A tale of USC — Major, Ali Aintrazi, SCG Syracuse, and myself.

Recently Ali Aintrazi posted an apology of sorts. The TL:DR? At SCG Syracuse on August 13th, Ali Aintrazi walked up to me while I was playing EDH and asked if he could cop a feel. His post addresses his actions, how they were hurtful, and what Magic spaces should be. Personally, I’m a little unsatisfied with his post. It has a lot of “what” and very little “why.” So, I’m going to tell my story. I’m going to talk about what the take away should be. And I’m going to try to move past a fairly upsetting experience.

On August 12th, I decided it be a great idea to just go to a Magic event. The plan for the event was rather simple. Hang out with judge friends, play EDH, and do some content for Splyce.gg. Saturday was the actual day of the event and I figured I’d start it off by talking to players about potential interviews, pay attention to feature matches, and formulate my articles that way. In the mean time, I was focused on getting my EDH habit sated. After scrubbing out of two EDH pods, I decided that I was done paying money to play Magic. I looked for a group to sling some cards with and found a pretty chill group that were friends with a judge I had met the week prior.

It is then that things got interesting. While in the midst of a game, a male with curly-ish black hair, glasses, and sporting a TCG Player shirt walks up to me. I don’t think I particularly processed him but I heard what he said. “Hey, can I cop a feel.” He said this as he made hand gestures as if he was groping a pair of breasts. This person, as I would find out later, was Ali Aintrazi. Let’s pause for a second.

I don’t know Ali Aintrazi. I doubt he knows me. We’re not friends. We’re not acquaintances. Ali was not sitting next to us. He wasn’t part of a conversation that was being had. Ali walked over, didn’t introduce himself, and just asked “can I cop a feel.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t pass. I don’t have some delusion that I look like a normative cisgender female. I accept this. And as someone who also identifies as genderqueer it is not something I am terribly concerned with. I don’t think Ali came up to me because he thought I was a cisgender woman. He didn’t say it generally to the table; which had two other women at it. No, he said it to me. I’m going to spell this out plainly.

Ali Aintrazi did not come up to me because he thought he was making a lewd comment to large breasted woman. Ali Aintrazi came up to me because he thought I was a male wearing a a stuffed bra as a joke. A joke he was joining in on. Let’s go back to the story though.

I asked the players at the table to watch my stuff. I immediately got up and walked to the nearest judge. Unfortunately, because we were in the side events area, the judge didn’t really have the bandwidth. So, I walked up to Casey Brefka: the head judge of the SCG Syracuse Open. I explained to him what happened. He said he would take care of the situation. As a judge myself, I knew that this was a case of USC: Major. Of course, since I was not a judge on staff, I have no input in the investigation or the ruling or the penalty. At some point Patrick Vorbroker, SCG Organized Play Representative, became involved.

I remember being asked to walk over to where Casey, Patrick, and Ali was. Patrick introduced himself and told me that Ali would be receiving USC: Major and would be receiving a match loss. However, because Ali seemed remorseful and it was really just a joke gone wrong he would not be asked to leave the venue. I was a little baffled and I expressed my feeling. I could not understand how a player who walked up and asked to grope another player would be allowed to stay in the venue. I expressed that I believed that Ali targeted me because I was Trans, whether he thought so or not. That what Ali had done to me was an act of transphobia and I felt very uncomfortable being in the venue. Patrick assured me that Ali was not being transphobic. That it was an ill thought out joke; nothing more. Ali would not be asked to leave the venue.

At this moment, I realized I was going to have to put my foot down. I had no real personal stake in being at SCG Syracuse. But as a customer, I do have the ability to take my business elsewhere. “If he isn’t being removed from the venue, I guess I’m going to have to leave for the weekend. I’m not going to stay at a venue I feel unsafe in,” I said to Patrick. His response? “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

I was floored. I couldn’t believe what I was being told. Casey turned around and expressed his opinion. He agreed that Ali did deserve the USC:Major, that it didn’t need to be upgraded to a DQ, but that he didn’t agree that Ali shouldn’t be removed from the venue. Patrick told me he was going to discuss it with Kali Anderson. I was asked to wait by the stage. Casey, Kali, and Patrick were on the stage discussing the matter. What felt like an hour was actually probably no more than twenty minutes. Kali came off the stage to explain it was a difficult decision but in the end, Ali would be asked to leave the venue. He would be allowed to come back the next day. I decided not to push my luck and ask for him to be banned from the venue entirely.

Patrick and Casey went to tell Ali the news. When Casey returned, he told me that Ali wanted to express his apologies. I told Casey that it was easy to be sorry when you are receiving a Match Loss and being ejected from a venue. His opportunity to apologize had long since passed.

Some of you may think I was being overly harsh towards Ali. That I was not giving him a fair shot. Let me be clear. As the victim in the matter I don’t owe Ali anything. I don’t have to accept his apology. I do not have to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t have to be someone’s teachable moment.

