On Safety Pins, Actions, and Intentions

Yeah, yeah, y’all knew this was coming…that whole safety pin thing. Really, it was inevitable. But it isn’t because I’ve been slacking (despite what I tell myself). It’s because I’ve had to sit down with  myself and have a really long hard think about not just how I feel about the safety pin issue, but how best to frame it around Backup Ribbon Project. I know there’s a great deal of controversy over what precisely the pin is meant to symbolize, and what should (or shouldn’t) be expected of anybody wearing (or not) wearing it. All I can say is that these are *my* thoughts and how I view it.

First, a bit of history: The safety pin concept actually first came about in response to the Brexit vote, in which the UK voted on whether or not to remain as part of the European Union. Ultimately, it voted to leave, albeit amidst a great deal of controversy and (sad to say) a rather sharp spike in hate crimes targeted against immigrants in the UK. I am half-British, born in London, and went back every summer while I was growing up. I first pinned a safety pin to my backpack as a show of solidarity to my British heritage and those who had wanted to remain within the EU.

Of course, it was quickly adopted here in the US immediately after our contentious presidential election, in response to our own sharp rise in violent hate crime. But this is where my attitude toward the meaning behind the pin had to take an immediate change. As a simple show of solidarity toward my British heritage, not much was required of me in order to have that pin be visible. In fact, most Americans likely would not know what it meant. But that’s all changed now.

I still have the pin on my backpack, but I am acutely aware that my attitude toward its meaning has dramatically shifted. Ultimately, it lives in the same space for me as the Backup Ribbons, but in a larger universe than just the geek community. It’s an active decision on my part to step in to back up anybody who is being either threatened with violence or actually being assaulted. And yeah, that’s a scary thing for me to contemplate. It’s one thing to say this for a geek event, but another entirely for me to say it for *any time I am out in public.* That’s an order of magnitude larger in my mind.

But at the end of the day, I find that I can’t NOT do it. I was raised to believe that actions mean more than intentions every single time.  We can say that we are willing to help, but until we actually put action behind that intention, we have not truly made a difference.

So I guess that’s what I would ask people to consider. Are you willing to actively do something to help? Obviously, it doesn’t have to be direct confrontation, but making an proactive step to reach out to those in need, rather than waiting for them to find you can make such a difference. Your actions toward somebody mean so much more than your intentions.

Solidarity is great. It felt good for me to do that in response to Brexit. Now that these same terrible things are happening right here in my very city? Solidarity is not enough. The safety pin is a great symbol to show that you will not stand for hate crime, but that symbol must also have action to back it up (see what I did there).

And yes, Geeks Got Your Back pins are in the works!



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Eight Years and Four Words

I have been spending the better part of this past week attempting to understand exactly what I need in order to satisfy the IRS requirements to file Backup Ribbon Project as a nonprofit. As I even type out that sentence, I remain stunned that what began just over eight years ago now has me trying to decide what National Taxonomy of Exempt Entity Code best describes this crazy endeavor.

All of it began with four words: “Hey, are you OK?” In that moment, my life changed, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. All I cared about was helping somebody in danger. Not being the person who walked by as if nothing was wrong.

And here I sit, eight years and many words later, staring at forms that make no sense whatsoever to me (and hey, if you know about this whole NTEE code thing, drop me an e-mail). Part of me thinks that this whole registering as a nonprofit rigamarole was absolutely not what I signed up for when I started this. I just wanted to give back to the geek community. I wanted to just do a small grassroots thing. It was never going to really go much of anywhere, right?

Except those grassroots caught fire, and now I no longer feel like I am the one person who refused to walk by as if nothing is wrong. I no longer have to start any conversation from “No, really, this happens in the geek community, and it’s a problem.”

I no longer am the only one willing to say those four words.

Maybe that’s why I am scratching my head at these IRS forms. Because enough of you have said those words that the time has come for me to level up. I’ve often joked that I was an army of one. I guess now the joke is truly on me, since I wouldn’t be at this point without every single one of you who took ribbons, wore them, passed them out, and talked about them. Believe me when I say that I am laughing in amazement and gratitude at this particular joke.

Eight years ago, it all started with four words.  I am looking forward to the next eight years!

PS: Just a quick reminder about our fundraiser! Part of our funding goal will be put toward the IRS application fee.




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The Best We Should Do

There was another post planned. It was discussing why MCU Captain America is the guy who has your back, and why the current Hydra agent version of Cap is so incredibly wrong. And it still  may happen, because it’s still kicking around inside my head.

