A Love Letter to GX Australia

This weekend I had the privilege of attending GX Australia, Australia’s most inclusive gaming and geek convention.

They’re not wrong, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

In a bittersweet twist, my first big con is also the last time it will be run, at least on the larger scale. I don’t think Liam and Joshua will let it die so easily (and the after-party definitely didn’t let it go without a fight, considering many of us ended up at the Pullman Hotel well after the Brewery had kicked us out, laughing and eating cold McDonald’s), but I think that it’s the last we’ll see of the convention for a while. It took a lot of time, effort, money and way more tears than I can think of to get it running, and for now it has to sleep (much like the rest of us, but the world keeps turning and we have to return to our normal lives).

For me, it also took a lot to get to Sydney. Many reading this may know that I am a Brisbane native — I was born there, and have only travelled once outside the warm confines of my state to visit the USA in 2014. I backed the kickstarter because it needed money. They needed the funding and I had some cash I could throw their way. I did it without much thought, just wanting to help a good cause, and before I knew it I was thinking “Oh, shit… this means I actually have to get to Sydney.”

It was exciting and… more than a little bit stressful to get down here (as, of course, I’m still in Sydney while writing this, having decided to make a holiday of it). I don’t have a lot of money. I’m dirt poor. It’s probably why I haven’t had a real holiday since 2014. When you’re poor and living on Centrelink, you mostly think about how you’re going to survive and if you’re going to be able to keep living in your house.

But there’s a reason I didn’t pass my ticket on, ended up getting a second ticket and hauling myself and my carer down to Sydney for a weekend of fun.

The reason is that not once in my life have I ever entered a convention situation and felt included. Felt like I belonged somewhere. I don’t attend Supanova or Comic-Con because every time I do, something happens to make me feel unsafe. There’s a snippet of a conversation I hear, or someone I know who really shouldn’t be in convention environments is there and I baulk. Security doesn’t do a whole lot to right wrongs that happen and the higher-ups are more concerned about making money by upping the prices of exhibitor tables to take any notice. I’ve never attended Sexpo despite wanting to because the environment is dominated by toxic, cishet men, but I am assured by both Jimmy Reilly and Lucie Bee that they are working on changing this so that people like me will feel more welcome.

There’s also the matter of crowds. I can’t handle them. Pushing, shoving, (unintentionally?) rude people, constant noise, overwhelming smells… there’s a pretty extensive list of the cocktail that goes into making me have sensory overload. It’s probably why if I ever go to PAX, I’ll be ghosting it within a couple hours as even GX Australia, as small as it was, took so, so much energy out of me.

But… I’m happy.

The panels were amazing (those that I got around to attending), the people were even better and apart from one small incident where I fault none of those involved, I felt safe. I visited as many tables as I could and took away a lot of artists’ work, I had overpriced con food and drink, I tried desperately to beat John Kane’s Mallow Drops’ third level (I didn’t, whoops…) and I laughed louder and more genuinely than I have in a long, long time. People complimented so much about me and I got to have so many deep, inclusive conversations and make more new friends than I can count. I was gifted a stim toy by a person named Frisky and given the most beautiful neon monstrosity made of cobbled-together toy parts, lace and hot glue by a lass named Shell. I finally met people whom I have been friends with for years for the very first time and got as many selfies as I could.

I wasn’t judged for my cane or for my hair or for my pronouns or my very explicit, apparent queerness. I was hugged (with permission). I was excitedly photographed (with permission). I met other people with mental illnesses similar, or the same, to my own and got to share my experience about having them with no fear of watching someone recoil from me as though I was cursed. I got to hold the Table Destroyer dice in my hands and marvel at them (no, I couldn’t buy them… but I wanted to). I realised that there are topics in panels that I wish I could have had a more vocal input for, rather than quietly (or not-so-quietly) vocalising them from the crowd. I realised that there are simply just panels that I want to have — autism representation in games and other media being one of the biggest I can think of, since polyamory, sexuality, gender, mental illness and robots have been covered.

Above all, I made memories, that, despite memory loss issues, I don’t think I will forget any time soon.

All because two people — Liam Esler and Joshua Meadows — decided that this convention was something Australia needs, and undertook the effort to make it happen. And I can’t thank them enough (though they profusely thank us every chance they can get).

To GX Australia, its sponsors, its vendors, its volunteers, its attendees, and to Liam and Joshua:
I love you.
I love everything about you.
You made a poor, disabled, chronically and mentally ill queer feel at home in a world where I consistently see things in the media that tell me I don’t belong.

But I do.
We do.
I won’t stay silent and you didn’t go down quietly.
Australia did need you.
Australia does need you.
Australia needs more conventions like you.
The world needs more conventions like you.

For long two days and one very long night, the outside world didn’t matter for me, or for many others who genuinely needed this escape.

Thank you.
From the bottom of my heart.
Thank you.

Love, Alexei (Doc).