Archive for Commentary

Pride

This is last day of June and the last day of Pride month.

I have a lot of thoughts about Pride month.

I am hesitant to share them as I have not been out for very long and feel like I have the right to speak about Pride. These thoughts are also conflicting which makes it even more difficult. I am going to put some of them down here to help process and maybe help someone else who struggles with their identity and Pride.

It is hard to think of Pride without thinking about parades.

I am not a fan of parades but I see the value in our Pride Parades. We take to the streets and celebrate who we are. We do so knowing that even in this day and age that we will pay a price for being out and proud. We march to show those still trapped by fear what a life outside of the closet can be like. We march to show strength, community, and solidarity.

The Pride parade shows me both how far I have come and how much work I still have to do. The parade makes my heart sing with joy that I am able to be free of the need to hide or pretend. I join the others in the LGBTQ+ community in publicly embracing my identity and showing it to the world. We step out of the shadows to be visible and claim our right to exist. We also step out into the light and make ourselves a target because to hide from discrimination is to say that this type of treatment of another human being is okay. It is this that lays bare my own personal failings. There are people I know that aren’t truly out. They hide away from who they are due to the costs of what being out will have for them. I know the fears that they go through about taking that next step and yet it still bugs me that they aren’t out. It has taken some self-interrogation to realize that instead of being aggravated by those that still fear coming out I should be more compassionate. I should stand out more and be out, loud, and proud. By pushing forward, I and others will make it easier for those still afraid of the oh so real consequences of being LGBTQ+ in this day and age.

The Pride Parade highlights the idea of solidarity as well. We take to the streets and embrace our identity and the consequences be damned. We are joined in this march by companies, organizations, and politicians. They take up the banner of Pride to let us know that they recognize our right to exist as well as the need to stand up for a marginalized community. Once again, it warms my heart to see these people and organizations step up and support us. It just comes with the price that, in the past, these same people and organizations were just as complicit in our marginalization. These organizations and people still take part in practices that deny us the rights that are accorded to others people in the community. How do we applaud them for supporting us but still hold them accountable for treating us so poorly for so long? How do we say thank you for helping but explain that there are days that they are still hurting us?

Pride month and Pride parades bring us together as a community. We organize the parade. We gather together people to put on parties and charity events. We work with the communities that we live in to get them to give us time and resources to allow us to celebrate who we are and our right to exist. We show that we are community and are capable of organizing to support each other. We then gloss where we as a community ostracize the more marginalized members of our own community. There is Bi erasure as we talk about bisexual people as if they are confused or just lying. We don’t do enough for our Trans brothers and sisters who are murdered, commit suicide, and are legislated against. We turn a blind eye to those in our communities that continue to use bigoted language like “no fats/no fems, No blacks/no asians”. We create communities that state that they are inclusive and have members due petty distinctions that have no place in the queer community. I see it happen and am victimized by and don’t know what to do for my community.

Pride month comes to a close this month and I look back on with mixed feelings.

We have come so far.

We need to drop these things that hold us back and distract us from pushing forward. We need to embrace all of the letters in the LGBTQ+ and make sure that they feel welcome in the community. We need to continue to push forward and do better by each other. We need to take time to look at our community and embrace the positive but see the negative and take a step to changing it.

Take the time to do some self-examination this last day of Pride. Where do you stand strong? Where do you stumble? What can you do to be better in both areas?

I can do it and I believe that you can too.

Monsters

There is a meme going around the internets.

It is simple yet funny. It is a few lines of text that made me laugh and then made me think. It sunk it’s fangs into my mind and would not let go.

It opens with a line of people calling LGBTQ+ people monsters. It follows this with a statement from us that this is fine. We then go about gathering up the cryptids.

It plays to the crowds with humor and intelligence but found little traction. It, like us, is transgressive and plays with a cultural icon and bends it in a fashion that people aren’t used to seeing.

The use of monster is correct. Take a trip back to Beowulf and you can see what it means to be a monster. Grendel lives outside of society, literally outside of Heorot. Grendel is excluded from society and all the the things that this provides. We are also outside of society. We behave in a fashion that defies the expected and we are treated just like Grendel. We are not given the same rights as the other members of society and are tolerated at the best or killed at the worst.

What’s a monster to do? When you are exiled to the dark and must survive on your own. The need for connection and the need to feel powerful get all mixed up. Thus, Grendel lashes out and wreaks havoc on society. Hrothgar and his soldiers are at a loss and unable to defend against a thing which they have excluded from the mead hall. They have reveled in their ignorance and lack the ability to understand what they face.

The Hero, the walker between worlds, must defend the people from that which has been deemed an outsider. It is with guile and force that the hero steps outside the hall and deals with the monster. The hero is the one that strides between worlds and is welcome in none.

This meme struck a chord. Instead of being the hero, we embrace being that which does not fit in. We take up the narrative and do not allow the idea of being a monster isolate us from those that are excluded. We find the other monsters and gather them up. We create a place where they are welcome and can be a part of something. It may not be perfect but it provides a family.

