I have a love for the novelty T-shirt. I like obscure nerd shirts. I don’t have a Batman t-shirt. No. I went online and bought a Batwoman shirt years before the CW cast Ruby Rose as the lead.
Two years ago I bought a Hogwarts T-shirt and I get more questions about it from strangers than any of my other shirts. Some people just say I like your shirt and keep walking. But a few will ask are you a Harry Potter fan? Still others will ask which house are you?
It’s jarring to be recognized and asked about them as if they are trivial matters. I never quite know how to answer the first question and I feel a little like a fraud when I answer the second.
I grew up before nerd culture was mainstream. You had to know the terms and the symbols to even ask questions. It sorted out the dilettantes quickly. But the byproduct of a visible nerd culture is that it opens up those terms and symbols to a broader audience.
When people ask me are you a Harry Potter fan I want to know, are you? Because if you’re not, why are you asking me? I’m too old to sit through a casual conversation with someone I don’t know about how ‘that stuff never appealed to me.’ Don’t yuck my yum. But if you are a fan, I wonder what kind and do I measure up?
I was in my twenties when the first Harry Potter book was published. I’ve read femslash in the HP world for years. I think I’ve read more HP fan works than I’ve read the original. I’ve seen the movies. I’m sure there’s a hierarchy between book fans and movie fans but I wouldn’t know. I don’t even know what the fandom is called.
Because I did not grow up in the HP subculture, I wonder how does one know which house they’re in? Do you just feel an affinity for one and declare? Or do you take a test? I took a test or two. I always get into Ravenclaw (even on Pottermore). But I’m a mastermind and manipulator so I feel I’m more Slytherin. What house does that make me?
But underneath it all are the real questions. Are you like me? Do we have common ground? Am I safe to be myself with you?
We are always searching for the places where we belong. Wondering if we measure up. How we fit in.
For me, being queer is no different. These communities use to live in the margins. I came out of the closet many years ago and my own visibility has been in step with the larger queer community. But not so with my fandoms. I was used to hiding in plain sight.
Queer is who I am, fandom is where I live.
Every time I put on that T-shirt I make myself visible. The next time someone asks if I’m a fan I’m going to say yes and then I’m going to ask them which house are you?