Last weekend hundreds of gay video gamers, or "gaymers", descended upon the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco to attend the first ever convention created just for them: GaymerX, neé GaymerCon. The brainchild of Matt Conn, GaymerX was created so that there would be "a space where all gamers and queer geeks can come together in a welcoming and safe space." The project's Kickstarter received over triple its goal funding of $25,000 and had over 1,500 backers.
The event took over two floors of the hotel with vendor tables from companies large and small, and a weekend schedule was filled with panels and parties. Guests of honor, or "bosses" as they were dubbed, counted among them transgender designer and activist Anna Anthropy, Drag Race contestant Pandora Boxx (who debuted as Batman's Harly Quinn), and voice actress Ellen McClain who is best known for her role as GLaDOS, the malevolent AI from Valve's Portal series.
The highlight of the weekend came during the Saturday panel entitled "Voice Acting 101," hosted by Ellen and her husband John Patrick Lowrie (The Sniper, Team Fortress 2). At one point Ellen conducted a sing-along for Portal's ending theme, "Still Alive," and then took things in an unanticipated direction. I don't want to spoil the surprise, so you can see a video of the event courtesy of GayGamer.net ... AFTER THE JUMP...
If you prefer to skip past the sing-along, fast forward to the 5:00 mark and you can get right to the surprise at 8:00.
Two gay rights charities have announced plans to unveil an anti-homophobia outfit for Olympians to wear in Sochi next year as a sign of solidarity with global LGBT equality. Vogue reports that Athlete Ally and All Out are currently looking for a high profile, international designer to create the motif:
The design that the Olympians will wear during the forthcoming games should "powerfully reject the anti-gay propaganda law in solidarity with Russian groups demanding equal rights", said All Out co-founder and executive director Andre Banks.
"One of the most effective things we can do at the games is to amass a global army of athlete allies who demonstrate their support for the LGBT citizens of Russia and LGBT athletes around the world," said Brian Ellner, Athlete Ally Board Member and LGBT Rights strategist. "We look forward to partnering on the development of that symbol."
In a blog post published Wednesday, two-time U.S. Olympic runner and ally Nick Symmonds joined a growing chorus of athlete voices in speaking out against Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. Symmonds used the post to reiterate his support for LGBT rights and express his desire to keep politics off the playing field in Sochi next year.
As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place. Given that I am currently residing in London, I will say, once again, that our LGBT neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days [for the track and field world championship], this will be the last time I will mention this subject.
I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend's house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.
I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport.
If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union.
Hopefully, Symmonds will follow fellow athlete Blake Skjellerup's lead in wearing a rainbow pin at the upcoming Games as a sign of silent solidarity with human rights and LGBT equality.
President Obama addressed outrage over Russia's anti-gay laws at today's White House press conference and said he disagreed with calls to boycott the Olympics.
I know that one question that's been raised is how do we approach the Olympics. I want to just make very clear right now I do not think it's appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We've got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed. Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia. But as I said just this week, I've spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them, but we have a strong disagreement on this issue.
And one of the things I'm really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we're seeing there. And if Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, then it probably makes their team weaker.
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
News sites everywhere have been documenting the issues in Russia surrounding the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, including abuse of migrant workers, the health and environmental impacts of construction, and the rather severe problem Russia has with homosexuality. Russia's response to this dissent has been to try to intimidate and abuse journalists and activists, particularly in the lead up to the Olympic Games.
Human Rights Watch has extensive coverage of these abuses and includes accounts of the Sochi Branch of the Russian Geographic Society having its funding threatened, rejection of the Sochi Pride House, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on websites critical of the government and the Olympics, and several individual journalists and activists being threatened by government officials.
Rule 48 of the IOC bye-laws explicitly states:
The IOC takes all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media and the widest possible audience in the world for the Olympic Games.
Russia's treatment of journalists may wind up causing even more complications for the IOC as these abuses run directly counter to the bye-laws the IOC are obligated to uphold.
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