FlameCon’s ‘Transgender Themes In Geek Culture’ Panel

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I attended (and loved) NYC’s first LGBTQ Comic Con, FlameCon! It took place during Pride Month on June 13th at the fancy Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. Geeks OUT presented the con, which is a NYC based nonprofit dedicated to building a better community for LGBTQ geeks. For more about FlameCon read my recap and check out the amazing cosplay.

My favorite panel at Flamecon was Secret Identities: Transgender Themes In Geek Culture. It was moderated by Charles Battersby (Astonishing Adventures) and the panelist included Jennie Wood (Flutter), Lawrence Gullo (Baritaria), P. Kristen Enos (Web of Lives) and Marguerite Bennett (DC Comics, Marvel and Boom).

Transgender Narrative

Art by Lawrence Gullo

Art by Lawrence Gullo

Transgender narrative was a big part of the discussion. It’s to no surprise that the further a character is from being heterosexual, cisgender and white, the more they are misrepresented… if they are represented at all. A common and inaccurate transgender narrative is, “I am a man, what if I wanted to be a woman?” Lawrence Gullo suggested the following narrative instead, “I am a woman, what if no one believed me and I had to prove it to people my entire life.”

Sci-Fi & Gender

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Science Fiction is known to use aliens and androids as representations of LGBTQIA people instead of actual humans. This not only suggests that the creator views those groups as “The Other,” either subconsciously or consciously, but it also reinforces negative stereotypes about LGBTQIA people. Gullo suggests a way to combat this as a SF creator is to make humans LGBTQIA and gender fluid as well, not just the aliens.

Creators should also stop assigning gender to androids, especially self-aware ones. When you really think about it, it’s completely unnecessary, inaccurate and almost always reinforces gender stereotypes. Assuming that AI would have the same gender notions as humans is more than presumptuous, it’s pretty egotistical.

Positive Trans Media

Connie, Stevonnie and Steven from Steven Universe fan art by Kowskie

Connie, Stevonnie and Steven from Steven Universe fan art by Kowskie

The panel wasn’t only about the negative media representations of trans people. Steven Universe, Dragon Age: Inquisitions, and Saints Row 3 were all praised for being positive trans media.

  • Dragon Age: Inquisitions ran their script for a transgender character, Cremisius “Krem” Acclasi, by trans people and changed it based off their input.
  • Gullo shared an anecdote about his transgender friend who cried when she saw Stevonnie in Steven Universe because she identified with them. Although Stevonnie doesn’t have a gender and Garnet described their fusion as “a conversation”, the character has resonated strongly with genderfluid and trans people. 
  • In Saints Row 3, you can have a male voice actor for a female body and even go to a surgeon and change your sex at any point in the game. It’s completely up to the player.

When In Doubt, Ask

Dragon Age Inquisitions's Cremisius "Krem" Acclasi

Dragon Age Inquisitions’s Cremisius “Krem” Acclasi

Some advice if you’re a cisgender creator nervous about inadvertently misrepresenting a transgender character: When in doubt, ask. It isn’t a creator’s responsibility to make their work diverse, but it is responsible. Jennie Wood summed it up best, “We just want to see ourselves.”

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Etsy Crush of the Week- Dragon Age Trio: Haunted Summer, SaraWen Perfume & Jewelry by Josh

This weeks Etsy Crush of the Week is the holy trinity of Dragon Age goodies. Allegra, Sara and Josh combined their powers and handmade with love some great Dragon Age themed clothing, perfume and jewelry. Check out the interview I had with them below and find out how Sara comes up with the scents for her Dragon Age perfumes, how dice helped get Josh started in making jewelry and Allegeras love for steampunk and Mass Effect.

Interview with the Dragon Age Trio: Haunted Summer, SaraWen Perfume Artand Jewelry by Josh

Girl  Gone Geek:  How long have you been designing and crafting?

