Looks like I’ve found myself drawn to the LGBTQIA+ panels at ComicCon@Home. I covered one on Thursday, and here I am reporting on another on Friday.
This panel caught my attention not only because of the title and the topic, but also because vocal artist Darren Hayes would be participating in it. I loved listening to Hayes’ band Savage Garden as a teenager and still cherish those albums, along with his solo outings.
When Hayes came out as a gay man, I remember feeling extremely happy for him. When I later learned about his struggles with his identity—which he examined through his solo music—I was even more relieved that someone I had looked up to had managed to find his way to the light. Hayes touched on these issues during the panel, discussing his abusive and homophobic father, and how he was bullied in school. For Hayes, becoming a popstar helped him acknowledge his true self, but record companies constantly held him back—even reshooting an entire music video because Hayes’ dancing was considered too gay. Sigh.
I liked that Hayes didn’t spend too much dwelling on his past. Instead, he turned the conversation around to current events and how the Black community, especially the Black trans community, who were instrumental in fighting for LGBTQIA right in the US, are severely persecuted.
The state of the world remained a theme during the remainder of the panel with Huffington Post senior culture reporter Curtis Wong mentioning how much more fraught than usual the media landscape is now.
Wong also noted that people are more likely to follow news that adheres to their already-existing belief systems, making the job of the journalist harder. He urged people to look within their private arenas and call out issues and people who were problematic. The personal is political, especially in 2020.
NOH8 Campaign founders Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley had a lot to say about how even one small act can make a massive difference. They founded their campaign when Proposition 8—which banned same-sex marriages—was being passed. They noted that they weren’t activists at the time and weren’t really trying to be so.
Parshley uploaded an image of himself on his social media and the campaign organically took off from there with thousands of requests from the LGBTQIA community around them.
Seeing other people like themselves—who were out and proud members of the LGBTQIA community—wasn’t something any of the panelists had experience with and it shaped their early life. Almost everyone remarked about their experiences being bullied, both within private spaces and in public.
Drag star Pandora Boxx spoke about how she’s still struggling with internalised messages of hate that she heard as a child. The more positive representation we can get out into the world, the better it will be for young people in the community.
The most powerful and impassioned speech came courtesy of Silky Nutmeg Ganache, also a Drag star, who spoke about how being a Black man in America means having to fight the system every day from the time one is born. While Ganache was understanding of people’s discomfort with going out to protest, he urged allies to speak up and fight for their Black friends were they to be treated unfairly within a private space.
Ganache also made some cogent points about the pay gap within the entertainment industry. Despite being a finalist on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Ganache still finds himself competing against round one contestants for the same pay just because they’re white and he’s not. Challenging this at workplaces is a regular job for Ganache and he asked that allies do the work, as well.
There was a fascinating discussion about colour during this panel and how the demarcation of blue and pink—which leans into the gender binary that is not reflective of humanity’s experiences—is continually doing more harm than good. Gender is a spectrum, and it is society’s norms that dictate what certain people can wear or not, in terms of clothes and colours.
While speaking about colours, Bouska and Parshley also called out corporations for how they’ve driven the narrative about gender and colours. As many of the panelists noted, children, in their experience, don’t have such biases—it’s not inherent in human beings to identify with a colour or conform to binary gender norms. These are reinforced by society and corporations that wield a lot of power, influencing people no matter how open-mindedly they’re raised at home.
During the panel, author Raymond Litster and artist Mr. Loki—who is a comic book artist, bone marrow transplant nurse, and natural sciences illustrator!—revealed their comic book, Lights, Camera, Identity! Never Alone.
The book was created in collaboration with Boxx, Jackie Cox, and Ganache, who appear in the story as themselves. The narrative centres on a rainbow character—kept featureless, barring their rainbow hue, to be an audience stand-in—who meets each of the Drag stars and learns how they’re not alone because there is a huge queer community they belong to.
Lights, Camera, Identity! Never Alone looks lovely and the panelists remarked on how much they would have loved to see queer comics and media growing up. I agree—though I have more access to queer entertainment now, how different would my perspective have been if I’d had this earlier?
While the splashy, big panels are obviously a draw at comic conventions, I find these homespun, intimate discussions more interesting. Yes, I want to know what the major comic publishers are up to, but they don’t always capture the life experiences of most audiences.
I did find some of the editing in this panel a bit off but for the most part, the discussion was coherent and flowed well. I found myself agreeing with so much and came away feeling like I’d just sat in on a great conversation with friends.