Beatriz Concha adjusted her dual-colored pink and violet wig before she promenaded into the Miami Airport Convention Center on Saturday morning for Out Con, Florida’s first LGBT comic book convention.
At the event, which more than 500 people attended, the 22-year-old local sold artwork featuring famous animé characters at her booth Moshi Moshi Watermelon. Her costume of choice for the day was a Lolita girl. Although Concha has dressed up as fictional characters at other cons, she says Out Con was unique to her because it was the first in her hometown to celebrate self-professed geeks who identify as queer.
“This con was specifically for the LGBT community, while other cons are just accepting,” she said. “It’s the first time I have ever seen the two communities, [cosplay and LGBT], so blended.”
In clusters, dressed up con-goers strutted by Moshi Moshi Watermelon’s booth and passed other vendors. Beneath their makeup and smiling faces, though, Concha said that many cosplayers at the event have been harassed in their lives for being “different.”
“Many of us have gone through a lot, whether it was abuse, bullying, or depression,” she said. “People outside of the cosplay community don't know that even though we are dressing up as fantasy characters, there is still a reality beneath it and it needs to be taken seriously.”
Concha said she believes cosplaying helps many LGBT geeks gain confidence, especially if they’ve been bullied like she was.
“I was always shy and reserved and was basically a pushover,” Concha said. “Dressing up gave me a door to open up to others and now I can actually speak up for myself.”
In one room, bearded men dressed as Sailor Scouts and played video games alongside other gamers. Bands of cosplayers filed in line for a costume contest in another room. The crowd was all about it when Batman's nemesis, Two-Face, sashayed across the stage.
Vicky Amion, 24, one of Concha’s cosplaying comrades and business partners, sat at their booth for hours and created pin badges of rainbow-themed Pokeballs. The design matched her colorful tattoos.
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Amion similarly says that cosplaying at conventions has helped her to overcome her social anxieties. “To be that [fictional] person, surrounded by others who do the same thing is extremely liberating,” she said, her platinum blonde pixie cut wig framing her brown eyes. “I’ve overcome my anxiety at conventions in a way I never have at school, work, or other social situations.”
Amion told New Times she believes gatherings like Out Con are invaluable because they provide a support system for LGBT geeks.
“Everyone is so friendly, and there’s a very strong atmosphere of understanding between strangers who share the same experiences as you, such as loving the same animé show or knowing how hard is it to sew an entire outfit,” added Amion. “The community is very strong, and feels more like a family than a crowd of nerdy strangers.”
When asked what Concha and Amion hope for the future of Out Con, the two agreed: “to grow and paint the town rainbow.”