Allegra

Allegra (Haunted Summer clothing):  It’s got to be around three years now. I’ve been involved in the steampunk community for a couple more than that. I’m a large lady who doesn’t have a huge amount of disposable income, and who is more interested in the Romantic period than the Victorians, so I always struggled to find historically-influenced clothing that I liked and that flattered me. Eventually, I decided to start making my clothes myself, and when I was made redundant from my office job in February, finally took the leap to go into business myself!

 

 

Sarah

 

 

Sara (SaraWen perfumes):  Pretty much most of my life. I started drawing at a very young age, but never took professional classes until art college. I loved to do anything creative. The desire to create scents didn’t really arrive until after I worked in the beauty industry for a couple of years, and this year I finally started to become serious in pursuing this idea.

 

 

 

Josh

 

 

Josh (Jewelry by Josh):  I having been making jewelry off and on for about 12 years since taking a metal technology class in high school.

 

 

 

 

 

GGG:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A:  I’ve lived in North Wales for almost twelve years now, and for most of them I’ve been joined by one boyfriend (the same one!) and two cats. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades, and I can’t resist a challenge! At various points I have been a writer, an editor for SteamPunk Magazine, a coffee shop attendant and now, obviously, a seamstress, embroiderer and keen upcycler. I’m also working on learning the guitar, as my completely ruined fingers would attest!

S:  Hmm, I never know how to answer this question! My name is Sara. I’m a girl (maybe a woman). I’m a daydream believer. But not a homecoming queen.

GGG:  How did the three Dragon Age Shops come to be?

A:  Shortly after I joined Etsy, I got to know Sara, who makes awesome and unique perfumes, and who is just one of the nicest people that you could hope to meet. After a few conversations, we stumbled upon the fact that we had a shared love of the Dragon Age games. I shared a couple of ideas I had at the time for some upcycled Dragon Age inspired jewellery that I was planning on making (and never did) and suggested to Sara that it would be an awesome idea to have signature scents for some of the characters (I may possibly have mentioned Fenris a few times, fortunately she decided to indulge me!). We started thinking about doing a sort of joint experiment to see how Dragon Age inspired perfumes and clothing would do, and decided to add a jewellery maker to the mix. That was when I hunted down Josh, and pleaded with him until he agreed to come along for the ride.

S:  For me it started when I met Allegra online at Etsy. We got on very well and soon discovered that we were both Dragon Age fans, so Allegra suggested we start a kind of collaboration. I had already been thinking of creating Dragon Age scents, purely for myself! I didn’t think anyone else would be interested.

J:  I work full time (and then some) at my family’s campground with my wife Meagan. I am a big gamer and geek, which is how I started selling jewelry on etsy. Last spring my wife and I went to PAX East with some friends and I made her a pair of earrings out of dice. They were so popular I decided to try making some to sell, which eventually expanded into necklaces based on video games.

GGG:  The Dragon Age inspired perfumes is particularly unique,

what was the process like creating those scents?

S:  It wasn’t too different from my regular process of creating a new perfume, but because the scents were based on characters, I went into the mindset similiar to when creating a custom perfume for a customer. I get an idea of personality, likes and dislikes, colours, places … and attempt to transform that into fragrance. For me it’s a very intuitive art. I like to break the rules and try to pair up essential oils that don’t normally work together. This was much the case with ‘Arcane’. I added cool, bright, herbal notes to what is normally considered ‘warm’. I felt it reflected Anders’ dualistic character very well.

 

GGG:  Do you have any funny crafting/designing stories?

A:  Absolutely! I have always been a writer and a lover of characters and stories. In fact, character and story is why I love the Dragon Age games as much as I do. Stories allow me to completely lose myself in another world, and that’s where I always seem to be happiest. When I was thinking about the embroideries to go onto the clothing I was making, I decided that I wanted to capture something of the story in them–rather than just using a collection of random symbols from the games. What I ended up with were a bunch of designs that I thought represented some of the conflicts that are at the core of DA2. That’s why there are designs for the Kirkwall rebels and the City Guard (which are one point of tension that runs through the game), and ones for the Templars and the Kirkwall Circle of Magi. Of course, you don’t actually see the mark of the Kirkwall Circle in the game at any point, so I had to design something myself based on a lot of the other symbols and markings that you -do- see.

