Geek Girls Rule 43.5 – LGBT Sci Fi/Fantasy & Comics Fandom and Gamers

For those of you who don’t know, for the last couple of years I have done the Alternate Lifestyles programming at NorwesCon, a Seattle-area SF/F convention. What this means is that I get to do the programming for Polyamory, BDSM, Sexuality, Goth, Fanfic and a whole lot of other things that don’t really fit anywhere else. This includes the LGBT programming (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender/sexual).

Now, SF/F conventions on the whole are pretty comfortable and safe places to be Out, that is, to be openly Gay/Queer. I can hold hands with my girlfriend, for example, and mostly not have to worry about anyone reacting negatively. I have Trans friends who can dress as whichever Gender they are more comfortable as, and be safe. However, as someone pointed out in one of the LGBT Panels I ran this year, the Convention, while safe, is still a largely Hetero-normative space filled with Straight guys and Straight or Bi- girls. My first instinct was to blow this off and be all protective of the Con-space. But after thinking about it for awhile, I saw that the gentleman in question was right, and thankfully he gave me the opportunity to apologize to him.

Because when I really thought about it, he was right. Most of the Con programming, apart from the very few panels on the Alt. Lifestyles track, when they do deal with Gender or Sexuality, deal only with the Binary model of male and female, usually Heterosexual. And then someone brought up the issue of Queer Gamers, and honest to Gods, apart from myself and some of the girls in the Girl Game, I couldn’t think of any Queer Gamers. Now whether this is due to an antipathy toward the LGBT from Gaming culture, or due to an antipathy toward Gaming on the part of Queer culture, I don’t know.

Partially, I blame this on a lack of Queer characters in the SF/F media. I mean, let’s face it, for mainstream media Inara’s Bisexuality on Firefly (if you blinked you might have missed it) and Capt. Jack Harkness on Dr. Who and Torchwood are about it for Out Queer characters. In comics you have Batwoman and her former partner, Northstar in Marvel, and… there’s a few more, but no names are immediately leaping to mind. (Granted after I write this I’m going to get about a bazillion replies giving me more Queer characters I’ve missed. Which is awesome!) While there are more to choose from in SF/F literature, they are still vastly under-represented, and WELL written Queer characters are even more rare.

Gaming itself has a relatively bad reputation for Homophobic behavior, if not actual Homophobia. Now, now, don’t get all defensive on me. It pains me to say this as much, if not more than it pains you to read it. I love Gaming, but there are some behaviors I could decidedly live without.

In the next panel, I asked everyone what they wanted to see, and they overwhelmingly said that they wanted more LGBT panels (held during daylight hours), they wanted a Gay Social or Mixer of some sort. I, however, have decided that maybe we need to have a teeny bit more of a presence than that. I’m looking to start up an LGBT Fandom group to just be present, offer support to anyone coming out or thinking of coming out, organize things like the Queer Mixer, etc…

But I’d like to hear from you guys, Queer or Straight, what do you think? Do you feel that Cons are a safe place? Would you like to see more LGBT programming, or at the very least, an attempt to make sure that all Gender possibilities are covered in panels on Gender and SF/F? Are you a Queer Gamer? How do you feel about that? Are you Out to your gaming buddies? Do you think my assessment of perception of Gamers is fair or true? Do you think that having a more visible or Out presence at Cons (SF/F and Gaming) will help? Would you like to join my treehouse gang, either as Queer or as an Ally? Do you think I’m just being ridiculous and all us Queers need to get over ourselves?

I want to hear your opinions, people.

21 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule 43.5 – LGBT Sci Fi/Fantasy & Comics Fandom and Gamers

  1. It’s an interesting question. Many years ago, SF Cons were the place I felt safest being myself, and the place I found the folks who had slipped through every other crack in society and found a home, friends and acceptance. In terms of what people like, or what programming they’re interested in, I couldn’t say (I think I last attended a Con @ 1990 or so lol), but I suspect (and sincerely hope!) that they are still safe places for people to explore different lifestyles and be themselves.

    Great blog, by the way!

  2. Thanks! It’s not that they aren’t still safe places, because they are. But the complaint is that they don’t address the interests of the LGBT Fan community. The complaints I heard this past weekend were that most of the panels on, say, writing characters focused on heterosexual male and female binary characters, that any panels that talked about gender at all focused exclusively on the male/female binary, and mostly heterosexual relationships.

    I think what most of the folks I talk to want is for their fandom to more accurately represent them.

  3. I’m (basically) straight, and I think this would be a good step. I have at least two friends on my LJ who are gay, male gamers. I might have met even more but would have known it because maybe they were still wary? I had seen a post looking for gay gamers on EN World’s messageboards a few years ago and homophobia or well-intentioned, but wholly ignorant responses proliferated. That is sad.

