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Game to Grow helps youth delve into gender identity with Dungeons & Dragons

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Photo courtesy of Game to Grow
Photo courtesy of Game to Grow

Game to Grow (G2G), the Seattle-based nonprofit using the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) for therapeutic group fun, has announced the opening of two game groups specifically formed for Trans, Nonbinary, and gender-questioning youth.

Guilford (l) and Warren (r) — Photos courtesy of Game to Grow  

Leading one group each are "game masters" Arthur Guilford and Tor Warren, who are both Trans and have backgrounds working with youth and playing D&D. Director of Groups Services Michael More said Guilford and Warren led making the new groups a reality, and that he was "grateful and pleased and proud."

Guilford started the process of creating the groups after Texas passed Senate Bill 1646, which defined gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse. "That was a really hard week, day, month — we haven't really finished that. It's still hard," he said. "Part of the way I handle communal grief like that is, 'Let's throw ourselves into a new project.'"

From there, it was a matter of doing research, like consulting with Game to Grow's mental health professionals, but in part because of Warren's earlier work — the formation of the nonprofit's first LGBTQ-specific games group — much of the foundation was already set.

"Starting the LGBT+ group was a thing of like, 'That's where I came from, that's the type of community I can help the most and I know the best,'" Warren said. "And with these Trans groups, it's going to be even more specific to that."

Some readers might wonder how a group with only Trans, Nonbinary, and gender-questioning participants might differ from an LGBT-only group. Warren said that aside from the participants' identities, "I don't really think there will be that many differences."

Warren recounted planning meetings, where he asked, "'Okay, well, should we have different kinds of plots happening? Should we have different kinds of arcs that we're looking for?' Not really. We're just trying to build a group of kids who are questioning their gender, who feel comfortable to do that."

That doesn't mean themes of gender exploration are off-limits, of course. D&D at its best, and as G2G runs it, is player driven, meaning that building a campaign's setting, story, tone, and other elements is a collaborative process among everyone at the table.

"It's one thing if a player opts into that," Guilford said, "and they're like, 'Hey, I made this character who is questioning their gender, and I want that to be a part of their arc and their story... That's totally fine."

It's that unique explorative quality of tabletop role-playing games that drew Guilford and Warren into the hobby in the first place. Both of them started playing in college, and said that role-playing games — in addition to being fun — were a big part of learning social skills, building confidence, and discovering more about themselves.

Before joining G2G, Guilford was a community manager for gaming-focused educational YouTube channel Extra Credits, which is popular among gaming youth. He first learned about G2G through Extra Credits' spotlight video on the nonprofit, and he changed jobs to escape the stresses of constant social media exposure.

"I hope to create that safe and secure place for people to explore their gender, in the same way that I was able to all the way back into college," Guilford said of the new groups.

Warren grew up in a large, half-Vietnamese family with a lot of younger siblings, and after having worked with youth in art camps, G2G presented the "perfect intersection" of his interests.

"I'm just very excited to start these Trans groups," Warren said. "We have a huge number of [interested people] already, and I hope the excitement stays strong."

Both group leaders also said they hoped for more facilitators with similar backgrounds, to better encapsulate the Trans femme and Nonbinary experiences as the programs expand.

You can learn more about Game to Grow and its services for both youth and adults at https://gametogrow.org/.