For a long time, I was the only one in my friend group who liked “geeky” things like Doctor Who. These days, I get to talk to my boss at my “Muggle job” (I work as a health educator at a university by day) about everything from Saga, to Game of Thrones, to Harry Potter.
There have always been spaces for geeks, San Diego Comic-Con has existed since 1970 - I’ve been an attendee/exhibitor since 2005. And as geek culture has become more mainstream, as the proliferation of geeks and nerds and fangirls expands, I have increasingly been drawn to spaces that are created with intentionality: small press expositions that feature indie artists and conventions geared towards marginalized communities.
Fact is, the conversations that I’ve had over the years have shifted. Once, I was perfectly content to be at a convention where my interactions usually subsisted of men who talked down to me about Doctor Who, A Song of Ice and Fire, or Batman. Who expected me to jump through hoops to prove that I was worthy of a conversation with them about their favorite fandoms. This was the norm, and I thought I was lucky enough to find people in any capacity who would recognize my references and sorta-kinda talk about them with me.
Now, not only have the demographics of people at conventions changed - you’re seeing many more women (sometimes more than men), but the people I get to fangirl with have also changed. I see more people who look like me, more women of color, more incredible cosplayers, more moms with their excited children. I have women who come to my booth every year in San Diego, excited to connect and talk about what their latest obsession is. THIS is the geeky life I signed up for.
With conventions like Geek Girl Con, Flame Con, ClexaCon, and the upcoming Universal FanCon, those who might not have found their space at comic conventions have been able to create and foster their own communities. When you don’t see yourself represented on the con floor, an amazing way to create that representation for future geeks is to do it yourself.
My favorite con moment in recent years happened at FlameCon this past August. I was there during a quiet moment, and had the chance to find a few of my favorite creators, all of whom were tabling there. Trungles, Wendy Xu, and Kate Leth have all had a profound impact on my journey to coming out as a bisexual woman. Having role models in the geek world who create breath-taking artwork, alongside being open and honest about their queer identities helped me to envision a life for myself where I could be out and advocate in similar ways. I went and picked up a card from Kate that states “Undeniable Proof: This card is to certify that ____ is, in fact, bisexual.” Kate filled in my name herself, which meant more to me than she will ever know.
Organized communities like Geek Girl Brunch, Geek Girl Pen Pals, and Facebook groups for “geek bosses” have helped connect me to other small business owners in the geek sector. My subscription box, FanMail, supports and collaborates with at least one small business owned by women/non-binary/gender nonconforming folx in each of our boxes. Over the last 2.5 years, we’ve created over 250 unique products and worked with over 60 different creators.
I consider the women I talk to who also run geeky small businesses to be my “Girl Gang,” a term I first saw used by artist Jen Bartel. We support, empower, and educate each other and work hard to create change in an industry that is still overwhelmingly run by men, and those with privileged identities.
The connections that I’ve created, the friendships I’ve been lucky to be part of, all speak to an overall shift in geek culture that I am incredibly excited and passionate about. I am a queer, bi-racial woman of color. I am a fangirl. And I have found my chosen family in geekdom.
Rose Del Vecchio, M.Ed., is the Fiercely Feminist Fangirl & Founder of FanMail at myfanmail.com, and a proud geek and fangirl.
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