Weekly Ketchup 22 - Conventions and Identity Issues

Before anything else, I want to congratulate my friends Adrian and Macy and their partners at Cosplay.ph for successfully mounting NexCon Manila, which is a celebration of everything geek - from toys and games to cosplay and comics.

I don't know if it's fair to consider the event either as a spiritual successor to the New Worlds Convention or as an amalgamation of other niche conventions like Komikon, ToyCon, or CosplayMania, but I did feel like the team built upon what has come before to deliver an experience that is both unique and familiar. And while I did question whether we need another convention when I first learned about it (honestly, I only ever wanted to attend to support my friends), I realize now that yes, it is necessary - because NexCon will do to the new fandoms (like the Thronies and the Whovians) what the New Worlds Con did for the old ones: Proclaim to the world that they exist and set up a point for their fellow geeks to rally upon.

On a more sentimental note, I realized earlier today that, for the most part, I'm probably at the happiest and most content point in my life and I'd like to think that it all began with my very first New Worlds Con nine years ago. I can only imagine that there are kids out there whose life would be changed upon attending their first NexCon. They suddenly have people to talk to about similar interests, access to materials that they otherwise wouldn't have, new experiences to participate in, and most importantly: life-long friendships.

One of my favorite experiences from attending yesterday's event was actually seeing these Whovians, some of whom are strangers to each other, just gravitating towards one another and casually striking up conversations. It's an amazing thing to witness and, for some reason, I get emphatic whenever they get excited about something (obviously I'm not a Whovian). But I realized that this is really not the first time that this has happened to me. The thing is I hardly attend conventions anymore because I feel like there's nothing new for me to experience; but in those instances when I do, especially if I was called in to handle the troopers of the 501st Legion, it's not so much the event that I draw euphoria from but the collective experience of the people discovering that a thriving geek culture exists!

Anyway, I'm glad I turned down Adrian's invitation to volunteer for the event, otherwise I wouldn't have fully experienced NexCon the way it was meant to be. I got to play a board game, hung out with troopers (yes, I'm not a member of the 501st delegation this time), enjoyed the toy displays, took photos of cosplayers/costumers, participated in a film panel, and, of course, competed in Geek Fight's fifth anniversary game! I hope the turn out met my friends' expectations, so much that they'd consider mounting another one next year!

Earlier this week, as part of X-men nostalgia, I was reading up on some characters. One link led to another and I found myself reading about gender identity. It's a fascinating subject that brought to my attention the myriad of ways that people identify themselves. The thing is I was just blogging last week about my distaste for labels and expectations. However, it dawned on me as I was reading up on the subject that by putting labels on their behaviors, people can identify with something that they can belong in. And that's the magic word: belonging. When scholars have a word to describe how you feel or think, then you realize that maybe you're not a freak after all because your existence or experience is being acknowledged, which can be very empowering but also divisive.

Me being me, I got to thinking about my own experience. As I mentioned last week, identity - gender and otherwise - has always been the big issue for me growing up. However, in the past few years, being able to revel freely in geekdom, doing away with expectations associated with labels, and burning bridges with organized religion certainly helped clear my head of clutter and confusion (ie, I know I'm a man but what that entails will not be dictated to me by society).

As much as I'd like to think I've worked out the kinks in my personality and mentality, I can't help but feel like there are some lingering issues that I still need to personally address. And it hit me that, even until now, I never felt like I really belonged in this country and I don't identify with its people and its culture. If my life was a TV series, this would be like that storyline that people thought already ran its course back in season two but was somehow revived in season six. It's like the Phoenix. It just keeps coming back.

I hated this deus ex machina part of X-men: No More Humans
The truth is - and I haven't told anyone this -  I've been having doubts about leaving these past few weeks, despite my inner rationalization that I have to in order to grow, which is still true for the most part. Maybe I'm beginning to realize that it's a bad idea and I'm just looking for reasons to convince myself otherwise, but I think going back to the place that I feel more connected to and reclaiming the life that was constantly denied me would finally put this particular matter of belonging and identity to rest. Whatever happens, at least I can finally let go of one last hang-up from my youth and move on with the rest of my adult life with no regrets.

I don't know if there's a term for this identity issue but if there is, I hope someone would let me know - just so I don't think I'm a freak. Or pretentious.

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