As a certified Gay Grown-Up, one of the things that I can never get over is what a minor deal being out has proved to be. As a child of the 80s, this was not the future I was promised. Even the darkest and most apocalyptic visions of the 21st century (run, Kitty Pryde, run!) were never so grim as to just have gay dudes doing Just Whatever The Hell They Want. Nancy Reagan would have had an aneurysm.
And yet here we are.
What happened? When I was twenty and out with my boyfriend, women would clutch their children close. Nowadays, no one cares. Generally, it’s me clutching my own son, to prevent him from smearing his chocolate-covered hands on a stranger with white pants. It’s hard to know what changed, exactly. Admittedly, I’m like a catalog photo for assimilation. I’ve got a white picket fence. A cool same-sex family. And as the librarian of a quaint New England town, I’m a pillar of the goddamned community. I am so not transgressive. I could be part of some next-level It Gets Better campaign: It Gets Yawned At and Ignored.
All of this means that people don’t complain to me much about the gays. Why would they? They’ve met my family, and even if they haven’t-- I read as gay. I fucking majored in gay. And people, at least in my neck of the woods, are kinda over gay panic anyway.
What they complain to me about are the geeks.
I don’t know how this happened, because I’m super-geeky. Like, I should be editing Wikipedia right this minute. But bizarrely, I pass as a non-geek. I can’t pass for straight at all, even when I use my manliest of voices. The best I can manage is sort of a gay Sam the American Eagle muppet, which is not without its appeal but still: gay.
But not only do I pass as a non-geek, I apparently pass while actively doing geeky things. I’m openly gay, but I’m furtively geeky. I don’t know how this happened.
It’s like I have double life.
To be fair, it’s an open secret, like being ‘a confirmed bachelor’ or ‘not having eyes for the ladies’. I tell people I’m geeky. I coach a robotics team. I recommend G. Willow Wilson for teens to read. I mark off days on the calendar that I refuse to work because I’m going to PAX.
Yet people don’t seem to get it. Or they don’t believe me. They think I’m exaggerating, or that I’m going to this stuff for my husband or son. They think I’m merely geek-curious. They can’t imagine the orgies of WoW-playing I’ve experienced, or the depraved late night games of Agricola, denying wood to gents just because I could.
Here’s a conversation I had with a friend. “Oh,” he told me, talking about a guy we both knew. “Steve’s a manchild. He invites people to his house to play Dungeons & Dragons.” He said ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ like it’s something too terrible to speak of, like ‘pancreatic cancer’ or ‘the final season of Dexter.’
My response was “I see,” in a neutral and yet authoritative tone of voice, because I was in Pillar of the Community Mode, and you’re not supposed to get excited about things, except for taxes or kids dancing to forbidden rock music on the edge of town. What I should have said was “Bitch, I played Dangerous Journeys. Google it.” With a finger snap. And maybe something along the lines of “if you come for my brothers and sisters you come for me.” Like I was a contest on RuPaul’s Drag Race. (I should have called Steve too, although he apparently was playing 4E, and I have some standards. I don’t want you think I’m some sort of desperate geek slut.)
But I didn’t do that. And it’s not just that I’m not good reality television material. It’s that there’s still some tiny part of me that is genuinely uncomfortable about what a flaming geek I am. The gay stuff I don’t worry about. It’s aboveboard; trendy in places, I’m told, although I never seem to visit any of those places.
But the geek stuff still snags at me sometimes. Not always. But there’s still some part of me that remembers being the outcast because of my geeky proclivities-- even as the culture was changing around me. I remember encountering a classmate of mine at a comic book shop when I was sixteen or seventeen, and neither of us made eye contact with the other. It’s ridiculous really -- like out of an era of gay history when two friends were ashamed to run into each other at a gay bar, although with way lower stakes. Why wouldn’t I just talk to the guy? Why didn’t he talk to me? I vividly remember feeling out of sync with mainstream culture, and even as nerds have gone and taken over the universe, I still feel that tiny seed of embarrassment of initially realizing that I was the only person in the school who was still actively reading Moon Knight. I still wanted to be Moon Knight. Also, I wanted to sleep with Moon Knight. (Being a teenager is complicated.) But I digress.
I still remember that nagging voice: You’re too old for this. You’re too cool for this. People won’t like you if own up to what you really enjoy. This is Bad Wrong Fun.
Where does this impulse come from? Is it just part of being a teenager? Or a geek? Or a gay dude? All three? I don’t know. It nagged at me for a long time.
At some point, though, I just stopped being ashamed any more. That’s one of the best things about being gay; it makes you fearless. Having a four-year-old son especially encourages this, because he will tell strangers in line at Wal-Mart that you like dudes, which is a level of Outedness that might not have considered. Are you Strangers at Wal-Mart Out? I am. And it wasn’t even the express line. But it’s all good, because the whole point of being is out is you own who you are. Which is great, because my son also told those same strangers that the Amiibos in the cart was for Papa, not for him. That’s right, Wal-Mart lady. I’m buying three Splatoon Amiibo. You wanna come for me?
I think I knew I had put Bad Wrong Fun to rest when I started to going to PAX. Whenever I go to PAX, I feel the way I’m probably supposed to feel at a Pride parade. I look around the room, auditorium, hall, and feel like I’m being lifted up. I am among my people. At gay parades, the thought is heavily tempered with notions like ‘wow that’s a lotta naked guys’ and ‘that seems like it would really hurt your nipples.’ PAX is all of the joy but with none of the nipplefreude. Besides which, there’s always some appealingly twinky dude doing Ezreal cosplay, if that’s your thing, which in my case, it totally is.
So I’m over my geekshyness. Bad Wrong Fun is for losers, or people who don’t have fun. It’s a good thing, too, because my geek-themed caper THE UNFORUNATE DECISIONS OF DAHLIA MOSS comes out today, and it pretty much lays my geekiness bare. Jigglypuff is heavily quoted. There’s a 20-sided die on the cover. The first sentence has a quote from the The Legend of Zelda. My geekiness is going mainstream, boys.
And it’s also kinda gay, but I’ve never let that one bother me.
Max's delightful mystery The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss is out today! Like Strong Female Characters? Order your copy now!