Flame Con & the Importance of Queer Spaces
August 22, 2018 Jamey Hampton 1 Comment
I decided a little bit last minute to go to this year’s Flame Con, which is the world’s largest queer comics convention. I wasn’t sure if I would be feeling up to it after my scheduled surgery earlier in the summer. I was a little worried about how expensive the travel would be. While I was still deciding, a local friend of mine made the news – some parents had decided that his drag queen persona made him too controversial and that he shouldn’t be allowed to read children’s books at the library because of it. I was a mess over the whole thing. I felt scared and alone and hated – and late that evening, I decided to go to Flame Con after all. The thought of being in that space, surrounded by that many other queer people, was intoxicating. I had to go. I deserved to go. I booked my tickets that night.
And honestly, it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Being around that many other queer folks was intoxicating. It felt comfortable. It felt safe. Being a part of a space that let so many people express themselves in the ways they felt most comfortable, including people who aren’t as lucky as me to be able to do that all the time, was incredible. Being in a place where it seemed like the majority of people used they/them pronouns for the first time in my life was incredible and affirming. Everyone was so genuine and beautiful. It felt like an honor to be a part of it.
It was incredibly moving to see how many people at Flame Con use they/them pronouns. Y’all non-binaries are beautiful!
— Ben Kahn@FlameCon-C19 (@BenTheKahn) August 20, 2018
It also sparked one of the most pivotal conversations I’ve had with my mother since coming out to her.
Mom: “I get it now.”
Me: “Get what now?”
Mom: “I can see it. There’s so much of you in this room.”#FlameCon
— ANDREA 🗡🗡🗡 KENDRICK 🔚 FlameCon (@azur3verie) August 20, 2018
Obviously, there was a lot of talent there as well. The quality of the artists, exhibitors and guests was just so high. And the feelings of queerness and belonging was inextricable from the art too. I was able to chat with Molly Ostertag about her graphic novel, The Witch Boy, and how I received it as a gift and was able to read it while recovering from my gender affirmation surgery, and we both got a little teary about it. Moments like that are why telling queer stories is so important, and it’s exactly the kind of thing I think about as I try to tell my stories as an aspiring comics creator.
I also spent the weekend cosplaying, which is a hobby that I haven’t had a chance to engage in for a while, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what an awesome, empowering experience that was for me. I spent the weekend as Pidge Gunderson from Voltron and I deeply appreciate every person who waved at me and said “Hi Pidge!”
I love cosplay because it gives you the opportunity to be someone else for a little while. And it’s not that I don’t want to be myself, but there’s something so empowering about being able to choose exactly who you want to be. And that’s exactly what all of Flame Con is like. It’s an invitation to put yourself out there.
I was able to put myself out there in a different way too. I joined some awesome friends and colleagues of mine on my first comics panel: Queer Folks Write About Comics! It was awesome to finally meet in person some friends that I’ve been working with online for some time at Women Write About Comics and it was amazing to me that people cared about my opinions on comics journalism! Audio from the panel is available online if you’d like to hear it!
Basically, it was an amazing time. I hope I get to go every year for the rest of my life and I hope every queer person I know thinks about attending too. In closing, look at this picture of me and my friend Charlie because we are VERY CUTE!