Author: Jason Canhoto
WonderCon is an amazing time to buy merchandise and see this year’s latest and most anticipated film or television show. People of all geek backgrounds attend this convention at the Anaheim Convention Center, hoping to connect with their fellow geek community.
As the convention grows, so does its representation of all people within fandoms. Though I knew the geek part of my life was well represented at this event, I didn’t think it would be where I would attend a panel called Gay Geeks and Where to Find Them. I learned so much about these two communities that I’m a part of.
The chosen panelists were well thought out, giving strong, inspiring messages on embracing yourself. It was also filled with speakers from all different parts of the entertainment industry, from professional cosplayers to writers on hit shows.
The panel included Mike Page, Renee Jeske, Rick Montano, Vinnie Ingrao, Chris Reilly, Ray Lancione, and David Booher. Chandler Poling was the moderator. Each of these industry professionals is a part of the LGBTQA+ family, and they each had insight into how being a part of the community helped them influence what they wanted to do with their creative energy.
One of the big topics of the panel was whether or not the panelists were openly out at work. Each panelist gave thoughtful answers on why they decided to come out in the workplace. The consensus was that we as a community need to come out to be seen, heard, and respected.
Mike Page is a long-time casting director for TBS/TNT who is out in the workplace. He mentioned that the majority of casting directors are women or gay men. Renee Jeske worked for Disney Music Group (DMG) and had to come out as Bi to her boss to participate in this panel. Rick Montano and Vinnie Infrao are two writers on CW’s Roswell, New Mexico. They helped write for the LGBTQA+ characters that are on their show.
Chris Reilly is a professional cosplayer who has been doing this for years. He had to come out to his parents early in his career due to them finding out about his male cosplay pinup.
Ray Lancione works in video game development and is president of Qwerty Gamers, a non-profit for LGBTQA+ gamers. Lastly, David Booher is a comic book writer from Los Angeles.
They talked about how networking in the entertainment industry is the most important task for any industry hopeful. Networking allows you to meet creatives that can one day potentially get you a job.
The panel ended with an audience member asking a very important question: How does diversity factor in finding a job in the entertainment industry? Though the panel was filled with people of the LGBTAQ+ community, the table was filled with mostly white panelists, which were very considerate about this topic.
Page said, “There will always be room for people of color at the table.” Diversity is changing how Hollywood looks, and it will only get more diverse. This panel understands that, and it’s refreshing to see these viewpoints of the LGBTAQ+ community represented.