Another summer completed, another Dragon Con badge in my collection. I attend the geek event every year, not only to ad- mire the costumes but also to check out all the programming the convention has to offer. This year there was a panel about LGBT characters in fantasy literature. Thinking I would get some good suggestions of novels that included medieval lesbian heroes I could check out, I had my pen and paper ready to list them all. However, the discussion turned into a therapy session, and this well-adjusted gay kid was ready to walk out.

Its title was “We’re Here, We’re Queer, and We’re Magic.” Snap that wand, this sounded fabulous. The description read “A discussion of the LGBT perspective in fantasy and speculative fiction over time.” The panelists were not listed, but I looked forward to what I thought would be an intelligent description of our fictional brethren over the many decades of publishing. I arrived at the room and found a long line waiting at the door. I was so proud that so many people wanted to be part of an LGBT experience like this that I texted my girlfriend Katie Jo: How far we’ve come.

Once we were allowed in the room, I didn’t recognize the panelists. As the man and woman introduced themselves I began to gather that they were not well-known authors, if authors at all, but members of literature groups from other parts of the country. The reason I had a hard time understanding what they did professionally was because they decided to spend most of their time talking about their LGBT perspective, instead of their literary perspective. And theirs was not a positive message.

The man gravely informed us he came from a small, conservative, and very religious background. He then began to share the sad state of affairs that his upbringing brought him to. He felt the need to confirm, then re- confirm, that he didn’t have (and never had thankyouverymuch) an attraction to women. No offense women, but he’s a seven on the Kinsey scale. No offense taken, mister, now can you list some novels I should read?

By now audience members were raising their hands trying to suggest authors for everyone to check out, but the straight moderator shut them down, apparently thinking we needed to hear the panelist’s introspection. It was obviously the first time the moderator had been exposed to the idea that gay kids have it tough.

The female panelist was even worse about oversharing than her male counterpart. She too came from a conservative religious past, and asked us by a show of hands who else had been part of a small town. I raised my hand as I rolled my eyes, and began wishing I could slip out unnoticed. If I had, I’d have missed her sexual transformation before our very eyes. Even though at the beginning of the conversation she identified herself as a lesbian, by the end of the hour she said she was really bisexual and felt the need to let us know she is still not out to her family. I creased my brow. What does this have to do with Hogwarts?

And then for some reason Robin Williams and his recent suicide was brought up. Mr. Williams wasn’t even gay! That was followed by the panelists’ message not to commit suicide, and if we need help like Robin did, to please reach out to someone, because we’re not alone. That’s when I put the cap back on my pen, knowing this was going nowhere.

I was insulted that they wasted the opportunity of an engaged LGBT and straight audience by comparing notes on who’s the biggest victim in life. This sad pair should have promoted powerful gay fictional characters as instructed, giving those who are struggling in our community an idea of who they want to be, not a reminder of where they came from.

Melissa Carter is one of the Morning Show hosts on B98.5. In addition, she is a writer for the Huffington Post. She is recognized as one of the first out radio personalities in Atlanta and one of the few in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter

5 Responses

    • Joe

      Hi, i was at the con also, but was not able to attend the panel, not being gay myself, i do like attending the panels like this since it gives me a different view of stories, i some times get the “thats what that means!” moments and do enjoy them. I know everyone says this but yes i do also have gay friends and when they go to con we usually go these panels together and i get made fun of as the straight one 🙂

      Let me just say, I’m sorry, this sounds like a bad experience, we have come far in LGBT world, but sadly, seems we have more to miles to go ;(

      I can only hope next year the panel will have people who want to discuss the topic of the panel

      Reply
  1. Lauren

    Wow! Thanks for the review. I am not gay but I write YA and was planning on attending the panel for a literary list too. Alas, things happened and I didn’t make it to the panel. Now I am so very glad that I didn’t. Would love to hear your list though! I just finished Proxy and LOVED that the main character is gay but the story is not about him being gay. It felt like a great integration of a gay character as a fully realized, multi dimensional person instead of a gay guy cartoon.

    Reply
  2. Melissa Pichetto

    I hate that this happened to you! Our LGBTQ panel on the YA Lit track had a bunch of great panelists and book recs. They haven’t been posted to our website yet I don’t think, but please stay tuned so maybe we can find what you want to read!

    Melissa Pichetto
    Asst. Track Director – Young Adult Lit

    Reply
  3. Darin Bush

    Melissa, I really enjoyed your article. I’ve been to unfocused panels, and it’s usually painful to be in the room. I am helping to run a fantasy convention in Atlanta, on Halloween weekend, called Conjuration. We are not big enough to have an LGBT track or anything like that, but I would love for you to attend, and give us your perspective on how we’re doing, representing. We have one panel in particular that should be very eye-opening for some of us: “Wednesday is Gay Night at the Three Broomsticks (or the Not-so-closeted Life of Albus Dumbledore)”.

    Reply

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