HIYA, fellow travelers!
So as some of you know, I went to the first ClexaCon this past weekend, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, Mar. 3-5. This was the first convention to deal exclusively with queer women’s representation in media and there were roughly 2200-2500 people who registered, overwhelmingly queer women/women.
And if you didn’t catch last week’s Fangirl Friday, ClexaCon was named for the iconic ship Clexa — Clarke Griffin and Grounder Commander Lexa, from the TV show The 100 (that’s them in the banner above). Last year, Lexa was killed off by the show in a really horrible trope-y way and that death sparked a revolution of sorts among fans, who organized and did several things, like managing to get some $160K donated to the Trevor Project, which is an organization helping LGBTQ youth in crisis. Lexa is a beloved character among fans (full disclosure: I’m one of them), and her death and the trope-y way it was handled left a lot of pissed off and grieving fans. ClexaCon is the result of some of that, because thousands of us are really freaking over the dead lesbian/kill the gays trope in media and want to do something about it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at this con, though I’d been monitoring the program and schedule of events/appearances, so I figured it would, at the very least, be cool.
I was totes not prepared for how unbelievably amazing and empowering it was, and I Tweeted lots of photos and impressions, and also did some stuff on Tumblr and a bit on Facebook.
So I thought about how I wanted to present this to everyone, because I didn’t want to ramble all over hell and gone and be all, “OMG AND THEN THIS HAPPENED AND THEN THAT AND THEN THIS” and like that. You can all check the schedule to see what panels and events were available. I attended several, and also talked to lots of attendees for their impressions. I spent time talking to staff and volunteers, followed some celebrities around (it’s okay! I had a press pass!) and also took a writing workshop with Emily Andras, the current showrunner of Wynonna Earp. She’s also a producer/writer for shows like Lost Girl and Killjoys). And I served as a moderator for a panel on queer lady business, as we called it, which included Rebecca and Sally, the duo that launched Fangirl Shirts along with tello Films’s CEO, Christin Baker, and Anita Dolce Vita, the owner, creative director, and editor-in-chief of DapperQ.
So basically, I was super busy. OMG. I succumbed to the Con diet, which in my case was a bag of Doritos for breakfast and a few pieces of chocolate for lunch and on Friday night, I kid you not, I had another bag of Doritos for dinner. Jeeziz.
Okay, so for those of you who have not attended a “con” — that is, a fan convention — they’re a mixture of fellow geeks and fans as well as celebrities, workshops, panels, and vendors from all kinds of geekness. The celebrities on site do autograph signings and photo-ops with fans (and yes, this costs extra, friends), and they’ll also do panels where they chat with a moderator who asks questions and then the moderator opens up the floor to questions from the fans in the audience. There were fan panels like that, and also fan meet-ups for people to basically chill out and talk to each other. Other panels dealt with things like queer women’s rep in media; queer women of color media rep; trans rep in media; developing your idea for TV; queerbaiting vs. queer subtext; making a standout webcast; diversity in comics; using YouTube as a platform; visibility and asexuality; indie comics and feminism…seriously. Get the gist? After all, this con was all about queer women’s rep in media.
And as an aside, there are actually celebrity fans at cons — fans known for their mad YouTube and/or podcast skills, artists, fanfic writers…like that. So you can actually hang out with them, too, and geek out with them.
The vendors also paralleled the overarching themes, and included artists who do a lot of fan art, including Lora Innes, who does amazing Wynonna Earp art, and PapurrCat, who does amazing Clexa art (and Sanvers art!)
So let’s do this.
THURSDAY, 2 MARCH
Arrived in Vegas around 1. The airport is probably 10 minutes from the convention hotel (Bally’s), so no biggie in that regard, but lots of road construction. The event was at Bally’s on the Strip and though I’m not a fan of the Strip, I did stay in the convention hotel, which made it easy-peasy. I went and grabbed something to eat for lunch, then met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in freaking years then went to dinner with a fellow fanfic writer and her wife. The writer also does a fangirl show on YouTube. I met her on the Twitterz. I actually meet a lot of people on the Twitterz, and I was able to meet a few of them live at CC. Way cool. After all that we went to a local LGBT bar for a “badge party” — that is, CC-goers took over the bar for a few hours and picked up their badges and hung out, chatting. I met a few people and talked about what they hoped to do at CC and how they felt. It was a pretty diverse crowd in terms of age, and there were some women of color, but man, we need more rep from that segment, please. The activist band Betty out of New York did an impromptu number for us (they also did a workshop later on during the con), so that was super-cool. Went back to the hotel and crashed. TIRED!
