FAQ for the Media

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This FAQ is intended for journalists or researchers of any stripe — TV, newspapers, magazines, radio, you name it — who are interested in freaks or Freak Nation for some kind of article, essay, news piece, or similar project. It might also be useful for academics writing theses and suchlike. Note that text like this has explanatory “tool-tips”, in case you don’t recognize some of the terms used on this page.

Is this really a single, organized movement?
Heck, no! Part of the basic philosophy of this site is the recognition that the Freak Nation is made up of a large number of disparate subgroups, which are slowly coming together. They’re certainly not together yet, and the idea that even a unified freak movement could be “organized” defies imagination.
Are there any major leaders in the freak community?
No, and such a thing is probably impossible. The “freak community” is really a conglomeration of a few dozen overlapping sub-groups, very few of which have any real “leadership” structure. Indeed, many of these sub-groups, such as Neopaganism or the punk music scene(s), are actively and deliberately anti-hierarchical; anyone attempting to set themselves up as a “leader” or “authority” in such groups would be shunned by everyone else. Other groups, like the role-playing community or comic book fans, are just too decentralized to have any central or authoritative personalities. These are essentially hobby activities, like basketball — can you imagine anyone being a spokesperson for the myriads of informal, pick-up basketball games that keep happening around the country?
So, is there anyone I can get statements and quotations from?

The webmaster is available for statements on practically any freak-related topic, though he hasn’t been active in any medieval reconstruction activity for over a decade. We’re trying to get some other people lined up for quotability; we’ll certainly update this page as soon as we have more contacts available.

If you need some pre-written quotes and attributions that you can use in an article or paper, see our freely-usable quotes page.

How many freaks are there in the US? In the world?

Since the movement is so decentralized, it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate count. Even counting just one freak tribe or sub-tribe in the United States, such as the Pagans or the gay/lesbian community, is nearly impossible. But a few rough estimates follow:

Taking Neopagans as one example, the CUNY Graduate Center’s American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 estimates 134,000 Wiccans, 33,000 Druids, and 140,000 Pagans in the US, for a total of 307,000; a 1999-2000 poll (sadly, no longer available online) by the Covenant of the Goddess estimated 768,400 “Witches and Pagans”, a number that would likely include quite a few Druids as well. Note the variation in these numbers. And neither of these groups attempted to include hermetic magicians, Thelemites, or other types of occultists associated with the freak community.

If we instead try to use queers as an example, we might start by noting that the famed “ten percent of the population” figure for homosexuality is now generally agreed to be too high. Even if we were to assume only 5%, that would yield an upper cap of nearly 15 million non-straight people in the US. This is far larger than the actual size of the BGLT community; many people have yet to acknowledge their own same-sex desires, and that 5% estimate may still be too high. On the other hand, given the number of people that routinely show up to gay rights rallies and marches, at least one million is a very supportable figure. The actual number is somewhere within that very wide range.

Of course, it would be nearly impossible to figure out how many gamers there are, or how many sci-fi fans — for starters, you’d have to determine a sharp boundary. Does someone who plays a single game once a month count? Or must they be more “avid”?

Putting all these combined vaguenesses together, we’d estimate there are roughly a million freaks in the United States. Very roughly. And we’d also estimate the population percentages are similar for other industrialized, English-speaking countries. Beyond that, we here at Freak Nation haven’t even sufficient information to speculate.

Is every gay or lesbian person a freak? Every sci-fi fan, gamer, and so on?
No. For example, there are lots of gay people who are otherwise quite mainstream; they form the core of the HRC’s assimilationist wing, and blend into the suburbs quite nicely. There are lots of gamers who just play in a game with their friends every weekend or so, but otherwise don’t participate in freak life. In general, we’d consider a freak to be someone who participates in at least two of the major tribes... but one of the hallmarks of most freaks is that they tend to wind up in at least three or four.
Is the freak community primarily a youth culture?

Some of its more visible segments, like the goth and punk scenes, have historically been primarily youth movements. But practically every other part of the Freak Nation, from role-playing games to BDSM activists, has members ranging in age up to their seventies or even more. Many of these groups actively acknowledge and admire the contributions made by the “Elders” or “long-timers”. If you go to a Pagan gathering, an SCA event, or a sci-fi con, you’ll see quite a number of grey-haired people involved at all levels.

The younger, brasher, black-leather-clad types are the most visible; it’s easy to point at them and say, “Look, those people are obviously freaks.” But that fiftyish co-worker in the next cubicle over, who everyone knows is a big Star Trek fan, may well have been an active freak since before the youngsters in leather were even born, and just doesn’t feel any need to flaunt it at the office or on the street.

What do freaks want?

The same thing anyone else wants: acceptance, and to be able to live their lives in peace. Beyond that, the community’s pretty diverse, and so specific desires can be pretty variable. But the major points that large numbers of freaks would agree on include:

In general, freaks tend to have a strong “live and let live” ethic; they feel that a person’s expression of their own individuality should be tolerated or even encouraged, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. We may disagree with what a person’s expressing — whether they’re doing it with clothing, a hairstyle, a soapbox, or a pamphlet — but we’re usually quite adamant about their right to express it. We may argue vociferously with a given point of view, but we’re usually willing to “agree to disagree” — and we’d almost invariably oppose any effort to legislate against that very same viewpoint that we oppose. (It’s one thing to argue against it, as a fellow citizen and equal; it’s a completely different kettle of fish when someone wants to bring in governmental force.)

And we wish other people would let us live, in the manner that we see fit, just as we live and let live. Whether we’re practicing Paganism, submerging ourselves in computers, wearing black lace and gothic finery, or just enjoying a good role-playing game, we’re doing it because we actively want to, and we’re not hurting anyone else.

If you have any other questions that haven’t been answered by this FAQ, please don’t hesitate to contact the webmaster and ask them. We’re here to spread information, after all.