I'm a writer and blogger who's been focused on analyzing representation of LGBT and disabled folks in superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy media since 2014.
FlameCon 2 recently went down in New York City and our Shannen Murphy was there for ComiConverse. Here, Shannen details her recent time and experiences at the event and what the sense of community meant to her.
LGBT Geeks Get Their Flame On At FlameCon 2
FlameCon 2. Where do I begin?
For those readers who have been to a comic book convention — or any kind of convention — I want you to remember your first time. I want you to remember how it felt to walk out onto that convention floor: that feeling of belonging, of excitement, of the knowledge that you’re supposed to be here, and that this whole event was made for you.
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I’ve been to a lot of comic cons — NYCC, I-CON, EternalCon, LIGeek — but none of them have felt quite as much like that as FlameCon 2 did just over a week ago.
FlameCon is the LGBT comic convention run by GeeksOut. It happens in late August in Brooklyn, and I swear, walking on to that convention floor, I really felt like I was coming home.
As a butch bisexual with a tenuous-at-best relationship to womanhood, my experiences in fandom have always come at a price: among guys I have to prove that I know what I’m talking about, and among girls I often have to deal with straight girls’ seeming desire to put any two white cis guys into sexual situations together that quickly turn heteronormative.
But there, at FlameCon, none of that mattered much. They had pronoun stickers at the door, which you could take if you wanted to — She/Her, He/Him, They/Them, or ‘Ask Me About My Pronouns.’ That alone was an accommodation that I’d never seen before outside very few college LGBT events. I could be whoever I felt I was, and nobody gave a damn. The floor was littered with cosplayers of all different genders playing all different characters — I saw masculine interpretations of Rogue, Harley Quinn, and Emma Frost, and feminine takes on Magneto and Quicksilver. People did what they felt like, and I never once felt unsafe in my skin.
There’s been a lot of work done in recent years on the ‘cosplay does not equal consent’ front, but here, at this convention, it almost felt like a non-issue completely. I felt safe. I didn’t feel like I had to share the floor with a contingent of men who didn’t care about what I had to say.
And as someone who spends a lot of their life contending with that, it was refreshing. More than that — it was inspirational.
Also inspirational was the sheer mass of LGBT content and content creators — people successful enough to be here, to be selling their stories. Sophie Campbell of Jem and the Holograms, Alex Woolfson of The Young Protectors, Cecil Baldwin of Welcome to Night Vale, Kris Anka and Kevin Wada and even the iconic Chris Claremont himself were all in attendance, along with plenty of other names, both major and minor and up-and-coming in the geek media industry. I chatted with Sophie Campbell, had an in-depth discussion with Claremont about our differences in opinion on the DC Extended Universe (I love it, he’s not into it, and that’s okay), and actually got on Kevin Wada’s commission list.
Panels included “Subversive Fanfic” from the ladies over at On Wednesdays, We Wear Capes — a gutsy panel willing to talk about the not-safe-for-work side of fanfic, and how the evolution of fanfiction in the last fifty years has made it a haven for the previously-excluded, and a hotbed for change where creators and fans can mix and commingle — “Breaking the Mold — Diversity in Comics,” a panel from current mainstream and indie writers and artists known for their groundbreaking work in representing underrepresented groups, and “Pride & the X-Men,” which was basically forty-five minutes of story time with Chris Claremont as he told us when exactly he got a clue that LGBT audiences were relating to his work in a big, big way.
The biggest thing, though, in terms of panels, was the fact that the “Help! How do I write a transgender or nonbinary character?” panel was filled up a full ten minutes before the panel was set to begin, to the point where I couldn’t get it. That, to me, is a real sign of change. The people in that room wanted to learn, and that bodes so well for the future of comics, which still boast far too few transgender characters — despite magnificent recent strides, especially in the indie sphere.
Much of this was possible because FlameCon, held at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, is much, much smaller than a convention like NYCC. Creators were far less exhausted, and there wasn’t as far to walk to get to where you needed to be. I could never have had that conversation I had with Chris Claremont at NYCC — I’ve spoken to him there, and this time, it felt less like I was treading on his time and more like he actually wanted to chat. The same goes, I think, for many other creators in attendance, which lead to an overall much more cheerful, optimistic atmosphere.
Beyond this, though, the convention was also committed to being a safe space, and not just for its intended LGBT audience. It included watercoolers scattered throughout the venue and in every panel room, service was prompt when a wheelchair ramp was needed by a panelist, though she chose not to use it in the end, and there were designated quiet spaces to sit and decompress from sensory overload. I have never attended a convention that was this focused on its customers’ comfort, and I think that, in retrospect, in a shame.
Conventions are a place where we, audiences and creators alike, go to feel at home, go to focus on these things we love, or that make our livelihood. Man cannot live on bread alone, and a convention like this was that thing beyond bread, at least for me. I came out of it feeling energized and inspired to keeping writing about these things I love, and to work toward being on the other side of the exhibitor table someday.
In the wake of a summer like this, where the idea of LGBT safe spaces has been dealt a tragic blow in Florida, and “bathroom bills” still reign supreme in many state legislatures, feeling completely safe to do the things I love is something of a luxury. This convention showed me why it shouldn’t have to be.
FlameCon 2 was the convention I needed, and I think its commitment to safe spaces for all con-goers make it the convention I, and every other LGBT geek, deserve.
So here’s to next year’s FlameCon 3 — and, fellow LGBT geeks in the New York area, I hope to see you there.
Shannen Murphy is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @m_leigh_media