I get a kick out of geek paraphernalia, but it isn’t something that I sport myself. In fact, I sometimes try to hide my nerdiness. I keep my video game remixes to my MP3 player and usually read on the bus instead of playing Gameboy. I’m happy to talk to strangers about cycling or veganism or feminism when I see a sign of the common interest, but I generally won’t jump into a conversation about video games in public.
I was recently at a neighbor’s party, and a guy I met asked me why I wasn’t drinking. “Don’t be a pus,” he said. I was caught off guard, so I replied very calmly, “I went on a 50-mile bike-ride today, so I really just feel like having water.” In response, the guy said he used to ride his bike to work, but it moved and now was two miles away from his home so he just drove. “I really spend most of my time on computers, at work then gaming when I get home.” He went on to me vaguely about PC gaming, and I just smiled and nodded. “Oh, that’s interesting,” I said while my gaze wandered for my roommate so I could have an excuse to escape. I could have interrupted this guy and made a comment to indicate I knew what he was talking about, that I was part of the geek club. But I decided not to. This guy was a jerk and a creep, and I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself.
In real life, I pass as a non-geek. I have legs covered in hair and scuffs and chain grease. I have waist-length curly hair. I wear clothes from Disney World, thrift-stores, and REI. I think my glasses are my only nerd-cue. So I pass as something else, someone out and proud about a lot of things, but not being a geek. I’ve let gamer become the private identity that I only share with those who get to know me and the rest of the world who happens upon my blog.
What would I have gained by giving a piece of myself to that guy at the party? What would I have gained from looking cool to someone who’d use my genitalia as an insult to bully me into drinking?
That guy reminds me of the type 100LittleDolls recently encountered. In her post Masculinity, Nerds, and Me she writes:
I’ve been thinking and thinking about the whole situation and managed to come up with this: the guys I was around were taking part in a form of alternative masculinity. They’ve suffered the consequences of not being traditionally masculine: they’re not rich, they don’t have tight bodies or physical prowess. A way for them to prove their masculinity is through wins and game scores, and extensive comic book knowledge. Another way is verbal; by using sexist and homophobic slurs, masculinity can be proved by effeminizing their peers.
100LittleDolls articulated this very well. If this is what we face as minorities in geek circles, no wonder I’m not quick to come out.