IMPRESSIONS: anticipation and excitement overall, though it seemed the brunt of people hadn’t even begun to arrive. Loved meeting some folks I know from the Twitterz, and great catching up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. Also, great age range. From young women in their teens to older women in their 70s, I estimated. The brunt were younger (under 30), but there were bunches of us 30 and up.
FRIDAY, 3 MARCH
This day is the one-year anniversary of episode 3.07 of The 100, which was the episode in which Lexa died as the result of a “stray bullet.” Don’t even get me started on this. But I rather like that ClexaCon launched with a Lexa’s Legacy panel one year to the day after that episode.
Anyway, lucky for me things start late! I got down to the vendor room around 10 to help Rebecca and Sally of Fangirl Shirts set up, but as it turned out, they had all kinds of people there to help, including Bonnie and Kevin of the awesome Wynonna Earp podcast, Tales of the Black Badge. I also wandered over to the Sapphire Books table and helped a little bit and chatted with Isabella and her wife Schileen. The line to get into the room was easily two football fields long, so when the doors opened, a horde of queer women entered the giant room and shit was in full swing! Panels and celebrity stuff didn’t start until 1 PM, so lots of people wandered around the vendor room laughing and chatting and just enjoying the whole idea of this con.
At 1 I went to the Lexa’s Legacy panel, in which panelists discussed the effect that Lexa as a character had on them — a fierce, strong, competent, warrior woman who was also a lesbian from one culture who found the love of her life in an equally strong, competent, fierce bisexual woman from another culture. And they discussed the effect Lexa’s death had on them, and the way it was handled and fulfilled the kill the gays trope came up, too, and many talked about the absolutely visceral effect Lexa as a character had on them, and the profound grief they felt when she was gone, but also the anger about how she was killed. You can actually watch it on YouTube. Click here and here.
And here’s Foomatic21’s fan vid she did a couple of months after Lexa’s death, which was shown at the panel and pretty much sums up what this character meant to the fandom.
Dammit. That gives me ALL THE FEELZ. Not many dry eyes in the house, it seems. But I love how creative people are.
Then at 2.30 was the “Queer Lady Business” panel, and that was one I moderated which included, as I said above, Rebecca and Sally, the duo that launched Fangirl Shirts along with tello Films’s CEO, Christin Baker, and Anita Dolce Vita, the owner, creative director, and editor-in-chief of DapperQ. The businesses are all very different, so getting different perspectives proved really excellent for those who came.
I then spent some time wandering around and met some Clexa cosplayers and snapped a photo of them walking away that I posted on Tumblr. It got a shit-ton of hits, so I guess others really enjoyed the photo, too. And yes, the two of them are actually a couple, which gave everybody the feelz when they found out. 🙂 Also, how cute is Little Lexa? omg.
She won the costume contest while the Clexa team whose photo is here took second. A Holtzmann cosplayer (Kate MacKinnons’s character in Ghost Busters) took third. I also took some photos of celebs, including Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught), the WayHaught ship of Wynonna Earp.
So at 5 I ran over to the Clexa meetup and hung out with other Clexa fans and met some really awesome people who were having just as much fun as I was. Then I rushed over to the main stage to see the WayHaught women of Wynonna Earp. The panel included the actresses who play Waverly Earp and Nicole Haught in WE, as well as the WE showrunner, the amazing Emily Andras, who is also a producer and writer and worked in those capacities on Lost Girl, as well. Andras is known as a staunch ally whose complex characters and portrayal of queer characters (lots of F/F) just gives me feelz all the time. I’m a huge fan of Andras (there’s a thing: #Fandras — check the hashtag on Twitter!). This panel included discussion of WE, queer characters, and some hints about what to expect in S2. You can watch it. The sound is pretty decent on this one:
One of the things about WE was that in S1, they released the news early that yes, both characters in the F/F relationship survive. WE launched soon after Lexa’s death in The 100, so it was important to the show that fans knew that WayHaught survived.