The hero, just like in Beowulf, is blind just like the crowd. He sees the monster as unfeeling and uncaring. Nothing more than a thing to be killed. He misses the point that Grendel has a mother and that they loved each other. His arrogance leaves more people dead in Heorot as he blinds himself to the idea that the monsters are just like the people in the hall. They want to fit in, be loved, and exist.

This fits well with the current trend of elevating monsters. There are those that hate the Twilight books and movies, as well as the Underworld movies. But they do a thing that people miss. They show you monsters that the humans want to be. They show you monsters that just try to get by while still being monsters. The allure of being both within the group and free to be who you are is highlighted in these simple pieces of fiction. There are those that want to step outside of the constraints that have been placed around them and take up the mantle of monster. They see the families that the monsters have created and feel the authenticity and that is to be had from embracing who you truly are.

On a personal level, the idea of the monster has always held an appeal for me. I’ve mentioned many time my love of mythology and the gods. I’ve always loved the monsters that followed in the shadows of the gods and found their tales to be fascinating. As I aged, my love of werewolves and all lycanthropes came to mirror both my fear of being found out and the deep seated need to shed the disguise and leave the closet and be myself.  Back before MMO’s there were text based games called MUDS. You created characters and ran around slaying dragons and fighting other players. I was an avid MUDer. There was a mud that allowed you play a lycanthrope character. You could define what type as well. Bear’s were just coming onto the scene and I had discovered them on BBSs, newsgroups, AOL chat rooms. So, I created a werebear and it felt so good. I enjoyed the game for some time with this character until one day I received a message in game basically stating that the person knew my friends and wondered if they knew I was gay. Panic and terror ended that character and ended exploration for some time on my part. It didn’t end the idea of the monster and transformation though.

We are embracing the idea of the monster a little late. We take back language in order to regain power but this is different. The cultural cache of the monster runs deep. It occurs throughout all societies and provides a mirror by which a society views what they are and what they can be. The monster is what allows a society to define its heroes and how it treats these self same heroes.

Accepting the monster as a part of society is where the stories differ across cultures. Here in the west, we see them as something to be driven out and destroyed. This, in turn, defines the hero as something that stands outside of society as well. The hero is also a destroyer. They are to be lauded for keeping the things outside the walls at bay but should be viewed with caution as they too, are destroyers. When the idea of the monster is accepted as a necessary part of the society, it redefines the hero as well. When we embrace the idea of the monster we show them that what they have isn’t special or new. It is something that we can create through force of will and not the prerogative of those deemed appropriate. This in turn allows the hero to be a full part of society as well. They are accepted and embraced instead of being kept at arms length.

Transformative.

So, takes some time this pride season to think about monsters. Watch the Babadook and be open to the allegory within. We have been called monsters for a long time and our process of accepting ourselves reflects this. This doesn’t strip us of our humanity but gives us the power to show others what it means to be truly human.

Emotional Spectrum

It has been a long time since I’ve written about myself.

I was looking back at one of my old blogs and realized that It was way back in 2012 when I was just beginning the process of coming out that I had stopped writing about me.

I had used as framework for my musings, The Emotional Spectrum.

For those not in the know, I am referring to the different Lantern Rings from DC Comics. It started with the Green Lantern which represented willpower. As the storyline progressed other colors on the rainbow were added. It started with Yellow and fear and later Violet representing love. It was leading up to Darkest Night that the spectrum expanded to include all the colors of the rainbow as well as white and black.

I will freely admit that it is a simplistic approach to emotions and yet it resonates with me. The idea that emotions can be weaponized and harnessed for good or ill is both literal and figurative. You can see in everyday interactions how emotions are manipulated by others to gain advantage and leverage against others. The stories that are possible within this idea are also limitless.

Which always leaves me a bit disappointed in DC and it’s handling of the Emotional Spectrum as they take no risks and tend to leave everything in the hands of the old tried and true without tapping the depths that can be found in this idea.

so, I will put fingers to keyboard and talk a bit about where I am today and what I am doing to push forward. It will be centered around each of the Lantern Rings and I will not shy away from the Black or the Red.

If you would like to see my first crack at it, you can find it here. Start at the Emotional Spectrum and work your way up.

 

Bear Brotherhood

Community.

Belonging.

Fitting in.

All of these things are the siren song of the geek.

Before I came out, I spent time on the internet perusing the different communities and was very happy when I discovered Bears. Here was a group that originated in the IT sector before it was even a big thing. They were of the same body type as me and seemed to have a large amount of members that enjoyed geeky things like I did.

The more reading I did, the more the idea of Bear Brotherhood kept cropping up. this was the idea that this community was open and accepting of all those that called it home. This community would provide a place that provide a welcome to those who did not fit what, at the time, was the standard of gay male beauty.  Everyone wants to feel accepted and that they have a place where they fit in. This is an important concept with incredible power.

The idea of Bear Brotherhood makes sense. It paints the bear community as empathic and accepting and is used as a means of bringing people together. Having a community that, on the face of it, is accepting of all members and provides a safe place for people to come together and find acceptance is admirable. When this happens, we bears will experience a connection with other bears that is enriching both on an emotional and physical level.

