Happy birthday, Star Trek – here’s what you mean to this Trekkie

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People often ask me about my love of Star Trek, and on this day, the 50th anniversary of its going on air, I thought I might try to explain to nonTrekkies what it means to some of us Trekkies.

I was always a black sheep, a misfit toy, the odd girl out, even when I was a child. I knew as far back as I can remember that I was different.

For starters, I had an immense compassion for animals (to the point of capturing bugs in the house and taking them outside, which I still do); bad things that happened to people wounded me deeply, to the point of not only tears, but complete exhaustion (think May Boatwright in “The Secret Life of Bees”); and I was a girly girl who also liked things that girls weren’t supposed to like (jumping ramps on my bike, climbing trees, playing Army with my friends, who were all boys).

I didn’t really fit in anywhere, with anyone. And that was OK with me, because I’ve always enjoyed my own company, and I always knew deep down that being different didn’t mean being wrong, because as I thankfully learned in Sunday school, God doesn’t make mistakes.

But children can be hard on each other, and seeing original “Star Trek” reruns on the screen when I was little helped ease my discomfort, my loneliness, my pain. In this bold new universe, I saw and related to people with too much emotion, people with too little emotion, people who had pointed ears, people who were different colors, people who had different talents, people who were happy, people who were sad, people of all races and colors and creeds, all living together in harmony and peace.

Heck, there were even girls who did “boy things,” like Lt. Uhura on the bridge of the mighty and glorious Enterprise. I longed to live on that ship, where everyone cared about everyone and no one was bullied or ostracized, where everyone was not only tolerated but accepted and celebrated no matter who or what they were.

And before you knew it, there came the movies, and then “The Next Generation,” and all the series and movies in between and after those. I wonder, when Gene Roddenberry was creating that first show, if he knew that he was creating a place where us misfits could fit in, could feel approved and valued, could feel we belonged, could even be the cool kids. If he didn’t then, I hope he knew before he died.

He created an alternate place for many of us to reside – in secret or in the open – to become a family, to be good to one another, to be loved. I so thank him for that, especially today, on Star Trek’s 50th anniversary/birthday.

And I thank all of my Trek friends, my own band of cool kids, who have made me feel less lonely in a world gone quite mad with power and hatred and ridiculousness.

And to all of you, Trekkies and nonTrekkies, I wish for you to Live Long And Prosper.

It’s all true: I go to Star Trek conventions and I love them

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“Oh, you’re one of those people,” a woman said to me when I told her I was heading to the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas for my vacation earlier this month.

What does “those people” even mean? Before I could even open my mouth to reply, she asked, “You dress up in weird costumes and stuff?”

I didn’t even stop to think about whether I cared what she thought and answered.

“Well, I do have a lovely pair of Vulcan ears,” I replied. “And then I have different T-shirts and jewelry for every day.”

I thought she was going to faint. But I doubt if she even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned those ears.

Confession time: I’ve been going to this multiday convention for several years and I love it. And I’ve been to many others. And I absolutely love Star Trek. I love every series, every movie (yes, even that one you think sucks), every character (well, maybe not Kai Winn, who was so evil) and every costume and alien race. OK, not every race. Some of those in Voyager and Deep Space 9 were scary as hell. (Hirogen or Vidiians anyone?)

The funny thing is this. People dress up and go to all kinds of things – football games, auto races, costume parties, charity functions – but I bet no one ever says to any of them, “Oh, you’re one of those people.”

Why is it that people can spend money on costumes and clothing and memorabilia for sports teams and they’re perfectly normal, but when we Star Trek fans do it we’re weirdos?

The first time I went to the Las Vegas convention, I went by myself. My friends couldn’t believe I was doing that.

“But you won’t know anyone there,” they told me again and again.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

See, that first year, I met a ton of people and I made friends that I kept in touch with all year. Being outgoing doesn’t hurt. But even if I hadn’t been, I bet I still would’ve made friends. And in each year since, I’ve made even more friends.

I truly love my Star Trek friends. They are a wonderful, sometimes wild and sometimes wacky bunch. But they’re also well-read, well-educated and know more about having a good life than many other people I have met in my years on the planet.

I’ve met many celebrities and some of them have become friends as well. I know, hard to believe, huh? In what other fandom does that happen?

True Star Trek fans care about the same things I do – science fiction, the environment, love, kindness, respect, diversity, exploration, inquisitiveness, education, and not only tolerance but acceptance and even celebration of the things that make us all different.

In the years I’ve been going to the convention, I’ve met more people like myself than anywhere else on the planet. These people are my tribe and I don’t care what anyone thinks about “those people.”

We take funny photos, we dance, we laugh, we have a few cocktails (OK, maybe some people have more than a few), we reminisce, we dress up, we hug (there’s a lot of hugging), we have intense discussions and we support each other’s love for the vision of a better world – one without hate or greed (not to be confused with acquisition) or hunger or caring about a person’s race or gender. We respect each other’s opinions and beliefs. We agree to disagree and we go on caring about one another.

If that makes us weirdos, so be it. I’m all in. And I already bought my ticket for next year. To my Trek friends, I can hardly wait to see you again. To the rest of you, I encourage you to go out and find your tribe, whoever “those people” are.

Do you have a favorite Star Trek or convention memory? Share it with me. And if something in this post speaks to you, please share it with others.