Long before I identified as a transgender lesbian, there was one word that encompassed me as an individual. A word that was often used as a weapon against me, but that I wore like a badge of honor. Geek.
I am a geek. I have always been a geek. While my interests shift from tv to movies to video games to board and card games to role playing to music to books and back again, the word geek would continue to perfectly describe myself. I obsess over my hobbies and my interests. As I discover new hobbies I deep dive into them and learn all that I can. I surround myself with people who are as obsessed as I am.
When I was a kid this was much harder than it is today. My only friends were friends by circumstance. We happened to live near each other. We happened to go to the same school. I remember the names of most of my childhood friends, but I haven’t talked to any of them in decades.
In my teenage years I discovered the internet. I was nine or ten years old when my parents got our first family computer. I remember it well. It was a Packard Bell that had come out right alongside Windows 95. 75 megahertz of power. 500 megabytes of hard drive space. A 9600 baud modem. A Sound Blaster sound card. It was state of the art. Not long later we got on AOL and a world was opened to me that would change my life forever.
I have two memories of the early internet. My first is at the Illinois State Fair where we had one of those “world of tomorrow” style exhibits. They had maybe a dozen computers all hooked up to “the internet” that would change the world! I was very disappointed, as I was trying to use it to find information about the space shuttle launches and pictures of space shuttles and space and NASA. All I found were huge blocks of text, with tiny little graphics here and there, but not these big beautiful pictures of space that you can find today. My second memory of the internet was a Q&A in the official X-Files chat room on AOL. The Lone Gunmen themselves were going to be answering questions, and I was going to be there. I don’t remember much of that particular Q&A, but I do remember the realization that there were tons of people out there just like me.
The internet has evolved and changed in the 25 years since. Communities are everywhere for everything. Geek has become synonymous with that obsession I’ve always felt about my hobbies. It’s become sexy, chic, and even mainstream.
Most importantly the internet introduced me to the LGBT community. It taught me that it was normal, accepted, and even celebrated. It taught me that “the queer” wasn’t just a thing that the “cool” kids smeared on the playground in games meant to bully kids like me.
The LGBT community has a long, storied history of reclaiming the words that are used as weapons against them. Just like geeks, we take pejoratives and wear them like a badge of honor. We are proud of who and what we are. We know what it is like to be bullied, picked on, and even abused. We celebrate our uniqueness and our differences.
Geek.gay is a community that celebrates those two worlds. Two labels I will never shed. Two parts of myself that I have lived with all my life, but have only been able to celebrate as a whole recently.
-Mattie Schraeder (@AFrozenPeach)