Texas’ first LGBTQIA geek and gaming convention kicks off in Austin
by Bradley Donalson
Calling all gay geeks! HavenCon, the first LGBTQIA geek and gaming convention of Texas, is set to launch in Austin on April 4 and 5. The convention will take place at the Holiday Inn Midtown and tickets are on sale now. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to OutYouth, an Austin-based organization serving LGBTQIA youth in central Texas.
Shane Brown, one of HavenCon’s organizers, has been working to bring together Austin-area geeks since 2012. He is also an organizer of Gay Austin Geeks, an organization for “gay geeks and those who love them,” that has almost 600 members. HavenCon is a larger version of this interconnection, meant to be a safe space for geeks and gamers who are LGBTQIA-identified, as well as their allies. Brown says that he’s been “kicking around the idea of how to have a big event for all these geeks,” since GaymerX (a California-based queer gaming convention) came on the scene in late 2013.
The idea came to a head last year when Brown and the Gay Austin Geeks were asked to do a panel at Wizard World Austin Comic Con. Brown recalls people’s eyes lighting up when they would see the Gay Austin Geeks’ table, but then they would look around to their group of friends or family and walk past without stopping. After the convention, both Brown and fellow gay geek Daniel Harvell were contacted by convention attendees who said they were interested in coming by the group’s table, but couldn’t because they weren’t out.
HavenCon is meant to be the solution to this issue—a safe space, or “haven,” for all the gay geeks in the area. It was originally supposed to be a fun little event to judge the area’s interest level, Brown says, but it quickly became something much bigger. “Something happened, and some people retweeted it,” he recalls, “and it just went boom! Now we’ve got people coming from Houston, Dallas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and a bunch of other places.”
HavenCon will feature an assortment of guests ranging from artists to authors to voice actors and other celebrities. The convention will be presided over by Grand Mistress of Ceremonies Dr. Rebecca Housel, also known as the “Pop Culture Professor.” Housel, a writer and editor with Wiley’s Philosophy and Pop Culture series (X-Men and Philosophy, True Blood and Philosophy), will be moderating many of the panels throughout the convention, as well as giving talks on the Whedonverse and vampires in pop culture.
Transgender cosplay artist Alexa Heart will be leading a panel on how cosplay and dressing up helped her transition, as well as helping to judge HavenCon’s cosplay contest. Artists Dylan Edwards (“Politically InQueerect”, “Transposes”) and Bob Glasscock (“Casey at the Bat”) will be speaking about queer comics, and authors Harvell (The Survivors, Wishing Will) and Rhiannon Frater (The First Days, Fighting to Survive) will discuss writing, publishing, and self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Caitlynn French, voice actor with Sentai Filmworks, will be discussing her rise in the voice-acting world. Joining the ranks at HavenCon will be Janet Varney, the voice of Nickelodeon’s bisexual Korra in The Legend of Korra, and actor Dante Basco (Hook, Avatar: The Last Airbender). Dallas-based “Doctor Who couple” TJ and Timmy Mundell-Patterson—whose Doctor Who-themed engagement, wedding, and honeymoon went viral last fall—will be presenting a discussion about marriage equality in Texas, bringing their families together, and the cultural differences they experienced on their U.K. honeymoon. HavenCon will also be offering The Big Gay Cosplay Wedding, a ceremony performed by “Minister Man” Kenny Peters for convention-goers in love. Brown is quick to note “you don’t have to be big or gay or in cosplay” to take part in the ceremony.
With the rise of LGBT themes and storylines in comics and gaming (Marvel’s “Northstar,” DC’s “Batwoman,” and BioWare’s Dorian from Dragon Age: Inquisition), LGBT geeks have shown that they are a major force within the industry. While LGBT representation in these comics and games may not be perfect, simply being included opens the door for a larger conversation and a move in the right direction. “It’s still very stereotyped,” Brown laments, “with [storylines that might show] a prissy bottom and a bossy top, but it’s getting better.” Beyond providing a safe space for queer geeks in the South, one of the desired impacts of HavenCon is to show that the queer audience is a viable and desirable market in the industry, and to make LGBTQIA voices heard.
HavenCon is sponsored by Nakatomi Inc., Finji Co., Austin Books & Comics, Weird Girls, and Gamers Beard. HavenCon supporters include Sew Geek Austin, Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy, Arcane Wonders, and Steve Jackson Games.
When: April 4–5
Where: Holiday Inn Midtown, 6000 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, Texas