By W.T. Bane
I was always a nerdy kid, or really the nerdy kid. I’ve had the Star Wars Trilogy on VHS longer than I can actually remember. I think I got them for Christmas when I was 4, and they are still sitting on my shelf proudly despite me having bought them in two more formats since. My favorite shows as a child were always about superheroes: Ninja Turtles, Batman, X-men being standouts. Movies I loved were always about adventure and excitement from worlds away or worlds just beyond the possibilities of our world. I was bullied some but not extraordinarily. I never needed a flying Falcor to save me or anything like that.
This is typical for most children. However as I grew up, I held onto the things I loved. I grew to love more of the same genres I had before. I latched onto Dragonball Z in middle school. When I got my first job I started buying comic books and elaborate statues and action figures to decorate my room. With the increasing popularity of comic book films and their increasing number, I was always there opening night or the night before at midnight for the first available screening. I was the kid that could tell you the entire history of a peripheral character in X-Men when most just heard the bare mentioning of a name on screen. These were the things that I loved. It was in college that I first truly fell in love with Star Trek. Everyday after school, a friend came to my apartment and we would watch three back-to-back episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I had seen the show as a kid, but in this time I truly grew to appreciate its value.
As other kids grew up, they moved from Batman and to MTV. They left Star Wars behind for whatever was cool at the time. I didn’t. I grew up, but I held onto the things I loved and learned to appreciate them more. Throughout this I always felt marginalized. I was on the outside because of it. I was a loser in middle school and in High School I became a goth kid, wearing all black with wallet chains, studded bracelets and rocking some sweet long hair. Skulls everywhere! I’ve since mellowed into a more traditional look but the marginalization continued. I currently work at the local Fire Department where machismo is rampant. Everyone hunts, shoots guns, goes fishing and waits all year for football season. I’ve always found others with similar interests, but again as a minority to the “normal” i.e. boring people who watch what everyone else watches and live like drones to a consumer society captured by whatever they are told is hip or cool.
Last year that all changed. I was looking at booking my first real vacation from work and couldn’t decide what to do. I eventually decided on attending the Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas. I had asked several friends to join me but no one did. I went alone telling myself it was just a part of the adventure, and it turned out to be the best adventure I ever took.
The first night I had decided to take in a magic show, because it’s Vegas. Right? Afterwards I was roaming around the casino, just looking around for anything of interests when I stumbled across a bar called Masquerade. It was like any other casino bar really. It had a large table area with lots of bright lights and loud noises and all the necessary alcoholic beverages, but one thing stood out of it: Trekkies. Trekkies everywhere! 50% of the people in the bar were in some kind of Starfleet uniform and most of the rest were wearing Star Trek memorabilia.
These were my people, congregated together, under one roof.
I stood for a second watching. There was no shame to be found, not an ounce of timidness. Everyone loudly and proudly displaying nerd pride, flying the flag of Star Trek boldly proclaiming “This is who I am. This is what I love!” And in one unspoken voice was the proclamation that here nerds are welcome.
That night I can say I easily met over 100 people. Not once did I feel unwelcomed to the masses. It was as if I had always belonged to a tribe yet never knew it was out there and finally stumbled upon them. The question “where do I belong” was answered. HERE! With these wonderful people, amongst the other marginalized, the other minority, the other lovers of all things wonderfully nerdy. There was such an acceptance to all walks of life too. There were people of vastly different backgrounds, races, sexual orientations and political affiliations standing around basked in the warmth of each others company with never a second thought that we didn’t belong. This was no island of misfit toys. This was the island of people who had ascended beyond marginalization of those who are different because each of us believed in one simple thing: infinite diversity in infinite combinations, a phrase used in Star Trek by the Vulcans to celebrate that there is no one way to live. There is no rule that we all have to like the same thing or live in the same way with the same cultures. Here in this place, all walks of life were welcome to be part of the beautiful collage that was a representation of our world. If Star Trek was meant as a view of a utopia to inspire us all to put our differences aside to work together for the betterment of mankind, here in this convention hall we were making the effort to bring that collage to fruition.
Of all the souls I encountered that night, two stood out the most. The first was a man named Dan. Yes that Dan, the second most famous non-famous person at the Star Trek Convention, as he introduced himself, and recent special guest host on the last two episodes of State of the Nerd Union. He and I quickly made friends and he took me under his wing to introduce me to everyone that I needed to meet at the convention. Someone that didn’t know me from Adam and made me into a true part of the collective, further enamoring me into this new tribe that I never knew that I always belonged. Friends is not even the word for him as over time since then he is quite simply my brother, long lost in the world brought together by our mutual love of all things Trek.
The other person that stood out is none other Joanie Brosas, cosplayer extraordinaire, life long Trekkie and one of the most genuinely wonderful people I have ever encountered. Never had I seen such pure joy in a person. When other people are too cool to act silly or goofy, Joanie holds that down like no one’s business. Of all the people there, she is easily one of the most fun, exciting consistently kindest individuals to be around. Over the days she quickly became a sister to me and I count her among my best of friends.
Because both of these two felt like people that I was meant to be around, that we were from the same cloth. They were more than my tribe. They were my direct family I had been separated from and finally found. Of everyone I kept up with since, it is these two I contact the most often. You will hear more about these two and some other wonderful people in parts 2 and 3.
The following days of the convention were spent in wonder as I continuously met new people that were just as open and accepting. My first cosplay ever was as Captain Jean Luc Picard, a natural fit due to my lack of hair. The week went by so quick with panels, parties and taking pictures of amazing cosplays. I met William Shatner for a photo op, and got to meet many other stars along the way. I was able to start conversations with people and make friends just by asking, “Who’s your favorite captain?” without anyone looking at me funny. I never wanted to leave this place of nerd heaven where anyone was welcome and everyone had a place. At one point I stumbled into a Trekkie bachelor party. I had heard about this through the grapevine and was invited by someone who was on their way to it. How could I refuse? I had never met the man before so I felt awkward going, but as soon as I arrived I was once again welcomed by this stranger who owed me nothing with open arms.
The week went by so fast. I was left in a blur wondering where it all went. Hadn’t I just arrived alone on my solo adventure? Yet, on the day that I’m leaving for home, I’m surrounded with hugs from people I’ve know for 5 days but feel like I’ve known my whole life. When I did return home there was something different. I was no longer marginalized. I was no longer a lone sci fi loving nerd at a Fire Department who is too cool for something like that. I had found my place amongst the wonderful people I had encountered and I took that with me. At work I’m known as “that Star Trek guy”. People I barely know flash the Vulcan hand salute to me as a joke and I now proudly throw it back with a smile on my face with a fond wish that they live long and prosper, very few understanding the endearment ensued in the phrase. I’m proud to be “that Star Trek guy” here because no matter where I am, my Trek family is out there waiting for me to return home. We are just separated for a time, and we will be rejoined. I would see many of them all over the country over the next year including my Star Wars Convention experience, told in Part 2 coming soon.
And Live Long and Prosper.