Sunday morning at GeekGirlCon ‘15 brought us one of my favorite panels of the Con. Jessica Udischas of Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl, Jenn Popkin of Gender Justice League, and Alyson McManus of Trans Lifeline teamed up for a retrospective and analysis of trans representation in genre media. (They gave the caveat that all three are able-bodied white trans women, so they only speak for a small portion of trans experience.)
Trans people are more in the spotlight than ever before, and trans representation is growing, but also changing. As Udischas pointed out, more doesn’t necessarily mean better. She gave the example of older representations such as Agent Denise Bryson in Twin Peaks. The language now seems dated, and the character was played by a cis man (David Duchovny), but in some ways the representation was more respectful than some more recent depictions.
I recently tabled a community event for GeekGirlCon and thought I’d share some of my personal thoughts on the experience.
I admit that when I first suggested that GeekGirlCon have a table at last month’s Trans* Pride celebration (organized by the awesomely named Gender Justice League), it was a bit of a test. Would this group o’ geeks want to be at an event for trans folks? Over the years, I’ve worked on being an ally to trans communities (always a work in progress), but sometimes there’s resistance or ignorance in groups, and if that was going to be the case here, I wanted to know sooner rather than later.
Happily, the answer was a quick and resounding “yes!” and “that sounds awesome!” and “of course we should be there!” This confirmed my suspicions that I’d gotten involved with a rad group of people who really are committed to creating a space that is welcoming, inclusive, and celebratory for all.
My partner-in-crime Alison and I got to Cal Anderson Park early in the evening to set up our half of the table, with our banner, info cards, and candy (candy is a very important community outreach tool). It was gorgeous weather, with the sun beaming down on a half-circle of tables and canopies at one end of the green and a full stage at the other, volunteers scurrying about between.
As Alison and I were chatting with a few attendees, over 2,000 marchers began to arrive at the park, and soon we were inundated with visitors to our little table. What’s GeekGirlCon? What do you do? When is it? How can I get involved? We talked about comics, Trans*H4CK, intersectionality, Buffy, biology, and much more.
We heard questions about our name and our tagline. Everyone I talked to was happy to see an event focusing on geeky girls and their achievements and interests, and even happier to know that everyone is welcome at GeekGirlCon, regardless of gender or type of geekery.
Of course, using words like “girl” and “female” can sometimes feel limiting; in general, our culture is deeply invested in there being only two genders, even though there clearly are more ways to express gender than that. It’s often challenging to figure out the best ways to talk about supporting and celebrating geeky women and girls in a sexist culture while not ignoring or disregarding those whose gender identities don’t fit neatly in boxes. I have no doubt that GeekGirlCon, as an organization full of dedicated, passionate, and thoughtful people, will continue to grow and evolve as we explore gender and geekery over the coming years.
Alison and I talked a lot about GeekGirlCon’s mission and values (and of course, how much fun we have at our events!), and I do believe we managed to recruit not only attendees to the Con in the fall, but new volunteers as well! I had so much fun talking to people that I completely missed hearing one of my favorite thinkers, Julia Serano, speak, and one of my favorite musicians, Rae Spoon, perform. C’est la vie; I’m sure I’ll have another opportunity to see both of them. And since they’re both pretty geeky in their own ways, perhaps they’ll even come to GeekGirlCon someday!
The atmosphere was so happy and celebratory, and I’m glad GeekGirlCon was a part of it. My hands-down favorite part of going to Trans* Pride as a representative of GeekGirlCon? Watching the faces of trans women as they read our banner and then came up to the table, exclaiming, “Hey, I’m a geeky girl—this is for me!”
Yes, yes, it is. And we can’t wait to see you in October!