This concept is made manifest in the bear community both online and in events such as Bear Runs, Bear Dinners, Movie Bear groups, and any of the myriad bear gatherings that exist across the face of the planet. Each is designed to reach out to members of the Bear community based on a range of commonalities. They exist to encourage and enhance Bear Brotherhood.

It is in this expression that the power of Bear Brotherhood is experienced in it’s myriad forms. The things that people either forget or gloss over is that the expression of an ideal is always mitigated by the group dynamic as well as the desires of the more powerful personalities present. You organize a get together where the objective is for bears to come together around a central theme and feel comfortable. If the majority of the people who show up are there to find someone to hook up with, the idea of Bear Brotherhood is an elusive beast to capture.

Notice, I did not say absent.

If you are an outgoing or popular bear, you will be able to find this type of connection even at events where the group dynamic is about hooking up. It is the shy and less popular bears that will have a much harder time in this environment. They have came to meet new people and feel accepted. Where they came expecting to feel welcome and accepted, they end up facing the same feeling they would get if they went to a bar. They will attempt to make conversation and the frustration and fear will build as the absence of community is quickly felt.

This idea of community is also utilized in a manipulative fashion. The aforementioned hijacked event for the purpose of hooking up is just one. If you’ve attended a bear event that has a charitable aspect to it, then you’ve seen the manipulative aspect in full force. These events tend to have cute volunteers whose job it is to go around and sell raffle tickets or some other means of generating revenue for said charity. There are those that are straight forward and tell you they are collecting for charity. There are also those who leverage that sense of community and create that feeling of belonging in order to get the money flowing.  I am not saying this is wrong as it is a standard sales tactic. It is just problematic as those shy bears whom have shown up to feel like they are part of something will come into this interaction with a very different perspective and are at the minimum going to feel let down when they realize their perceptions and reality do not mesh.

I know that I am coming across a bit harsh on the idea of Bear Brotherhood and community. I am pointing out the flaws and leaving off that feeling of that one does get when that connection happens. I am a firm believer in the ideal of Bear Brotherhood. It is important that we make all bears feel welcome and like they belong. We live in a world where we aren’t accepted and there are those that constantly strive to not only marginalize us but to even destroy us. That we have a strong, supportive community is something that does matter. I think that is why it is important to take a look at the community that we participate in and have created with a critical eye. By doing this, we can create a better place for us.

It doesn’t take much effort to take a good community and make it great. If you look at yourself and those around you and ask a simple question, “What am I missing?” Then you take that step back and you might notice that person sitting at the edge of the group that has felt the vibe not being conducive to just having conversation. You might notice that person treading water at the deep end of the pool at a bear run and wander over and ask, ” How is your run going so far?” It is a platitude, but small steps are needed to complete any long journey.

So do me a favor bears. Keep believing in the idea of Bear Brotherhood. But, always take the time to step back and look at the community or event you are at. Look at it critically and see where it might be failing someone. When you see this flaw, step and do something about it. If we don’t create and support a community that lifts up all of us, who will?

Comics Issues

If you’ve read some of my posts, you will know that I enjoy reading comic books. I look forward to new comic book day and seeing what has shown up in my pull list and what interesting titles may be lurking on the shelves at my local comic shop.

The thing is, I am a reader of comics, not a collector. This presents me with several issues which I ponder at length. These issues all fall neatly into the larger consideration of digital versus hard copy.

Digital makes the most sense when viewed from the logical perspective.

First there is the storage issue. As I am not a collector, I do not have long boxes to keep my comics in. I do not bag and board my comics either. I pick them up from my local shop and read them. After being read, they sit in a pile in my home getting in the way. Digital comics would eliminate this problem completely. I would be able to store the comics I bought in the cloud and have nothing cluttering up my house.

Next there is the convenience factor. On new comic book day, I could get out of bed and tap on my iPad and have my comics that I get each week purchased in a matter of a few minutes. Even if I am unable to do it within the comixology App, the website is pretty intuitive and makes the purchase simple and easy. There isn’t the worry of getting to the shop before it closes.

Finally, there is the guided view that comes with most items purchased online. The digital version of a book allows you to follow the story in a different manner. As the name implies, it guides the the from image to image in a fashion much different than what I normally do when reading a comic. It provides a different perspective on the issue which is enjoyable.

Despite all this, I still buy the physical copies of the comics I read.

One of the biggest reasons I do this is to support local shops. It sounds altruistic but it isn’t. In my area, finding people that liked comics, games, and other nerdy things was not easy. The fastest way to find those that shared similar hobbies was going to my local comic book store. I would be able to get my comics, find the newest roleplaying game, and talk about all of these things with other people at the store. I want this type of environment to be around for future generations that are into comics. So, will support a local comic shop that I believe in with my money and my time.

As much as the digital versions of comics are more convenient, I enjoy both the physical artifact of a comic book as well as just browsing the shelves to see what else might be interesting. There are hardback collections of titles that I enjoy that are gorgeous. I may see a picture of them online, but picking them up in the store and appreciating their sheer beauty is something altogether different. I have also recently been to the comic book store with friends. Walking around with them as they pick up their books and having them make suggestions of books for me to try was moving for me. It took an experience that has normally been solitary and made it all the better.

