Before the wrap up first a little reflection:
I am amazed, every year, about how much Anime North & Yaoi North continues to mean to me – it’s honestly the most amazing three days (well, four, when I can get up on the Thursday night beforehand for pre-con shenanigans) where it is totally acceptable to let your inner geek shine on the outside, 24/7. Where every single person you meet is more or less an instant friend, because you’re all into the same stuff, and where you all have (at least some) shared experiences (it’s not like you can just plop down in the break-room at work and discuss the finer points of Doujinshi with the person sitting next to you and be guaranteed that they’ll have an opinion on it). It’s a place where every single staffer is there because they love this world and the people in it…and to me, that’s something truly, truly special.
It’s a place where costumes and music and crafts are all based on the things that have brought together our friends groups, and kept us tethered to reality in stressful situations. Even when I was in the Israel Defense Forces I never unsubscribed from the Anime North staff email list, because it was nice to get those emails, to make sure I was keeping up on what was going on with con, and to see those familiar name pop up on my phone, knowing it was something I was going to return to. When I worked what turned out to be two thankless jobs before returning to Buffalo nearly three years ago, it was the thing I looked forward to most each year, because it meant total freedom to be myself, and I made sure to keep reminders of it around my desk and my workspace at all times.
Anime (when I was introduced to it by my friend Ben in High School) is what gave me one of my first crushes (Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop, who is the bar I still hold men to…see you space cowboy) and I cannot tell you how many times the medium has profoundly moved me with it’s art and beauty, as well as with it’s unique form of humor.
…and the thing is: every single person at AN/YN just gets it…and that to me is so, incredibly, special.
That said, here’s my Wrap Up!
Panels, Events, Contests & Workshops (In Order of Their Appearance):
- Yaoi Coloring – Always a favorite (and a nice way to start things out). We went through most of the sheets! It’s a great meet and greet for the attendees too! We were at capacity (even with some people leaving, new people came in to take their place). I definitely need to pick up another box of crayons for next year though.
- Yaoi Yakuza – This is always fun (and this year I learned a new twist from a contestant!). The game is a variant of Mafia/Werewolf, with a bunch of Uke’s at the Tokyo Police Station being infiltrated by the Yakuza who are killing the Semes in Japan. This year (per one of the contestants) in the final round the Uke’s fought back and infiltrated the Yakuza! This is definitely a plot twist we’ll be keeping for future years. It’s some great, interactive story telling and game play.
- Queer Speed Mixer – This was WONDERFUL. I adjusted how I ran it based on feedback I received last year, and this year at BishounenCon. Instead of having people meet one-on-one we encouraged people to mingle as self-forming, inclusive, welcoming groups for five minute intervals, and then to change things up. We also had a gender/orientation neutral policy (i.e. don’t assume anything, ask/give pronouns). Consent is required for everything, no pressure (no one is forced to give anything more than a first name, and it doesn’t have to be a real first name) and a 100% no pressure/no creeper policy. It went swimmingly, and then it turned into a social toward the end. We’ll probably cut it back a bit (time wise) next year.
- Yaoi Bedtime Stories – This is the one where we read Yaoi Bedtime Stories to an audience in pajamas. It. Was. So. Cuuuuuuuuuuuuute. Many Awwwwwwwwws were had…and then I had to leave early to go run…
- Yaoi Bingo – I want to run this one next year in Yenta Drag if I can swing it. This. was. hysterical! We were AT CAPACITY and had to have people share bingo cards! When we ran out of prizes for this event folks kept on donating their own manga/prizes for us to give away so we’d continue! I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
- Embroider Your Own Seme – This is a 3 hour workshop where folks learn how to embroider their own Seme based off of a Yaoi/LGBTQ manga or comic to make their own patch or handkerchief. The artwork was given to us courtesy of Adam DeKraker (on twitter at @adamdek), penciler of The Young Protectors who’s Author and Publisher (Alex Woolfson) was our guest this year (so it was a great tie-in!). While this workshop didn’t have nearly the turnout I’m used to, the folks who did turn up (including the walk-in) were fun and friendly, and I think enjoyed it.The entire point of these workshops is to teach fans how to make their own merch. This is especially important for those of us in the LGBTQ community, who often can’t find Yaoi merchandise (and, even when we can, rarely on the levels that one can for mainstream Anime). I love that our fans leave not only with a product, something tangible to hold in their hands (or the materials to finish it), but that they then know how to do it again…so next time they’re going through their favorite Manga, say FAKE, and they decide they want a Dee or Ryo patch, they now know how to make one…and hopefully they will! Next year though we’re going to go back to the Chibi Doll workshop…and since it’s going to be a Yuri on Ice chibi…I imagine we’ll have quite the crowd…
- Yaoi Pictionary – So, in all the years I’ve been doing this, this was the funniest. I had 4 straight guys who had wandered in…and decided that they wanted to compete…and despite the fact that they really didn’t know what was going on, they were in it to win it…there was a LOT of dude-broing going on, and some friendly flirting from one of them (he was sweet), and while they didn’t win, they did get a respectable nine points to the other teams fifteen, which I think is good for four straight dudes who were only there because they were too tired to walk to the other hotels or back to the convention center!