  4. I was there, with my 14 year-old son. I think that moving forward with this is really important.

  5. Hello!

    I was at NorWesCon this weekend and almost went to that panel myself, as the topic was very curious to me (I’m going to be the only straight person in an all LGBT group here in Seattle).

    I’m really surprised there wasn’t *more* panels/events for LGBT folk/supporters, being Seattle and all. 🙂 There are so many bad stereotypes within our own fandom groups and I think there needs to be a LOT more education (Not all gays hit on straight people, not all furrys have buttsex in costumes and other stupid myths).

    And might I just pick a bone? Not with you, of course. I hate that it has to be seen as “alternative” like you’re choosing to dress different and listen to a certain brand of music. I think that a topic about LGBT gaming should be under GAMING. Maybe that would start the education. You’re not choosing a lifestyle; you *are* gay just as I’m not choosing to be hetro.

    Bah. 🙂 At any rate, count me as a supporter. Heck, I’d be happy to be in panel as to the straight gamer perspective about dealing with hetros being homophobic in gaming.

  6. Qualifying this as coming from the Token Straight Friend…but I think more LGBT characters and more LGBT-friendly gaming environments can’t help but be a good thing for everyone involved. For instance if traditional binary notions of sexuality are challenged, perhaps we won’t see so many female characters with big boobs, chainmail bikinis, and not much else.

    I remember seeing a discussion about how Doctor Who has always been popular among the LGBT crowd, since from its inception, it dealt with a hero who was (from 1963-1990) asexual. We could always use more Jack, because Jack rocks. (Except when he’s in Torchwood. Then he’s kind of a bastard.)

  7. But he’s a hot bastard.

    When I asked people to name Out Gay characters in SF/F media, the entire room chorused Jack’s name, most of them with wistful sighs.

  8. Eh, he has his bastard moments, especially in season 2. Although he’s kind of got a reason to be a bastard, I guess. He’s still awesome. 🙂

  9. For the record, I totally agree that we shouldn’t dismiss the safe space issue; not everyone is able to be comfortably out and any place that provides that is doing a very important service to the community. But I think the lack of visibility is a big deal. There were so many teenagers at that panel, which is awesome and also feels like a big responsibility on our part to provide positve role models. I’m out to everyone, I have a nerdy boyfriend and friends who accept me totally, and I still feel like the only gay man in the universe sometimes. I think there’s a need that’s not getting met.

    Also, I really think the interest is there. I was in a panel on incubi and succubi and everyone just operated on a male/female dynamic until just before the five-minute warning, when someone mentioned that one of their characters was an incubus who preyed on both men and women, and the whole room really perked up, panelists and audience, and they can’t all have been queer. So I think that active visiblity is key in panels specifically for the LGBT community, but also bringing this kind of stuff to the forefront in all the other panels out there. I wish now I’d brought it up much earlier myself.

  10. I think people just get complacent. I know I certainly was. I knew there was a need for more LGBT panels, and this year I think I managed more than last year. But it’s not enough, I know.

    It was really heartening to see all the teens there. Gods, if I’d KNOWN there were other people who felt like I did, apart from a few “Oh my God, was I drunk last night. I don’t remember a THING” encounters in high school, I think things would have been so much easier.

    I’m hoping that I’ll be able to stay on ConCom this year, and push this stuff through so we have better representation for everyone. And I think talking here and in the LJ community is going to help me figure out what we need and want.

  11. There’s less hostility towards LGBT than towards, say, Christians* … and even so there are still more than plenty hostile people.

    I kept wondering why this seemed like something that had already been done, or should have, and I finally figured out that it simply didn’t seem necessary, which of course is a two-edged thing.

    (*bisexual christian, yeah, there’s a massive rejection waiting to happen o_o )

  12. I’m not entirely sure I get what you’re saying in your second paragraph there? Do you feel it isn’t necessary to address the concerns of LGBT or Christians in Fan or Gaming Circles?

    I agree that a lot of folks in both Gaming and Fandom are pretty hostile to Christians, and I think a lot of that is having been victimized in the past by people using Christianity as an excuse. Some of us have grown to realize that those assholes do not represent Christians everywhere, but some of us haven’t. I think the only thing you can do in that case is to try to live as a good example of a Christian to let people know that all Christians aren’t like the cretins who make up the very vocal minority, yet are the ones who get all the attention. Kind of like what I try to do with being Pagan. I want people to see that we aren’t all hippy-dippy flakes calling themselves MoonShadow RavensFury.

    The fact is, the normal of any group are largely ignored by the media because we’re boring.

