CONvergence is here! And, just as with other cons, thousands of cosplayers will be sitting on and in panels, competing in games, hanging in the smoking area, and circling the party rooms. I’ve been going to conventions for many, many years, and while cons of all types have been getting better in numerous ways, one aspect still seems to be confusing for some of our fellow con-goers: interacting with cosplayers of color.
As you can see in the photo above, I’m a POC cosplayer, and let me tell you, when people do any of the following (and believe me, they do…far too frequently) it sours the con-experience. So in the interest of a good con experience for all, here’s a top five list of what not to do when you see/meet cosplayers of color…
1. Don’t Refer to Us as “the Asian Thor” or “the Black Harley Quinn”
The SPF we need may be significantly lower than yours, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t just as into our fandoms. Remember the ’70s era of comics, when many writers were so lazy that they simply added “Black” as a prefix to the hero’s name? Yeah, that was four decades ago. Let’s leave the past in the past with the other ’70s jerks.
Takeaway: don’t be a ’70s jerk.
2. Don’t Recite a Color Catalog
You know the type: they find themselves in a conversation with a person of color, and then suddenly they start listing off all the characters or actors of color they can, in some awkward attempt at sounding hip and tolerant. Yeah, that is ridiculous. People of color have access to IMDb and Wikipedia just like you do. Just because I’m a black person wearing a Starfleet uniform doesn’t necessarily mean my favorite captain is Sisko. I mean, if we were talking about the new Black Panther trailer and I kept mentioning how you must love Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), you’d think I was some kind of color-obsessed weirdo.
Takeaway: don’t be a color-obsessed weirdo.
3. Don’t Walk on Eggshells
Look, nobody wants to be offended, and most people don’t want to be offensive, but that’s no reason to overly edit or restrict your conversations. Be yourself—be considerate and courteous, of course, but be yourself—and if you cross a line, we’ll let you know. It won’t be the end of days if you didn’t know the term gypsy is wildly offensive (on par with the N-word, actually), but once you’re informed, be a decent person and accept the correction. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a jerk. Continuing to make the same mistake after being told is a key ingredient in d-bag pie.
Takeaway: don’t be d-bag pie.
4. Don’t Touch without Permission
Cosplay is not consent. Even though we’re at a convention, even though we may be dressed in super revealing, armored, or wild and crazy costumes, even if we’re at the dance-party events, the rule stays the same. That goes quadruple for women cosplayers—call me sexist or misandrist if you want, but until you show me verified numbers proving that men get sexually harassed anywhere near as often as those who identify as women, you’re wrong. However, in my experience at cons, I’ve seen lots of people abide by the cosplay-is-not-consent rule with dozens of people but then treat me (and others of color) like it’s open season. Perhaps they’re overcorrecting, trying to prove they’re not bigoted or whatever, and while I love that you’re comfortable enough to want to touch me, don’t actually do it without a clear green light. That’s some weird, Creepy McFeely type of behavior.
Takeaway: don’t be Creepy McFeely.
5. Don’t Be a Bigot
No, seriously. It may seem like with it being 2017 and all, this would be a given, but sadly that’s not the case. You know what’s worse than referring to a cosplayer of color as the black/Asian/Latinx/etc. insert-character-here? Trying to insult, argue, and in some cases outright fight with them as to why they can’t or shouldn’t be cosplaying. It’s nice that you have fond memories of growing up with an Aryan Human Torch or ginger Jean Grey, but fandom is a collective, and the geek community is just that: a community. It doesn’t belong to you. If you’re truly so bent out of shape over the skin tone of a fellow cosplayer, you need to take a deep breath, find two water bottles (the bigger the better), fill them both to the brim with ice-cold, 100-percent organic, all-natural, locally sourced STFU and chug it down. It’s true that you have the right to hold your opinion, but you don’t have the right to share hurtful, offensive, demeaning, or otherwise shitty views to try and ruin someone else’s con experience.
Takeaway: don’t be a bigot. (Or if you are one, at least keep it a secret.)
Cosplayers of color are just like any other cosplayers. We’re fans and nerds and geeks. We love and hate and binge-watch the same books and shows and films and games that you do. Our complexions may be different, but our interests are identical. This con season, leave the gatekeeping to Heimdall, and please remember that we are all geeks here.