ClexaCon—We’re Here for the Queer
Asad/funny/glorious thing happened on my way to Women’s FEST this year. I turned west, not east, meaning I missed FEST. Instead, I landed in Las Vegas, where I met and mingled with thousands of queers and lesbians at a conference called ClexaCon. And it was well worth the trip.
ClexaCon, now in its third year, was launched as a reaction to the sad, old “bury your gays” trope, Hollywood’s horrible habit of having the “bravery” to give their one gay character a love interest, wait for us to buy in, and then bam(!) kill them off.
A quick backstory. It was November 2016 when GLAAD, the LGBTQ media watchdog organization, released its annual “Where Are We on TV” report. The headline screamed happiness: “LGBTQ Characters at All Time High on US Television.”
But headlines can be deceiving. GLAAD’s deeper analysis revealed an ugly number: “Over 25 lesbian and bisexual female-identifying characters have died on scripted broadcast and cable television and streaming series since the beginning of 2016.”
And then came the CW’s show, The 100. It celebrated its 100th episode by killing off Lexa with a stray bullet meant for her lover, Clarke, just after showing them in bed. Fandom reaction was unprecedented. Fans woke up with a vengeance.
Tears of despair and frustration, and yes, downright anger, birthed ClexaCon, a convention named for the “ship” of Clarke and Lexa.
Holly Winebarger, Nicole Hand, and Emily Maroutian organized ClexaCon as an event to wrangle these emotions and “move the conversation forward in a positive way.” It was to be a gathering of roughly 100 frustrated people. Between word of mouth and social media, by its March 2017 debut there were over 2,000 attendees!
By the next year, the original founders were joined by Ashley Arnold and Danielle Jablonski, and well over 4,000 attendees.
Their website stated ClexaCon was a platform to build community, bringing together a diverse group of LGBTQ fans and content creators from around the world. ClexaCon aims to empower media creators to produce and distribute more positive LGBTQ content, providing educational resources for the community to aid in the push for better representation—all while encouraging more LGBTQ women to participate in creating the stories they desire.
Diversity. Inclusivity. Representation. Yes, and joy. The Con was an inclusive, joyous, diverse celebration every which way you looked.
There were panels ranging from Bi-representation in the Media, to Butch Representation: Invisible Women in Media. Decolonizing Queer Spaces; Black, Queer, and Nerdy Women; and Misconceptions of the Plus in LGBTQ+.
Add academic and creator labs filled with LGBTQ writers, producers, and directors. Fandoms from Buffy to Avalance, Black Lightning, Wynona Earp (aka WayHaught), to name but a few, were dissected and celebrated. Cosplaying. Book Reading. Podcasting. Book Publishing. Video Gaming. Web Series: watching, shooting, writing, FUNDING!
Author CB Lee (I Am Not Your Sidekick) moderated a panel: “The Power of Joy in Queer Media.” Pause and inhale those words.
ClexaCon trends young, showing us the future is an incredibly dynamic, energetic place, populated with definition. From noun preferences to identity preferences, it’s our rainbow shimmering with transitional shading, softening—but NOT blurring—each color bar as we move through its arches. And these arches are populated with every skin tone of earth’s rainbows, vibrating with what representation is and means.
There were also our celebrities galore. I passed Diona Reasonover from NCIS, Dot Marie Jones from Glee, Lyrica Okana from Runaways, Nicole Pacent, and Chantal Thuy, to name a very scant few. My personal celebrity geek moment: I see the amazing Jenn Colella (from Broadway’s Come From Away), whose hand I get to shake while saying something nonsensical about her extraordinary pipes. Yes, I know, I was there for the producer panel. But even a producer gets a fangirl moment!
And while on this high, it’s important to note the Con’s not perfect. It’s expensive to attend. It needs more financial help for those in need. Even within all that community, some groups feel unseen, unheard, and underappreciated. And that matters. All of this can, and must, be heard and improved…because we need The Power of Joy in Queer.
So support queer content. Go to tello and watch Riley Parra or Passage. And, holiday Hallmark fans—tello’s making an original rom-com, Season of Love, and they are crowd funding, so chip in a couple of bucks to see the holiday romance we deserve. BIFL, Detachment, the Bra Mitzvah, need you. Not into watching? Buy a book by a queer author. Good queer content will only come when we, with our sensibilities, are embedded and respected, in front of and behind the camera, the computer, the microphone, the publishing presses.
Tell Hollywood to do better. Representation matters. Order Season 3 of Vida on Starz, or Gentleman Jack on HBO, and let all the networks and providers—and the world—know…WE’RE HERE FOR THE QUEER! ▼
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery series Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventures, with On a LARP and Zero Sum Game