Phony. I’m considered a fake in many facets of my identity. I’ve found out that it takes another person involved for me to be fake, that it isn’t an innate quality. Someone from a point of privilege makes a judgment of whether or not I’m authentic or real, and if I’m allowed into the club. Geek culture is full of people waiting to do nerd cred checks to make sure whether people like me are allowed at cons, publications, and merely being in the presence of others in a geek setting. One such person is Joe Peacock, who wrote on CNN’s Geek Out! blog about his distaste for falsies. At least, when it comes to deciding which beautiful women are geeky enough and are permitted to dress up as sexy elves. His piece reinforced my experience with this line drawing to be completely arbitrary to the person making the decision, since one’s exclusion of Felicia Day is OBVIOUSLY out of hand, but not these soul sucking attention mongers with nice boobies over here. Wait let me take a picture before you go.

Here’s the deal: Who put anyone in charge of deciding whether someone is authentic or not? What is blind rage-inducing about Joe’s piece is the unprecedented arrogance thinking he can make a decision like that. That for some reason, geekery is such a holy grail of attractiveness that a Batman shirt is all you need to go from a 6 to a 9 for Joe. Do you understand what you’re doing when you assume others’ intentions, and tell them they are not real?

It’s easy to see where this attitude comes from; the conversation always starts at how women are ruining things for the geek community. For some reason, these articles aren’t about how geek culture is predisposed to wanting women being sexy at all times. Instead, it’s women acting as sirens, striking at the weak spot geek men have for beautiful women. Obviously there’s no talk about how handsome men use their good looks to win favors, and there isn’t a question raised as to why that imbalance exists.

What I’d like to point out is how no matter their authenticity on the Peacock-o-meter, there is a correlation between successful women in geek spaces and having conventional beauty. When Joe regards other women accepted into the fold, he doesn’t talk about merits outside of sexy cosplay, because that’s mostly what men in geek spaces are focused on. My question is, why aren’t the men involved in geek structures promoting and highlighting women on their merits, but instead constantly talk about their looks? Why does Olivia Munn need to be “real” as according to you in order for her to be respected as a human being? How come a model hired to be a model MUST have geek credentials? It seems like Joe needed to turn this critique inwards and at other men for their inability to support the meritocracy they imply is in existence.

Women are not invaders into geek spaces. No, games are not that much more inclusive than ten, twenty years ago, it’s just that women and girls enjoyed games before they realized there was a huge sexism problem. Many didn’t realize it was just a boy thing until after they started playing. I know I didn’t find Paperboy especially masculine when I was four, I just really liked cracking up at that dude breakdancing in his driveway.

Let me parallel this to my own life. For the past seven or so years, I’ve been adjusting to a society that likes to tell me I’m not a woman. And I’ve met all sorts of different criteria for why I’m not considered a woman, but it usually falls into two camps: I wasn’t born female or I don’t try hard enough. I’ve been called deceptive, artificial, weak, and often denied my identity by others. Isn’t there a little bit of cognitive dissonance when you tell someone they aren’t who they feel they are? Saying someone isn’t a woman is disgusting mostly because you’re unaware of how much you actually don’t have a say in deciding someone’s identity. It also showed me that to be a “true” woman, I would need a lot of investment in my looks merely because we revolve so much of womanhood around men’s aesthetic sensibilities.

How does this relate to geek culture? I wrote a piece about why I felt compelled to wear heels every day I was at PAX East. I wasn’t there to cosplay, snag a modeling job, or pick up men. Rather, there is a silly notion that I’m becoming a professional in games media, and I’m extremely aware of the homogenous identities that make up publications and development studios. I know that because of my open transgender identity and the topics I write about, I better be damn well easy on the eyes if anyone is going to give me a chance. This isn’t speculation, but raw data from the life I live. I have others to vouch for my talent and authenticity, but in the face of what matters, it’s what makes heterosexual men comfortable. People who lie outside of that are constantly harassed and ignored, and we have examples at major sites and scenes of such happenings. And there’s no winning – men assume that because I put effort into my looks, I can’t be a serious gamer.

It’s easy to say that I, and other women, just don’t have the strength to weather through the crap and let our insides matter more than our looks. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t for cosmetics and sexy outfits, I would have anxiety and depression plunges multiple times a day. I’ve been there, and I resisted makeup and such adamantly until I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take people making disgusted faces at me, fumbling with pronouns, treating me like they could catch The Gay if they stood too close. If there was this wand that guaranteed no one would even blink at seeing my morning face and assume I wasn’t a woman, I would throw every bottle of MAC I own out the window, laughing manically.

It isn’t me or sexy women that needs to change. It’s a culture that values women mostly on their looks that has to. It is hypocritical to say women are the problem when you are consuming geek media that has 90% of the women sexualized towards heterosexual men’s liking. And really, there is nothing wrong with men liking sexy women, and women enjoying being sexy for men. It’s just the culture doesn’t allow variance by shaming and ignoring women who don’t fit popular ideas of beauty. Geek men want everyone to stop treating them like adolescent boys, but this lack of self-awareness has to stop first.