Why There Should Always Be ClexaCon
The personal and emotional impact of this convention for LGBTQ women and allies.
It’s probably a good thing I held off writing this piece about the ClexaCon weekend in Las Vegas on March 3-5. I wasn’t sure if I was the only one who was feeling the complete agony of withdrawal when I had to say “hello” again to my “normal” life. Apart from being married to the most wonderful and supportive woman on the planet, my “normal” (not including Curve) consists of a low-respecting manufacturing job where women are viewed as the weaker and inferior sex. I had noticed after my return from the convention a lot of the women, whom I had the pleasure of meeting there, took to Twitter and expressed how awful they had felt that ClexaCon was over. I automatically felt a sort of relief when viewing tweets from the celesbians who were gushing over the weekend and missing its camaraderie.
I had heard of ClexaCon probably before a lot of the women who actually attended. I was doing research for an article when I stumbled across the website in July last year. Even though celebrity speakers hadn't yet been announced, the whole essence of it intrigued the hell out of me. I reached out for a press pass and was eventually thrilled to join the press clan. Little did I know that the short film I had written would go into production later that year and actually make it into the ClexaCon film festival! I was going to back down from the press side of things and just attend as a filmmaker for that one day while our film was being showcased. The best decision I made was attend all three days.
I had one of those ridiculously early flights, where you don’t recall if you ever actually went to bed the night before, from the east coast into Vegas and was able to check into the hotel before most of the convention got underway. As soon as I walked through those convention center doors my world transformed from press professional to instant fangirl. Women actors and TV showrunners were all around signing autographs and taking photos. Women in cosplay attire walked up and down the convention floor without hesitation or a care in the world. There was even a replica of Lexa’s throne in the middle of the arena where photo opportunities were taken in droves – oh yes, I got my own. People who have only known each other from online fandoms, Twitter and Facebook became instant friends and family. It even happened to me! This is what I took in when I arrived on that first day at ClexaCon and it would continue on for the entire weekend.
In a time where lesbian bars are growing extinct and the days of L Word past come to haunt us in our dreams, queer women are aching and in a desperate thirst for a place they can call home. We long for accurate and positive representation in the media we consume and we yearn for a place where we can meet and be ourselves.
In its inaugural year, ClexaCon was able to bring together around 3,000 women, including celebrities from some of our favorite TV shows, to Bally’s Convention Center in the heart of Sin City for three days of total geekery, fandom, girl power, panels, films and one hell of a Saturday night party! For three magical days women from all over the globe descended upon this convention, some longing for this escape, to bask in their queer girl television fandom fantasies, where epic cosplay ran rampant, and know that they were amongst friends who would never judge them.
This was the place to be to find the likes of queer women television representation like Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi from Person of Interest, Gabrielle Christian, Mandy Musgrave and Aasha Davis from South of Nowhere (#Spashley), Katherine Barrell and Dominique Provost-Chalkley from Wynonna Earp (#WayHaught) Ali Libert from Bomb Girls and Zoie Palmer and Rachel Skarsten from Lost Girl. Along with SO many others.
Friday afternoon started off with a bang when fans of The 100 were brought together to discuss Clarke and Lexa in the Lexa’s Legacy panel. The CW network had zero clue (SPOILER ALERT!) that the death of their only lesbian lead character would leave such a lasting mark and void on all of our queer fangirl hearts. It was a safe space where fans could voice their genuine disgust over the death of yet another queer woman on primetime cable.
Some of the other panels that were completely drool-worthy were the Spashley reunion between Spencer (Gabrielle Christian) and Ashley (Mandy Musgrave) from the hit television show, South of Nowhere, All My Children: BAM Reunion with Bianca (Eden Riegel) and Maggie (Elizabeth Hendrickson) and The WayHaught Women of Wynonna Earp - where Kat and Dom came out onto the panel floor, with their show runner, Emily Andras leading the charge to the stage, holding hands while everyone’s gay heart melted. “We are really fortunate to have a personal experience because it’s a gift to play these characters,” said Dominique Provost-Chalkley who portrays Waverly Earp. “Seeing how everyone reacted to WayHaught – to see you represented – it’s such a positive light and we want to play them as truthfully as possible.”
For most of the celebrity women on hand for the weekend’s events, this wasn’t their first rodeo. A lot of the actors and writers have had their fair appearances at cons before. I was surprised to find out that ClexaCon was actor, Ali Liebert of Bomb Girls, very FIRST convention. As an out and proud queer woman Liebert is no stranger to playing, and embracing, those lady-loving roles that she has become known for. So, naturally, ClexaCon “meant a lot to be in attendance” for her first con. When discussing her iconic role as Betty McRae in the Canadian series Bomb Girls, Liebert got sentimental. “It still surprises me when people talk about it to me. How people connected to Betty – to meet people that the show mean something to,” said Liebert. “It’s a role that meant so much to me too.”
Saturday saw a full Edie Windsor room (the panel rooms were named after influential LGBTQ women) for the Lost Girl panel in which Zoie Palmer and Rachel Skarsten discussed their incredibly missed roles of Lauren and Tamsin. The floor opened up to questions from the audience and hilarity ensued with the amazing answer both ladies gave.
Sunday made way for the final leg of the film festival. I was up early to test audio on my short film and noticed a line had already begun to form for the shorts showcase. Actor Sara Ramirez (Grey’s Anatomy) was in attendance and continuously asked us (the filmmakers) questions on our queer representation throughout the films. Although, the Sunday of the convention I didn’t play journalist, I was still able to witness a lot of diversity from the films that were presented and the attention paid to them from each audience member.
As the final panel adjourned and the last autographs were signed, the tears began to roll off once happy cheeks. People who had just met 48 hours prior were embracing each other and wishing they had just a few more hours together. Celebrities grabbed hold of their last lingering fans, journalists wrote their last words and the ClexaCon volunteers closed the doors to the convention floor.
I had returned home to New England to find that there was a small spot of my heart missing. I can honestly say that I was really sad to leave what I had experienced back in the never-fading lights of Las Vegas.
The ache has only slightly subsided in these last two weeks but I know, for some, the pain of leaving was much more. ClexaCon was, for those brief three days, their home – a safe place of normalcy and a place of self-identity.
But not to worry, my friends! ClexaCon is shaping up to be a yearly experience (we can only hope so hard!). So dream big. Wish hard. Never stop believing. You and your voice matter.
And to ClexaCon I can only say this: May we meet again.
More information: www.clexacon.com