I also like having someone to talk to about what I am buying at the time of purchase. I have found out about titles that I have enjoyed being cancelled from my local comic shop. I have also been given recommendations of titles that are similar to what I normally buy that have turned into some of my favorite books at the moment. The computer does this but I have yet to have any luck with the algorithm actually picking anything that I enjoy. It’s funny. I am a shy person but I enjoy the human interaction around the things that I enjoy. Talking to the people at my local comic shop makes my day even when I might not be up to full on interactions.

Finally, despite always having a pile of books that I have read, I don’t mind. Like i said, I am not a collector. I will take the pile to my game night or to a friend’s house and let them go through the books that I have and take what they like. I let them see if there is anything that I enjoy that they might like and give it a try. It makes it easier for them to get into this hobby I enjoy and I spread a bit of joy when I do this.

How do you buy your comics?

Why do you chose to buy them in that fashion?

Share your answers in the comments.

Welcome to Night Vale

In the past few months, I have been one of the ten thousand a lot.

One of the things of which I was ignorant was Welcome to Night Vale.

My tastes in science fiction and fantasy tend to run towards the more mainstream variety. Mythology being the dominant theme that occupies most of the media that I consume. I love things that are quirky but they have to brought to my attention if they fall outside of my sometimes limited vision.

Welcome to Night Vale is just such a quirky podcast that straddles many genres and does it with a style and grace that is just breathtaking. The show takes the cosmic horrors that populate the writings of H P Lovecraft and August Derleth and blends them with the existential horrors that populate the lives of those of us living the life suburban. A good example of this is when the radio show speaks of the local bowling alley. The audience will be informed of the ancient city that has been discovered in a hole by the pin setter. The discovery prompted by the loss of a bowling ball falling into the depths of the city and the noise it makes echoing across the vast halls. The narrative then quickly swings to the mundane as the owner asks that people getting their bowling shoes know their size so that this part of the process could go quicker.

Welcome to Night Vale embraces the idea of the uncaring universe and shows the perseverance of human nature as it’s citizens try to continue on with their lives despite knowledge of their small place in the vast cosmos.

There is so much to love about Welcome to Night Vale. There are certain things that provide anchors for me to the show that I wanted to point out in particular.

First, There is Cecil, The Voice of Night Vale. He is our window onto Night Vale and the host of the radio show to which we are listening. He tells us of the community radio station for which he works as well as about the people that live in the town. He is the human connection to this strange place that is nestled somewhere in the deserts of America. As the show progress he provides us personal asides both in context to the stories that he presents as a journalist and out of context as a member of the community of Night Vale. A perfect example of this is Steve Carlsberg. There are points where things are going wrong and Cecil will become distracted by something small going wrong in the community and will blame Steve. He will go on, at length, how Steve is the one to blame for not doing things the way they are supposed to be done.

Cecil is also an unreliable narrator. He is our human connection to all this weirdness. As we listen, he paints us a picture of a place that is in turns, weird, wondrous, and prosaic. He tells us stories of the people, the culture, and the government of Night Vale. All these things bring us, the listeners, into his circle of trust. As we listen, it quickly becomes obvious that Cecil is not giving us the whole story. Not out of maliciousness, but due to the very nature of Night Vale itself. There are points where he points out that writing utensils are illegal as are books and yet he has attended school and has taken notes on stories that he reports on. Combine this with frailty of the human mind when confronted with the immense powers of things like the Glow Cloud. It comes to town and we are given ongoing reporting on the crisis. At the peak of the crisis, Cecil reports that the denizens of Night Vale have begun worshipping the Glow Cloud and then begins worshipping as well. When we return to Cecil in a non-worship mode, we learn that he has no memory of the past time period and that all recordings of what has happened are blank. Did what we just here about the community really happen or were the stories that we listened to during the episode just fabrications of the Glow Cloud?

I also love that despite the horror and absurdity that are part and parcel of Night Vale, the core of humanity is never lost. It embraces the dichotomy of humanity and shows the listener the heights to which humans can reach and the lows to which they can descend. It does this by illustrating that Night Vale is a small insular town and yet embraces diversity. Cecil provides the best example of this. From the first episode, we get to watch as Cecil falls in love. A scientist, Carlos comes to town to investigate the oddities inherent in Night Vale. We get to listen as Cecil waxes poetic in his descriptions of Carlos whenever he enters the narrative. Welcome to Night Vale is a community radio program and we get to listen as Cecil goes from a crush on a handsome scientist to dating him and this is perfectly acceptable by community standards. For me, this was a standout and something that drew me in quickly as this was a place that was weird but accepting. But the show also doesn’t allow you view the citizens as fine upstanding people though. It takes the time to show them as insular and fearful of change as are most humans as well. There is an episode about a traveling carnival. As the story progresses, we are set up to see this thing as some traveling evil that has come to prey on the city. The build up is similar to the movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes. At the climax, we watch as the people of Night Vale unite to drive out the interlopers. As they flee, we get to see that it was just a regular carnival and that Cecil and the people of Night Vale have given into to fear of Strangers and done something horrible as the carnies flee for their lives from the hatred of these people whom have become as monstrous as some of the threats that they have faced.