That is something people seem to never appreciate. It comes from a place of privilege; this concept that instead of being offended I should look at where a person is coming from and help them learn from it. Let me say this: you don’t get to hurt someone then expect them to teach you why what you did was hurtful and wrong. That is not their responsibility. Nor is it really my responsibility to Ali. But that’s what ended up happening anyway. I guess privilege wins out.

Sometime on Sunday or Monday I shared this tweet with Ali. This lead to Ali DM’ing me on Twitter. Here is the conversation.

I’ve been told I was too harsh on Ali. I’ve also been told that I said what was needed to be said. I ended up not pursuing my path of speaking to TCG Player. The compromise that Ali and I came to was that he would write an article about the incident. If TCG Player would not take it, he would look at other mediums to post it. After reading Ali’s post I am a little disappointed and wish I had spoke to TCG Player. Even with the article agreement, I should have presented the situation to TCG Player and let them make a decision.

You may be wondering why I am not happy with Ali’s choice to post a Facebook status. For one, the reach. At maximum, the projected reach of Ali’s Facebook status is roughly 5,000. This is without sharing and based on a few things I know about Facebook algorithms. That’s his Twitter reach alone. Two, the ease of sharing. Twitter allows for quick sharing features with retweets. Sharing on Facebook is a little more daunting. Finally, the message.

“But Amanda, he admitted he was wrong and he apologized for it. What more do you want?” I’ll be honest. The thing that irks me the most is that in posting it to Facebook he gets to be in an echo chamber of people who are going to commend him for his bravery. After all, here is a man who made a mistake and learned from it. He’s even apologizing for it. Wow, such growth. Much brave. I would like to unpack his post if you don’t mind.

Ali mentions my identity as a Trans person as a throwaway line. The post starts like this. “ A couple weekends ago I sexually harassed a woman I didn’t know by jokingly asking her if I could ‘cop a feel.’ This happened at a Magic tournament.” In this version of the event, Ali gets to make it seem like he made a lewd joke and went terribly wrong. “ I’m sorry because what I did wasn’t just hurtful to trans women, like the woman I harassed, but to all women.” This appears towards the end of his post. Here, he gets to let his audience define how much I may have passed. Did the victim reveal she was Trans because she was offended? Did Ali get cat fished? The situation gets to be played off as misogynistic, not transphobic.

What do I mean by that? Simple. Ali does not go into his thought process as to why he thought the joke of “can I cop a feel” would be remotely acceptable. He doesn’t go into detail about why he came up to me and not some other woman. He is ashamed of his actions, of his own personal bias, and he does not confront it. That should’ve been the takeaway. That Ali had made an assumption, that I was a cross dressing male as a joke, and that that assumption was not only rude and hurtful but damaging and came with consequences.

In Ali’s post, there is no conversation to be had. Sure, there are claims in the comments that “this brings up an interesting conversation for people to discuss.” But, in all honesty, what does Ali really do? Does he ask his Facebook friends and followers to help him brainstorm means to make spaces both inclusive and safe? Does he urge them to share this post so that others may learn? Does he ask for people to point him in the direction of resources so that he may educate himself and in turn, allow other people to be educated as well? No. He doesn’t. Instead, he gives out platitudes.

“We need to focus on creating inclusive, safe spaces for all players/judges/fans of the game — but especially those who are marginalized. As someone who has himself experienced discrimination, my behavior was inexcusable. I don’t expect you to trust me, but I will make every attempt to make sure my actions moving forward are those of an ally. If I hear people making transphobic, sexist, or racist comments, jokes or not, I will educate them on why what they are doing is wrong and hurtful and how it affects people and makes them feel.”

This is a platitude. It is not something that we haven’t heard before. It doesn’t give us real actionable solutions. It just sounds nice. And we all love things that sound nice. I’ve struggled for ways to make the Magic community, especially in the Judge sphere and in an organized play sense, a more inclusive and safe place for all players. I have given judge seminars at multiple judge conferences. I’ve spoken to multiple TOs about what they can do with their store policies. I’ve had talks with WotC organized play. These aren’t humble brags. I thought about what the Magic community was missing and tried to fill in those holes. I am not expecting Ali to know how to fix things. But I’d rather hear he admit this. I’d rather it not be about the jokes. There is much more to making Magic spaces inclusive and safe than just squashing inappropriate jokes. And while I appreciate Ali’s one man crusade; it is short sighted and limited.

That’s all I really have to say on the matter. I don’t know what Ali should be doing. I hope he continues to educate himself. I hope that he educates others. And I hope that my efforts will eventually mean we won’t have this conversation anymore.

Remember to smile, laugh, and sling some cardstock.

She/They: Diversity & Inclusion Manager @WeAreEnthusiast/ @TransLifeline Gaming Ambassador / @AnyKeyOrg Affiliate/ Host of #TheBlackEsportsForum

She/They: Diversity & Inclusion Manager @WeAreEnthusiast/ @TransLifeline Gaming Ambassador / @AnyKeyOrg Affiliate/ Host of #TheBlackEsportsForum