- Iron Smut – This is a contest of my own invention. I give contestants pictures, memes, Yaoi tropes, and other visual cues and they have 30 minutes to come up with a story that they then have to act out in front of guest judges. We laughed…we laughed hard. Fun was had by all.
- MST3Gay: My Sexual Harassment – Jack, Marty, and I roasted the ever loving crap out of My Sexual Harassment live in front of a packed room of Fangirls and Fanboys. One word: CORN!
- Gay Sex: 101 – The Panel that Started it All (for me, anyway)! This is the panel that Gryvon invited me to be on 12 years ago, way back when we were one room, in one hotel! We originally started the panel as a panel for fanfic writers, so they could accurately write gay sex scenes and a one hour panel lasted three, and well…convention history was made! We have one rule: ask the sexperts a question and we will honestly answer. We have one warning: ask the sexperts a question and we will honestly answer. We address everything from dating, relationships, to sex, and lifestyle. Attendees are fanfic writers, artists, and professional writers…as well as those in the closet looking for ways to come out, and those who are just interested (among others).
- So You’re In Love With a Fictional Character – If you’ve ever been sick because you’re not going to be able to date the man of your dreams because he’s fictional, then this is the panel for you…and fifty or so people agreed, as we squeed at volumes that made local dogs bark. The importance of this panel is twofold: first, it shows others that they’re not alone, and there’s some shared commiserating…there’s also some nice Mental Health outreach (“if you find that you’re not eating, able to get to work, or school, or leave the house because of it…then it’s time to talk to a professional…”)
- Ship Wars – The Fangirls & Fanboys finally had it out, debate style: an Anime was named. Lines were drawn. Arguments were presented. And who the top/bottom was in any given pairing was hashed out with me as moderator, and the audience as judge.
- Yaoi Mad Libs – This. Was. Fabulous. I also want to do this in Yenta Drag next year. Actually, I’d love to incorporate this with a brunch. It was hysterical. Just…it’s exactly as the title suggests…and just…yeah.
Hotel & Space:
First, this was my first convention having neurological disabilities that manifest themselves with physical disabilities/limitations so Zappy the Wonder Walker was with me (not pictured: the additional cane holder and my cup holder, because heck yes pimp my ride!).
I use a walker for a few reasons. Sometimes I just can’t hold myself up. Sometimes I’m in too much pain. Sometimes my muscles/body aren’t working together. Sometimes my joints/body aren’t working together. Sometimes I lose all energy and need to sit *right now* because I just *can’t* stand, and when those things aren’t all going on at once, I use it to manage/conserve my energy.
Stairs, mind you, are the number one thing that sets off my flareups…along with lack of sleep, and running around, and stress, and walking, and movement…so you know…conventions in general…so I was very nervous (and, being honest, scared), having just gotten off of disability, what this convention would be like (because I. do. not. want. to. ever. have. to. go. back. on. disability. ever. again).
I am so incredibly grateful I had Zappy with me, especially because by day three I was on the very edge of a severe flareup (like, the kind that puts me on disability). However, with Zappy’s help, and the assistance of my fellow staffers (i.e. lifelong friends) I was able to avoid it. I was also able to get to each and every single one of the events/contests/panels/workshops that I was slated to run (and on time)! So yay accessibility devices (and friends and conventions that make accessibility a priority!)!
