Tuesday, May 05 2009

Geek Pride and Same Sex Marriage

Caution:  What lies ahead is a rant on a touchy subject that may be controversial and not completely thought out, and what makes it worse is that it's a rant that doesn't end up saying much of anything.  Enter at your own risk!


I'll start with one simple thing:  My name is Chris, and I am a Geek.  [Chorus of voices from the Internet, AA meeting style: "Hi, Chris!"]  Moreover, I'm proud of being a geek.  I spend a good portion of my free time watching Japanese Cartoons.  For a while, I even blogged extensively about them (something I'd like to get back to).

I also spend a good portion of my time building and painting miniature tanks and pushing them across a table at other miniature tanks, all while trying to resist the urge to make "rumblerumblerumble.... Bang!.... Boom!" sounds.

These are strange and abnormal hobbies, and I enjoy them a lot.  I have fun.  I don't have fun doing a lot of things normal people do to have fun.  I can't sit down and watch normal TV shows.  I can't sit down and watch sports.  They bore me.  I could be doing something else, something involving either scantily clad Japanese-speaking catgirls or a Kompanie of Sd Kfz 142/1 Sturmgeschutz III G assault guns.

The problem is, is that while I'm proud of this while pseudonymous on the internet, or around friends, I can't act proud of this around normal people.  I automatically act to conceal it, even when such concealment is futile.  It's protective camouflage.  I think it originates in elementary school, when the abnormal children tend to get teased, because children are children, and they're like that.  I was relentlessly bullied as I was an easy target, until fortunately I made some friends who were very hard targets and could be counted on to stand up for the weaker geeks like me.

On Monday, on Page 3 of  the Washington Post Metro section, Cheryl Kravitz came out as a nerd to the world, or at least the part of the world that reads the Washington Post.  In an essay titled, I Might Be a Dork, but I'll Always Sing and Dance, she explains that she realizes she's still a Nerd after all these years.  Good for you, Cheryl!   (The essay is online behind a registration sign-in here.)

I have a hard time discussing my hobbies and interests with co-workers, even when asked directly.  I usually hem and haw, and eventually find an answer that will be technically honest and still evasive enough that my answers will pass.  With movies, I can usually find a blockbuster action movie that everyone saw or at least recognizes is normal for a 30-something male to have watched.  The last TV show I watched was Chuck, my interest in which was killed by the writers strike;  I've seen partial episodes of the Big Bang Theory, enough to know the writers aren't real geeks.  With music, I can name some edgy but relatively normal American bands.  I have added a MegaTokyo poster (signed) and a couple of small anime figurines to my corner of the office, and rest of the IT department knows I have odd tastes.  I can occasionally state that I'm a geek, but the listeners always blow it off with a "You're not a geek", which is my intent.  I don't think being a geek is a bad thing, but I know its not easy to be different.

Some of the more astute readers will remember that I promised a political rant, and this certainly has not been the case so far.  Turn back now, you have been warned.

What does this have to do with same-sex marriage?  (You do remember the properly-spelled post title, right?)

On the one hand, I'm a naturally stubborn person, and don't change easily.  I was raised Catholic, so to me a marriage, or at least a proper marriage will always be one man marrying one woman not closely related to him.  But I recognize that others will disagree.  I've also watched enough anime that different, that is to say not normal relationships don't bother me.  It even predates my interests in anime;  I read a lot of sci-fi while growing up.  While Heinlein wrote some very good books, a lot of what he wrote is interesting, especially as it relates to sex, and if you follow Lazarus Long along as a easily influenced teenage sci-fi buff, eventually nothing fazes you.  Personally, I don't care what consenting adults do in privacy.  I'm defnitely in favor of extending many of the legal benefits of marriage to same sex partners, and I voted against Virginia's defense of marriage amendment on those grounds.  I've personally come to favor the Italian solution... marriage is purely a religious sacrement, open to any faith's definitions, while government oversees civil partner benefits to any couple.   However, if the American public votes for changing the definition of marriage, it doesn't bother me.

But for many of the participants on both sides, the debate has taken on another level, one that definitely bears on my observations on my own Geek pride.  I choose to define myself as a Geek.  I am a lot of other things besides, some of them potentially contradictory; I am an American, a Catholic, a Conservative, Libertarian and Classical Liberal, a Virginian, an Engineer, a Computer Expert, and many things besides.  What I choose to identify myself as is my choice, and my choices come with consequences.

To some, the debate over same sex marriage is a debate (or the major battleground in the debate) over the social status of homosexuals (gays, lesbians, etc.).  On one side, we have the arch-traditionalists that see any attempt at acknowledging homosexuals as the next step towards cultural depravity and anarchy, and on the other side, we have a portion of the homosexual community demanding both that they be afforded special protections and that they be respected as perfectly equal to anyone else, and that this is a right.

My rational side automatically despises the Fred Phelps of the world.  As I've said, what consenting adults do in private is not my concern, and anyone that has made hating an entire class of people their way of life is abhorrent to me.  I don't have a problem with despising the Westboro Baptist Church.  It's easy to despise the Westboro Baptist Church.  It's my other, more emotional reaction that is harder for me to rationalize, and trying to spell it out is why I'm writing this post.

My emotial reaction to the arguments for the homosexual community is both rejection and offense.  For better or for worse, their self identity is tied to a behavior, specifically a sexual behavior, that is not instinctively normal for the vast majority of the population, and they are offended that people think differently of them because of this.  I don't think anyone should be fired from their job merely for being homosexual (although I do believe institutions like the military that enforce a code of behavior that limits sexual activity beyond what is enforcable by law should be able to include homosexual sex in that code).  But I don't think anyone should be fired from their job for being a geek, and it is legal to fire someone for being a geek.  Being a geek isn't protected by law.  I can't find a rational line between what is protected behavior and what isn't, and I'm offended that my self-identity group is on the wrong side of that line.  I don't get any respect; why should I give in to your demands to respect you?

I don't care if you're a homosexual.  Do you care if I'm a geek?  Would you have a negative reaction to me if my interests came up in conversation?  Am I discriminated against in society?  If you said no, take this hypothetical situation:  a manager is trying to determine which of two equally qualified candidates to promote, one of whom shares his non-work interests (perhaps he's a fellow fan of the local football team);  is the fan more likely to get promoted, perhaps because he interacts with the manager more socially?  As a geek, am I more or less likely to have an interest in common with the manager?  I can't socialize with peers at work, because I have no common interests.  I don't watch the latest Reality TV shows and don't follow pro or college sports.  How do I network with people?

As I've said, it's an emotional reaction to an emotional issue with no right answer, and ultimately, it's a useless rant.  I want to see the political issue resolved, and hopefully in a matter that leaves everyone somewhat satisfied in the short run, while the real issue, that of mutual respect for everyone, is solved in the background in the long run.  But respect cannot be demanded, only earned...

Posted by: Civilis at 07: 58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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