I am so glad that I was introduced to Welcome to Night Vale. It brings me into a weird, funny, and scary world that is welcoming and terrifying in turns. The storytelling is so engrossing that I look forward to each new episode to see what little piece from prior stories will crop up and become the next big bad. This show also has a penchant for punching you in the feels with no warning and this something that elevates this from entertainment to art in my mind. If you have not listened to Welcome to Night Vale, you should remedy this egregious error quickly.

Four Bear Paws out of four.

I bearly recommend Welcome to Night Vale!

North American Bear Weekend 2017

For over two years I have had the goal of going to a Bear Run.

I am a shy person and going to an event alone is not something that I am confident in doing. I have let the time pass so that any run that I looked into the host hotel was sold out. I was able to avoid stepping out of my comfort zone.

This year was different. I had several friends that were planning on attending a bear run that was right in my backyard. North American Bear Weekend is held in Lexington, Kentucky. Just about an hour down the highway from me. So, before I could let the specter of procrastination allow me to miss another Bear Run, I went online and purchased my North American Bear Weekend Pass, added the Bourbon/Beer Tour and booked my room at the host hotel.

I was very lucky that friends decided to take me under their wing for the weekend to make sure that I had a good time and help out if the event became overwhelming.

NAB was a great run. I may not be experienced with a Bear Run but I have attended many gaming conventions of varying size and I think they are a fair comparison for a Bear Run. Unlike many smaller conventions I have attended, things ran smoothly throughout the run. This was impressive knowing that this was a new venue for the event. The registration experience was quick and painless. It took only a few minutes to get through the line and have my wrist band.

There were events scheduled each day to provide the attendee with something to do. These ran the gamut from pool parties with karaoke to dance parties with different themes. There was a gaming room that supported the local Gay Straight Alliance and a vendor hall as well.

There was so much going on that I did not get to all the things that I wanted too. There are several things that made the run a great time a

Ursatron T Shirt

nd I wanted to call them out here.

First, was the vendor hall. I mentioned that I go to gaming conventions so a trip to the vendor hall is always in order. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. It consisted of over a dozen vendors. The preponderance of them selling cool bear t-shirts. There was also a leather vendor, kilts, underwear, wood art, decorative glass, jewelry, a bootblack, and men’s grooming. Needless to say, I spent a lot of money. My favorite shirt that I picked up at NAB came from Growl Wear. The had a shirt that is entitled Ursatron. It has a giant robot similar to Voltron done with bears! I saw this and I was all “Take my money, Please!” Scott and Kent who own Growl Wear were very kind and helpful and even when I could not make up my mind what I wanted to buy. I ended up picking up four shirts from them. I picked up shirts from KillerBob Graphics, and Bear TShirts.

There was also a leather booth in the Vendor Hall, WolfStryker Leather. I was drawn into the booth by the harnesses that had the Flash symbol as well as several other nerdy pieces of leather. I went in and looked at them a

Ursatron detail

s they were well done. They had several Harry Potter pieces as well. I finally decided to take the leap and tried on a harness. It was a pretty fun process.The people at WolfStryker made me feel very comfortable and my friend Terry helped me make a good choice. It was fitted and fixed in under a half an hour and I had a wonderful new harness that made me feel handsome!

Finally there was a booth that had burned wood and copper art work pieces. There were many pieces with a bear motif as well other nerdy pieces. I fell in love with one piece in particular. It was a tribal owl holding a key. Just beautiful. The name of the booth was Pyrography & Copper Work Lb. Turns out that I was given the Owl later in the weekend as a gift. It was a bit overwhelming. The artist was there but I forgot to tell him thank you for creating such a beautiful piece.

The piece I received

The run itself was a bit overwhelming. There are lots of people there, but unlike a gaming convention, I had a limited frame of reference for which to interact. Everyone was cordial and polite but my inherent shyness definitely made me feel out of place.I was lucky to be at the Run with friends who made it much more comfortable for me.

There were two things that I did get to do that were fun and I wanted to talk about. There was the pool parties. The hotel pool was taken over by the bears and Karaoke was happening. It was a very relaxed sort of event. There were bears of all types in the pool so it was easy to not be self conscious in the pool or hot tub. There wasn’t the judgmentalness that one would expect from a gathering of gay men. Everyone was laughing and having a good time. It was something that was new to me and was very exhilarating!

Another of the events that I enjoyed was a dance party. The one that I chose to attend was the Jocks & Socks Dance. I saw it in the program and decided to do it despite it being well outside of my comfort zone. Dancing! In a jockstrap! With People Around! Before the dance, I went to my room and got ready. I just sat there for a while and contemplated not going. My friend, Bill, texted me to see what I was doing. I explained and he just replied that he was at the bar with some of our friends. So, I plucked up my courage and went down to the bar. My friends and I were able to convince Bill to join us at the dance. It was amazing! Once again, Bears of all types with no judgement, just dancing. It was so good! The music was amazing as well. DJ Shane Phoenix Harris provided an excellent soundtrack for the night.

Overall, I had a good time at North American Bear Weekend 2017. It was run filled with guys that crossed the spectrum. It felt like an environment that was welcoming to those of all types without being judgemental. The people who put the run together were calm, cordial, and organized and seemed to care very much about everyone’s experience at the Run. I definitely want to go back and purchased my tickets to the next run on the last day of the Run.

