Back when PAX was being started, I recall that it was frequently said this needed to exist to fulfill a need. E3 was not for fans, necessarily, being focused as a trade show and somewhat difficult to attend unless a journalist or in the business. PAX, and later PAX East, was meant to give the fans a convention to attend that was for them. The focus was on them. That need was being filled.
This week we saw the launch of GaymerCon’s Kickstarter, and I have been happy to see the games news outlets covering it. Having attended other conventions where I had fun, but was aware of my own presence and who I represented at the time (GayGamer), GaymerCon sounds like a place I wouldn’t have to debate whether my identity is an issue. I do have further questions about it, but as it hasn’t fully formed, I am willing to see what it has to say about harassment policies, how it plans to cater to the full spectrum of the LGBT community, etc.
When I wrote ‘Yes, It’s Fucking Political‘ earlier this week, I was making the point of my mere existence in non-LGBT spaces being political. When I attended PAX East and E3 in 2010, I was quite aware that I was representing GayGamer. Thankfully the PR I dealt with never blinked, had anything to say, and when it was remarked upon, it was friendly and led to more conversation. Among some other press that were there, I was the odd man out, however. Particularly as the games I covered included Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood, Gears of War 3, and Bulletstorm. Machismo galore.
This mostly manifested in trash talk that was at times specifically aimed at me and my outlet, due to assumptions about my gaming capabilities. It created an atmosphere where I felt I had to prove my right to even be there with other outlets, which left me a little sour about the affair (I more than excelled, but I shouldn’t have to feel the need to do so).
What has been curious about some reactions to GaymerCon is the perceived ‘segregation’ that gay people are trying to establish in games conventions. This argument confuses me, because GaymerCon sees an unfulfilled niche and need and is trying to fill it. This really is not too horribly different than when PAX formed, but instead of just being focused on fans in general, it wants a place that is specifially LGBT-friendly. This is not segregation, it is safety, it is comfort, and it is community.
It may be difficult for those not in a minority to understand not necessarily feeling safe due to one’s perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, but it is a very real thing. However, even in an ideal world where discrimination, hate, and long lines coming out of Chick-fil-A to prove a point weren’t a thing, there would be nothing segregationist about wanting a convention for LGBT people.
There have always been LGBT people who stuck out and sought to be just outside of societal norms. Increasingly we see LGBT people also trying to fully integrate by having traditional family structures (monogamously married with kids), passing fully in society, etc. I am not one of those people, but I understand why they wish to do so. I also understand that due to my rejection of such, I am often in a position that I find myself wanting to go to specifically queer events so as to find others like me.
That’s what this is about. A safe space to find other people with similar interests. It is not segregation, it is a common ground. Particularly as GaymerCon is open to allies as well. Just because something nifty is coming into being and it doesn’t target you doesn’t mean that it is trying to exclude you. If we want to go by that logic, E3 is definitely not for me with its booth babes and heterocentrism. A niche was not filled, and now it may be.