This weekend, Austin’s HavenCon offers a safe place for gay gamers and sci-fi fans to get their nerd on
If you or a gay nerd in your circle of friends is headed down to Austin this weekend, chances are it’s to attend the maiden voyage of HavenCon. The geeks can’t stop talking about it, and for good reason: HavenCon is not only the first (and only) queer gamer and fantasy convention of its kind in Texas; it’s also been a long time coming.
“For me, HavenCon represents just what the name implies,” says Shane Brown, the heart, soul and founder of HavenCon. “A haven. A place where LGBTQA geeks, gamers, nerds — and anyone else with a passion for something that may be different — can come together to discuss the things they love with those that influence them.”
So say you’re a gay geek with nothing to do this weekend: You’ve run out of episodes of Young Justice to re-watch, you’re impatiently waiting on a new issue of Bitch Planet (which you should be reading), and your Tumblr dash has flatlined. Is it worth the drive to Austin?
Obviously. Among other things, expect to find a variety of gaming tournaments, incredible special guests (including Legend of Korra stars Janet Varney and P.J. Byrne), a selection of panels and even a Big Gay Cosplay Wedding.
“It’s a way for the geek culture to stand together in solidarity for marriage equality here in Texas,” Brown explains. Seriously? (I’d kill to crash it, and I’m a bride-to-be myself, so I know better … but I don’t care.)
It’s all part of Brown’s mission to build an inclusive community of fanboys and -girls. Brown started the Gay Austin Geeks group in 2012, and has seen firsthand the amount of time, energy and dedication it takes to put an event of this magnitude together, particularly in conservative Texas.
“From my perspective, it is more difficult [doing something like this here] than in say, San Francisco, where it’s pretty much a given that everyone is OK with the LGBT community,” Brown says. “But I have to say, our sponsors and vendors have shown awesome support. I was initially worried I may not find enough, and here we are with a waiting list! I’m completely blown away.”
HavenCon panelist Mia Moore, a Texas-based cosplayer, blogger and geek girl extraordinaire, agrees. “While I’ve always seen geek spaces as inclusive, I know that geeks can be just as hurtful as anyone else, intentionally or not. I think knowing that HavenCon is a safe space will encourage those who are nervous about conventions to come.”
A staple in the Texas geek-girl blogger community, Moore will serve on several panels this weekend, including Bi Visibility and Representation, Cosplay for Beginners and Allies and the Community. “I’m most excited to talk about how bisexuality is portrayed in the media — or specifically, how it is usually avoided or misrepresented,” Moore says. “I’m also all about finding your own form of self-expression, so I hope lots of people come to our cosplay panel and learn how to get started.”
HavenCon is the latest in a line of up and coming LBGTQA conventions, and finds itself in good company among predecessors such as Bent Con, GaymerX and Flame Con, to name a few. Brown is optimistic that HavenCon will be welcomed warmly by its target audience, even in the midst of oppressive legislation and a sea of red.
“Obviously we aren’t known to be the most LGBT-friendly [state],” Brown says, “but that is also what has really made something like this important to people. It’s away for everyone to get together and show pride in our community and those that support us. We hopefully have found a way to bring the community and supporters together in a safe environment that is free of judgment and prejudice. I make myself available to everyone. And even if you’re just curious as to what issues the LGBT geeks/gamers are interested in, come in and listen. Everyone is welcome here.”
Holiday Inn Midtown, 6000 Middle Fiskville Road, Austin. April 4 and 5. HavenConTx.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 3, 2015.