So after the high of that panel, I wandered around some more talking to people and ate Doritos for dinner and gawd help me, a PayDay candy bar. I was so damn tired I went up to my room, caught up on some emails and fangirling on social media, then crashed.
IMPRESSIONS: serious fangirling, everybody was so incredibly kind, excitement, people so happy to just be able to be themselves.
SATURDAY MARCH 4
Doritos for breakfast again. Jeeziz. Saturday was all about the Shoot ship from Person of Interest. Sarah Shahi (Shaw) and Amy Acker (Root) of Person of Interest were in the house to sign autographs, take photos, and do a panel. I didn’t make this panel, but holy crap it was STUFFED.
I was running around doing cray things and talking to all kinds of people (again) and I went to a panel on how the Wynonna Earp fandom basically launched and totally managed to convince network execs to do a second season. Fan power y’all.
Speaking of fan power, I then went to a panel on queer social media and it was like I was stalking Emily Andras or something, because she was in this one, too, much to everyone’s delight. She pointed out that fans leveraged social media in reaction to what happened on The 100, and that the LGBTQ audience is articulate, organized, and educated (polite and terrifying, she said with laughter) and they’re just DONE with the bullshit, basically. If you court a fandom, she said, you have to do it respectfully (speaking to the queerbaiting that the writers and showrunner of The 100 engaged in).
Then I ran over to the Lost Girl panel, which was packed, too, but OMG it was fabulous. This panel included actresses Zoie Palmer (Lauren) and Rachel Skarsten (Tamsin), along with Emily Andras (because she was a producer and writer on this show, too!). And I will say that Zoie is freaking HILARIOUS. Combined with Emily Andras who is also freaking hilarious, this panel was fabulous. Rachel, too, was really funny and actually danced on the stage at one point.
One of the profound takeaways in this panel was Emily Andras saying that throughout ClexaCon, many young women have approached her saying that they, too, want to write, and she said THAT’S where it begins, that’s where the change comes, that right now is the time to do it and in a few years, we will be seeing the results of queer women writing more and better content for that rep in media.
People. It gave me freaking chills when she said it at the WayHaught panel. I swear I got weepy when she said that and I looked around at this room filled with 600 queer women like me, all wanting to create and develop and launch better rep. And all the young women demanding more and wanting to do more. That was so wonderful to see. I’m getting weepy thinking about it right now.
So by the time that was done, it was after 8 and I hadn’t had dinner yet. Doritos just weren’t gonna cut it for another day, so I went in search of food in the nearby pedestrian restaurant/shop area. This was also the night of the Sin City ClexaCon party, which started at 10 PM and went to 4 AM. Needless to say, I was so freaking tired I just couldn’t. But I heard it was awesome!
IMPRESSIONS: continued amaze-balls and feelz, shit-tons of fun, people continuing to be so kind and nice, and even more people loving that they could “just be themselves.” Also, Fangirl Shirts seems to have had the party booth, where people hung out to chill and take a load off and also have fun. And Emily Andras must be some kind of deity who is spending time in a human suit encouraging all of us to want better, do better, and make better.
