Imagine if you were a Star Wars (SW) fan who used to think they were a Star Trek (ST) fan. A Star Trek to Star Wars fan (ST-to-SW). You were given Trekkie merchandise as a child, but it turns out that the force was with you. Maybe you realized that you felt a bit weird watching ST. Perhaps you felt just right when you experimented with SW. For any reason, you began to live an authentic life as an SW fan.
A few years later, you meet this wonderful ST fan, and you feel pretty on edge around them. Your heart flutters, and your brain is short-circuiting. Your nerves are set ablaze, some in places best discussed at home. There’s a name for this, but for the sake of keeping this nerdy, let’s call it your “Gravity.” It determines what kind of fan you are drawn to. Some people have Gravity that pulls from other fandoms. Others are drawn to those within the same fandom. Some people have Gravity that pulls from any fandom. And some people do not experience the effects of Gravity. There are many other types, but unfortunately, it would take forever to explain them all.
For reasons that can seem arbitrary, it is considered “normal” that one only experiences Gravity to those outside their fandom. In fact, Gravity that pulls from the same fanbase has historically been criminalized and forbidden. Even to this day, it is viewed as “unnatural”.
How does this relate to you? To some people – known as gatekeepers – you cannot be a “real” SW fan if you were formally associated with ST. They tell you that it does not matter if you’ve seen all the SW movies or got rid of your old merchandise. Gatekeepers will still call you a Trekkie and claim they are just telling the truth. This can make the search for a partner quite complicated. If an ST fan is unable to see that you are indeed an SW fan, they won’t be able to navigate a partnership with you. You’ll probably hear rejections like “Sorry, I don’t like Trekkies” or “I prefer to be with REAL Star Wars fans”. In worse cases, gatekeepers will claim that you tried to deceive them by living as yourself. An ST fan that found you interesting as an SW fan will probably try to make the partnership work between you both. Unfortunately, as soon as they learn that you are ST-to-SW, they will say that you have “trapped” them. What happens when you combine a phobia to same-fandom pairings with the false statement that one cannot transition between fandoms? A gatekeeping ST fan who is willing to kill you to defend their place within their fandom.
Ironically, if you call out this behavior, you will face smug dismissals. Contrary to how they’re often portrayed in media, you are less likely to encounter an overt gatekeeper. In reality, they tend to act more defensively. “How can I be a gatekeeper?” they say incredulously. “I don’t hate you. I just don’t support your… lifestyle choices.” However, their actions tend to contradict their fallacious words. The gatekeepers may be polite in public, but at the first opportunity, they make the world more difficult for you to live in.
Fortunately, it does not have to be this way. The thinking of a gatekeeper is irrational, so if it is approached with critical minds, it can fade into obscurity. You are not the only one with these types of struggles, so perhaps you can get together with those that have common goals. Gather a large enough group of allies, and you’ve got yourself a movement that aims to allow people within nerdy fandoms to enjoy their art as they see fit. You don’t even have to be a collectivized organization either. You just need to spread an idea to combat gatekeeping. An Anti-Gatekeeping idea. Or Anti-Gate for short. Whatever you wish to name it.
But it won’t be easy. Gatekeeping has its way of rebranding itself with different words, euphemisms, symbols, even reappropriating language from your movement. Here is a recent example. A person on a popular social media platform – Tic Tac? Tic Tac Toe? Tuk Tuk? – makes a viral video declaring that they don’t want to pair with an ST-to-SW fan. The reason they give is that to them, those kinds of SW fans are not “real fans”. Of course, people are allowed to have their preferences. If you won’t date an ST-to-SW because there’s just not enough chemistry between you both, that’s fine and dandy. If it’s because they have certain “merchandise” you have no interest in, that’s fine. But if you won’t date them because they are an ST-to-SW fan and you think they are still an ST fan, then you are being pretty gatekeeping.
In an attempt to avoid these accusations, the person mentioned above claims to have made a new form of Gravity. They then go on to say that they can’t be gatekeeping because their disdain for fans that have transitioned is just a part of said Gravity. Their statements go viral, and you now see a trend of like-minded people claiming the same Gravity. This is an example of reappropriation. Paradoxically, any attempt to criticize their gatekeeping will lead them to call you a gatekeeper yourself. The good news is that this trend will eventually die away. Remember, these arguments will always fall to critical thinking. The bad news is that this trend is not guaranteed to die away quickly. If left unchecked, the gatekeepers will make it impossible for you, an SW fan, to live.