Wynonna Earp’s Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught) having a laugh
by Kathryn Graham
ClexaCon is an inclusive convention held in Las Vegas and London celebrating queer women on screen and behind the scenes. It’s the first of its kind, and that makes it unique in and of itself, but much more than that, here is what I found special:
Genuine human connection, a celebratory spirit, and powerful support.
From Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught on Wynonna Earp) crying about the isolation that older queer women suffered growing up without easy access to their community to Vanessa Piazza (Producer of Lost Girl and Dark Matter) stating outright that when you climb the ladder, you help others up; it’s an atmosphere that’s truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
I’m out here in Hollywood, which isn’t as cutthroat as people make it out to be, but which isn’t exactly the most welcoming space. We have gatekeepers who are always looking at the bottom line (aka “The Business”). People who have firm beliefs that only certain types of characters can sell (prejudiced chicanery). You have to prove, hundreds of times over to many different people, that you’re ‘worth it’, i.e. that you can make everyone a lot of money.
It’s ultra competitive. It’s isolating, even among friends, as you’re always pitted against each other. Even people who enjoy your company can be so busy that you have to ask nine times if they want to have lunch. And it’s fine. It’s the way it is. This industry is demanding. People have other priorities. You have no control over who wins a contest or gets an agent or get staffed. At least not at my level. But that means that sometimes it can seem like no one cares all that much about you except you. You’re a drop in the ocean.
Not so at ClexaCon.
There, people see you. People care about you. They want you to tell your stories, and they want to help you make it happen.
As a writer, I always thought that queer female characters were a non-starter. Why wouldn’t I think that? For most of my life, we could barely get good roles for women on television (and feature films are worse), let alone main storylines for queer characters.
I expected that if I was ever lucky and dogged enough to get my original work sold, I’d be in long, drawn out battles to keep my main character and her love interest female. Because I knew I’d never compromise.
I believed that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I improved my craft, no matter how the story came out, it wouldn’t matter because nobody wants to see queer women on television.
Then last year, ClexaCon changed all of that.
Last ClexaCon, Emily Andras (Showrunner for Wynonna Earp) told us that if we ever doubted there was an audience for our stories, then we should take a look around that packed room, and then never doubt again. This year, she reiterated that, and it was more poignant than ever. Because that room was three times the size and packed to overflowing.
Last year, in ClexaCon’s premiere year, I wrote a lot about the ethics of storytelling from panels led by Dr. Elizabeth Bridges and Gretchen Ellis. A huge number of queer female characters had been killed off on television that season, and it was a depressing subject.
This year, as the panelists noted, there is more and more content – Black Lightning, Everything Sucks, Runaways – whose creators don’t even need to be told how to write queer stories ethically: they already know.
Last ClexaCon, for the first time in my life, I could look around and definitively say: here are my people. They get me, and I get them. This year, I was touched by creators and actresses who aren’t queer but who are as invested in these stories as we are.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have hope that I can reach so many others like me. How heartening it is to see people like my straight, male friend welcomed with open arms and to see his sincere interest in everything ClexaCon stands for. Just a few years ago, I would never have believed that there were so many queer women looking for content representing them. I would definitely have scoffed at the idea that so many people who don’t identify as queer would want the same thing.
So even if the world outside ClexaCon has so much further to go, at ClexaCon you can see where we should be. Because, in a world that can seem so uncaring and disconnected, ClexaCon is genuine love.
Also, bonus: no ‘con funk’ (a haze of body odor at… pretty much every other convention ever).
Photo Credit: Kathryn Graham
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Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and award winning writer. Learn more about Kate HERE