What was insanely frustrating was the hotel’s utter lack of accessibility (they were grandfathered into Canada’s accessibility laws) and the fact that they gave exactly zero fucks! The floor where our part of the convention was being held was split by six steps. The hotel’s ‘lift’ (and I use that word so loosely) was their food/cleaning cart lift (so nothing someone who’s disabled can manage by themselves), which didn’t have enough strength to lift a power wheelchair (so one of our other attendees was out of luck), and who’s ramp wasn’t wide enough for my walker to safely go on (parts of it were broken off).
This meant that I had two options: one walk to the other side of the hotel, take the elevator down, then walk clear across in the opposite direction, to get to an elevator that serviced only the convention space, and ride that up (nothing like all that extra walking). I tried that a few times…until I just barely avoided getting trapped in the convention space elevator (I had to shove the door open as the elevator waffled on whether it wanted to live or die with me in it). From that point on I was left with option two: be reliant on someone carrying my walker down the flight of stairs while I used my cane to get down. Normally I carry my own walker down a flight of stairs (something I am capable of as long as I use my cane to prop myself up…just not after a long day of conventioning…when all of my nerves are on fire, and my joints and muscles have checked out and given up).
The hallways while theoretically wide enough, were constantly obstructed by the cleaning carts…which wouldn’t have been an issue, if they didn’t hang a ton of extra bags and supplies off the sides (I’m assuming because their task masters/overlords don’t want them restocking), thus having no consideration for anyone with a mobility issue (or, I don’t know, needing to get by).
There were no handicap bathrooms in the hotel’s convention space, which meant that I couldn’t bring my walker in with me when I needed to use the facilities in between my panels and workshops, and I had no grab bars to bring myself down to the toilet (or off of the toilet) safely. This is something that doesn’t affect me on day one of the convention…it is something that affects me on day two and day three.
I hate having to rely on someone else to get me places, or do things for me: I cannot stand not being able to ensure that I am the only one responsible for me being on time to a panel or event (even with mobility issues, provided with the right accommodations/accessibility devices I will get myself around). I don’t like not being able to get to the con office quickly because I have to first return the ring to Mordor on my way to the elevators, or because I have to send an Owl for an able bodied staff member to come and lift my walker for me…and I feel like I missed out because the hotel put up a ton of unnecessary roadblocks which meant that it was just easier for me to remain in one place, rather than bounce around like I’m used to.
I’m glad we’re not going to be back there next year and – quite frankly – as an insanely inclusive organization and convention, I hope we shun this particular hotel until they make some good decisions.
All of that said this – in no way – defined my weekend for me, it was just something new and frustrating (and I’m a blogger, and this is my pensive), and I needed to get it down on digital paper. I am still very much on a post-con happy high 🙂 Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that one of the absolute highlights of having our own hotel this year was having the Toronto Gaymers share space with us! They were the absolute best of Con comrades, and we’re looking forward to doing some very cool stuff with them in the future 🙂
Staff & Final Thoughts
Gryvon worked her tail end off getting con off the ground (and not just for our department). I am constantly in awe of how much she gives of herself to this convention (all year round) to make sure that the weekend is just totally seamless. All of our staff went above and beyond the call of duty (including our newbies…who are now family) and I am thankful to every single able bodied individual who lifted Zappy, and who carried, lifted, or moved things for me (especially because everyone also had other things that had to/needed to be doing).
I’m indebted to Chris from A/V who re-wired things to make the mics work better for me so I didn’t have to navigate around the room. I am just always in awe of how cohesive our Yaoi North family is, and always so sad that we’re split across two countries.
Next Year Yaoi North turns 13 – it’s our Bar Mitzvah Year! I can’t wait, I have a bunch of new things in store! I’ll also be graduated next Yaoi North…WHOA!!!
I always tell people: titrate off of the con, otherwise you’ll crash! I’m sure I could write more, but I’m going to ride out this post-con high, and watch a little bit more Anime as I get ready for bed, and continue to snuggle my cat, who hasn’t fully forgiven me for abandoning her for three days while I was at con.