Hello hello hello! Geeks OUT sashayed over to the Javits Center this past weekend for the inaugural RuPaul's Drag Con NYC and we hosted two sickening panels! So let's have a geeky kiki!
Pushing Buttons: Gay Gamers Panel
Our first panel featured Geeks OUT contributor Steve Gianaca, Drag Race alumni Jade Sotomayor, Pandora Boxx, and Jade Jolie, YouTube star Kid Fury, and founder of Miss Nerd New York and Gay Gamers of New York Shane Cherry talking all things video games.
Our panelists came to video games from different paths: Kid Fury is a fan of anything Nintendo 64, Jade Jolie fell in love with video games through Mortal Kombat (providing the inspiration for her drag name) and Pandora Boxx goes for the original and best, Pong. No matter the game, the reason for coming to gaming remains the same (at least according to Kid Fury): "we all got into fights in high school." Modern games have given character representation so desperately desired for (it's not just about saving the princess anymore, yay!). Games like Dream Daddy and Fire Emblem: Echoes feature thoughtful and realistic depictions of queer romance. For the queer community, games allow for a world of escapism, self-discovery, and creativity, exploring characters of different genders and body types. Gaming is also safer today than it was 10 or even five years ago thanks to an overall awareness of Wheaton's Law (don't be a dick) within the community. Shane Cherry recalls a trans friend that finally found acceptance at at Gay Gamers of New York.
For all the progress that has been made, though, the gaming industry still has some work to be done. Relationships are either very fetishized or over-sexualized (Mass Effect: Andromeda in particular was compared to Grey's Anatomy where "everyone is fucking everyone else"), characters that are queer have that identity buried deep in the narrative, and some of the major game developers still remain hesitant to major change. The role that LGBTQ games can play is that of outreach. Speak up, let game developers know what you want (and that includes a RuPaul's Drag Race fighting game)!
Pow! Boom! Zap! Comic Book Queeroes
The second panel of the day brought together LGBTQ comic book creators and fans for a conversation about representation in comics. Moderated by (Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives), our panel featured Gabby Rivera (Marvel's America), Jiggly Caliente (RuPaul's Drag Race season 4), Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman, New X-Men), Terry Blas (Morbid Obesity, Dead Weight: Murder at Camp Bloom), and Joey Stern, president of Geeks OUT.
Comic books provided more than just catharsis for our panelists—they teach English, they provide an ideal for which to live your life, they provide hope. This goes for both creators and fans. Rivera just finished up issue 7 of America in which she explores America Chavez's origin story in new ways, her chance to go wild, "dreamy and gay." For Terry Blas, "writing comics is cheaper than therapy," you can put little bits of yourself into your stories, find who you want to strive to be, and as well as a place to find your family.
Like with the earlier panel, these panelists touch on the State of LGBTQ Representation in Comics in 2017. The change really started in the past three years, and that has been exciting, but then comes the inevitable backlash. The question was also raised about retconning characters into queer identities, such as Iceman and America Chavez. Is it worth to retcon more characters or create new ones? Gabby Rivera would prefer to create over retcon because it gives the next generation of fans people that look like them, as well as inspiration for the next generation of creators. There's still room to do better: Rivera charges mainstream creators (including herself) to move past "acceptable diversity" and make people uncomfortable. Blas reminds us all that there so many new avenues for creators to get their stories out. Online creators have so much more space to tell the stories that creators want to see, without having to go through the mainstream system. Physical media is slowly catching up to this. Self-funding through Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing services and the increase in the number of cons help immensely.
One fact I was not aware of was that Marvel had a "no gays" policy for many years. You could have a character with queer identity in your comic but you couldn't state it explicitly so. How glad I am times have changed!
Like their comic book heroes who live outside the mainstream, our creators harnessed their superpowers of living outside the mainstream to be successful. Blas uses his life experiences as motivation. He's always working—even if he's drawing in his pajamas watching America's Got Talent, he's still drawing. For Rivera, the realization that her life was not going to be the white picket fence beautiful path that society expected for women, she just did what she wanted to do for herself. Joey Stern channeled the loving environment he grew up in to make Flame Con the same loving place he had: "Just because there isn't a role for you, that doesn't have to be limiting." Find your path, do what you want to do, and haters gonna hate, so pretend they're just not there.
Drag Con will return to New York City in 2018! Follow rupaulsdragcon.com for details!