I'm a gaymer. To many of my straight friends, identifying as a "gay gamer" is as nonsensical as making the distinction of being a gay Trekkie or a gay Notre Dame football fan. Events like GaymerX -- an annual convention for LGBT Gamers (full disclosure: I don't work for or get paid by them) -- makes even less sense.
But being a Gaymer and events like GaymerX matter. Here are five reasons why:
5) An escape: Growing up in the closet, video games were my escape. It distracted me from the depression and denial I felt within. It helped me forge friendships while giving me something to avoid talking about (or even dating) girls. As a gaymer, video games meant more to me than it did for my straight friends.
4) An Identity: Coming from a conservative family in a small town, I didn't have any gay role models in my life. The ones seen on TV and movies seemed to be nothing like me. In connecting with others who shared my interests, I began to see that there were guys just like me. Being a gaymer made me realize I was not alone.
3) A Support Network: Nearly a year ago, I made plans to kill myself. I wasn't smart enough to pick up the phone and call a helpline. But I was wise enough to talk about it with those who I felt could empathize with my situation. Being a gaymer allowed me to get help when I otherwise would have faced this darkness alone.
2) A Safer Space: As important as video games are to me as a gaymer, the video game industry still doesn't get it. Video game characters and storylines are often heteronormative. Online gaming can be a haven for homophobia. Gaymers uniting under events like GaymerX help the industry realize we exist and that we matter.
1) A Journey: For many, setting foot inside an event like GaymerX is a symbol of a larger journey. Many who attend got there through a long journey of self-acceptance, overcame the struggle of coming out, leaned on others in the community during hardships, and now unite to help create a safe space.
Perhaps one day "gaymers" and events like GaymerX will be a non sequitur and be as ludicrous as making the distinction between "Caucasian Gamers" and "Black Gamers". But that day is not yet here. Until then, Gaymers and events like GaymerX remind us that the biggest heroes aren't video game characters. It's us.