Convention Diversity with Kyle-Steven Porter – PAX Diversity Lounge ManagerApr 23, 2019
PAX events have a set of rules governing attendee behaviour. And their safety and accessibility pages state “Since the early beginnings of the show, PAX has been proactive about creating and implementing policies that ensure a safe and fun environment for attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and Enforcers alike.”
At PAX East, the Diversity Lounge was showing just how safe and accessible a convention can be, so I caught up with Kyle-Steven Porter, acting Diversity Lounge Manager at PAX, to find out more.
How welcoming is PAX to the non-cishet community?
Pretty damn welcoming! I’ve been attending different PAX conventions for 3 years (this was my 3rd East), and in my experience PAX does a great job of adhering to the rules laid out in their Code of Conduct, in particular Rule 5: Don’t Harass Anyone.
Is it a magical wonderland where absolutely nothing untoward happens the entire time? No, but in the one or two instances where I have heard something even remotely discriminatory, the Enforcers are on it and resolving it before you can even give it a second thought.
And we’re well on our way to it becoming a magical wonderland! Two male presenting attendees got their life doing the sultry choreography to Camila Cabello’s Havana on the Just Dance stage in front of a hundred or so attendees and were only met with cheers at the end. Progress!
And of course, it doesn’t get more welcoming than the Diversity Lounge.
What is the PAX Diversity Lounge?
The Diversity Lounge is a space to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities in gaming, and to provide a space where they can come together and offer support and resources while attending PAX. It’s also a great place to educate anyone who stops by spotlighting some of the issues and challenges faced by members of the gaming community who are PoC, LGBTQIA, have disabilities or are otherwise underrepresented. It also doubles as a place to take a breather when the energy of the show floor gets to be overwhelming.
How did it come about?
PAX has always had a robust Code of Conduct and anti-booth babe policy to create a place where fans feel welcome and part of a family. The Lounge was created to go one step further and intentionally welcome communities that wanted to have a gathering place in PAX to feel even more at home.
The first Lounge was hosted at PAX East in 2014, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Benjamin Williams and his partnering with PAX to make the first one a reality for all of the subsequent ones to exist.
What sort of stands/people might I see/meet in there?
We get a wonderful assortment of organizations and groups exhibiting in the Lounge which makes for some great energy to be around. The AbleGamers Charity uses a combination of technologies to make gaming accessible to anyone, no matter their disability. GaymerX is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and supporting LGBTQ+ people and culture in the world of gaming, with a focus on video games. The Center for Suicide Awareness is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide through proactive education, training, emotional support, collaboration, and intervention. Those are but a few which help contribute to the warm and welcoming energy the Diversity Lounge possesses.
Is diversity really important to PAX, or is it just paying lip service?
I don’t work for Penny Arcade or ReedPop so I can’t speak to this in any official capacity. In my opinion though, it isn’t just for show – safety and inclusivity has always been important to PAX since I’ve been involved.
How does this attitude show up at the convention?
There are now numerous All Gender restrooms in multiple areas of the con, instead of a single gender-neutral restroom off the beaten path when they were first included. They are constantly listening to feedback and evolving and updating the ways they handle things, which is a big factor in why I continue to come to PAX. The Enforcers are also easily located, and ready to intervene if anything occurs that has an attendee feeling unsafe.
Are there any panels for our communities?
The panels are dependent upon community submissions, but in my time at PAX, there are always plenty that are approved with diversity in mind. There aren’t as many at PAX Unplugged or PAX South for now as they are smaller shows, but PAX East 2019 had 12 such panels with diversity in mind. In fact, this PAX East saw me on a panel with 4 others called “Queer Quests, Bi Battles & Terrific Transformations” in which we talked about video game experiences that shaped our identities and helped us feel represented. We were in a theater with 400 seats, which we filled and even had to turn people away from! The turnout was completely unexpected, but I think indicative of how many attendees in the community come to PAX.
How about events or afterparties?
Those are also run independently and kind of depend on which organizations are present at PAX, and which city we’re in. This year at PAX East had a great Saturday night party hosted by the Boston Gaymers. The Pink Party is another popular party that usually occurs sometime over the weekend with PAX West.
Is PAX safe for attendees of all kinds?
Yes! I’ll defer to the Safety & Accessibility section of the PAX site for the most thorough breakdown, but from the bag check and metal detectors to cosplay guidelines and medical badges for anyone with accessibility needs, PAX sets out to make sure that the convention is safe for everyone.
You’re involved with Geeks OUT and FlameCon – what can you tell me about those?
Geeks OUT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that seeks to rally, promote, and empower the queer geek community. We do so by organizing events, attending conventions, coordinating queer spaces at other events, launching advocacy campaigns, and producing Flame Con – the world’s largest LGBTQ comics and pop culture convention.
Flame Con is the world’s largest queer comic con, and we’re returning for our fifth year. It’s a two-day comics, arts and entertainment expo, showcasing creators and special guests from all corners of the LGBTQ fandom. It features thoughtful discussions, exclusive performances, screenings, cosplay and more!
Thanks for your time and hope to see you at PAX East 2020!
Kyle-Steven Porter, acting Diversity Lounge Manager at PAX East
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