But then, as often can happen, something else happens that completely changes what I have planned for this blog. In this case, it was the deaths of 49 LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly people (most of whom were Latinx, which should not be forgotten) at a gay bar in Orlando, FL. Like most of us who do not identify as LGBTQ, but as allies, we find ourselves wanting to help. We want to say the right words, do the right things, say anything, do anything that will help our LGBTQ friends and family members heal. Because if we find the right words, and if we do the right things, we can make it better. And we so desperately want to make it better.

But the hard truth is that we can’t. Because there is no “better” after something of this magnitude. Just as with the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the LGBTQ community will likely be changed by this. But we can help make it bearable. We can be the people who make giant angel wings to shield mourners from hate and bigotry. We can be bathroom buddies. We can be the people who say “Hey, not cool” if a coworker or a friend makes a LGBTQ-phobic remark. And we can just sit quietly and listen to our LGBTQ friends work through their grief and anger and disbelief.

I wish there were the right words and the right things to say and do. Maybe they could have been said and done before the night of June 12 so that none of this would have happened in the first place. Unfortunately, that was not the case. But we can help moving forward. We can do more than offer prayers or thoughts. We can offer actions.

And in the end, that is the best thing we can — and should — do.

No judgment. No exceptions. Geeks got your back.


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Geeks Got Girl Gamers’ Back!

Last weekend, I received a last-minute invitation to speak at a small convention aimed at girls who are into gaming. By my own admission, I do not identify as a gamer, which is a story unto itself, but I knew several of the people who were on staff, so I decided to check it out. Despite a rather unfortunate train mishap (and hooray for Himself, who fetched me from one stranded train to take me to another station to get me on my  way), we made it out there on time for our panel.

For a first-year con, I was pleasantly surprised that it had garnered a nice number of attendees. I ended up with anywhere between eight and 10 people in my panel, which was great. Not only were there girls in the audience, but some guys as well as parents.

We talked about everything from tips for attendees to use to keep everyone safe, the myth that is the Fake Geek Girl, the importance of inclusiveness in the geek community, and how to raise up the next generation of geeks. One parent mentioned taking her son to Wondercon this year for the first time, for which she got a round of applause for doing geek parenting right.  And of course, there were ribbons, stickers, and cards to hand out.

Everybody was extremely enthusiastic and seemed to have a great time at the panel, so I am chalking that one up as a win. Looking forward to being back next year!

P.S. Your donations help pay for those ribbons, cards, and stickers. Help us to help geeks keep each other safe.

P.P.S. If you are local to Southern California, please support Girl Gamer Gathering and help it grow in size and awesomeness!




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Cosplay is STILL Not Consent

A couple of years ago, I was honored to be included on an ad-hoc committee, including Jill Pantozzi, that was to help Pop Reed (the company that puts on many of the Comic Cons in larger cities) reword its antiharassment policy. This included the wording for the Cosplay is not Consent banners that were prominently displayed throughout the convention space.

I’ve recently had a flurry of frantic questions about a photo making the Internet rounds, showing a cosplayer posing next to what appears to be one of those banners, which states that Cosplay IS Consent. I can assure people that this was NOT the official wording for the banners. In fact, here’s a side-by-side comparison (with the cosplayer cropped out so as not to cause her any more embarrassment).

The sign on the left IS the official sign and wording that we approved for use at New York City Comic Con, and now other cons run by Pop Reed. The sign on the right is the clearly photoshopped fake one. There have been other, equally obnoxious variants of the photoshopped sign circulated around the Internet.

Just so there is no confusion…

Cosplay Side-by-Side

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Give a Little Love


Goodness, things are getting busy here! Not only did we add a new con to our circuit, we’re looking at adding a couple more to our roster, so it will be exciting to meet new people and talk with them about strategies to look out for each other as we embark on this new con season.

This does mean, however, that we will need to be replenishing our stock of ribbons, cards and stickers. Which means…yep, you guessed it…time for another fundraiser (we promise to try to be less annoying than those PBS pledge drives). Last year we had success with raising $500. This year, we are being somewhat more ambitious and hope to double that amount.

If you want to help out, click here to go to our fundraising site. In return, we will love you forever and bake you Schadenfreude pies. OK, maybe not the pies part…but we will love ya. Give us a little love back, yeah?


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New Con, New Year!

What better way to start off the new year than with getting to meet new people at a con? That’s what I’ll be doing Feb. 20-21 at the Long Beach Comic Expo, in beautiful sunny downtown Long Beach, CA. My panel will be from 3:30 to 4:30 in the Cosplay Closet (S6). See the full exciting lineup of programming here.

Look for the short chick with TARDIS blue hair carrying this box:



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