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Group hopes to build geek community within Chicago's gay scene

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One attendee at Geeks OUT came dressed as X-Men character Storm. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)

The geeks of Chicago's gay and lesbian community gathered without the benefit of a Hall of Justice on Friday night.

Held at Boystown's Spin nightclub, the night was billed as a way for disparate groups of the city's gay scene to come together and network. From comicbook fans to Doctor Who buffs, there was a place for every creed, including gay videogame enthusiasts, whimsically referred to as “gaymers.”

Their mission: find other like-minded nerds in Chicago in order to establish a new community.

Attendees and revealers were decked out in superhero shirts – with the braver amongst them in costumes.  As if pivoting from gay subculture, a healthy regression to childhood was welcomed. 

The gathering was part of an social event sponsored by Geeks OUT, a GLBTQ group that originated in Gotham City (er... New York).

“I'm really hoping to build a community to figure out what's important to the gay geeks of Chicago,” said Danny Bernado, organizer of the event.

Danny Bernado, a Chicago resident organized the Geeks Out event. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)

He compared being a closeted geek to that of being of being closeted sexually.  It's a part of adulthood that's not entirely isolated to the gay community.  As individuals grow older, the vestiges of their childhood go into hiding. Many would be surprised to find out how many of their coworkers are closeted fans of “World of Warcraft.”

“Both cultures are subcultures,” said Bernardo, a 33 year old Lakeview resident. “I think it's more severe than being back in the closet.”

Like those with Green Lantern shirts (and power rings), there was no fear at the event where you were able to catch a glimpse of Super Mario Brothers accessories, Superman capes and even a drag queen of the elements: Storm.

Attendees also had to embark on a scavenger hunt, designed to make the group mingle.  Some of the questions included: Name all the TV series Joss Whedon produced, the Final Five of Battlestar Galactica – or find somebody who has attended a ComicCon.  In order to enter a raffle with prizes of board games or illustrated novels, contestants had to first drink from the menu specialty cocktails, which included a whiskey mix dubbed “The Slayer.”

“They're embracing it and it's time to come together,” Bernardo said.

Why has this Gotham creation made its way to this Midwest Metropolis?

“I've been with Geeks OUT when they started in New York,” Bernardo said. “Why can't we have something like this in Chicago?”

Geeks OUT started in New York in 2010, with the original goal of setting up a booth at the New York Comic Con, a massive convention where comic and SciFi enthusiasts gather in various cities. They wanted to raise the awareness of LGBT views on pop culture and the comics industry.

Lakeview resident Adam Guerino sports a power ring with his drink. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)
“We want to connect different facets of the queer and geek worlds," the group says on its website. "Going forward, we hope to harness the incredible energy we're witnessing within our community as a force for greater change, to try out new ideas for social events, and to build our group by keeping it fun, engaged, and inclusive.”

The group raised awareness with blogs and events such as a nerd burlesque show dubbed Homo Erectus (photos a lil NSFW). The event, held at Manhattan's historic Stonewall Inn, featured dancers dressed as the Riddler and Doctor Who, a show which has garnered praise for its progressive views on homosexuality and gender roles.

The group was also known to highlight homophobia within comics and video game communities, carving out forums to raise awareness.  They've been vocal critics of sexism and misogamy in pop culture.

They would also promote LGBT centric comics, highlighting recent moves where DC and Marvel both unveiled prominent gay characters in their comics, while critiquing media coverage

"I think that the geek queer community is amazing," said Adam Guerino, a Lakeview resident who attended the event. The 28-year-old comedian and writer sported a Green Lantern power ring.

"It's hard to find the nuances of a subculture," he said referring to the gay geek community. "You need to identify the groups that make it up."

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