I’ve already written about my experiences at inclusive conferences in my post about Code4Lib, but Geekway to the West is different. It’s a convention purely for fun and socialization. I’ve been going to Geekway, an amazing board game convention for the midwest, for five years now. It might not be as big and impressive as Gencon, but it’s been my convention of choice since it was introduced to me. This year was the second since I came out a transgender, but the first that I’ve been able to truly be myself. Last year, I’d barely been out as transgender. I was on HRT for a whole two months at the time and I know I didn’t pass.
This year, however, was different. I’ve been on HRT for over a year now, I have breasts, my hair is finally shoulder length, and the fat redistribution has done quite a bit to feminize my body. It’s the little things that help push the dysphoria away and allow me to enjoy myself. On top of that, I was surrounded by a plethora of members of the LGBT spectrum, which is exactly what I want to write about.
Being from the Midwest means my interactions with members of the LGBT community are lacking. My hometown didn’t even have a local pride fest until 2011. There’s also transgender support group, but I didn’t feel like I particularly fit in when I attended. All of that is the subject for a future blog post.
I honestly didn’t go into Geekway expecting the equivalent of my very own pride fest, but in a way that’s exactly what I got. My group had a total of nine people in it which was insane compared to previous years. In addition to my local board game group of five players, we had two couples joining us that we knew from the internet. I was afraid it would be awkward, since most board games are designed for four, and I’d be surrounded by people I only know from chat rooms, but much to my surprise the entire group just fit together like we’d know each other for ages. We’d split up into small groups of whatever we had to, enjoy a game or two, and go right back to mixing and matching. When someone was burned out or needed a break, they’d get up, walk around the vendor hall, knit, draw, write, whatever they felt like. It was largely as if the other 2800 attendees didn’t even exist.
When we couldn’t take any more games for the day, we’d all crash IHOP, all you can eat sushi, Fuzzy’s Tacos, or regrettably Denny’s when IHOP was for some reason closed at 3 am. These are experiences that I’ll never forget. There’s something special about being surrounded by other members of the LGBT community, and in a place that discussions about our shared trials and tribulations won’t be frowned upon. From talk of our bathroom struggles, to bi-erasure, to stories of coming out to our families
There’s something different about having those discussions out in the real world, as opposed to the dark confines of Slack and Discord. There is a authenticity to it that you can’t get online. That isn’t to say that conversations on the internet are inauthentic, because nearly every one of my friends I met online before meeting them in person, but that the feeling of authenticity is different. It feels like you’re being listened to, and interacted with, and not just shouting into the void. It’s about being in an actual conversation, and socializing with like minded people.
One of the people in our group was a transgender man my age, who just happened to start HRT within a week or two of myself. Having a conversation with someone who has not only been through what I am going through, but is doing so at the same time, and in the same stage of transition is an invaluable experience. Most of the people I meet that are transgender are either much older, much younger, or in vastly different stages of transition, and even that is primarily online. In fact, I think I can count the transgender people that I’ve met in the real world on one hand.
Another member of the group, also a transgender man, still rocks makeup and dresses and jewelry. He mentioned one night wanting to have a conversation about appearance and outward expressions of the gender opposite of their identity, which unfortunately was a conversation we ended up not being able to have. He could have messaged me online at any point over the past year, and had that conversation, but once again, there is something special about talking in person. Perhaps it will happen at the next Geekway, but it definitely sparked the idea for a future blog post as well.