I am a nerd. Everyone is a nerd about something. I’m a nerd about a lot of things, but the particular nerditude I’m referring to here is WordPress. If you don’t know, WordPress is software that helps you create a dynamic website. I’ve been using WordPress for about 15 years, and these days I even run a business centered around rescuing broken WordPress sites.
If you’re still with me, it’s also important to know that there is an extraordinary community that exists around WordPress. That’s because it’s open source software and contributing to its development is a monumental volunteer effort — of which I am proud to be a part. There are also people who get paid to work on the WordPress project, but for now I’m focusing on the nerdy volunteer side of things.
Most nerd-related activities are usually accompanied by some sort of convention or local meetups — think Comic-Con — and WordPress is no different. Every year there are massive conventions called “WordCamps,” each one hosted in it’s own country or city. WordCamp US is one of the bigger ones. For last year’s event in San Diego I was on the Organizing Team in charge of the volunteers. For this year’s event, I didn’t volunteer and just attended like a mere mortal.
While I missed out on the insider planning stuff (I will most likely be on the Organizing Team next year), it was still a great experience attending WordCamp US. Sure, the workshops were interesting and educational. And, I got there a day early to be involved in Contributor Day, which gives people the opportunity to contribute to the WordPress project at a table with their WordPress compatriots. Putting faces and voices to avatars I’ve only seen in Slack is pretty awesome. Not to mention that I gained a ton of confidence in the areas I’ve only contributed to from home.
And of course, there were the people I met at WordCamp last year who I would run into randomly. There were lots of hugs and time getting reacquainted. Some of those people I’ve known for over a decade. Others I’ve only known for a couple of years, yet feel like old friends. It seemed like every time I walked through the main hallway, someone would exclaim, “D.J.!” and we would have a mini reunion.
So it was fun. Obviously. But one thing that I keep going back to in my mind is the fact that, in all the interactions I had over the course of the event, no one seemed to care how I presented myself. It didn’t matter how I looked. I was treated as just another WordPress nerd, period. Trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming… so what? The only thing that mattered was how we interacted with each other.
I still got the typical side-eye and double-takes from strangers at the hotel and the airport. When walking out of a men’s room, those coming in would look me up and down, and do a quick check of the sign above the door to make sure they were in the right place before entering. It was kind of comical, actually. And I can only say that because I was in a very public, open space surrounded by security.
At WordCamp there were designated gender-neutral restrooms, which were nice to have. But beyond that, I felt like I belonged to a group. I was just another WordPress nerd. In these scary times of anti-trans legislation and hatred, WordCamp was an oasis of acceptance.
The only hesitancy in encountering my appearance was that I wasn’t wearing the purple hat that I’m wearing in all my online avatars. But that is easily corrected.
Note to self: Just pack the forking hat next time.
I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience. I hope that other LGTBQ+ folks and people of color felt the same. I admit that I’m viewing this through the lens of a gender non-conforming white person, but the organizers seemed to go out of their way to make sure everyone felt welcome.
I wish that the greater society could follow the model of WordCamp US, where people see each other as the individuals they are but treat them with respect no matter what their personal beliefs may be.
We’re all just trying to get our nerd on.