Jonathan Stryker, an avid comic convention goer and cosplayer, noticed that at the many cons he attends, there's not much of a focus on the LGBTQ community. In the ten years he's been frequenting large-scale gatherings like Florida Supercon, he has "soaked up everything people enjoy to do at these events and wanted to create a con where people could have a good time.”
Stryker is using everything he loves from his experiences to create Out Con, the first of its kind in South Florida happening on Saturday, May 14, at the Miami Airport Convention Center.
The main goal behind it is for Out Con to be a place where queer fans of all things nerdy can enjoy without the fear of being judged. Many people have experienced harassment and judgement at various conventions throughout the years, so the demand for a queer-friendly one is an absolute must in the year 2016.
Although this will be the first in Miami, there have been gay-oriented cons in other states. “We have an incredible gay geek community, so putting on an event for our queerful geeky culture was a no-brainer,” says Stryker.
“We want to celebrate our differences and want people to walk away feeling like it’s okay to be different,” he continues. “We want people to go home and never forget that they attended this colorful convention, where they were respected and loved for who they are. We want people to feel safe, joyful, and be able to experience something they never had before."
Like any other con, it will have vendors, special guests, panel discussions, meet-and-greets, and, of course, a costume contest. Stryker expects Miami cosplayers to be out in full force next weekend.
But why do people that don't dress up like their favorite comic book, TV show, or movie characters go to events like Out Con? For the extreme people watching, of course. “As a cosplayer, bringing fictional characters to life is such a surreal, fulfilling experience in itself that it’s no surprise that 'mundanes' find it fascinating,” Stryker explains.
Stryker tells New Times that the community's response towards the announcement of Out Con shows just how much we really need this kind of event. “The feedback has been incredible,” he says. “We have performers and attendees driving from all corners of Florida to be part of the very first Out Con. People have been amazingly supportive.”
Though the feedback from members of the LGBTQ community have been great, it hasn't been all sunshine and daisies. There are always haters out there. “There’s been the occasional religious message in our inbox telling us that we’re going to hell, but who hasn’t heard that one before,” Stryker jokes. “We’re gonna make hell look pretty damn good.”
Aside from organizing the event, Stryker will be one of the guest cosplayers. He's know for creating gorgeous and eye-catching costumes, so why not show off at his own con?
In addition to a number of queer cosplayers, there will also be a few Korean pop groups performing. “The K-Pop crews were completely unexpected,” Stryker admits. “One of the groups messaged us asking if they could perform at the con and we totally welcomed it. When we posted that there’d be K-Pop, other groups started showing interest so we decided to add a K-Pop Hour event."
Another way Stryker plans on making Out Con unique is by utilizing audience participation. Usually a panel consists of a few people sitting at a table, speaking to the audience, with the occasional (and usually brief) Q&A segment.
“Every single panel will be interactive; meaning, the audience gets to participate,” the creator explains. “We strayed from informative panels and anything Q&A related. We don’t want our attendees to simply sit there and listen; we want them to engage."
Guests can also expect drag shows, live performances, and strip shows. "Trust me, it's going to be different in a good way."
While Stryker's inaugural event hasn't happened yet, he's already looking to start planning next year's gathering. And he has some big ideas. “We’d love to have some of the queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race attend,” he says. “Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe, is a huge LGBTQ icon right now as well. As far as panels, we’d love to have a grand Voguing competition in the future. Hopefully, it's going to happen next year.”
Saturday, May 14, at the Miami Airport Convention Center. For tickets and additional information, visit outconvention.com.
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