Letter to the BoD on Galen of Bristol

Originally published Monday, June 15, 2020.

Unto Their Majesties of Ansteorra, Jason & Margherita, and Master Avery Shaw, Ansteorran Kingdom Seneschal, greetings from Magister Andreas Blacwode, OP, MidRealm.

I am sure, Your Majesties & Master Avery, that You have been inundated with messages from all around the Known World, either in support of, or condemning, the recent post made by Sir Galen of Bristol about his views and opinion on the direction of the SCA.

I have been in the SCA for 30 years, all in the MidRealm. I helped to start rapier combat in the Middle Kingdom, I have been a trusted advisor and staff member for multiple reigns, and I have been a marshal and a local, baronial, regional, and deputy kingdom officer. I am a professional Coach and Senior Project Manager for my modern job, and one of the things I help people with is Conflict Management between one employee and another, or an employee and their manager. Sometimes the conflict is interpersonal, sometimes it’s due to a misunderstanding of process, sometimes it’s something else, but it’s a skill I’ve been able to use to great effect in the SCA as well, as you might imagine. One of the key techniques that I use repeatedly is helping people understand where they have offended, why it was offensive, how to apologize, and how to do better.

Unfortunately, there are always some people who cannot or will not take those steps. Based off of the conversations that stemmed from the statement that Sir Galen made, including his own responses, I have come to believe that he is one of those people, and I now come to You today to ask You to sanction him by banishing him from Your reign, and to escalate the issue to the Board of Directors for a more in-depth investigation. I have attached pictures of his post to this email.

Sir Galen is a member of the SCA and as such, he is specifically called upon, as are we all, to uphold the Code of Conduct for the SCA. We are all supposed to act in accordance with the chivalric virtues of honor and service. We are all supposed to value and respect the worth and dignity of all individuals. We are all supposed to practice inclusiveness and respect pluralism and diversity. We are all supposed to promote a safe and respectful environment for all SCA events. We are all supposed to be responsible stewards of SCA resources. We are all supposed to be committed to maintaining the trust of the SCA’s members and participants.

But Sir Galen is also Knight of the Society, and a Pelican, and thus he is held to a higher standard. As a Knight, he is called to be a Shield of the Weak. As a Pelican, he is called to be an exemplar of Service to the Society and the Population.

But Sir Galen is also a Lion of Ansteorra. The entry for the Lions of Ansteorra at https://ansteorra.org/historian/legends-and-heroes/ says:

“The award of the Lion of Ansteorra confers neither precedence nor title, yet is the most coveted award we bestow. The Lions epitomize everything an Ansteorran strives to be: nobility, chivalry, honor, and personae. To be a Lion is to be that person. To be singled out, as a Lion is the highest honor our Kingdom has to give.” The page http://sca.org/awards/anst.html says that the Lions “contribute most to the ideals and milieu of the Society, and who serves as an inspiration to others”. They are given special access to the Crown, with the right to interrupt court at any reason, and the obligation to guard the crowns during the time after one set of Royalty steps down, and the next set steps up. The Ansteorran OP lists only 78 Lions of Ansteorra.

When I asked some friends about what the Lion means to them, they called it the most prestigious award in the SCA, and that the Lions are supposed to be “the best of us.”

I would suggest that as a Lion of Ansteorra, Sir Galen is held to an even higher standard than his peerages.

Your Majesties & Master Avery, the statement that Sir Galen posted violate of the Code of Conduct of the SCA, his oaths as a Knight and a Pelican, and perhaps worst of all, his obligations as a Lion of Ansteorra.

• When Galen says that he opposes Countess Toryn, his regional seneschal, when she says “stopping discrimination, casual racism, homophobia, and sexism in the SCA is exactly my business”, he is telling Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC), members of the LGBTQIAA+ community, and women that they are not welcome in the SCA.

• When Galen says “I can get along with sinners […] but I don’t embrace sin” and then immediately states “I don’t accept that a relationship between two people of the same sex can be a marriage”, he’s telling members of the LGBTQIAA+ community that their civil rights are less important.

