Easton Mountain is a gay campground, retreat, and sanctuary located in a breathtaking pocket valley about 30 miles north of Albany. Hosting its first ever "nerd retreat," entitled Nerdvana, this past weekend, the hosts invited Geeks OUT to come up and present a program on superheroes and gay identity, something inspiring and fun along those lines, whatever we wanted.
Intrigued by such a unique and unexpected invitation, we put our heads together and decided, rather than a lecture that leads the group to a mapped-out conclusion and Q&A, something more creative and interactive, and, hopefully, more fun was needed. We wanted to give the gay geeks attending Nerdvana a taste of what Geeks OUT brings to conventions and the geek world at large: a space where you're free to be one hundred percent of your authentic queer self and geek self, even if that means a socially risky degree of flamboyance.
Sequins in the Batcave became an activity around that flamboyance and queer geek identity. How often are we conscious of acting or sounding "too gay," therefore, feminine, insignificant, and weak? How often do we tone down our queerness in geeky settings so as not to upset the other nerds? Looking at the superheroes we gravitate towards as queer fans, we see bright colors, tight costumes, sashes, thigh-boots, gloves and capes—but all soaked with mass-market hypermasculinity. It's maddening!
Taking inspiration from the mini-challenges on RuPaul's Drag Race (a whole generation of queer geek grad students should be writing papers on the connections between drag, cosplay, and superheroes), we decided it was time to Queer Up the Superheroes. We collected as many secondhand superhero action figures as he could find—all genres and franchises, but each reeking with masculine strength and vigor. At an adjoining picnic table we arrayed a rainbow of nail polishes, acrylic paints, glitter glues, and brushes. At the next table, a veritable Liberace's closet of feathers, sequins, jewels, silk flowers, pompoms, and other fabulous bling glittered like Smaug's hoard.
Once we explained the concept—pick your figure and Queer it Up!—the men were on it like sharks on a colony of seals. Some created the queer heroes they never got to read. Some took revenge on the heteronormative ideal. Others just took the leash off their Fierce Beast and let it run wild—and everyone had an amazing time. We laughed and jeered and oohed and ahhed over each other's fantastical creations. We shared stories of our geekdom and got to know each other as fans and queer men. And we got to take home action figures!
We want to thank the attendees and hosts of Nerdvana for sharing their unique community with us, for embracing what we brought with open hearts, and for crafting some of the glitteriest, tackiest avatars ever seen! We'll definitely be back next summer—you should be, too!