Four out of Four bear paws. If you have not been to a Bear Run before, I have to say that giving NAB weekend a try as you will not go wrong.

I bearly recommend it!

National Coming Out Day

240px-Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skiesOctober 11th is the day that has been chosen for National Coming Out day.

You may wonder why there is even a National Coming Out day when it seems that things are coming up Milhouse for those of us in the LGBT community?

It is because we still live in a society where those in the LGBT community are marginalized and looked down upon. This is changing but it is slow and filled with terrible extinction bursts that leave teenagers homeless, adults beaten, and transgendered people murdered. Until this changes, there will be a need to acknowledge that we have to come out and that it isn’t just once that we have to do this. We do this all the time and  how difficult this is depends on the individual and the time and place.

This will be my fourth year out of the closet. I am glad I came out and regret that it took me so long to make the choice. So, I thought I would take a moment and share my story here on Geek Bear’s Den so that you would understand a bit about this Geek Bear and hopefully encourage others in coming out.

The impetus to come out was pushed by my own health issues four years ago. I was at 325 lbs. I had diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I was on over eight pills for all of these conditions. I went in for a quarterly check up and was at the point that I was going to be put on insulin.

I was terrified.

I sat down and put in some time with analyzing what was keeping me in that place. I knew I didn’t want to be on shots and that there was something preventing me from improving my situation. I can be very myopic and it was no more evident than at this moment. I had used weight and health issues as a convenient way to hide that I was gay from myself and, I thought, from others.

It took a bit of time to come to this level of self-acceptance. A person incorporates the hatred they see for themselves out in society and this makes them not accept who they are and. After this epiphany, I began the work to take better care of myself as well as accept this part of me that I had kept compartmentalized and hidden away.

It was like a weight was lifted and I could breathe.

This was back in 2012. I didn’t really tell anyone that was close to me at the time. I did go to the seminar Queer as a 3 Sided Die at GenCon and began using the apps like Growlr to try and meet people.

It was not until 2013 that I decided to begin telling my friends and family.

I had a plan. The objective was to start with the people that I felt safest telling and work my way to the ones that I felt the least safest. I would tell them over dinner so that I was in a public space and would have a way out.

I was very lucky.

All of my friends who I told were very accepting. There was no need to have gone through all of the worry that I had done and the need for an escape route ended up being effort without reason. It was a relief to come through the first round of coming out with minimal repercussions.

The process of telling my parents was different. I sat them down and had the conversation about being gay. Saying their reaction to the news was different would be an understatement. My father cried and my mother said things such as “What have I done to deserve this?” “You’re going to die of AIDS!” “I can’t live with this!”  They asked me to not tell my brother until they had time to process the information themselves and then told him a day later without my knowledge.

It was rough.

I came out the experience rather well.

I still had a place to work, to live, and, despite their reaction, I still had my family. There are many that are not so lucky. In the end, I only ended up losing three friends coming out. It was not easy accepting it but I realized that I was better off without them.

I also still learn about reactions to my coming out as people feel more comfortable sharing their initial reactions now or share the reactions of others with me now that time has passed. These revelations though are bit rough to take when people are revealed to have been uncomfortable around me or disgusted and then they got over it.

On this National Coming Out Day, I hope that those out there that are thinking about coming out are lucky enough to have friends that will listen to them when they let go of the fear and share the truth about themselves. I hope that they are lucky enough to be safe and supported when they take this big step. I also hope those that fear this action understand that this is okay as well. I understand that fear and know how difficult it is to overcome. I hope that they keep working on themselves so that they can overcome the fear soon enough to enjoy their life and not succumb to the fear and pain that living in the shadows can bring.

If you are still struggling with the idea of coming out, Check out the Human Right’s Campaign’s Resource Guide to Coming Out. It is a very helpful guide.

GenCon 2016: An Overview

Gen ConGenCon 2016 is in the books.

I have returned home and taken a breather. Returned to the regular work-a-day world.

GenCon is always an intense experience for me. It is filled with gaming, friends, food, fun, and physical exertion. I talk about the ways that you can experience GenCon without pushing yourself to the limit and still end up doing it myself. I just dance along the edge of my own rules, not violating the letter but definitely the spirit.

I want to talk about GenCon 2016 both from a high level of my overall feeling of my trip this year as well as the finer details that captured my attention outside of things that I decided to accomplish.

I was searching for an analogy for how this year at GenCon felt for me and for once a sports analogy seems apropo. I am around enough people that love football to be familiar with the term rebuilding year. This means that there have been many changes in the team make up that the current season will not compare to prior years. This means that you modulate your expectations and enjoy the ride regardless.

GenCon 2016 was my rebuilding year.

I loved GenCon 2016 and had a great time but it was different this year. I had built up relationships with people over time through GenCon and then talking online via Facebook or Google Hangouts. Only a few of those people made it to GenCon this year. As an introvert, the people I know become touchstones that allow me to stretch myself and go out and try new things. Lacking a large support system and experiencing the vagaries of scheduling games through GenCon, I had very few things scheduled for me to do. I had more time to both explore. I was able to ponder what I wanted from and thought about GenCon. I also had time to just observe GenCon with a more discerning eye.