  13. Jumping in here because it was widely discussed on my LJ friends list, and it seems interesting.

    I’m a butch-leaning lesbian. I’m not hugely plugged in to fandom/game culture. I’m 23 and planning to play my very first tabletop game next week. I’ve been to one con. I used to play computer games a lot more than I do now… etc. Largely that’s because of other demands on my time (career stuff, perilously short attention span for TV series, etc) and not anything I dislike about the fandom/gamer culture in particular.

    Standard disclaimers out of the way, I agree with Jen about what she said about feminine archetypes in games. I was reading the rulebook the other day for Exalted, the game I’m going to be playing. Sure… you can make your character whoever you want, but most all the drawings are of tiny-waisted women with huge breasts, infinite legs and chainmail bikinis, and it echoes all the portrayals of women I’ve seen in most games I’ve played (Starcraft, WarcraftIII, FF7/8, UT, any FPS that bothers to have one female avatar) It seems like it ought to be minor, and I’m pleased to see it when a game has a relatively asskicking female character(s), but, um, I don’t want all my in-game representations to look the same. Some variety and some distinctly non-femme options would be nice.

    This is a pretty computer-game specific response; I have to say I am much happier with comics, though DTWoF is the only one I read in which sexuality regularly comes up.

  14. Disclaimer: I’m just the dreaded ‘3 Beer Bi’ :).

    You’ve gotten a couple of comments about folk wanting more visibility. I’m trying to find a way to make this come across NOT snarky, cause it’s honestly not meant as such, but do you/they realize if you want it to happen, you have to work for it? Obviously you (GGR) are doing something, but in general, what are Vous doing? I’ve not been involved in NWC programming, but I’ve been involved in programming for other Seattle area cons, and they’re usually ECSTATIC to receive missives along the line of “I’d love to do a panel on X next year!” Call them up, ask to do a panel on LGBT gamers, and then drown the area in a blizzard of notices about it :).

  15. Well, we actually are working on it. We’re starting the LGBT_Fandom group for con appearances and the LJ Comm for discussion.

    I wish all cons were as open to receiving letters like that and actually acting on them, as opposed to sending off a “thanks, but we’re full up” letter to the person who does suggest it. Then, frequently, doing the panel without the person who suggested it.

    I think a lot of it is, that people don’t often know what they can do until enough of them get together and start crabbing about it. I mean, I think a lot of the folks who showed up to the panels at NWC were feeling really isolated and did not realize it was more than just them until we had a room of folks who were all amazed at how many other people felt that way. Once they all realized, they were more than willing to jump on board and do the work.

  16. With Adularia, WoW is particularly egregious in that regard. DAoC was good in that female characters actually wore the same armor as the male characters. (Many female models were the male models with boobs and long hair, however.) CoH/CoV is interesting in that there’s a wide variety of body customization in the character creator, but still nothing above a size 18, or so. (All my heroes and villains wear Chucks or boots. Sensible shoes for asskicking and mayhem.)

  17. My best friend is a HUGE CoH/CoV player. She periodically plays the CoH version of me she created.

  18. REally? Cool. My global handle is @Ciaviel, and I’m on Freedom with my villains and justice with my heroes. I play the villains more often.

  19. Visiting in from LJ…

    Speaking of City of X, there are several LGBT super groups on different servers, as well as LGBT friendly groups (I know, I used to run one. We didn’t care who you were boinking as long as you were a: an RPer, b: respectful of other peoples boundaries, and c: willing to team ).

    I think some of the homophobia is an extension of the hostility so many geeks get in school. If I had a nickle for every time I got called ‘fag’ in school, I’d still be working my job, but my student loans would be paid for. I think I’m lucky in that I grew up around gay people, and that I’m comfortable with my own sexuality.

    I’m poly and out with my gaming group ( my wife and girl friend are in our gaming group), but not society at large. And honestly, most of the poly forums and LJ communities I’ve looked at have left me cold. My own particular flavor of poly is ‘polyfidelity’ and I’ve seen enough “U R DUING IT WRONG!” posts to leave me no desire to join any of these groups.

    As for the Chainmail Bikini Barbie syndrome of art, I think a whole hell of a lot of this has to do with the percieved market: 14 year old boys who’ve only ever seen pictures of boobies, and not the real thing. On occassion I’ve bought books inspite of the artwork.
    One of the ‘popular’ crowd girls back in my high school days ( mind you, this was 22 years ago ) wanted to read one of my gaming mags, when she hit the center of the magazine which features the ‘topless elf’ swinging through the vines pic, she gave it back and gave me a look that said any interest in any geek stuff she had was gone – we were all a pack of pervy teenage boys. *sigh*

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