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LGBT+ in the Convention Scene

The world is constantly growing and changing, and acceptance is becoming more ingrained in the mindsets of elder millennials and younger generations. Along with that, the LGBT+ community has grown too. Whether LGBT+ folks are open or hiding, conventions have become a place where they can feel safe and free to be their true selves. 

There are thousands of conventions all over the world. In the U.S. alone in one calendar year, there are over 600 conventions that cater to gamers, comics, and anime combined. Conventions are increasingly becoming more open with their approach to their attendees’ needs. 

Conventions for the LGBT+ Nerds

In the U.S., there are nearly a dozen well-known conventions that specifically cater to LGBT+ nerdy community. Most of them reside in either the South East, Mid-West or West coast regions. As HavenCon’s (an LGBT con in Texas) motto suggests, “Everyone needs a Haven.” This branding of conventions gives the LBGT community a place of their own. 

RuPaul’s DragCon

RuPaul's DragCon logo
A bird's eye view of activities and attendees at RuPaul's DragCon
A bird’s eye view of activities and attendees at RuPaul’s DragCon / Photo via nycgo.com

In the passing years, even Ru Paul’s Drag Race has claimed their own convention DragCon. This convention caters to drag queens/kings and drag enthusiasts. You’ll be sure to see many a past RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant and even some of the winners. You may even be blessed enough to see or meet RuPaul himself.  There are panels that teach folks how to get started, where to shop for clothes and wigs, how to make your own clothes, and of course coveted Q&As with RuPaul stars. 

Non-Profit turned Convention

GaymerX logo

Companies like GaymerX, a nonprofit group, dedicate to creating and supporting LGBT+ game developers’ ability to actually create content. Geeks Out is another nonprofit group that started what is now known as the largest queer con in the united states, FlameCon. From panels, content, and cosplayers, its program has grown so much since its small beginnings back in 2015.  

LGBT+ nerd community at FlameCon
LGBT+ nerd community at FlameCon / Photo credit: FlameCon

While the list is growing for the LBGT+, there is still a need for more content. Just like any other convention, these are all inclusive, even though they are mainly LGBT+ run. A lot of conventions, that may be considered hetero-normative, are opening their perspectives to be more inclusive of the LGBT+ community.

San Diego Comic Con

Conventions like ComicCon are really beginning to expand in the variety of content they give by adding more panels that gear towards the LGBT+ community. San Diego’s Comic Con had ten panels back in 2014. While the average geekery convention is catering to the geekery more so than the LGBT+, it is still a beautiful sight to see the LGBT+ community being given content that isn’t just yuri or yaoi content and more about meeting/ hearing from LGBT+ content creators and LGBT+ storytelling that hasn’t been hyper sexualized. 

What Some LGBT+ Folks Say

I spoke with several LGBT+ folk to get feedback on how conventions have been addressing their needs. Most responded that while their experiences were pleasant, it would’ve been nice to see more panels geared towards LGBT+ content. Some voiced that they would like to see LGBT+ gatherings like how cosplayers plan fandom photo shoots throughout the weekend endeavors. Some conventions are utilizing social media, like Facebook, as a means to get more attention. 

Conventions like Zenkaikon and AnimeNEXT have also utilized the “events” feature to allow attendees to create scheduled photo shoots and meetups that will later be added to the convention content schedule, but only if the event was created within the convention’s group page. This is a great tool to allow the fans to meet like-minded folk be it fandom or otherwise. 

Sean Meehan

Sean Meehan, an avid convention attendee, going to roughly 6-10 conventions a year, is also a panelist at many of the ones he attends. He identifies as a “Con Dad” and feels protective of those in the LGBT+ community and so his panels cater to them. While Sean mainly does 18+ content panels, like Cosplay Dating Game, he suggests it’s to “get people out of their heads and having fun.” One of his PG panels is entitled,”Let’s be Gay at Cons” in which he and his panelist co-hosts discuss their coming out/self-discovery and allow the audience to share their stories as well. It’s a freeing experience. It’s a panel that let’s people know its okay to be queer. 

Adam aka FireHeart Phoenix

Adam attends conventions only a few times a year, trying his best to attend at least two or three. He attends mainly for the cosplay community. However, he also enjoys panels that pique his interest and celebrity meet-and-greets. While he doesn’t attend as frequently as other con-goers, in his experience, he recalls never witnessing any panels that catered to LGBT+. For him, this did not negatively impact his attendance or experience at any conventions.

In fact, he recalls a memory of breaking out into song with a group of total strangers, and “felt like were my best friends” at BronyCon 2015. He also stated that though it was something small, it was a nice stance to see that all of the bathrooms in the convention had been made “non-gender specific.” 

Kayla aka MissEffect

Kayla attends conventions as a cosplayer and a seller in the dealer’s room where all nerdy merchandise can be found. They enjoy cosplaying for the benefit of seeing how other fans of the character(s) react. Kalye also attend conventions at least three times a year.

They said the happiest moment they experienced was during a My Hero Academia panel where they were hosting while cosplaying as Todoroki. Attendees showed positive reactions and joy over shared character pairings and their acting/answering questions in character. Kayla never felt like they were being shunned or negatively treated for their cosplay of a male character. On the other side of it, they said there were very few panels that catered to LGBT+ and wished there had been more variety.

Content, Meetups, & Photoshoots

Across the board, they all wished there could’ve been more variety when it came to LGBT+ content. They all expressed the want for meetups or gatherings as well. I actually hosted an LGBT+ meetup this year at AnimeNEXT. This was before I had known about the “Events” feature on AnimeNEXT’s Facebook group page. Many of the people who attended said if I had not continually shared the event in the Facebook page for the convention they probably wouldn’t have even known. Seeing as AnimeNEXT tends to fall on Pride weekend, many attendees who came to my meetup were ecstatic to see their representations there. Next year, I will definitely make sure to utilize the Facebook “Events” feature properly next time around. 

Conclusion

Having the opportunity to be nerdy, geek out with like-minded nerds, and be accepted no matter the orientation means the world to many. Conventions are on the right path to full acceptance, but it doesn’t mean that their journey has ended. As long as conventions continue to advocate for all nerds no matter their ethnicity, sexuality, age, or identity, we will still continue to attend and enjoy being who we are: nerds.

Featured image credit: FlameCon

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