CONS: geekspeak for "conventions."
They are, for some, defining moments in our geek development – a rite of passage, if you will. Cons are moments when we branch out beyond our close circle of fellow, local geeks (if we’re lucky enough to have that support), pack our bags (or maybe just manage to leave the house) and mightily defy the homebody, anti-social geek stereotype to amass, en masse, among fellow geeks.
Where some might get intimidated by the sheer enormity of media celebrated at geek-fests like GaymerX, others can get past the daunting scale and see oceans of entertainment and imagination. I experienced that moment of geek inadequacy, feeling cowed before others’ far-superior geek knowledge, during one of the panels, when MINUTES passed wihtout my recognizing a single reference. But that's OK. Will I ever read every comic book ever written? No. Will I ever watch every episode of anime ever created? Impossible! Nor would I want to! Some of that stuff is absolute crap. The other stuff that’s not crap? Might not be my cup of tea. In coming to a con, however, I am guaranteed to discover something that was heretofore not on my radar – a movie, a TV series, a comic book series, a book, a webcomic, an artist (that I might actually commission for a work and meet in the flesh!), a board game, a video game, a website, a Tumblr, a piece of technology, a YouTube channel – you name it, if we’re excited about it, we can’t help but share it. Why do you think Comic-Con has become the pop-culture powerhouse it is today? Because there is power in geek word-of-mouth.
In coming to a convention, we geeks are looking for community – because most people back home don’t understand how grown-ass adults can get so excited and have to much to say about comic book and video game characters, let alone space-traveling time lords. We are desperate for a place where we DON’T have to hold back; where we can be as-effusive-as-we-wanna-be about everything from anime to Star Trek. We want to be around people who have heard about the things we love, and their predecessors, so we can have arguments about the finer points of MMO game play and to be in the absolutely perfect place to have spirited debates about the identity of the newest Doctor. (For the record, I can’t wait to see Peter Capaldi take on the role – how he’s going to keep from letting loose the F-bombs in that role is going to be worth the price of admission alone.) We geeks adamantly eschew any too-cool-for-school bland, blasé nonchalance about our interests or the world – you might say we just can’t help it. Things excite us and we gush – if that’s not cool, well, that’s why nerds get (and maybe deserve) a reputation for being “uncool.” And we're OK with that, because there is a joy in reveling in a gathering of like-minded individuals.
The term “like-minded individuals,” for those of us who have something that makes us “different” from what many people consider to be the stereotypical geek (white, hetero, cis-gendered, able-bodied male) can be a problematic affinity alignment. We have too-often had the experience that our specific enthusiasm for the objects of our fandom are not always welcome in a larger crowd. Our alternate readings (queering) of canonical storylines are disdained. Our cross-racial or +wheelchair cosplay may be derided as "inauthentic." So it was with this experience in mind, that queer geeks of all stripes descended on San Francisco to attend GaymerX - a gaming convention explicitly for gay and queer gamers ("gaymers").
Yes, this was a convention about video games. No, it was not the techopalooza of E3 (my co-workers in particular were disappointed by the paltry swag I brought back to the office). Yes, there was plenty of “mission-creep” to other areas of geekdom, like comic books and anime and genre media. Did any of that matter? NO.
Because this con, unlike any other con I have experienced, made an explicit space, for three glorious days, for the singular experience of being a queer + geek SURROUNDED by gay & queer geeks. I’ve been to other cons that were queer-friendly; I’d count APE among them, and of course there’s the burgeoning Bent-Con. But even though there were no big product launches or movie trailer exclusives at GaymerX, there was a palpable, shared giddiness that blossomed over the course of the weekend. It wasn’t until Sunday, the third day of the con, that I realized this had something to do with the incredible COMFORT I felt wandering around the con, through the crowds. Alone, female-bodied, smaller-statured, and with a haircut that could only be read as dyke-y, I realized I felt AT HOME. As if by magic (or magick if that’s your thing), this crowded, heady gathering created a space where singularly gay geek events happened all around me.
Team Rocket posing for pictures with coordinating bitch-faces (not pictured here)?
A hot-ticket, standing-room-only panel about negotiating problematic fan spaces?
Drag queen dishing about her favorite video games and doing impressions of alternate casting for X-Men?
Vendor greeting all passers-by, regardless of gender, with “Hay, gurl!”?
These were not geek experiences; these were not gay experiences – these were gay geek experiences.
GaymerX set out to create a safe(r) space for queer geeks to get together and geek-out. Were there growing pains at this inaugural convention? Of course there were. The schedule in the brochure/con rag lacked clarity and completeness, and the map, while cute, was not functional to find panels. The volunteers could have been better trained in the con’s geography. The space was too cramped for the crowds that showed up. These shortcomings aside, the crowd that showed up seemed willing to accept these road bumps because of the unique experience that GaymerX was looking to provide to queer geeks.
IMHO, it was a flaming success.