First off, GenCon is an amazing feat of logistics. Organize over sixty thousand people into the area surrounding downtown Indianapolis is no mean feat. Wednesday just highlighted the point for me as I had to get my packet from Will-Call. The line for this began short but quickly grew to stretch to outside of the convention center. I ended up having to leave the line several times to either help friends move things to the vendor hall or to meet friends for dinner or conversation. I was able to see the flow of the line at both its slowest and it’s fastest. Despite the long line, I was impressed with the attitude of the people both in the line and those helping the line. The frustration, though apparent, never bubbled over into anything negative. I ended up chatting one time with someone new to GenCon providing things that I thought might be fun to check out as well as finding out what games they liked. Another iteration in the line for me led to discussions about the various pokemon and pokestops that were accessible just from standing in line. My longest time in line before leaving to join friends was 45 minutes. I was approaching the divide where volunteers worked tirelessly to make sure that the hallway was kept clear for people moving about. It took only 30  minutes when I finally got in line around 11:15 that evening to make it through the line and get my stuff.

I had two more lines to wait in before I would be done with lines at GenCon 2016. I was very lucky to given a press badge by the convention. This means I have to pick up my press badge from the Press room on the first day of GenCon which opens at 7:30. I don’t have to wait in line for this but the first 90 people that pick up their press badge are allowed early entry into the vendor hall on that first day. Being able to be in the vendor hall and have a conversation with someone from a game company without the press of humanity all about you is well worth the wait in line for both early entry and the press badge. The line for the press badge is always entertaining as there are always people there discussing the youtube channels or podcast and it is neat to hear these stories. Everyone is nice an orderly and I have had no issues with the wait. This year I even finished a post while waiting. The people staffing the press room were friendly, quick, and efficient as always and had me on my way to the line to wait for the vendor hall.

This line was different story.

The GenCon staffer that was present was very helpful and directed me to where to wait and there appeared to be a line so I went and sat down. Unlike last year, I had found a spot where people appeared to be a bit more introverted than I. So, I sat and caught pokemon. After a while, a second line formed and most of the people around me got frustrated and angry. I did my best to help diffuse these emotions but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I was just thankful to be getting into the Vendor Hall early and the wait in one line or the other was not something that bothered me. I was very impressed with how the GenCon staffer handled it and was able to get everyone moved so that the two lines stopped impeding foot traffic through the halls.

The GenCon staffers and volunteers did an excellent job in all of these situations keeping the peace, allowing traffic to flow, and maintained a great attitude despite the pressure of the situation. something that is always excellent to see in action and appreciated by me.

I am always impressed with the people that attend GenCon. With such a large number of people in close contact, things could easily go south. Having more time to be leisurely in my approach to GenCon this year allowed me to be more observant of those around me. I noticed how the majority of people tried to be conscious of those around them. They attempted to modulate their tone and mannerisms to not impinge on the fun of others. There were people that were frustrated and children that had meltdowns but people worked to reign in their negative emotions and and also offered to help those that appeared to be struggling. My view is limited and this is anecdotal but it still made me feel good about these people that share my hobby.

I was also impressed with some of the customer service I received within the vendor hall. I stopped to speak with Black Book Editions about Polaris. I believe the gentleman’s name was Tom. It was towards the end of the day and I could tell that he was tired but he answered all my questions even the ones that were difficult about diversity in his books. He took the time to read my badge and use my name throughout the interaction and kindled an interest in the game through his good cheer and attention to detail.

This same treatment was given to me by the kind folks also stationed in the Paizo booth, Ulisess Spiele and their game, The Dark Eye. I was impressed enough by their treatment of me that I bought the deluxe edition of the core rule book. It is gorgeous by the way.

The pertinent picture.

The pertinent picture.

Finally, I was wandering the vendor hall with my new friend ,Sam, and had to take him over to the 7th Sea booth. I was showing him the book when the gentleman in the booth noticed our gaymer tags. He took the time to come over and show us a particular illustration from the book. The page in questions is that of what appears to be two musketeers kissing. He then took the time to talk to us about how they as a company had been working on making 7th Sea a more diverse game and showing us the points where they were doing it. Having already backed the Kickstarter and bought another copy of the book earlier in the day to have it signed, I was already on board with the game. It just melted my heart that someone took the time to both notice the tag and to reach out to say that we were represented in the game and welcomed with open arms. Both Pathfinder and the new edition of D&D are known for being inclusive and diverse, but this was the first time I had someone at a booth literally reach out to show me how they were making the game inclusive for me and mine. It was both overwhelming and nice all at once.

GenCon 2016 was a wonderful experience. I met new friends and had a great time. There are many more posts to come where I talk about specific things as well as the interviews I conducted with Rob Justice from John Wick Presents and Wes Schneider from Paizo.

So, watch this space for more to come!

 

 

GenCon Survival Guide 2016

GenCon, the best four days of gaming, will soon be upon us. If you are a tabletop roleplaying gamer, you are most likely familiar with GenCon. For those unaware of the event, It is a four day gaming convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is held every year around the first weekend of August. GenCon 2016 is being held August 4th through the 7th.

