EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first post by Andy, our Gay Geek Guy. He’ll be joining us once a month and writing about life as a gay gaming geek. We figured Independence Day would be the perfect day to talk about declaring freedom from the closet. Welcome, GGG!
When I first saw the film Über Goober, I had to roll my eyes. Almost right from the beginning of this documentary about gaming, there was a man who was silhouetted like he was in the witness protection program, talking about his gaming experiences.
He wasn’t afraid of his wife finding out (though I believe he indicated he’d initially had fear of that, too), but he was afraid what would happen if the people he worked with found out he was a gamer.
I remember laughing and thinking: Wow, this guy’s lucky he’s not gay. If he can’t come out as a gamer, how would he ever come out as a homosexual?
Coming Out To Mom: Hilarity Ensues
When I came out to my Mom and Dad many years ago, it was a strange and traumatic event. Like many conversations with my Mom, my coming out to her ended up in unconscious comedy.
“Mom,” I said, “I really hope this doesn’t freak you out, but…I’m bisexual.”
“Really?!” she asked, incredulous. “I thought you were gay!”
My Dad was barely phased. “It’s a lifestyle,” he said, shrugging, after giving it a few moments of thought. Even knowing that my super-liberal parents weren’t going to have a problem with it, coming out was hard to do.
I was exposing such a deep and personal part of myself. Just opening up and saying it, claiming it as part of my identity was very difficult. Once they knew I was gay, I was flooded with a tremendous sense of relief. I could be more open about who I was seeing and about who I was, down inside. With that out of the way, I promised myself I’d never be secretive about who or what I was again.
Okay, Except This Once…
There was one problem. At that point, I was still deceiving everyone…even myself.
I wasn’t bisexual. I was gay. REALLY gay.
Bisexual was just easier for me to say. Being bisexual meant that I could have all the homosexual feelings I wanted, but with the possibility of leaving the door open for romance and family. The fact that I had not the slightest inkling of sexual interest in women hardly seemed to matter to me at the time.
Years later, I admitted to my Mom that, yes, I was gay. She’d been right all along. And then I was truly and totally out.
Now, of course, I chuckle over the whole episode. But the fear and uncertainty I had as a young man look silly to me as a man in his early 40s. I’m thrilled by the larger tolerance and visibility of homosexuality in our times, and I actually see a day ahead when we’ll all look back and chuckle at the foolish fears of youth.
But even as I talk to people who’re intensely out about their sexual orientations, I’m coming to find many more people who are reticent about sharing the fact that they’re gamers.
Is The New Closet A Gaming Closet?
In the interest of total disclosure, I should say that I’m not 100% out to everyone in all my gamer habits.
I’m involved in the writing, running, and playing of Live Action Role-Playing games, and I don’t go out of my way to explain that to most folks. A lot of people who think table-top RPGs are fine see LARPing as being totally insane. I have no qualms about telling other gamers about LARPing, largely because most LARPers, myself included want to convert you to our crazy ways!
But if I’m going to a LARP event for the weekend, I balk at explaining this to a co-worker or casual acquaintance. “I’m going camping,” I’ll usually say. It’s close enough for government purposes. I omit the fact that I intend to wallop some of my closest friends with a sword made out of PVC pipe, insulation, and duct tape.
I’m not ashamed of being a LARPer. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be talking about it here. I give the camping story because I don’t want to have to get into a lengthy explanation of what LARPing is. That’s my excuse, maybe, but it’s true.
What Keeps You In The Closet?
It’s intriguing. The things that seem to cause closet gamers are the same sorts of things that caused closet homosexuals when I was a kid.
They don’t want to tell their loved ones because of the social stigma.
They don’t want to be lumped into a stereotype.
They’re afraid their friends and co-workers will talk about them behind their backs.
About the only one that doesn’t fit the old gay excuses for staying closeted is “I don’t want my girlfriend to know, because it’ll ruin my chances of continuing to date her.” Heck, back in the day of everyone being closeted, if a boy told me he was gay, that was going to radically increase our chances of dating!
Moving To The Mainstream
Even as I write this, the gaming closet idea is already breaking down. Online games like World of Warcraft and book/movie/TV franchises like Batman, Heroes, Harry Potter, and Twilight are slowly blurring the lines between what is geeky and what is not.
As all that is geeky becomes more and more mainstream, will homosexuality move back to being the fringe again? Gamers in the military get shipments of RPGs sent to them by charities, after all, but all gays in the military get is “Don’t ask; don’t tell.”
It doesn’t look like my fellow homosexuals and I will be heading back to the closet any time soon. TV shows like Heroes can question the sexuality of main characters, while Torchwood and Modern Family had GLBT main characters right from the start. We’re not just wacky neighbors and crazy mixed-up sub-plots any more.
All joking aside, however, I encourage my geek and gaming brothers and sisters, as well as my fellow homosexuals who haven’t taken the plunge yet, to kick open the closet doors and dance in the sun. Fly your freak flag high, as we say. Whether what you’re hiding is interest in members of the same sex, a collection of Star Wars action figures, or the fact that on Wednesdays, you play Ruugarth, the Minotaur Paladin, try being open with more people. Honesty and openness about who and what you are feels great.
What About You?
Are you in the closet (gay and/or gamer)?
If you’re out, want to share your coming out story?
How do you explain your gaming to non-gamers?