Within fandom, as with the mainstream culture, assimilation into an ‘acceptable person’ is not a way to be safe.
For years I have participated in the panels and sundry other discussions about whether GLBT fans should blend into the background, or whether we should be more vocal, and make our presence known and felt. It was a struggle at first, but eventually we came to believe the price of silence too high for us to pay.
In other words, those who were naturally straight-acting, were encouraged not to change their persona at fan events, and those of us who were a bit more obvious in our sexual orientation and gender identity were encouraged to be ourselves. The only exception we stressed was for cosplay (dressing in costume and pretending you are what you are dressed as).
While we always used common sense, we found it was best to be open and upfront about our orientation and identity. The vast majority of negative experiences I have had at fan events were when someone found out I am gay, and felt like I had hidden it from them.
I am very inappropriate
I am more inappropriate and direct with people then the average person, and will often introduce myself: “Hello, I am Eric, and I am a gay man, may I presume you are heterosexual.”
It usually gets a laugh, and will often open the door for people to understand the awkward position GLBT people are placed in by society. If we are not open about our identity or orientation, it is assumed we were hiding it.
You don’t have to be as upfront as I am, but be careful not to lead people into believing you are covering it up. This self-serving sense of betrayal is often used as a thin veil to excuse a person’s homophobia. “Well, I just don’t know who you are anymore.” Whoever you are, always be yourself, be open, and be honest.
Klingon Drag Queen
Last year, our first klingon drag queen attended Shore Leave. She was stunning and took the time to make each piece of the costume by hand to express her gender identity and passion for klingons. Unfortunately, she also experienced an inordinate amount of sneers and cat calls as she went through the convention.
Our group also features a number of male-to-female transgenders who often come in costume. They have not faced some of the same hurdles the rest of the community have. When I talked to one who asked to remain anonymous, she told me that her biggest problem at the conventions were that people assumed she merely wore a costume.