Queer/Crip Life Review: GaymerX 4

Helena as Yarny, from the Unravel game, in the lower right corner.  Michael Dowling/GaymerX

Helena as Yarny, from the Unravel game, in the lower right corner.  Michael Dowling/GaymerX

Although there are many gaming conventions around the country, none is like GaymerX. GaymerX is a queer/LGBTQ+ convention held in the Bay Area since 2013 that aims to create an inclusive, comfortable and safe space in the often overwhelmingly sexist, racist and homophobic culture of gaming.

I first went to GaymerX on a whim in 2014 and it’s been one of my favorite events ever since. It turns out that the cross-section of nerd/queers that a LGBTQ+ gaming convention attracts are 100% my people. This year I was nervous about going- for a few reasons. Mainly it was my first time going alone and my first time going in my current state of health.

In previous years I (specifically my illness) have been in remission. Come this summer and I was in the middle of a full-blown relapse, complete with constant arthritis, fatigue, and panic attacks. How was I going to manage a multi-day convention an hour away from home when, realistically, I’d barely left the house in weeks? I knew I wouldn’t make the full three days, but wanted to do my best. I showed up on Saturday afternoon, parked about half a mile away after following the signs for “event overflow parking,” and walked to the Santa Clara Regency Hyatt. I went directly to the room where, according to the online schedule, the ‘Ladies of GaymerX’ meetup had just started. By the time I had made it all the way to the door, my joints were aching something fierce and I felt utterly frazzled. One of the volunteer GaymerX staff (called sprites) asked me for my badge, and to both of our shock I broke down crying. I couldn’t have asked for a more compassionate reaction from the sprite, who proceeded to get me a chair, talk me into a calmer state, and walked me to the registration desk to pick up my badge. 

Being at a convention always has a certain element of frenetic FOMO (fear of missing out). So much is happening at once and at GaymerX there are so many awesome panels, meet-ups, and events that it’s impossible to see and do everything even as a queer nerd at the peak of her health. These were my goals: the ladies meet-up, the drag show, the pageant, the expo hall, and seeing a couple of con friends from previous years. I had realistic expectations of my ability to go to the parties, and while there were about twelve panels I would have loved to see, I felt ok about only managing one. The panel I did see, about Arab representation in games run by Dina Abou Karam, had the type of eye- opening, inclusive commentary I look forward to all year.

Besides the parking situation (to be fair, I don’t have a disability placard on my car) the entire event was pretty accessible to me. There was ADA seating in the main event room, so I was able to watch the drag show even though it was standing room only when I got there. When I participated in the pageant, the organizers made sure I had a chair so I didn’t have to stand for an hour while waiting go to on stage, and the stage itself had a ramp. There was a designated quiet room and a designated safe space room where I could inject my medication in privacy. 

There were two things I would have changed if I could have. First, I would have put a couch or two in the quiet room for people to lie down. At one point, I felt unwell to the point where I needed to ask a volunteer if they knew of a place I could lie down while waiting for my pain medication to kick in. The volunteer took me to a sofa downstairs by the hotel lobby, which was extremely loud and surrounded by football fans. 

My second concern was those football fans. The Hyatt Regency was hosting an event during the Sunday game, and the hotel’s main lobby was completely packed-which meant that in order to get to the social lounge, the arcade, the registration desks or the main expo hall the queer nerds had to wade through groups of aggressively hetero football fans who openly stared at us. This absolutely made some of the folx around me feel both objectified and unsafe. I personally didn’t feel threatened by the situation until a football fan asked to take a selfie with me and used the opportunity to grope me. I guess that’ll be the last time I assume the best of drunk football fans. 

Accessibility-wise, I’m giving GX4 an A-. Everything was wheelchair accessible, there was plenty of seating, and the volunteers were always available and considerate. Although a place to lie down and a locker so I didn’t have to carry all of my medication everywhere both would have been extremely helpful. As for the experience in general: GaymerX has gotten bigger every year I’ve been, and that causes some changes, but it’s still the welcoming, creative, unabashedly queer and nerdy space I have come to treasure.

 

Helena Bonde is the Editor in Chief of Argot. She also writes the serial novel Sigrid Spearthrower at Tabulit. Follow her on Twitter at or email her at helenabonde@argotmagazine.com.

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