The past month, people across the world have been celebrating Pride month, a moment for the LGBT community and allies to celebrate all that makes up diversity. We here support people to be free to be who they want to be, so long as they’re not cruel to others. Except Joel, you can be mean to Joel if you want*. I thought I’d use today as a way to close off Pride month by talking a bit about myself… What? I’m proud of being a geek. Oh and I’m also proud of being an openly gay geek.
*P.S: Please don’t be mean to Joel, I was kidding.
I won’t lie, I didn’t think I’d actually write an article about this… Ever! Honestly I don’t know if my experiences are of interest. Growing up as a gay geek, I didn’t really have many people I could look up to. In fact, gay geeks were incredibly rare. We had people like Sir Stephen Fry and George Takei, but admittedly, I didn’t even take much of an interest in them (except I really did enjoy QI and The Fry Chronicles.)
Sure, we had Sir Ian McKellen, who genuinely is an inspiration for the LGBT movement as a whole, so do go and check his work out if you’re unfamiliar – But these people were way outside of my niche. I was a gay geek who was vehemently in love with video games – and we were so incredibly misrepresented within the medium, that honestly, I felt weird. I felt like I wasn’t normal – It wasn’t really until I experienced anime that I begun to allow myself to be more free.
Fire Emblem from Tiger & Bunny is a wonderful example of LGBT themes in anime. Very deep character, but fabulous on the outside.
Yeah, okay, anime isn’t exactly renowned for its gay pairings, but they exist occasionally. Furthermore, the community behind it would chat quite openly about LGBT themes, which was refreshing. All I knew, growing up, was that homosexuality was typically perceived to be a bad thing, except by my very loving immediate family, who were always good about the subject. Instead, it was always random people who would give gay folk a hard time, completely unnecessarily. Very little could be said that unites these random people; just different people from different walks of life.
As a gay geek however, there were so few mediums I could lean on… And admittedly, I had few friends I could turn to for support. A lot of science fiction and fantasy were resistant to the idea of LGBT themes. Of course, some existed, but they were indeed few and far between. Then there were films and, again, there were so few out there for me (unless I was 18 and willing to go into non-geeky films typically). Growing up, there were no gay characters who I could look to and have as my personal hero.
In fact I often found myself rooting for the villains, which probably explains my love for heels in professional wrestling. The villains were often, to my eyes, simply outcasts from a perfect society. They were rarely villainous because they were evil, but often they were villains for they were different. They were vilified, as opposed to actually being bad. Again, yes, there were also a number of stories that had clear villains who happened to be gay, but often they weren’t.
So vilified, but yet always there to some capacity, it took the medium of anime for me to really be able to understand myself. Later down the line, gay subplots became more and more common, but were often just a trope, as opposed to a driving force. Some characters were well defined as an LGBT character, or they were so ambiguous, that it was easy enough to imagine them within that scene.
I didn’t come out until I was 20, so soon after I wanted to explore my sexuality more. It wasn’t for a few more years before I went to AyaCon, my first convention. I saw a lot of gay people within geek culture which was incredible to me. Previously, all of my encounters with fellow gay guys had been in nightclubs, which were fun, if only because I used to get a lot of free drinks on my adventures. What? I was offered them and I went to the bar! It was safe!
In the nightclubs, I would try to strike up a chat about anything geeky, only to be treated like I was a weird one. Fast forward to AyaCon, I had the opportunity to meet and dance with so many other gay geeks, I started to realise how good the UK geek community was as a whole for LGBT geeks. There are so many people who identify as LGBT within the convention scene, that it’s not a surprise I took to it quite quickly.
This was when I met Joel, too… And here’s a weird little known fact. I went to AyaCon with a friend, as we had both said we always wanted to go to an anime convention. It was the last night and we were stood at the large steps at Warwick University, enjoying a drink and socialising. Suddenly, Joel rocks up to us and my friend immediately introduced me to Joel – as “This is Tim, he’s gay.” It was funny, but it was also hugely unnecessary to make that a distinction.
I’ve been running GeekOut ever since AyaCon. This is the fifth year of GeekOut’s existence. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without good allies and a lot of backbone. During my time running GeekOut, I’ve had to deal with discrimination issues, as well as harassment. I’m looking forward to the day when no geek is harassed, simply for being them. I’m also looking forward to having no discrimination, regardless of who the geek is.
Fast forward to 2018 and I think the world is becoming a better place, at least in terms of equality. There are some big real world issues happening at the moment, which I’m staying quiet on. For now, I’m happy that my fiancé Jake and I can get married without persecution – And it’s just nice to have the same luxuries that others have. There’s still a lot of work to be done, so it felt great to be able to create some limited edition GeekOut Pride Posters for the meetup yesterday (Gallery live) and the money will be donated to a serious LGBT cause. If you’re interested in supporting LGBT issues, please consider checking out Galop, who do some excellent work.
I’ll leave you all with one last thing – A lot of you may have guessed I was gay, or some of you may already have known, but I bet some of you who read this didn’t know about that. Feel free to share anything you know about LGBT themes within geek fandom and let’s make this a civil, fun conversation about including everyone. But let’s not limit it to sexuality; but also race, gender, disability – How have you embraced what makes you unique as a geek? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.