• When he says “I view abortion […] as the intentional taking of an innocent human life”, he’s telling women he views them all as murderers.

• When he says “I can’t accept that a person can, based on their feelings, ‘transition’ from male to female, nor female to male”, he’s telling transmen and transwomen that he does not recognize their humanity.

• When he says “I cannot support the Black Lives Matter organization because I not only disagree with their tactics of blocking traffic and fomenting rioting, not only do I disagree with their hatred of all law enforcement, not only do I deny that a disproportionate number of innocent blacks are killed by police”, he’s telling BIPOC that he does not accept their anger and grief, and he is calling them liars.

• And when he goes on to say “I particularly object to the rest of their agenda, which includes the ‘disruption’ of traditional family structures”, he’s calling Black women sexually promiscuous in a negative fashion, and specifically calling out Black men as irresponsible and Black children as illegitimate.

All these statements are in violation of the least stringent rules on conduct in the SCA. And when he says this on his Facebook page, which up until very recently, very clearly associated him with Ansteorra and the SCA, he is drawing a direct line from his statements to the SCA.

Further on, he says “[…] for most (of) us, back in the day, it was about escaping the modern world.” But SCAdian BIPOC, and other marginalized communities, cannot escape the modern world that easily. I have been told stories about black SCAdian knights being called the N-word on the field of battle. For years, women were not allowed to fight in the SCA. We have very few BIPOC or Trans peers. There are reasons for this, and the base reason is that we have never left the modern world out of the SCA. It is simply that most of the participants — IE, cis-het presenting white people — have the privilege of not having to worry about such things.

Sir Galen closes his post talking about how, after years of asking for a replacement, his Baronial Seneschal refused to allow Galen to take the role, because they were worried that as seneschal, Galen would make members of the LGBTQIAA+ community uncomfortable. Galen goes on to say that no one could point to a single person he has ever made to feel unwelcome in the SCA.

Firstly, intimidated, scared, marginalized SCAdians do not speak out against decorated triple Peers who also hold the most revered award in the Kingdom. Secondly, there are multiple people who have stood up and spoken out in various forums on Facebook, including the comments of my own post (https://www.facebook.com/drewishdrewid/posts/10157105584241128) explicitly stating that Galen made them feel unwelcome and unsafe. People he has made uncomfortable are coming to me, a cis-het presenting white man of similar rank to Galen, to speak about their discomfort. As a Peer of the Society, it is my obligation to bring your attention to it, especially because his misconduct has had an effect beyond the borders of Ansteorra.

In addition, I, personally, feel that Galen’s statements are meant to exclude me. I don’t much look it, but I am Jewish, and there is only one generation between myself and the branches of my family tree that were wiped out in the camps during WWII.

I invite you to consider the analogy of the missing stair. A missing stair is someone who, in a social group, is known to be problematic, but the group works around that person by warning new members of the group to be careful, instead of dealing with the problematic person openly. And when a new person isn’t warned soon enough, they get hurt, just like someone will get hurt walking down a dark staircase, when they don’t know that there’s a missing stair. (You can find more information about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_stair)

Your Majesties, I wish that it was not so that people we thought were our heroes have turned out to be villains. I wish that we could all agree on the very personhood of all the people of the world. The issues that Galen is on the wrong side of are not issues of politics. They are not issues of Republican vs Democrat.

These are human issues. We must be on the side of humanity. It is time to speak plainly, speak publicly, and repair the staircase.

Galen has violated the SCA code of conduct, violated his oaths as a Peer of the Society, and devalued the image of the Lions of Ansteorra. I hope you will do the right thing.

I am, in strength, in service, and in song,

Magister Andreas, OP

Baron of the Court of William & Isolde

Peddler of Bombast, Man of Parts.

Ka is a wheel.

Haec officia officialis honesti.

Merda aspera est, eho.

cc: Baron Lorcan Dracontius, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ombudsman for Ansteorra

Duke John the Bearkiller, President of the SCA

Baron Aylwin Watkyns, Society Seneschal

Baroness Zahra Tesfaye, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion