The first time Justin Saint showed up in full costume as Queen Amidala — Natalie Portman’s character from Star Wars — at a fan convention, people weren’t sure what to make of him.
“They didn’t know how to react,” the 24-year-old says. “A lot of people thought I was a girl, and then when I opened my mouth…” he trails off, laughing.
“The second year that I did it, they already knew who I was and they were really excited.”
Since then the self-described hardcore gamer and geek has thrown himself into cosplay (short for costume play), making appearances as Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort and husband and wife Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen, from Game of Thrones.
Saint is the director of the BC Superfriends, a newly formed group for queer geeks and their allies in the Lower Mainland.
The Superfriends plan to throw three parties each year: at Pride, for Halloween and in the spring. Their mission is to create events where everyone can be their geeky selves, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Four years ago, Saint also founded and started organizing the Vancouver Gaymers, after running into homophobic behaviour at other board-game meet-ups.
“In the gaming community, there was a lot of discriminatory language going on,” he says. “We needed a safe space.”
The Gaymers now host two monthly meetings: a board-game night and a second night focused on video games.
Saint also helps to raise money for AIDS charities through his alter ego, Sister Sweet Cherribum, a nun with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
“I grew up Catholic with a strong respect for nuns,” he says. “I can continue that tradition in a queer way that makes people smile.”