June is the time of year when queer people come together to celebrate Pride Month and it’s a great opportunity to raise LGBTQIA+ voices Pull out streamers. The Stonewall riots indirectly ushered in Pride Month and honored the time when the Stonewall Inn was raided by police for LGBT activities in 1969. After the riot, which lasted from June 28 to July 3, a march was organized the next year to celebrate those involved in the riots, eventually leading to June becoming Pride Month in 2000.
The month has since grown into a multimedia effort, paving the way for the future of the LGBTQIA+ community. To the same end, Game Rant runs a series of interviews with queer Twitch streamers like Toph, a cozy-comfortable streamer who recently attended Twitch’s Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. Toph is a versatile Twitch streamer with a focus on Nintendo games, specifically this one animal crossing Series in which he created and posted his own podcast.
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Toph on positivity and offering a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people
Toph has been on Twitch for five years, and before that on YouTube, with the goal of creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people – a place to feel welcome and accepted, with no questions asked. Toph’s channel has been featured on the front page of Twitch, and a streaming career has provided opportunities for him to build a community of like-minded people. Positivity has been an important part of Toph’s platform over the years.
It’s not always easy for queer streamers or content creators to maintain a positive attitude when being open about one’s gender identity or sexuality also means potentially becoming a target. By being openly gay, Toph was able to meet more people and speak more deeply about LGBTQIA+ issues, thereby discovering that he’s also demisexual. However, that openness meant that Toph had to deal with a lot of haters and trolls over the years, but he managed to make something good out of those negative interactions, calling it “teaching moments.”
“I know it will help other people, whether they’re allies or queers, especially young closed-off queers. I want them to see me standing up for myself and being a strong queer person so they know if and when they’re ‘ready to come out’ or if they run into a homophobe or a troll they don’t have to feel bad. You can stand up for yourself and know that you are perfect and normal.”
People who search for LGBTQIA+ streamers and creators online often do so because they want a safe haven where they won’t be attacked or harassed. However, these content creators often have to defend themselves against haters or people with queer-related phobias, which means that being a role model by standing up for yourself is crucial. For Toph, it’s especially important because it means offering queer people something he says he didn’t really have growing up: a platform that doesn’t imply that people feel different from their peers , should not defend themselves.
Toph’s streams are often comfortable in terms of overall mood and content, with animal crossing be a relaxing and warm game. Still, some viewers—often people who find the channel through Twitch activations—can challenge one’s right to free speech. As a result, with many young people following him, Toph feels compelled to become a role model, even though it can be exhausting to deal with the same stereotypes and conversations over and over again.
“I was also on the cover of Twitch for Pride activation and Hispanic Heritage Month. […] The entire time I was on the front page of what should have been a joyous occasion, I ended up having to defend myself and defend my queer identity and community. I was calmly trying to defend my right to exist, and it got to them saying, ‘Why do you gays always have to make everything gay?’”
Toph’s take on Pride Month celebrations and LGBTQIA+ products
The fact that many companies like Xbox are using Pride Month to market their products is nothing new, and Toph knows it well. Pride Month is often raised to sell certain products or rebrand something to cater to LGBTQIA+ people without always acknowledging and celebrating those people throughout the year. That’s what Toph wants for himself and his own community, including allies and those who haven’t come out yet.
The Twitch streamer believes some organizations end up treating LGBTQIA+ people as a commodity without raising awareness of what they believe in; often do not donate anything to charities that do worthwhile work. Queer people often don’t see themselves in everyday products year-round, and it’s only during Pride Month that some of these brands come up with something made just for them. Even then, some international brands are reluctant to go abroad for business reasons. Therefore, the content creator would rather see people be more careful about what they buy before giving money to a pocket-safe company.
“Oreo has this pack for Pride that’s covered in messages from allies. There isn’t a single queer voice on the pack, and it’s for Pride month, but there’s a space on it for allies to write their messages. There is no particular taste, but Lady Gaga can get one. […] I’d rather see action than words on a cookie wrapper.”
When it comes to helping the LGBTQIA+ community, Toph’s first choice will always be representation — and not because he doesn’t care what governments can do to improve themselves, but because representation is vital to queer people. Toph grew up with a passion for JRPGs, mainly because these games are often about marginalized characters with wild differences in the background. While these games aren’t always specifically about human relationships and being queer, there are common themes of racial diversity and inclusion.
One of Toph’s favorite games growing up was Stories of the Symphony, where a human and his half-elven friend are often discriminated against. Another medium Toph likes is the new Netflix show heart stopperwhich offers a great portrayal of men who love men, in a context where bisexuality and exploring one’s own sexuality are not painted in dark or painful hues.
There’s something good about this new generation of media and representation because it’s not just about the “bury your gays” trope, Toph said, and the result is that there are more positive characters to feel represented by.
“When we were kids, there was a lot of queer programming in cartoons. There was this notion of the hyper-feminine female or the effeminate male character, but they were always the bad guys. So I think there’s this weird phenomenon where a lot of queer people like horror movies because we grew up as villains and outcasts, misunderstood. […] I am glad that the representation we are able to cling to today is overwhelmingly positive.”
MORE: Xbox unveils new controller and free game for Pride Month