Comic-Con? Pshaaa. That is the west coast idea of a sci-fi and fantasy convention. However, here in the southeast we have the real thing: Dragon*Con. Held every labor day weekend, Dragon*Con is the south’s largest sci-fi and fantasy convention.
In 2007, my partner, Jaime, and I first headed to Dragon*Con in Atlanta after some friends convinced us to come along. A life long sci-fi nut, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I didn’t really know what to expect and I have found that no expectation can prepare you for four complete 24 hour days of non-stop partying, gaming, learning, discussing, film watching, hanging out, costuming, shopping, dancing, and chilling with 40,000 of your closest friends. In my opinion, however, the coolest feature of Dragon*Con is acceptance.
After having been together for four years, never before had Jaime and I held hands in public. However, here, among thousands upon thousands of nerds, geeks, and social outcasts, we could no longer rationalize walking down the street, side by side, without holding one another. It felt really nice.
That “bravery” did not immediately translate to our life here in East Tennessee, but slowly, we were able to walk through the mall or other public places like any other couple. Why not? We love each other and personal human relationships really cannot exist without physical contact. Why should others be able to express their feelings while we cannot? Sometimes the indignant looks of disgust from others were almost intolerable.
Sometimes you have to be brave, but you should not have to be brave to be yourself. Ideally, you should naturally project who you are to the rest of the world. I am sure that is how Olivier Odom felt when she donned her “marriage is so gay” t-shirt before heading off to Dollywood Splash Country with her partner, Jennifer Tipton, and their friends. She wasn’t trying to make a point, she was just wearing a cool shirt. Little did she know, or even expect, that she would be required to turn her shirt inside-out or be ejected from the popular water park because she was entering a “family” establishment – nevermind that she was with her own family. My gut tells me that had the employee that made this demand been gay, no such demand would have occurred. Further, on that same day, I am fairly certain there was no short supply of rebel flag and Bud Light beach towels.
What I found most disturbing, is not that Olivier’s t-shirt did not meet with the subjective guidelines of the park’s dress code, but rather the public’s reaction to story. How many times did I read, “..shoving their perverted lifestyle down my throat…”, “…gays just want to be in everyone’s face…”, or “…Dollywood is no place for lesbian grab-assing…”. The most hurtful comments, however, came from the gay community itself, claiming that people like Olivier and Jennifer are giving the gay community a bad name. Here is some advice for you if you are gay and another LGBT person brings attention to an injustice, no matter how slight and you disagree: keep your mouth shut. There are plenty of bigots doing their job. They do not need your help.
Oh, why can’t real life be like Star Trek? I mean, what would Kirk do? He would kick ass and take names. Sometimes, that is what the world truly needs.