It’s a little late but I still want to share my thoughts about the con. Madison treated me well this year! Setting the con aside, the food was delightful as always: I had some good Wisconsin beer, bought garlic-dill cheese curds at the farmers’ market just outside the hotel on Saturday, and was able to eat the sweet potato and oatmeal pancakes I have been thinking of wistfully since last year.
As with last year, people were pretty excited about the nail polish swap! I feel like maybe there was a bit less participation this time, but I have no way to know for sure and certainly plenty of folks came by to chat and pick up some nail polish. I’m not sure what else I could do to publicize it, to be honest; I certainly don’t have much of a social media reach, but the lovely folks working the WisCon twitter graciously spread the word when I posted about it. There was more polish left over than I could bring home, but a wonderful local congoer offered to store it until next year. The only downside to tabling during the Gathering is that I can’t do anything else. The nail polish table was right by the knitting circle area and the coloring table, and I cast a few wistful glances in that direction every time I saw people I knew hanging out in either place.
Because the goal is to get rid of as much nail polish as possible I haven’t set a limit of how many bottles people can take, but I think I might set a soft limit (maybe three?) next year, just so the most interesting options don’t get cleared out so quickly. We had some donations trickle in throughout the Gathering, but there was a stretch of time in the middle where there just wasn’t much to catch anyone’s fancy. I’m happy to tell people to swing by later and pick up more, but yeah…I think setting a limit is something to try for next time. Most people don’t take more than two or three bottles but even a few people who want to load up will make a big difference in terms of how much is available.
Since both of my panels were on Sunday, I had most of the weekend to be convinced I would somehow fail horribly as a moderator, and that bled into my thoughts about the other panel too, even though I knew I didn’t need to worry about that one at all. The moderator for the Sunday morning trans body positivity panel hadn’t contacted any of us beforehand (which is encouraged but not at all required), and seemed to have only the loosest plan for running the panel, but once conversation got started I think we all had rapport with each other and did a good job bouncing ideas around and building off one another’s comments.
Interestingly, there was a lot of talk among the panelists of having body parts that are hard to see properly or accurately. One co-panelist talked about not being able to see his face clearly even when looking in the mirror, and I talked about my own experience feeling like my body is a bit of a blur, and hard to focus on accurately to the extent that I often can’t tell if clothes I’m wearing even fit me properly or not. Detaching from areas that caused pain or dysphoria was a pretty common experience. I talked a bit about how I am not really thrilled with the “love your body!!!” narrative because of how hard that can be; to me it feels like someone saying “just think positive!!!” when my depression is bad. Thanks asshole, if it was that easy I’d just decide to love my body and everything would be better. To me, reframing this as being friends/entering peace talks/declaring a truce with your body makes the sentiment a bit easier to accept.
Ultimately I feel like the nonbinary body positivity panel went well too! I was glad that the three of us on the panel met up a bit beforehand to compare notes and talk a bit about what we wanted to cover; I knew I’d feel better going in with a list of points to address and not just winging it from memory. Despite the fact that this panel started while the Guest of Honor speeches were still ongoing (the ceremony ran long since there were three, not two, Guests of Honor this year), the room was not empty! We started with nine folks in the audience but several more people had shown up by the time we were 15-20 minutes in.
It seemed like the discussion was interesting and helpful to the audience. There were some good questions and comments, and people certainly seemed interested in what we were saying, even when I maybe talked a bit too much or too quickly due to nervousness or excitement. Honestly, it just felt good to be in a space where I felt like everyone was on the same gender-page, to some extent; our identities weren’t all the same but just knowing that the people around you get it and won’t raise an eyebrow at my presentation or my I’ve-mostly-given-up-trying-to-explain-it-even-to-myself gender identity is a really wonderful thing. As I’ve mentioned before, and have been thinking about a lot lately, I don’t really have a local queer/trans community and some moments at WisCon feel like the closest thing I have to that in-person community space.
SO: nothing caught on fire and no one left the room in disgust during my first moderation attempt! I’ll take it! Honestly I think I’d rather be a regular panelist in most situations but it’s good to know I can manage to moderate if the need arises.
Lots of other great stuff happened too, of course. I was thrilled to see Mark Oshiro at WisCon for the first time, and to hear that he had an overall good experience. (I know there have been a lot of conversations about who feels welcome and whose comfort should be prioritized at the con and honestly I am happy to nod and let other folks lead the discussion there, especially as a lot of it has to do with people or events I am not at all familiar with, but there’s a reason this is the only convention I regularly attend so I appreciate where WisCon is even though there’s always room for improvement.) I got some hugs from friends I didn’t realize were at a hugging place with me, and that was exciting; I am pretty much always down to hug but don’t want to push for them since I know not everyone is. I had some good conversations with friends, one of which led to a little smooching and a promise of future smooching. Some panels I was particularly pleased with as an audience member covered topics such as: femme invisibility in queer spaces, sex and sexuality in fanfic, accessibility in game creation, and queer (or queer-coded, or had-a-queer-crush-on-them) characters in scifi media. I still want to buckle down and plan out a Twine game that deals with sexuality and consent, and that panel was a good reminder that I could definitely make that happen.