Fangirl Friday: ClexaCon Aftermath

HI, peeps!

So as you deduced from last week’s post, I was in Vegas for ClexaCon. This was the event’s second year, and holy crap it was AMAZING.

At any rate, for those of you who have been somehow under a rock for the past 18 months and somehow managed to miss me going on and on and on about ClexaCon whether here, on the podcast, on my other podcast Lez Geek Out! (which included an interview in March with the ClexaCon organizers), on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook…well, I’m not entirely sure how you missed that, but if you did and you’re still not sure what ClexaCon is, it’s

the first and largest multi-fandom event for LGBTQ women and allies, [and] ClexaCon brings together thousands of diverse LGBTQ fans and content creators from around the world to celebrate positive representation for LGBTQ women in the media.

And here’s why it’s called ClexaCon:

ClexaCon is named after two iconic LGBTQ characters, Clarke and Lexa from the CW’s The 100. The storyline inspired fans to push for positive representation in the media and raised over $160K for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization supporting LGBTQ youth. While Clexa serves as the inspiration behind ClexaCon, we are a multi-fandom event celebrating many ships, past and present, throughout TV and film.

Also, for happy fun times, here’s a quick 3-minute or so walkthrough of the venue before the event.

link

Okay. So I was there as part of the Dirt Road Books crew (we had a vendor table!) and also as Women and Words and Lez Geek Out!, so I did a lot of running around to fan panels and a few of the smaller panels, including one I moderated called Queer Lady Business. I moderated this panel last year, and we had a lot of fun then. Well, this year it was PACKED and we had even MORE fun. Reps from Fangirl Shirts (see this interview on W&W with them here), Tagg Magazine, Revry TV, and tello Films were on the panel and they talked about why they started the businesses they did, how, and about some of the nuts and bolts of starting a business.

Last year at ClexaCon — its inaugural year– some 2200 people (mostly women) were there. This year, it was around 4000 and the vendor room was HOPPIN’.

And there were so many amazing panels to choose from besides the huge fan panels. For example: how poor queer representation in media can affect mental health; bisexual rep in media; LGBTQ older characters (where are they?); Latinx rep in the media; responsibilities of media makers; the art of vidding; queer Black rep in media; intersectionality and why it matters; neurodiversity in writing; allies in the media; transgender rep in media; disabled LGBTQ rep in the media; the importance of queer film; Xena and Gabrielle and their legacy; creating LGBTQ content on YouTube; countering the impact of heteronormative media on youth…and there were so many others.

HERE. Go see for yourself.

In terms of the huge fan panels, wow. The WayHaught panel (that’s the F/F ship from Wynonna Earp) was actresses Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught) and Dominque Provost-Chalkley (Waverly). There was a Lost Girl reunion panel — holy hell. That one included Anna Silk (Bo), Zoie Palmer (Lauren), Rachel Skarsden (Tamsin), Emmanuelle Vaugier (Morrigan); Emily Andras (writer and showrunner); and one of the producers (dammit; I’m not sure what her name is). And a Legends of Tomorrow panel with Caity Lotz (Sara Lance) and Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Amaya) as well as an absolutely hilarious Hollstein panel — that’s the ship from the college vampire web series Carmilla with Elise Bauman (Laura Hollis) and Natasha Negovanlis (Carmilla Karnstein). Oh, and Chyler Leigh did a panel on her work as Alex Danvers in Supergirl.

And omg Nafessa Williams from Black Lightning did a panel. She plays Anissa Pierce in the show, the daughter of Black Lightning and she also has super powers AND she’s an out lesbian on the show! So if you haven’t seen the series, START NOW. It’s amazing. It’s on the CW and it’s still in the first season (season finale is next week) but you can stream earlier episodes online.

ClexaCon is posting the fan panels and some of the other panels on its YouTube page.

Also, here’s the link to the featured guests.

There was also an LGBTQ film festival, an awesome comedy night, an off-the-chain dance party, a cosplay contest, a gaming and podcasting area, and a place to just be all chill and watch various clips of F/F rep in media. And, of course, it was in Vegas, which means there was always something to do with your fellow con-goers besides the constuff.

Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce, here in her gear as superhero Thunder, from the CW show Black Lightning.

Like last year, I came away from this convention with a deep sense of empowerment and warmth. Like last year, the vibe was safe and welcoming and I can’t even describe how amazing it is to be in a space of 4000 queer women (mostly) and allies and not have to hide anything or explain anything or worry about begin accosted in the bathroom or harassed or looked at funny — ClexaCon is the one time of the year that it truly is okay to be LGBTQ and it’s an overwhelming feeling, that kind of space.

That said, there were some things that I noticed. For one, it seemed that con-goers are predominantly white. I’m still pondering that. I’m not sure if it’s a function of the fact that most LGBTQ rep in media still skews white; a lack of intersectionality between white and POC fan cultures; a lack of resources for POC fans to attend events like this (which skew younger, and that means an often greater lack of resources) or a combo of all of the above.

This also was apparent in the Nafessa Williams panel, which did not have the turnout that I expected it would, given the show’s seeming popularity (it’s in my top two fave shows). Black Lightning is a predominantly Black cast and deals with issues that affect communities of color in this country. It’s wonderfully acted, doesn’t shy away from incorporating current events into its stories that include explorations of the systemic racism in this country’s institutions, and it includes great action sequences, explorations of family dynamics, and holy hell, the soundtrack is off the hook.

