While the rest of Nugget Mall was quiet, laughs, conversations and the sounds of video games bounced around one Juneau business.
Saturday, Game On held its first ever Trans Gaming night for transgender people and allies. And more than a dozen people showed up to play multi-player videogames in the video game store’s game rooms.
“I’m just thrilled for people to be authentic and be themselves,” said Margie Thomson. “That’s what drew me in — I don’t really game.”
She’s a facilitator for the transgender support group T-group, and a counselor in private practice and for University of Alaska Southeast.
“It’s just wonderful for people to get together,” she added.
Attendees wore tags with their names and preferred pronouns, held controllers and generally smiled — even during tough Mario Kart races.
Casey Harris, the gender non-binary co-owner of Game On, said that sort of atmosphere is exactly what they and their non-binary partner Emry Harris had in mind when coming up with the idea for the explicitly inclusive game night.
Non-binary people do not identify as male or female and use gender-neutral pronouns.
“We are creating an open and comfortable space for transgender people,” Casey Harris said. “This has been planned for about two years now.”
They said it basically coincided with the idea to have a store with game rooms.
“That’s when we started realizing there wasn’t anybody doing this,” Casey Harris said. “We saw an opportunity to fill a role that nobody else was doing.”
Plus, Casey Harris said many of the people playing games were younger than 21 — too young to go out on a Saturday night — so the event offered something for them to do, too.
Among the youngest people in attendance was 7-year-old ChrisDee Scharen, who was joined by her mom, Victoria Scharen, and her sisters.
“My daughter is transgender,” Victoria Scharen said. “We’re her allies.”
Victoria Scharen said she was glad there was an all-ages, inclusive event in Juneau they could attend.
“We’re here so she can have friends, so she can start having sleep-overs and do normal kid things,” Victoria Scharen said. “Our hope is she’ll get to make some friends and just be her.”
Casey and Emry Harris said they were pleasantly surprised by turnout for the inaugural game night, and the plan is to make the nights a regular occurrence.
“This is great,” Casey Harris said. “It’s excellent to have such a phenomenal turnout. This means so much to us that everyone came out to meet the community and play games and make friends.”
T-Group is a closed support group for safety reasons, but those interested can reach out to SEAGLA or University of Alaska Southeast to be put in touch with Thomson.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.