SUNDAY, 5 MARCH
Heh. Lots of people looking tired this morning…Sin City dance party afermath kicking in, no doubt. 🙂 Hung around the press room and got to chat with director Alice Wu, best known for one of my fave lesbian movies, Saving Face. Also chatted with actress Rachel Skarsten from Lost Girl (and also Reign). I also went to a writing workshop directed by Emily Andras, and she had each table develop and actually pitch an idea for a scene between the actresses who portray WayHaught in Wynonna Earp. I was at a great table and we had a whole hell of a lot of fun. Shoutout here to Hdawg (Heather!) for bringing donuts (it’s an Earp thing, y’all) and putting a box on each table. Also, Emily brought beer. THAT’S the kind of writing workshop you want. So the writing was geared toward TV, and each table was supposed to be a simulation of working in a writers’ room for a show. One of my secret dreams (not secret anymore, since I’m telling you) is to actually write for a TV show. I’ve wanted to do that for YEARS, so getting to do a workshop like this was icing on those donuts, baby. 🙂 [disclaimer – people in this workshop did pay extra to do it]
As much fun and awesome as I was having, this was kind of a sad day, because everybody was packing up and getting ready to leave and everybody I talked to said how much they were going to miss ClexaCon, and how much like “home” it felt. I spent about an hour after the vendor room closed down talking to some young women (18-19) about wanting to make films and how to go about getting into writing and I gave them some names of people I had met during ClexaCon and told them to stay in touch with me so I could help them in any way I could to get them on the path.
And that right there is one of the most powerful takeaways about ClexaCon: the dozens of young women inspired to DO MORE, to BE MORE, to WRITE, to create FILM, to bury the goddamn trope that has plagued queer rep in media for decades.
We’re already seeing it, in the dozens of young fangirls who have their own YouTube channels and followings and who came to this con, who are creating stunning fan art and writing fanfic, and engaging, and demanding more. Emily Andras noted it throughout the con — this is the moment, she said. It’s still hard to get your foot in the door, but the more you do it, and the more of you there are working to do it, the more change it brings.
The young women on site were a savvy bunch, and it gave me so much joy to watch them as they talked about the things they were creating and doing, how they talked with me about my experiences writing and growing up in an era without access to the platforms they had, how they wanted to do their part. GAWD it was beautiful. I told them that this was their time, that they’re first string now, and I’m on the bench, but that I will do whatever it is in my power to do to help them achieve a better world for all of us.
The other powerful takeaway was the absolute sense of solidarity among everyone there. Everybody had different fandoms that they supported, and the celebrities there for each were more than gracious, and some were actually overwhelmed with feelz at how supportive the crowd was not only to them, but to each other. It was truly a place of kindness, of interest in each other’s work, in friendship and fun, and in this sense of being there for each other no matter what, and we all recognized the shitty political situation out there, and that, I think, drove us even closer together. I have NEVER felt this kind of vibe at a con or a gathering, and the thing that has stuck with me most is that it’s not fleeting. It’s something really deep and really powerful, and I think from it, those of us who were there are going to spread it. Jesus. Getting weepy again.
Anyway. This was a first-time con, and I give MAD props to the organizers who pulled it off so spectacularly. Sure, there were some glitches, but so what? It’s the first time. I told the event planner after the fact that one of the most prevalent things I heard on the floor from attendees was how great it was to be able to relax and just be themselves. She stared at me for a moment and then teared up, saying “that has made everything I’ve done here so very worth it.”
I’m going to leave you now with some links to other people’s reactions to ClexaCon.
Rin’s Tumblr (has several reactions from various fangirls; Rin is one of those young women doing cool things with social media)
Sophia Rojas (one of those young women doing cool shit with social media)
I also wanted to leave you with the #LexasLegacy video produced by #LGBTFansDeserveBetter (they were in the house, too!), which shows the ways in which a character inspired a fandom and how a fandom continues to work to make things better.
For those of us who follow creative paths and who create characters that represent ourselves and then share them with others to help them see themselves too, Lexa’s death was a blow. Characters in media, after all, are representation, and how that representation is presented can make huge differences in people’s lives. Throughout the con, that was another story I heard, was fans telling actresses and each other how much a character means to them, how a show inspired them to be who they really are, to come out to family, to create.
I heard and felt all of that at this gathering, and for so many of us who went and experienced it, leaving was like leaving home.
But we all took inspiration with us, and we will continue to create and support each other and those who support us. And from this gathering, I’ll tell you right now, there are lots of people working and writing in media who believe in that, too.
Oso gonplei nou ste odon.
Happy Friday, and may you find what inspires you.