Plus, it features a young Black woman with superpowers who is also a lesbian. I was so excited when it was announced that Williams was coming that I was sure there would be lots of people there to see her. And she is amazing, with a lot of wise thoughts about the fact that she is representing a lesbian character and what that means to young queer women of color. It was so incredibly moving and I was just really disappointed that more people weren’t there to see it. Someone said to me afterward that the show is relatively new (it premiered in mid-January) and is still developing a fan base and also that the character needs a romantic interest which will bring more people to the actress’ panels in the future but I’m not sure I buy that. Why does a romance have to sell an amazing character and show that deals with such important issues in a superhero context? Instead, I kept thinking that it has to do with white fans not wanting to engage with a predominantly Black show, which is something that is not uncommon.

I, however, love it when a show features a range of POC in its cast. I love that young POC and kids will see these shows and see themselves repped and I know how fucking important it is to see representation that speaks to you in media. That’s one of the reasons I loved the movie Black Panther so much — because I loved its representation and that POC were finally getting a movie like that. I mean, I love the superhero aspect and BP’s role with The Avengers, but it was so much more than that. And the stories in BL and BP offer not just representation for POC, but also lessons for all about issues that affect marginalized communities and individuals, and also how those issues play out in systems of power in which white people are caught, too.

At any rate, Nafessa Williams is AMAZING. Here. See for yourself:

link

I was also really glad to see the panels that dealt with queer WOC rep, including this awesome one on queer women of color in the media:

link

That panel brought up really important issues about how WOC and queer WOC are portrayed in media (includes a discussion of butch rep). POC are getting better rep, but queer POC, not so much.

And that’s why gatherings like ClexaCon are so important.

Last year, I think we were all still dealing with the aftermath of the elections and looking for comfort and safety. We got it. This year, it seemed there was a slightly different ethos among con-goers. And that is, basically, if we want our stories told, then goddammit, we need to freaking tell them ourselves. We need to develop the platforms, get into the entertainment pipelines as writers, producers, showrunners, and all other kinds of cast and crew to make sure our stories are told and told in ways that accurately represent us.

But it also behooves those of us who are white and those of us who are privileged in other ways to listen to those of us who aren’t/don’t have privileges we do and make sure we are acting in proper allyship to help amplify their voices and stories, too, and to speak out against BS that further marginalizes people in our communities.

ClexaCon offers a great space to network and find connections with people and venues to get those stories told. There is power in community, and power in using intersectionality as a way to build bridges with other communities. I hope that as representation expands in media, and as word about ClexaCon gets out that more POC will attend, that more people who are differently-abled will attend, that more people who are seeking LGBTQ representation that captures part of their experiences and lives — whatever those are and however those are lived — will also attend and share their stories and bring them to media.

So let’s do this, friends. Keep telling your stories, keep finding and expanding your platforms and if you possibly can, please come to ClexaCon next year. OR, if you’re in the UK, ClexaCon is doing a pop-up event in London in November.

Happy Friday and may the odds be ever in our favor.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for posting your thoughts on ClexaCon along with the video links. I hope DRB and other vendors drew new fans and readers to their growing ranks. 🙂 The Lost Girl producer on the panel whose name you were blanking on was Vanessa Piazza.
    After watching Nafessa Williams’s panel and reading that turnout for it was not as high as for other panels, I wondered how many people did attend her panel versus those for other shows From what I could tell from the videos posted by ClexaCon of the panels, audiences were enthusiastic for all the panels but only the first few rows of people were visible so watching online it was impossible to get an idea of actual numbers in attendance. And were all the panels held in the same room or same sized room? Were any of the panels held at the same time and perhaps conflicted with Nafessa’s? Was Nafessa the only TV show star doing a solo panel? From what I could see of other panels, those with at least a pair of cast members (or more) from a show had the advantage of cast members being able to interact with each other as well as the audience which might have been more of a draw for those attending the con as fans.
    I suspect that Nafessa and others are well aware that con attendees are not the entirety of the fan base for their shows so a lack of attendance or numbers not meeting pre-con estimates hopefully won’t discourage any of them from attending again.
    It looks like a very cool event and hope it continues to grow as well as having cons outside of the USA, like the one in the UK this fall. Canada is a worthwhile option to consider for a future con I think among other countries.

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  2. Thanks for the update on the Lost Girl producer.

    I was in the room for Nafessa’s panel. Imagine a room of about 600-700 seats. I’d estimate about a third to half that were there, so the entire back half of the room was empty, and there were lots of empty seats on the sides, too. Chyler Leigh did a solo panel and the room was standing room only. All the other panels were pretty much standing room only. Granted, Chyler Leigh has been a draw for a few years because of her role on Supergirl and the #Sanvers ship (which is no longer).

    Again, I’m willing to consider the fact that Black Lightning is a new show, and Nafessa Williams’ character, though lesbian, isn’t in a relationship at the moment and the one they teased at the beginning of the season has pretty much disappeared, so there’s that. But I still think the elephant in the room plays a role, too. And there were comments about that after the panel from some of the people who attended. I don’t have any answers. But it was pretty freakin’ noticeable to me, who attended a bunch of those fan panels and they were packed.

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