Safe Spaces and Complex Identity(s)

Hi all!

I’m back to blogging and DETERMINED to write more frequently!

Sitting in front of the laptop, however, I find myself lost in a sea of possible topics: I’ve been living and observing the cosplay universe, and have a tremendous backlog of stories to tell.

As I sit and consider all the places and people and relationships- I realize that one of the things that I both appreciate and wonder at the most is the diversity of the stories, the great variety of cosplay and cosplayers and the joyful exploration and celebration of fluid identities.

Yesterday I was at cosplacon in Jefferson City, Missouri with cosplay daughter, bonus daughter and their friend Allen.


The Joker, Gender Bent WWE Wrestler Pete Dunne and Dick Grayson (Lego Batman-Style)

The best convention sites are the ones with large open floor plans that function as stages where you can watch the show go by- or find a group of new friends by virtue of joining the group dressed as one of your favorite fandoms.

The venerable Capitol Plaza Inn in Jefferson City has one of these spaces.  A 1970’s vintage hotel- the building boasts a central atrium with old-school neon track lighting and the remnants of a several story waterfall (now dry and decorated with tropical plastic flowers).

As the glass elevators slipped up and down, I sat on a nondescript convention-center chair, parked on the trippy, pseudo-celestial carpet, listening to the happy noise of a whole mob: the prerecorded screeching of the bright-red parrot wearing claws and black jeans.  The giggling of groups of anime cosplayers skipping by while holding hands. The clanking of metal and plastic as a gang of well-armed assassins traipsed by to claim a central locale in the atrium, manspreading weapons, legs and arms in a territorial pose.

There were families, some with children cosplaying (but not the parents) some with parents cosplaying (but not the children). Some wore full, elaborate costumes, others only a hat, a sword, or a tail.

A pair of young sisters scamper by, one dressed as Ladybug, the other gender-bending Chat Noir.


They were all on the stage of the con floor, practicing what the sociologists call dramaturgy: (sort of) exploring their self and selves in a space designed to encourage creativity, diversity and play, presenting a self to others (as Mythbuster Adam Savage has noted):

This is cosplay: we are, all of us on that floor, injecting ourselves into a narrative that meant something to us, and we are making it our own. We are connecting with something important. And the costumes are how we reveal ourselves to each other.”

            -Adam Savage

I say this is “sort of” dramaturgy, because that theory generally sees society as a stage to be performed upon. A cosplay convention is something different- it is a safe, participatory and interactive entertainment experience without a detached performer-audience relationship. There is posing, certainly. And applause in the form of glomping or encouraging “I love your cosplay!” words. But each viewer of each cosplay feels free to talk to the performers, and those in cosplay generally love to talk to fans.

In this way, it is a safe space.

I know that “safe spaces” have  a bad rap in some circles. (That’s a link to the very angry urban dictionary definitions of the idea).

What I mean when I say it, however, is the perhaps older version of the idea:

In most cases, safe spaces are innocuous gatherings of like-minded people who agree to refrain from ridicule, criticism or what they term microaggressions… so that everyone can relax enough to explore the nuances of, say, a fluid gender identity.”

-Judith Shuleivitz

In the words of the fabulous Dr. Crossplay,  who I spoke to in the lobby, it’s “healthy creativity.”

I like that. Healthy Creativity. Healthy exploration and celebration.

In the coming weeks I’d like to showcase some of that creativity and fluidity by showcasing cosplayers on this page- extending the space where we can relax, explore and celebrate the healthy melee of ideas and images that is cosplay.

By cosplaymom

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