Queer women, and the people who play them on TV and in the movies, gathered in Las Vegas on March 3–5, 2017 at the first-ever ClexaCon convention on LGBT women in entertainment.
The event, named after the fan favourite lesbian pairing —Clarke and Lexa — from the CW’s The 100 was originally organized to tackle the “Bury Your Gays” trope, made famous by several high profile LGBT TV character deaths in recent years.
Almost Adults actor Natasha Negovanlis takes her responsibility of being an LGBT voice in the media seriously and, like the fans, doesn’t want to see queer women used as a mechanism for baiting views.
“People need to realize that this community needs heroes and role models,” Negovanlis told Xtra. “And people need to know it’s important to stop killing them off or using them as side characters anymore.”
What started as a simple meet-up to unite fans of LGBT pop culture, evolved into a full blown convention with over 2,200 attendees, including one half of former Grey’s Anatomy lesbian power couple, Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins.
Sara Ramirez, known for her role as bisexual Dr Callie Torres on the popular television series, joined the conversation at the queer women of colour pop-up panel, speaking about her own bisexuality and struggles as a biracial woman.
Ramirez wasn’t the only celeb to get personal. ClexaCon inspired Canadian actor Elise Bauman from the popular Carmilla web series to open up about her own sexual orientation.
“Actually, I identify as bisexual,” Bauman said in an interview with Xtra when asked if she identifies as an ally.
“I’ve never actually said out loud that I’m a bisexual,” Bauman said. “My thing was, I didn’t want to have a big coming out — if someone asked me directly, I’d answer honestly. If someone asked me, I would say.”
With more than 43 million views on YouTube, Carmilla had one of the most well attended panels at ClexaCon.
Other actors in attendance included bigger names such as Person of Interest stars Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi; Lost Girl actors Zoie Palmer and Ali Liebert; daytime drama stars such as Elizabeth Hendrickson and Eden Riegel from All My Children; and indie film darlings Lynn Chen and Michelle Krusiec.
Following the Saving Face reunion panel, Chen shared her feelings regarding her role in the film, which featured a rare same-sex love story between two Chinese women.
In the decade-plus since Saving Face was released, she has come to know how important the film is to many lesbians, Chen told Xtra. “But especially [for] women who are Asian American because it’s the first time they’re seeing themselves on screen — and there hasn’t been much representation afterwards so I know that us being here is important because we represent their voices.”
Though it was the number of celeb panels featuring actors who have taken on queer character roles over the years at ClexaCon that attracted convention goers, it was the smaller panels discussing everything from transgender representation in the media to diversity in comics that left them wanting more.
“Hands down, the diverse panel topics was the highlight of ClexaCon,” said attendee Angie Lau, who flew down for the event from Calgary.
Attendees and stars alike used ClexaCon as an opportunity to discuss how to both increase and improve representation.
“I hope people find solace in the fact that there is a community of people that they can turn to for support and also for celebration,” Bauman said. “I think it’s pretty easy to band together as [a] group when there’s something to fight for and I think it’s equally important to band together as a community when there’s something to celebrate and say look how far we have come — but look how much further we can go with each other.”
The convention is donating a portion of its proceeds to The Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBT youth.