S:  My cat occasionally comes around to my apothecary area to see what I’m doing. He’s very opinionated! I just wish he’d sit on my head once in a while, like a proper kitty.

GGG: Which have been some of your favorite pieces/items to make?

A: I loved designing the sigil for the Kirkwall Circle of Magi. I’m an insurgent and a mage-sympathiser at heart, so I always felt that they -should- have a symbol that they use on their robes and ritual equipment. Something that represented both the arcane element of who they are, and the fact that they live their lives in almost total oppression. In the end, I settled on this strange, mystical-looking eye surrounded by chains, and I think it turned out looking pretty good. The sort of winged sword design for the City Guard also turned out to look far, far better than I expected it to, and it’s always awesome when that happens :)

S:  Aside from the DA inspired line, I’d have to say my vampire-themed scents. My favourites tend to change, but ‘Akkasha’ ‘Mina’, and ‘Vampire Princess’ are always in the top 10.

J:  I have had a lot of fun making the DA2 rebel pendants because I love the series and am really pleased with how they look.

GGG:  Do you have any other geeky obsessions? If so what?

A:  Aside from steampunk, which I’ve been involved in as a movement for a few years now, I have to admit to having a total and incurable obsession with Mass Effect. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the final part of the series coming out next year, and how hard I’ve been trying to protect myself from even the smallest of spoilers. It’s not as easy as you might think, and I’ve had to yell at a lot of people for it already! I’m also an absolutely massive Battlestar Galactica fan, as anyone who’s hung around with me for long enough that I can force them to watch it all will attest. I love a lot of science fiction, especially the kind that reflects something important about the world that we’re living in today. I must also admit to having a particular soft spot for really heavy, hardboiled-noir style cyberpunk.

S:  I’m a huge history geek. Also, I love those Masterpiece Theatre costume dramas. British comedy. Oh, and I’m nuts about MST3K!

J: I do have an obsession for video games, primarily RPGs and some shooters, as well as being a huge scifi-fantasy book buff.

GGG:  If you were on a deserted island what video game, comic/book, movie, TV show would you bring?

A:  I’d have to bring the first Mass Effect game. It was the first game I really got into after many, many years of not playing video games, and it just won my heart from the second FemShep opened her mouth to the time the credits rolled. I was totally in awe of it, and in many ways I still am (although the second Dragon Age game did get pretty close to topping it). I like movies, but I can’t think of one that I love more than everything else. It may have to be either Bladerunner, Gattaca or the Godfather… Not that that’s a random selection to choose from or anything! My book would -definitely- have to be ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ by Ursula K Le Guin. It wipes everything else that I’ve ever read completely off the table. As for the TV show, it’d have to be the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. No question!

S:  I couldn’t bring just one of each. Easy solution would be to place all my stuff in a Bag of Holding. Presto! But somewhere in there would be Sims1, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Narnia 1 and 2. I noticed music wasn’t included! So I’ll just add a copy of 30 Seconds to Mars’ This is War into the Bag of Holding.

J:  If I was stuck on a deserted island I would want an early release of Skyrim, book would be something by Feist or Terry Pratchet, movie would be Serenity, and of course that would mean the tv show would be Firefly.

GGG: Where can we find you in the interwebs?

Allegra:

Online Shop: Etsy.com/shop/HauntedSummer 

Facebook: Facebook.com/HauntedSummer 

Twitter: @HauntedSummer 

Sara:

Facebook: Facebook.com/sarawenperfumeart 

Twitter: @SarawenPerfume 

Shops: sarawen.etsy.com and sarawen.storenvy.com 

Josh:  My facebook you already have as Facebook.com/jewelrybyjosh twitter is @NJYosh but i am horrible at tweeting anything, and I do not have a website or online store yet.