Seattle has long been an incredibly geeky city, with its strong and growing array of tech companies, numerous game companies, and an ever-growing array of nerd-friendly hangout spots such as the Raygun Lounge. It’s also an excellent city to be part of the LGBTQ community, with a lively bar scene, queer film festival, and progressive culture. So it’s only natural that Seattle was an ideal place to launch an entry into the increasingly popular LGBTQ-focused fandom scene.
The queer geek landscape was a bit different back in 2012. There were only a couple of LGBTQ featured conventions, and certainly none with the level of mainstream awareness GaymerX has. People congregated onto national sites such as Gaygamer.net (on indefinite hiatus) and the now defunct Gaymer.org, but message boards were a difficult way to connect for local gatherings. Seattle had a Meetup group (Seattle Gaymers) with sporadic usage. Another group, the NW Social Gaymers had some social events, but it never felt like there was enough going on locally for LGBT folks who identified as geeks–in this case, primarily meaning folks who enjoyed gaming, SF, fantasy, anime, and other kinds of fandom.
Several of us took it upon ourselves to create events that found some success. Charlie Logan hosted an annual party on the weekend of the Penny Arcade Expo. Andrew Asplund, using the Meetup group, co-hosted a weekly board game meetup at a few different locations (combined with the Seattle Alternative Board Gamers, an inclusive but not queer-specific group). I started a monthly meetup at Gameworks, a local arcade, for dinner and video games. Benjamin Williams headed up a pride float specifically aimed at the geeky crowd, famously with a huge rainbow-colored 20-sided die. Zan Christensen, who became an advising member, heads up an independent LGBTQ publisher, Northwest Press. So Benjamin Williams brought us all together with the idea of forming a group and include all of our events under a single banner.
“I was watching the parade with a group of queer and geeky friends, having a good time,” Benjamin explained, “and the thought occurred to me: I know so many nerdy gays. Why isn’t there a float for them in the parade? As soon as I thought that, I was determined to make that happen. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. It was the catalyst that helped me expand just beyond my immediate circle of gaming friends to find the other people in the community who were organizing their own geeky queer groups. From there, it was just a matter of us combining our powers Voltron style and going to town.”
We decided to call it Queer Geek, rather than using the popular gaymer label, to try to be more inclusive. Soon after, we added Ashley Cook to our organizers group, who ran a weekly women’s board game night, in addition to one-offs such as comic book discussions and local author readings. Last year, Andrew Schulz joined us to host a monthly Magic: the Gathering meetup at Phoenix Comics and Games.
Over the past four years, the group has grown to become a local institution. The Facebook group is very active, with over 1600 members, and Queer Geek has taken over the Seattle Gaymers Meetup group. Charlie Logan’s party grew from a small video game gathering to a huge dance party with famous voice actor hosts called the Pink Party Prime. The regular Gameworks gathering turned into a popular monthly board game event at Phoenix.
As our newest organizer, Andrew Schulz was happy to discover our group as a new Seattle transplant.
“I believe Queer Geek, and any group like it, is essential for providing a safe, geeky place for us to connect with people with similar interests,” Andrew pointed out. “Though Seattle is considerably more open-minded than the area I come from, I find it can still be very challenging to be open and genuine about who I am and how I identify. When I came to my first Queer Geek event, it was nice to have that pressure removed so I could just enjoy engaging in some geeky fun.”
With Queer Geek now celebrating its fourth anniversary, it’s fantastic to see how far we’ve come. But there’s always room for growth and change.
“I’d love to have more people involved who are passionate about changing geek space as a whole in addition to enjoying their queer geek spaces,” Benjamin indicated. “I’d love to see them doing panels at local cons, doing outreach to the straight geek community, and also doing more outreach to queer geeks of color.”
Andrew added, “I am hopeful that we can expand some of our event offerings to cater to some of the other geeky LGBTQ folk that may not have a good outlet for their areas of interest.”
Queer geek powers activate!