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When people look at me, they see a lot of different things. One of which is that I am is a nerd, and I express that through my love of comic cons, as well as by going to them in cosplay. Unfortunately, though, this causes a whole new line of issues for me. Most of them happen to be because I am a young, attractive female in a community where many of us do not always identify with the social norms. I am writing this article to express the experiences I have gone through in my over ten years of being a part of the cosplay community, for they have not been easy. I am sure that I am not the only one to have gone through these.
I started going to conventions when I was sixteen. Since I developed early, I always appeared older than I was, so everyone always just assumed I was eighteen or older. That is something I never minded because I didn't care. At these cons, I felt like for the first time in my life I could be myself. I could wear sexy things and act like I was the hottest thing to walk into the room. I could be loud and happy and excitable. I didn't have to adjust to fit in with the people who became my friends because they were just like me and encouraged me to be myself. A lot of them, mostly the guys of course, loved that I wore sexy costumes. I felt hot.
However, there comes a stigma with being a hot girl in the cosplay community. I seem to fall victim to all the following:
- Oh, she's probably here with someone.
- She has to have a boyfriend.
- She better stay away from my man!
- She'd never go for someone like me.
- She must have poor self esteem. Bet I can use that.
- She's so nice! I should ask her out I bet she really likes me.
And so on and so forth. They think I'm either already in a relationship, which I'm usually not (in fact, I haven't been in any kind of romantic relationship in almost 10 years, but that is a story for a different time), that I am some sort of slut or home-wrecker because I want to take pictures with a guy who is wearing a costume from the shame show or comic book as me (which I'm not!), or that I have no self esteem, so I have to dress sexy to get attention or that I'm desperate for someone to notice me (which I'm not).
Let's start with the first stigma of 'she must be taken.' I've been doing this for a long time. I have met a few of my boyfriends from the anime and comic con community. Sadly, I was younger and didn't really know how relationships, especially long distance ones, really worked at the time, so they never evolved into anything more serious. Now, as I have gotten older, I have been more active in the time I put into finding someone. However, I don't want to "settle." It will sound snobby and rude, but I will not date someone just for the sake of being in a relationship. I have to be attracted to them, but they also need to be nice and treat me with respect. I know I deserve the best, and I will only date who I feel is the best for me.
This leads me to the second stigma of 'she's desperate.' At some point in everyone's life, they are desperate for some kind of companionship. If were truly so self-reliant on a man to make me happy then I would be trying to make myself appease to society's norms. I would be doing what my cousin does, drinking, going to parties, and in my case, being someone I'm not. I can't pretend to be into celebrity gossip or music that I can't stand. I can't pretend to be up with the latest trends or work in a field that I hate just to meet someone. I have to be me. If I wear something tight or sexy, like a crop top or my Elektra and Black Canary costumes, it's because I am feeling confident in myself. I feel sexy, I feel good and I want to show it off.
Now, that doesn't mean I'm in a relationship, it doesn't mean I'm desperate. And this leads me to my third stigma of "slut and home-wrecker." I have been called this more times in the cosplay community than I can count. Part of it has to do with my costumes, like Elektra and Black Canary. Part of it is just my personality. I am a naturally nice person and, unfortunately, for me that sometimes can be misconstrued as "flirting." This has gotten me into more trouble than I could have ever imagined. I have been cyber-bullied on this account (again a story for another time) just because I spent a long time talking to a guy. He and I could be cosplaying Daredevil and Elektra or Princess Leia and Darth Vader and wives and girlfriends will get jealous and pissed off with me. The man in one of my photos with me is an amazing Luke Skywalker. I am so happy to have met him because his significant other did not get mad at me when we did a kind of cutesie photo together. Another one of my friends, Taylor, knows that her boyfriend Nick (who is also my friend) and I plan to cosplay Elektra & Daredevil, as well as River Song and the 10th doctor together. Does she get jealous? No! She knows whatever romantic inspired pictures we take are character related. She knows that we are not interested in each other outside of friendship and she knows that if the pictures go a step too far out of her comfort zone, she can tell both me and Nick without getting mad or thinking we will get mad, and we will take a step back. She is okay with all of this because she trusts Nick and she trusts me.
And finally, this leads me to the fourth and final stigma that I seem to fall in to. If I'm not being called a slut or a home-wrecker because of how I look or act, I am being told I'm leading someone on. Just because I am nice and spend a long time talking to you, that doesn't always mean I'm interested in getting involved with you romantically or being your friend outside of a convention. This is probably coming off as sounding like I'm being rude or bitchy, but I say this all from experience. When it comes to dating, I learned the hard way that you shouldn't date someone just because they are nice. If you feel no chemistry with them, then to continue dating or even going out on one date just because they are a nice person is worse than saying no. I've made this mistake with three very nice people in my life. One was in high school, two of them in college. The first one, I didn't even know we were on a date. I thought we were just two friends hanging out and that he was being nice to me paying for everything. Yes, I know now that nativity doesn't excuse the stupid way I broke his heart, which was through a note through friends. The other two were nice guys who asked me out, and I went on a couple of dates with them, but after that first kiss on the second date from both of these sweet young men, I knew there was no chemistry. I knew there was no spark, and by even accepting their kindness on those first two dates was wrong. I went out with them because they were nice and I wanted to give them a chance, but I felt bad afterwards because I felt as if I gave them false hope. So I swore never to do that again.
But in comic con land, sometimes that's not so easy. So many people think I am leading them on. I'm just a nice person. But I am also a private person. This leads me to the friends thing. I have met many people over the years at this conventions that have been amazing and kind people. Many of them have become my friends, some it took many years before either one of us were comfortable enough with each other to exchange personal information with each other, some we just clicked right away. Unfortunately, this means to some people that I am open to being friends with everyone. I'm not. This community produces some of the greatest people in my life, many of whom have become a part of my chosen family, but it has also produced some of the most toxic people in my life. People who cyber-bullied me, verbally abused and harassed me, and bullied me behind my back.
Being single in this community is not an easy thing. Being nice in this community is even harder. I give this advice though: be yourself, and don't let my experiences or yours change who you are. There is a stigma that comes with cosplaying—there are many, in fact. We have to learn to deal with them, but that doesn't mean we can't fight to change them either.