Last month, I participated in a panel on the topic of The Changing Face of Fandom at a local science fiction convention. The panel was very interesting in terms of having a reasonably good cross-representation of panelists.
At one point, Arturo R. Garcia (Managing Editor at Racalicious) brought up an interesting point. They said that there is a difference between diversity and inclusiveness. The former acknowledges that there is a wider variety of people who now participate in fandom/geekdom than previously. The latter takes it step one step further by providing them a space in which to participate.
In many ways, this concept explains how, as a disabled person, I feel about the place I have within the geek community. Is there recognition that I can be a part of geekdom? Yes. Is there an effort made to make me, disability and all, feel included? Weeell…there’s room for improvement.
The geek community has made great strides in recognizing that there is a wide range of people along the cultural, racial, and gender spectrums who are not only part of the geek community, but deserve to actively participate in it. The recent Sad Puppy debacle and K.T. Bradford’s one-year reading challenge are perfect examples of the sea change that the geek community has undergone in this regard. There’s so much more to be done, certainly, but it has come a fair middling distance since I first got involved almost 30 years ago.
And to be fair, the representation of disability within geek media has come a fair distance as well, as evidenced in Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones and Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Each, in their own ways, is a radical departure from the inspiration porn black hole to which disabled characters usually get relegated. Yet this is still about diversity, not inclusiveness.
For as much as the geek community likes to talk about how it is welcoming and accepting of all comers, I still sometimes feel like the only acceptable role for me is that of sideshow freak. And when I remind people that I am more than that, they take great offense because I am somehow not feeding their natural geekish curiosity about my appearance by being…well…a Teachable Moment. Ultimately, as Arturo and I discussed after the panel, I’m still left with wondering when I will feel not just nodded at, but actually included, warts and all, within geekdom.