Coming Out As A Geek Is Hard To DoPosted: December 5, 2013
We’ve crossed the one-year anniversary of my blog, Brain Knows Better, and it’s pretty incredible to think how much my life has changed over this last year. It’s been a ton of fun to explore the psychology of sci-fi, but more than anything, this blog has helped me be honest about who I am – a big geek.
I didn’t like who I was in middle school and tried everything I could to blend in.I wasn’t always this open about being a geek. For most of my life, I tried to hide it. In middle school, I knew some kids who wore Starfleet uniforms to class. When they were bullied for it, I stood by silently. Back then, I probably watched as much Star Trek: The Next Generation after school as they did, but I wanted nothing to do with them. They weren’t cool and more than anything else, I wanted to fit in.
It took me a long time to open up about being a geek. I like to think it started with a conversation I had with Nhu-An in high school. She’s now my fiancée, but back then we were just getting to know each other.
“What’s your deepest fear Nhu-An?”
She didn’t hesitate to respond.
“Not fulfilling my full potential in life. I think about that a lot. What about you?”
“Oh wow…yeah that’s a good one. For me, I have to say spiders. I have to ask my mom to kill them anytime they’re in my room.”
It was easy to be myself around Nhu-An, but I hadn’t told her about my love of sci-fi, technology, or comic books. In fact, I never told anyone outside my family about these things. Six months into our relationship, I was ready.
“Nhu-An, can we talk after school? There’s something I need to tell you.”
“Is everything okay?!?” You could tell she was worried.
“Yeah, I just need to get something off my chest.”
I waited until after school, when everyone else had cleared out. We walked around the campus a few times to make sure no one else would hear what I had to say.
“Are you okay Ali? What’s wrong?”
“Yeah, everyone’s okay, it’s not like that. Well you know how you know every line in Hello Dolly? No one else knows this, but I’m the same way with Star Trek—I’m a Trekkie.”
“Stop messing around, what did you want to tell me?”
“That’s it, I’m a Trekkie, a big fan of Star Trek. Actually, I love all science fiction, Star Wars, too.”
“Is that it!?!”
Nhu-An hit me in the arm.
“I THOUGHT YOU WERE DYING, ALI! You had me worried all day. All you wanted to tell me was that you like science fiction?!? Who cares?!?”
That wasn’t the response I expected. I was afraid Nhu-An might break up with me because I love Star Trek. Turns out she just didn’t think it was a big deal.
That was a huge relief. Even though she didn’t like sci-fi herself, we spent much of the following weeks talking about why Star Trek meant so much to me.
“It’s actually really cool that a TV show had this effect on you. A lot of people watch TV and play video games but it doesn’t make them a better person.”
Nhu-An helped me feel proud of being a geek, but I continued to avoid talking about my geeky interests with anyone else. I just didn’t think there were many people out there who shared my interests and were normal. That’s why I was so shocked three years later when I noticed Alix, a girl in the neighboring dorm room, had a Star Trek logo on her keychain. I didn’t know her well, but the keychain made me think she was a safe person to talk to.
“Hey Alix, this is sorta random, but do you like Star Trek?”
She looked terrified and started hyperventilating.
“Whaaat?!? How do you know?!?”
I explained the situation and reassured her that I too was a fan. She eventually calmed down.
We became friends and watched new episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise together. Word spread in our dorm and people asked to join us. Soon, we organized a Star Trek movie marathon that packed my room full of people. Some were die hard fans, some were just curious.
It was such a strange new world for me to have a friend like Alix to geek out with.
Once I discovered that there were other geeks out there in the world just like me, I wanted to find them. Like Alix’s keychain, I dropped small geek references in my conversations – stuff like “Make it so” and “Do, or do not” – to see if anyone would take the bait. This is how I’ve made almost all of my geeky friends, especially those who’ve also struggled to identify as geeks themselves.
Once I found the courage to do so, being honest about who I am brought me nothing but good things. That’s why I went public with my geek identity and started my website. I wanted to share what I’ve learned about the stuff I love. The experience has been incredibly rewarding because it’s made it possible for me to meet all of you.
Ali Mattu received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. he was born and raised in Silicon Valley and studied psychology at UCLA. Ali is currently a post-doctoral fellow in clinical psychology at the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Child Study Center. Outside of psychology, he is an active photographer. Whenever possible, Ali consumes science fiction.
This post originally appeared at Brains Knows Better.