Geeks OUT: The Avengers of LGBT Geek Orgs

Thu. January 24, 2013 12:00 AM
by Danny Bernardo

With the upsurgence of mainstream geek-centric movies and visibility through social media, Geek culture has slowly become more mainstream over the past few years. Long avoiding association with the cliche ant-social archetype made popular by The Simpsons, geeks of all types are finally starting to come out of the proverbial closet. That includes geeks in the LGBT community, who at time can face alienation in an already marginalized community. Thankfully, organizations like Geeks OUT exist. I encountered the LGBT geek organization at the 2011 New York Comic Con and have since hung out with many of their members (as well as my geek family at Gay Geeks of New York) on my many trips back to the Big Apple. At the 2012 New York Comic Con, I talked with Geeks Out about the possibility of bring their events here in Chicago. And with that, the first Geeks OUT event in Chicago will be happening at Spin Nightclub on January 25, 2013 at 7PM. More info about the event can be found here.

In my preparation for the event, I caught up with Geeks OUT board member Patrick Yacco about the organization and the inspiration that started it:

DB (Danny Bernardo): Patrick, tell us about yourself.

PY (Patrick Yacco): I'm a lifelong comic book fan, primarily following DC titles. Super-heroes have probably been a part of every major event in my life, from birthdays to breakups. I also recently started reading the "Song of Fire and Ice" series by George R. R. Martin, and every now and then I pop some classic Doctor Who episodes in the DVD player. At the same time, social justice issues and LGBT rights have always been a passion of mine. I'm currently pursuing a master's degree in non-profit management at NYU Wagner and I've also worked with groups such as Marriage Equality USA, GLAAD, the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, and the Empire State Pride Agenda to advance marriage equality legislation in New York State. I joined the board of Geeks OUT in late 2011 after volunteering with them at the New York Comic Con.

DB: What inspired the start of Geeks OUT?

PY: Geeks OUT began shortly after the 2010 New York Comic Con. There wasn't really much LGBT-centric anything at the Con, and we felt the Con really needed something gayer and fiercer. So we formed Geeks OUT to help organize and mobilize queer geeks in the area and created one of the most popular booths at the 2011 Con. It served not only as a rallying point for LGBT folk, but it also let straight people know that we're a vibrant, visible part of the geek community. We've also had the pleasure of working with a diverse array of organizations such as Marriage Equality USA, Gay Men's Health Crisis, and the NY Public Library to promote geekiness and LGBT equality throughout New York City.

DB: Why do you think gay geeks are an important subset of gay culture?

PY: Gay geeks are important to gay culture because we make geekery sexy. We add flavor to the culture, whether it's the campiness of the Wonder Woman TV show or celebrating men in tights. And even though comic books and sci-fi series are part of mainstream pop culture, there's a shyness in the gay community around embracing shows that aren't RuPaul's Drag Race or part of the Real Housewives. For example, I can't imagine any gay bar hosting Game of Thrones watch parties. So in that vein of promoting visibility, Geeks OUT helps the larger gay culture celebrate the multitude of identities that fall under the queer and geek umbrellas.

DB: What is the gay geek community like in New York?

PY: : Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly tripping over geeks here in New York. There's some type of event almost every week for gay geeks, whether it's a social mixer, a panel discussion, or a trivia night. A number of other people have been inspired to start their own programs as well, like Nick DelGiudice's Gay Geeks of New York, Shane Cherry's Hardcore party, Matt Levine's Skin Tight parties, and Jason Romas's Game Nights at Rockbar. There is such a vibrant community here and I couldn't be prouder of what we've been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.

DB: What inspired Geeks OUT to reach out to other cities to host events?

PY: Geeks OUT's mission is to rally and empower queer geeks everywhere. We want to help others raise the banner of queer geekiness in their area and to connect them to the larger national community. Nothing is more valuable to community building than in-person events. Geeks OUT launched its first event in Dallas last year, bringing the "Wii-lympics" to Barcadia in September. Who doesn't love a healthy tournament of Mario Kart and Wii Tennis? There was an excellent turnout and we happy to have the support of Richard Neal from Zeus Comics. We're planning on expanding our convention appearances as well, so I'm excited as to what 2013 has in store for us as we continue to spread across the country.

DB: What do you hope the gay geek community in Chicago will be?

PY: I hope that people begin to connect with each other and make new friends and find new things to geek out over. I would love to see this become a regular thing and that everyone is able to meet someone new each time they go to an event. Finally, I hope that the Chicago community is able to connect with more local organizations and become a part of the larger LGBT grassroots movement.