By Rachael Hogan, Contributing Intern
Conventions have been an integral part of fandom life for decades. They give fans a place to gather and meet other people who are just as passionate about TV shows, movies and books as they are. Today there are conventions held to celebrate everything from Star Wars to comic books; from Anime to gaming. In recent years, due to the increasing amount of LGBT+ representations on these platforms, more Queer-Cons have been popping up all over the country.
Conventions like FlameCon, OutlantaCon and ClexaCon have given LGBT+ fans a place to geek out and feel safe about their sexuality; something which some of the attendees might not always get to experience. While it’s true that most conventions (such as Comic-Con, DragonCon, etc.) strive to be a safe place for all of their fans, they are definitely different environment from conventions that are primarily filled with LGBT+ fans. My experience at ClexaCon was completely different and unique from what I had experienced anywhere else.
When I attended Denver Comic-Con last June, it was an amazing experience. Being around so many people who loved Sci-Fi and comic books like I did made me feel at home. But because of the sheer number of people, and how much the interests varied, there were very few times when I felt like I could have a conversation with the people around me. Even while waiting in line for panels and autographs, there was a certain sense of comfort that was missing. But because it was my first convention, I just thought that was how all conventions were. I loved the convention from start to finish, and I would certainly go back, but it had in no way prepared me for my next con; ClexaCon.
My experience at ClexaCon was completely different, however. Even though there were more than 4,000 people in attendance, everywhere that I looked I knew that we all had at least one thing in common; the LGBT+ community had affected us all in one way or another.
Almost immediately the atmosphere felt different. There were people waiting in line and talking to strangers, sharing their love of their favorite TV shows and movies. People were hugging and meeting friends that they’d only ever talked to online. Even the celebrities seemed more at ease with the fans around them. Everywhere that I went there were people who were happy to strike up a conversation, or ask for a picture of a cosplay that they liked, or buy art from artists who were donating to charity.
I heard countless stories of people who made lifelong friends of the people that they met at the convention. The “WayHaughties” Facebook group got a chance to meet up after months of posting and talking about their love for Wynonna Earp. A group of twelve cosplayers from around the world got together to cosplay fan-art of their favorite character. I made several very good friends just by talking to them while we waited in line for an autograph from Anna Silk.
When I got home from the convention, I immediately found myself missing it. After being in a space with so many people who had been what I had been through, and who understood the things that I loved it was hard to go back to Wyoming. It was something that I hadn’t experienced when I had returned home from Comic-Con.
Of course, because Queer-Cons have been around for a relatively short amount of time, there are things that could be expanded and fixed. As the stigma around being LGBT+ decreases more and more, and the amount of representation increases, the size of the conventions increases. ClexaCon nearly doubled in size between 2017 and 2018, and it made certain spaces in the convention crowded. There was standing room only in many of the panels, and they had to turn people away at even more. People came from all over the country, and all over the world even, and in future years it could very well outgrow its space.
For the most part however, Queer-Cons are certainly on the right track to become as big and as influential as conventions like San Diego Comic-Con and DragonCon. As representation increases across all platforms and mediums, the conventions that accompany them will grow bigger and more inclusive to all fandoms. We just have to keep pushing for more LGBT+ rights, and fighting for even more positive representation in the media and soon, Queer-Cons will be among the best in the world.