The Geeks Out crew at Awesome Con in Washington, DC.

Conventions have long been a safer place for LGBTQ people than most public events but even still, people on the spectrum have faced harassment at conventions all over the country for decades. Geeks OUT, a nonprofit whose mission is to “rally, empower, and promote the queer geek community,” provides safe places for LGBTQ fans at conventions all over the country. The organization began their convention representation with one booth at New York Comic-Con in 2011, grew exponentially and created Flame Con, an LGBTQ con in New York City, to provide a completely accepting environment that celebrates sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, and all of the differences that make people who they are.

Geeks OUT provides conventions with pronoun stickers to ensure that attendees won’t be misgendered.

The two-day con began on August 19th and ended the 21st. Attendees were treated to panels discussing representation, overdone LGBTQ tropes, gender and race challenges in cosplay, cosplay and consent, performances, a costume contest, and a massive Artist Alley with LGBTQ comics, creators, and inclusive merchandise that is generally hard to find at conventions.

Ngozi, creator of the comic, Check Please! at Flame Con

Headliners included the Buffering The Vampire Slayer Podcast performance which featured music inspired by the ’90s show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ngozi, creator of the wildly popular comic, Check Please!, which features two male hockey players in a relationship, and autographs and photo ops with Robin Lord Taylor, who currently plays Penguin in the TV show, Gotham.

Glorious Weirdo offering pride flag button jewelry and other geeky LGBTQ themed items.

Namesake Comic focuses on empowered female characters in fairy tales and showcases several LGBTQ stories. It’s important to the creators that media stop using LGBTQ misery truisms.

Each person who participated in the con had their own reasons for the importance of the con and having inclusive spaces for the community. Kristin Russo, from the podcast, Buffering the Vampire Slayer, notes that New York City is her favorite place on the planet and appreciates how much easier it is having conversations about LGBT issues than it was when she grew up. Back then, she felt queer without feeling seen or acknowledged at events which mean everything to people on the spectrum. When she went to visit her old high school, Kristin saw members of the Gay Straight Alliance holding hands which she would never have imagined when she was a student. While she notes that there are still miles to go and things aren’t better, it’s a good start and events like this are everything to the community.

Robin Lord Taylor, who is openly gay, said, “while Comic-Cons provide safe places across the country, a specific event for queer representation and feeling safe fosters a place to express freely. It’s fitting that Flame Con started in New York City, where gay rights really began.” A Manhattan resident himself, Taylor stated that he loves New York, but would love to see this concept branch out throughout the country in places that really need them, like Iowa, where he grew up.

While Flame Con is Geeks Out’s biggest event of the year, they also help out with events in other cities as well. In June, Geeks Out was a present force at Awesome Con in Washington, DC. The con itself wasn’t LGBTQ centered, but it was important to Awesome Con to be as inclusive as possible, especially since the event took place during Pride Week. The convention enlisted Geeks Out to be a sounding board not only for panels but to put together an impressive Pride Alley that featured LGBTQ artists, merchandise sellers, and comic creators.

Queering Cosplay panel at Awesome Con.

It’s relatively uncommon for a general convention to go to such lengths to make sure that their programming is inclusive, respectful, and gives the LGBTQ community their own large space. Geeks Out would like more cons to follow Awesome Con’s lead because there is still a lot of work to be done to make conventions safe places free from harassment.

Exploring the Creators of Gay and Lesbian Comics panel at Awesome Con.

At the queer cosplay panel, one cosplayer noted that he and his wife have gotten death threats over their cosplay of Bucky and Captain America. They received a tweet that said, “I hope you and your girlfriend die in a fire.” Panelists suggested that attendees let conventions know that they want to see more LGBTQ content so that programs like this can continue to grow. Awesome Con 2018 is slated for March 30-April 1st and tickets recently went on sale.

Flame Con may be the first of its kind, and while located in New York City, it’s gotten a lot of positive feedback, but there is still work that needs to be done and the goal is that cons like this can exist in places where this kind of representation and acceptance is harder to find.

Next, check out 1o Notable Sites from the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project and Burlesque Through the Ages in Philadelphia:  May the Fourth Be With You a Star Wars Burlesque Show

Get in touch with the author @LitByLiterature