Geek Girl Con was amazing! It wasn't just amazing for the couple of panels we got to attend. It wasn't cool because I had Cherie Priest sign my Kindle. It wasn't even amazing because I got to hang out in Seattle dressed as a jedi and feel perfectly normal about it. It was amazing on a completely different level.
I've discussed a few times the idea of culture, community, and our place in society. Where exactly I fit in to all of that is still a bit of a mystery to me. Being a 10+ generation American of European decent means I have no ties to Europe to speak of. My friends in the Asian community were nice enough to include me in their culture, but it will never be home (especially now that they are so far away from us). Being in God's house and in the church is great, and it gives me a family that I know will be there for us, but I also know I will never fully fit in there, like the black sheep I am - I will never fully relate to my brothers and sisters there. But at Geek Girl Con, I felt safe.
I had this amazing personal experience at Geek Girl Con. It wasn't a religious moment. It wasn't an epiphony. I still don't know what area of science/programming/engineering/creative career I want to pursue. In fact I only have more options now than before. I did come out realizing who my culture may be. As I sat there with other Christians, Jews, Athiests, Whites, Blacks, Asians, Gays, Straights, Disabled, Abled, Parents, Non-parents, and otherwise subdivided geeks, I realized that these were the people I related too. That with one word we could share a common experience that other people just wouldn't understand. And I did it too. I just had to shout, "Smeghead" to the Arnold Rimmer cosplayer to start a wonderful discussion about books and shows we both love, and wonderful memories of the days we both just happened to become Dwarfers.
Our funny dress just helped us to start conversations. My normally introverted self was able to go up to panelists and just chat. I was able to say hi to other moms and even make a few friends. It was like the ultimate cultural type event where you just know that you can say hi to anyone and you'll have a conversation without the awkward small talk about weather and the like. It wasn't just me though. Something absolutely amazing happened to my kids.
Now I was really nervous about bringing my kids. In my life if my husband and I want to do stuff 99% of the time that means the kids go too. We just don't have a lot of options, and there are none for the idea of an overnight thing, well maybe my cousin, but not if we are going to be so far away (that's like for in town or at least within driving distance). Plus the baby still needs his Mom and I still need him in a physical nursing sort of situation. I worried that they would be bored. I also worried that people would be frustrated with me bringing my kids to an adult party. I have been told by many people that we wouldn't have fun at things like ComicCon and PAX, because they just aren't little kid friendly. Sure there was some 18+ stuff that would have been lots of fun that we missed (I was really tempted to dump the kids on my husband for the kink panel or Whedonistas, but I didn't.) Mostly because we hadn't eaten by the time they started!
The panels definitely weren't aimed at kids, but in the few I went to, there was occasionally an effort made to address their roles as well. One time a girl not much older than Ver1 got up and asked a question! I was so happy. There weren't a ton of kids there and some Geek Moms left their kids with their Geek Dads so that they could make a girls weekend of the event. The kids that were there though, became instant friends. You might not think this is weird, but for my kids it was.
When we go to the park, my kids don't really play with the other kids. I mean they will if a kid is still and they are playing similarly, they may go make introductions and play together. Usually, my kids just play together on their own. Sure, they have friends at school, but it took them time to make those friends and to be comfortable suggesting games. At the con, my kids weren't just going up to other kids and having lightsabre duels, they were going up to adults and shooting them with their blasters. They were making friends while standing in line. Ver2 went up to a little cosplayer Buffy and they were talking about their characters, Ver2's matching dolly, and even comparing their height. Ver1 was just as outgoing!
My kids who usually hide behind my knee and wait for me to push them around with introductions and force them to make friends, were running off and talking with con guests (the people doing panels) and just chatting away about being Princess Leia, Star Wars (only 3 films y'all!), how I glued the buns down with hair glue (hairspray), lightsabres, taking out storm troopers, their favorite hobbies, and life in general. They learned about witches and wands (Harry Potter style), they talked with writers and some celebrities (I missed some of that, but heard about it from Orcrist.) By the closing ceremonies the girls were so outgoing they were on the verge of undisciplined monsters! (Seriously, Ver1 pick-pocketed a wand from a Ravenclaw named Ginny who had it in her Ravenclaw purse because she wanted to ask what it was! I was in so much shock I almost died of embarrassment! Thankfully, the witch handled it with grace and dignity and didn't curse me for her infiltration. lol)
The overall con had this overriding aura of inclusion. That all were welcome and safe. That there was no, more geek than you, or more hard core, even the professional jedi took pictures with my kids and told them how amazing they looked as Leia. They didn't make me feel lessor for my $10 plastic lightsaber held shut with scotch tape. They thought it was great that we were promoting Star Wars in our own casual way. I mean I love Star Wars, it was probably my first really geeky media thing, but I've got so many other interests too!
There was just so much opportunity to meet fellow geeks. Almost like a grown up summer camp. Of course there was so much going on, you could run from panel to panel and still miss 80% of everything, but you often found the same people in the panels you made it too. Similar people sitting near you. Similar people out to dinner at the same place, taking a break in the same area. Being in Seattle Center, it was just amazing!
There was lots of talk of bullying, but it was obvious that the people here were ready to move past that. There were talks of comics vs games, but no one here wanted to play that game. The panels were even rated for content and for the most part all the panels I attended were free of vulgarity and anything that may have made me feel uncomfortable sitting there with my small kids. (Thank you Scott Westerfield, at the YA Authors panel, for your F U statement - but I think the girls just ignored it).
I still can't believe how my girls opened up at Geek Girl Con. I can't believe how welcome I felt, and I usually am uncomfortable in high female ratio environments. I was so nervous, yet excited before it started, and now I hope next year will bring the same feeling, but more than that. I hope the self confidence that was some how given, inspired, drawn-out of my precious little geeks stays a gift from Geek Girl Con for their lives, making them strong women of the future (whether they stay on the paths of the geeks or not!)