I thought I would reprise my post from last year where I give out some tips for surviving GenCon for both someone new and the veteran con attendee.

Let us begin with the basics, the 3-2-1 rule.

The first part of the rule is that you should get at least three hours of sleep. GenCon has things happening twenty-four hours a day and it is tempting to want to do as much as possible during this time. As much as it would be tempting to push sleep to the back burner during this time, this has negative consequences for both you and others. You are at GenCon to enjoy the games you love and meet people that share your hobby. This is will be very difficult if you are crabby and and distracted from lack of sleep. In addition, Roleplaying games and board games require a level of attention that is difficult to maintain if your body is throwing delta waves in random bursts. You will not be up to your normal performance and the others at the table with you will be worried about you as you nod off.

The 2 in the 3-2-1 rule refers to meals…make sure to have at least two meals a day. You will be running around Indianapolis a lot. Unless you are playing only one game and are housed in the motel where that game is being played, you are going to be walking. This is also another place where you may think that you can gain time to play games and just catch a snack here or there and be good to go. Sure, you can run from game to game eating candy, cookies, and chips, but you will end up pushing an already taxed system to the the edge of it’s capability. If you make sure to take the time at least in the morning and the evening to eat a meal, you will be setting yourself up to be successful. You will provide your body with a base of energy from which you will be able to go forward and win the day, conquer the dungeon, and move all the meeples.

This brings us to one. Make sure to get at least one shower in each day. Indianapolis in August is hot. You will be walking a lot to get from your room, or your car to the games you will be playing. You also will be wandering around a large vendor hall for some time also. This will generate some sweat and stink which will make it more difficult for you to enjoy your time at GenCon. A shower each day will ensure that you are refreshed for your day and energized for all the fun you will have as well.

The 3-2-1 rule forms a foundation to enjoy GenCon and any convention that you may attend in the future. Make sure to keep it in mind as you make your plans for GenCon.

Now that we have covered the basics. You have to ask yourself a question about how you plan to attend GenCon. Are you going to wing it or do you have a plan?

If you are winging it, you need to be patient. GenCon had well over 50 thousand attendees last year. The predictions are that the convention will have another record breaking year for attendance. This means that there will be long lines for everything. This can easily be irritating and if you keep the idea that you just need to be patient you will be preparing yourself to enjoy your time at GenCon. Being patient will also stand you in good stead as you travel around the convention. The mass of humanity that is meandering about the convention and Indianapolis can move slowly and may stop to view a neat looking costume or to have a conversation. If you are patient, you will be able to get past them and move on towards your desired destination.

If you are winging it, you should also ask questions. Whenever you finish a game take the time to ask for recommendations for places to eat or booths to check out while in the vendor hall. This will increase your chances of finding a a new place to eat or a neat hidden gem in the vendor hall. You will be sitting down with an array of people that are here to enjoy the same thing you do. On top of this, you will learn about things to do around town which will not have anything to do with gaming. Even though you are at GenCon to get your game on, taking time out to just enjoy the city that you are in will keep you energized for the convention itself.

If you are a planner, you need to take a step back and analyze your plan. One of the things planners due is to schedule things back to back. They do this thinking that they will be able to make it to each game on time. The problem with this is that there are no planners that are nightcrawler or jumpers. It is going to take you time to get from game to game. You will either have to leave early from the game you are playing or arrive late at the game that you are going too. Neither of these scenarios are enjoyable for you or those playing in the game with you. Take a hard look at your schedule and the map and realize that you are not going to be running between games. Once you have done this, take the time to prune your schedule to leave yourself time to get from game to game in a leisurely fashion. This frees up your time to better enjoy your convention experience and frees up slots in games for others to enjoy more fully.

Planners should also remember to have a backup plan. Things go wrong because there is always chaos in the system. GM’s will get sick, tickets will be oversold, or you may end up running late and lose your seat in a game. Take it all in stride and go to the fallback plan. This will allow you to not worry when things go pear-shaped. You will be able to shrug and move on to your next option. This not only takes some weight of your shoulders in case it is something that happens to you but also makes for a more relaxed experience.

A last bit of advice for all attendees.

Think about someone other than yourself. This hobby of ours requires people to take part with us at the table. If you take the time to think about the other people at the table and make them comfortable, you will create a wonderful gaming experience for everyone. For some people sitting down to the table, this may be their first experience with the hobby. It also maybe the first time that they have tried gaming as everything they have tried around their home has been a bad experience. If you take the time to be empathetic and see the table from someone else’s perspective, you will try to make them feel welcome and accepted at the table and to the hobby. This also extends beyond just the table. Take time while you are walking around the convention and vendor hall to be aware of those around you. There are people from all walks of life that are attending GenCon. Take a little time to think about how you act and speak and wonder if this might make someone feel welcome. And, if you see someone struggling or lost, take the time to ask if they need help. If they do, you can take them to the nearest volunteer who can assist them with their questions or issues.

I am looking forward to GenCon 2015 this year! If you are going to be there please let me know as I am always up for meeting people that read my site!