposed amendment to corpora to allow same-gender couples in Royal lists.

1. Is that period?

Yes. Examples of same gender ruling pairs occur in many cultures in period—usually as relatives (brothers, sisters, father-son), sometimes as politically expedient allies (co-consuls of Rome). There are also examples of men martially inspired by other men (Chanson de Roland).

A list of several examples can be found at [the link below, Facebook login required], and a Creative Anachronist collective effort is under way.

2. Won’t same sex ruling pairs diminish the Medieval atmosphere?

What is Medieval atmosphere? Is it about only having male fighters, religious persecution, stinking sewers, and plague rats?—well no, we pick and chose what we want to recreate. So, is it about recreating period practice (see question 1)? Is it about not using sewing machines or coolers? Is it about values such as courtesy, honor, or the Medieval code of chivalric defense of the disenfranchised? The point is, Medieval atmosphere means all sorts of things to all kinds of people, and just because it wasn’t commonly done, doesn’t mean we don’t do it (e.g. women fighting).

So, why do some values like same-gender couples on the thrones seem “obviously” wrong, while values around using modern antibiotics or avoiding religious discrimination seem like no-brainers in the other direction? Possibly because our modern sensibilities make some choices almost invisible to us as modern people, while the issues that are controversial to us in our own cultures, seem controversial in our historical recreation as well.   

We invite the SCA, as an inclusive, honor-based organization, to be as open to reconsidering which modern values we espouse as we are to picking and choosing which Medieval practices we recreate.

3. Is this proposed change about gay rights?

Well yes, and much more. It is about friends fighting for each other, for mothers fighting for their daughters, fighters without romantic partners fighting for a baron or peer who inspires them; it is about a knight choosing a very qualified pelican to stand by her side in the Lists.

This issue is much bigger than gay rights, though. We believe that the fabric of the SCA is damaged when the organization enforces a discriminatory rule, and such injustice hurts us all. In the end, however, though many may benefit from a change, there is no denying that the ones most hurt by the current rules are gay couples. It is heart-breaking to be told you cannot fight for the one you love when everyone else can.

In a group that changes lives through inclusion, how can we live with this one glaring exception?

4. Isn’t just this based on trendy modern politics?

Say that it is—would that be a reason to not support this change? Modern politics reflect the evolving values of our society, and though we in the SCA subscribe to what we find best about Medieval values, the SCA also champions values of fairness and inclusion which reflect a decidedly modern sensibility. Should the SCA resist modern ideas simply because they are modern when those values are also very much in line with the SCA values of honorable treatment of all members?

5. Isn’t the SCA like the Boy Scouts?--people might not like rules that determine who can and can’t participate, but isn’t the SCA at least within its rights to make such rules?

Actually, no. The SCA and the Boy Scouts are fundamentally different in their aims and in the eyes of U.S. law--the Boy Scouts is a private religion-based club, whereas the SCA is an educational public non-profit incorporated under the laws of the state of California. The Boy Scouts is an American organization and need only deal with U.S. law--additionally, it makes no claim to being non-discriminatory. The SCA, on the other hand, is an international organization, operating in many countries with far more stringent protection of civil rights than the U.S. (like Great Britain)--additionally, the SCA has in its bylaws a clause which states it shall abide by the law of the country in which events take place.

6. Would changing corpora force Kingdoms to change their laws if they had a law disallowing same-gender inspirations?

Nope. Not at all. All kingdoms can make whatever laws they want to regarding same-gender couples (as long as they do not contradict modern law)--in fact corpora as it now stands severely limits “King’s Word Is Law” for Crowns who want to allow all couples in Their lists.

The change to corpora may set an example, and we think for that reason it is important, but it is not a mandate.

7. Why change tradition?

Tradition is a tremendously important part of the SCA—it adds shared meaning and emotional resonance to all we do. We believe that the deeply significant act of fighting for one’s inspiration in Royal Lists is one of those traditions that should be accessible to all couples. Consider this: could it be that traditions are traditions because they are shared, not because they are static? We believe the SCA can make new meaningful traditions as we did when we welcomed women onto the field thirty years ago.

If you oppose this rule, ask yourself this—is your need to preserve a certain version of tradition important enough to categorically exclude a group of couples from that part of participating in The Dream?

8. Who does this change hurt?

We fully acknowledge that this change causes a kind of loss to everyone who values a certain image of a male and female pair of rulers on the throne. It may cause discomfort to those who think of inspiration as primarily a romantic relationship and do not feel comfortable with gay partnership. Without any sarcasm, we acknowledge that this change is a lot to ask. We ask for the change anyway because NOT changing the rule causes very significant loss to those couples who wish to enter Royal lists and are barred. We ask it because we believe that the SCA, in the spirit of the chivalric value which says it is the duty of the strong to protect the disenfranchised, would rather cause some discomfort and loss to many, rather than grave loss to a few.  

9. How would this rule change affect me?

If you value inclusion, you can feel proud that our organization has taken a stand for what is right.

