Personal Essay

By Eleanora Alloway

2022 Anne Mackay Scholarship winner Eleanora Alloway

2022 Anne Mackay Scholarship winner Eleanora Alloway of Southold High School.

Roll for initiative.

You stealthily move your way through the halls of a small cottage, and ever so gently creep up the stairs carpeted in an emerald green rug. With a practiced hand you silently tum the brass door handle of a wooden door. Within the dimly-lit room you see a small girl, tucked underneath a rainbow-flowered quilt, pouring over a large tome. Her pale, delicate hands wrapped around the enormous cover, her big brown eyes fighting to stay open. She loses her battle, falling asleep as the book slips from her fingers.

The tome I was reading? My uncle’s original 3E Dungeons and Dragons Players Manual about “The Worlds Greatest Role Playing Game.” I was nine and I was obsessed. I had already been writing stories and screenplays about fantastic worlds and the people who lived in them, and this role playing game gave me just enough structure to spin my own tales as the “Dungeon Master” on a regular basis. I started a tiny club at my local library with the support of my wonderful librarian, Ms. Penny. At first I thought only about the creative aspect of the game, and how it would encourage me to write more. As the years went on, however, my perspective shifted. Quinn was part of the group from the start. He was a joyful player with a flair for role-playing. While some players stuck with just making decisions and rolling the dice to determine the outcome, Quinn enjoyed really delving into the characters he created, adopting accents and personal quirks for each. He also chose to play a woman. As we grew up playing, moving from 5th graders to young adults, Olga, Quinn’s female bard, found herself a male lover, Olin. No one really cared because it was all part of the game. Shortly after that, Quinn himself revealed to our group that he was queer.

I live in a very small, conservative town, allegedly the oldest English settlement on Long Island, and it’s not exactly known for its open minds or willingness to change. It was a huge source of pride for me that Quinn felt safe enough to reveal his true self to our group of 13 year olds, that I had a hand in creating this safe space. I started delving deeper into the lore and legend of my own D&D world of Latharianda, creating diverse societies inspired by the beautiful cultures and identities from all over the world.

Shortly after Quinn came out, one of our female players left the game for a brief hiatus; when they returned he stated they had transitioned during that time. We just started using their new name and preferred pronouns, and kept fighting dragons and beholders. I realized that, I too, had an awakening: as a cis-gender woman, I am a proud ally. I am thrilled that people use one of my favorite activities as a way to escape and enjoy themselves for who they truly are. Having these experiences in my smaller game group has given me the courage to take on the prejudice that is sadly so common in my community and beyond. I hope to continue the fight for equality and acceptance for all.