I came out as a lesbian in my senior year of high school which defined me for most of my formative years. I faced allot of homophobia in my family, within my high school and even more when I went off to a Christian college in the Bible Belt of Texas where I had my music major stripped from me because of my sexuality. The only thing that got me through those dark times were the queer characters I idolized. If you are queer, have attended ClexaCon’s representation panels or any panel at a convention devoted to queer fandom you will know that queer representation in media is seriously lacking. We were erased in entertainment before the government ever thought to erase us. My idol in college was Helena G. Wells from Syfy’s Warehouse 13. She was a cannonly bisexual character that was played by the incredible actress, Jamie Murray. I was totally ecstatic when I got to meet this actress at Fan Expo Dallas in college, but something which has been in the spotlight lately is that we need representation of characters portrayed by actors/actresses who are, themselves, part of whatever community they are representing onscreen. There are, of course, some media entities that are representing us right. Steven Universe has been happily accused in multiple articles of being the queerest animated show ever and the Dragon Age franchise pretty much covers the gender spectrum where your character can romance either sex and there is even my beloved Trans-boy, Krem. He is a minor character that, while un-romanceable, is still more representation than us trans-men can almost hope for. (He is definitely on my list of future cosplans.)
MaeBerry Cosplay was born out of my partner’s and my desire to increase visibility of these queer characters through our cosplays. We named our cosplay duo after our shipping name from college where I first experienced cosplay with my partner, who introduced me to this art form that allowed me to parade around as these strong characters I idolized. Cosplay has since been an incredibly positive presence in my life. We did a group cosplay with our sorority in college as Monster High characters for our Halloween philanthropy, which to this day is the best group cosplay we’ve ever participated in. The idea to start cosplaying more professionally and even create a blog site to record our experiences at conventions in cosplay was inspired by my cosplaying a queer character for the first time. We cosplayed Holtzmann and Yates from Ghostbusters (see Ghostbusters 2016 Cosplay) and it was the first queer character I’d ever cosplayed. I loved it. I felt more myself than I ever had in Holtzmann’s jumpsuit. I was fearless in our costume contest presentation, jumping around wildly and shouting her lines from the movie. I’d also used power tools to construct our two proton packs which made me feel really manly and I wanted to feel more of that. So, we began cosplaying consistently and attending all the conventions we could in New Mexico. The opportunities afforded by our cosplay presence at conventions, which we recorded in our online blog, led us to ClexaCon. This convention for queer women in media held in Las Vegas, Nevada began in 2017 with a small cosplay presence, which we contributed to as queer woman Zoie Palmer’s character, Android, and Five from Dark Matter. The response to this cosplay presence and the convention itself grew so much that the next year we had the honor of giving a panel on Queer and Plus Sized Cosplay which you can get a feel for in our blog Bringing Hollistein to Life for ClexaCon.
ClexaCon 2018 kicked off with a pool party at the Tropicana Hotel the night before the convention began. I was afraid that ClexaCon would no longer be the haven it had been for me the year before since I had recently come out as non-binary. This could not have been further from the truth. I watched enviously in my rash guard as bare chested post-op trans-men gleefully splashed into the pool as their true selves, completely accepted by the queer community around them. However, it was the next evening attending the Trans and Non-binary meetup which would change my life. I was sitting there besides my partner in a room full of people like me at different places in their transitions, but all proud to share who they were. We went around introducing ourselves and sharing our reasons behind attending ClexaCon. When I opened up about my Trans-journey and the limitations I had from taking Testosterone (T) because of a PTSD related fear of needles, three trans-men immediately jumped up and began informing me of all the other options that were out there: creams and gels. This singular group of individuals helped me realize the possibility of my, not only coming out as Trans-masculine, but also achieving my transition through medical options that, up until then, I did not even know existed. It was the most accepted I have ever felt in my entire life. I was in this room where everyone was supportive, everyone had a journey which had brought them to this convention at this meetup and they were so willing to share their knowledge and experiences to lift us trans-babies up. In this group I made lasting friendships with people whose daily interactions about their unique trans-experience still inspire me through social media. Two of whom were a couple of trans-men that quickly became our companions for the weekend and my text pal support system in navigating the twists and turns of finally getting on T. Our fellow cosplay guests, whom we had given a panel and judged the cosplay contest with, were also at the meetup and able to talk me through what it would be like on gels from experience.
I can honestly say that it is because of this meetup and my experiences resulting from it throughout the weekend at ClexaCon that I promptly went back home and came out to anyone I could, including my family. At work in the new job I started right before ClexaCon I came out to my boss with everything to lose, but was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction that I received. She immediately mobilized human resources to work towards making the office as trans-inclusive as possible. I began working with an art therapist to get to a point where I could face needles again in order to get the blood work necessary for my Endocrinologist to prescribe me Testosterone gels. I would never have done anything like this towards coming out even for my own comfort if it were not for the support I found at ClexaCon. So, I just have to say that if you are a trans-identifying individual on either end of the spectrum or anywhere in-between and you think ClexaCon couldn’t be for you, please attend anyway. It is such an uplifting experience and it will change your life!
I have transitioned into cosplaying only male characters now, but with a queer twist. My most recent ones are Lars from Steven Universe and (while not queer) I pulled my very first male cosplay out of the closet and strut him around some local convention floors. My man, Wesley Crusher, from Star Trek: The Next Generation is the character I debuted my first binder with when I was still closeted and questioning my identity. I had never considered binding until it came up at some crossplay panels we attended. If it were not through the guise of wearing it for cosplay purposes which helped me ease into wearing it in my daily life I would never have found the courage to go out in public binding which was the first step in my journey to figuring out my true identity as a Trans-man.
I am still transitioning, learning who this better and fuller version of myself is, but cosplay and ClexaCon are an integral part of who I am now. I am happy to report that I faced my greatest fear in transitioning and survived the initial blood draw without incident. I am booked through the next year with doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and blood work, but I could not be happier to celebrate my first three months on T. My family is still adjusting, but they’re supportive. My friends and coworkers are actively referring to me with male pronouns and my new chosen name. I have even started a new workout routine to begin muscle building in my arms and upper body. None of this would have been possible without the support that I found at ClexaCon which inspired me enough to take some risks in becoming the man I was always meant to be, a man who will never be erased.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions about cosplay or my transition. You can follow my transition and other random tidbits from my life (mostly me swimming) at @DapperDorian on Instagram. As with everyone in my life now, thanks to these incredible experiences and people, I am an open book.
If you’re interested in experiencing what a true queer utopia is like, ClexaCon tickets are on sale now at their website.