On the other hand, even if you don’t much like the rule change, you will probably notice very little difference. Of the small percentage of fighters who may chose a same gender inspiration, very few are Crown contender caliber at this point, but for the sake of argument, let’s say the percentage of same gender couples in crown lists is the same as in the general population. (This is unlikely for many reasons—such as the way the heteronormative nature of SCA combat creates a bit of a disincentive for gay fighters.) However, even if 10% of fighters entering crown are same-gender couples, even if same-gender couples are proportionally represented all the way to the top of the standings, still only one in ten winners would be same-gender. In two-reign-per-year kingdoms, that’s one same-gender couple every five years. In actuality, the numbers are likely far lower--given all the other issues openly gay people face both within and beyond the SCA, it is even possible that non-gay same-gender partnerships in Crown Lists may take the lead.

The biggest difference the average SCAdian will see will be that same-gender couples will be allowed to enter Crown tourneys--same gender victors are unlikely anytime soon. Change takes time—for example, women have been fighting for three decades, and you can count the number of Queen-in-her-own-right reigns on one hand. In other words—the SCA can do the right thing here now, but pretty much rely on having many years to get used to the idea before any same gender couples actually rule.

10. Won’t this lead to a slippery slope where we start allowing poly marriage groups or people fighting for their pet?

This is a movement to allow same gender couples to enter Royal Lists because we think such a rule change follows the Medieval values of justice, honor, and the chivalric defense of the disenfranchised, as well as because it reflects current modern political sensibility.

Poly family groups are a similar disenfranchised group, but they are not the focus of this movement, and they are only recently the focus of modern political movements. If there is an SCA movement that wants to push for inclusion of poly family groups, they will probably need to go through the same process of doing historical research, gathering support of the populace, and appealing to the board for a rule change. Perhaps an advocacy group will take that on, but that is not the horse we have in this race.

Pets and children will likely never be allowed because the Board has made it clear that Rulers need to be able to legally sign contracts.

11. If you are really for equality, shouldn’t you be arguing for the rights of polyamorous families? You’re not, so you aren’t really for equality, are you?

(See question 10 above) Saying we shouldn't use the word "equality" because we don't champion every single kind of equality would be like saying SCA shouldn't use "anachronism" because it doesn't recreate every single possible anachronism. We believe asking for equal access to Crown Lists for same-gender couples is an obvious issue of equality.

12. Won’t two hot fighters team up to double their chances?

Ask them :). The dukes don’t seem to take too kindly to this automatic assumption that the best fighters will be tempted to cheat—something about it being dishonorable to think they could win some other way than their own merits. Besides, if it did happen, if there really was cheating of this caliber that wasn’t taken care of by peer pressure and self-policing, the King can always step in at any time and oust anyone from the tourney, no explanation needed.

Then there’s the argument that if either one won, neither could enter the tournament for their own succession, so they are both out of the running next time around.

Finally, how is this any different from a “superduke” teaming up with a “superduchess”?

13. Can’t gay fighter couples have one persona of the opposite gender?

Certainly, some people choose to present themselves as a person of the opposite gender, but it is not fair to require it. We don’t put other requirements on entering Crown lists (such as requiring a High Medieval persona because it is based on a tournament-style roughly from the Gothic period).

Essentially, such a request asks certain people to pretend to be what they are not so that other people can feel more comfortable. Is this really the kind of values the SCA should promote? Would you enter crown only if you could do so by pretending, on the field and off, to be someone you were not?

14. Can’t a gay fighter fight for someone other than his or her inspiration?

Of course, and those who participate now do, but this is not a question of what is possible, it is a question of what is fair. It was possible to make African Americans go to separate schools and say they were equal, but it was determined to be not fair. It is technically true to say that the current marriage laws in the U.S. do not discriminate against gay people because all gay people are allowed to marry--as long as they marry a person of the opposite sex. However, because gays cannot marry the person they want to marry, it is not fair. The SCA does not have any other systematic exclusions—we do not ban mixed race or mixed religion couples. What makes this one ban acceptable?

Finally, ask yourself--how would you feel if you were categorically banned from fighting for the person who most inspires you? The person to whom (in some states and countries) you are legally married?

If you are a person who is currently able to fight for your inspiration, are you willing to take a stand to tell someone else they cannot have what you have?

15. How can I let the board know what I think about this issue?

The board wants your comments!

Mail letters to: The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. P.O. Box 360789 Milpitas, CA 95036-0789

Or go to the Board of Directors page on the SCA website where you will find the link: comments@sca.org.

Inspiration is not the same as romance

It occurred to me this morning, after reading this, that I was made a Pelican by a King and Queen who, although opposite genders, were not in any way romantically involved. The Queen had been the high school teacher of the King, and His Majesty was inspired not by romance but by Platonic respect for her wisdom and courtesy. When he reached adulthood, he asked permission to fight for her in Crown Tourney, and won the Crown for her.

Inspiration can be found in many areas, and across many demographic lines.

Justin