Autism Spectrum Australia

Emperor and a Gentlemen 2: Diversity Boogaloo

  • Posted: 23/06/2016
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hello Aspies, Con Goers, Geeks, and Nerds, welcome to another episode of Aspire. We interrupt your current blog viewing to present to you with a tale of adventure, diversity and shenanigans. This is not a story for the weak of heart, so for those who are pregnant, have a weak heart or have peanut allergies, consult a doctor before reading the following.

My day started off like any other, I woke up in Parramatta, cleaned up the apartment and watched some classic Bobs Burgers. With my chores all finished I took the quick trip to Olympic Park. My friend Sam was running a masterclass on drawing in one of the con’s seminar halls so I dashed over, getting to the seminar room a little bit late. Sam, from ‘Geeks who go’ talked to the engaged audience about some of the necessary tips for drawing and taught me a thing or two about breaking away from being a perfectionist when drawing.

As the Seminar came to a close I was handed a Free A3 Art Diary and I made my way through the con. Geek memorabilia, food stalls and awesome artistry filled the halls as I looked around in my civilian clothes. Going incognito isn’t really my scene, I’m more like Linda from Bobs Burgers, outrageous and singing, but on Friday I was happy to walk around and chill.

As the first day came to a close I was glad to have met up with a variety of good friends, people I had known since my first year of Supanova back in 2007. I walked back to the station and went home to have Chicken Pad See Eiw and drink bourbon and coke in my PJs as I watched Chicken Run and Pirates Band of Misfits. A dinner fit for a king!

The sun rose on a cloudy Saturday morning and I arose from my deep slumber. I crawled out of my bed and sluggishly started in my day. Putting on the Backstreet Boys and Reel Big Fish I went from zombie to swanky! With my confidence at an all-time high I decided to go to the convention in costume. Only I would have the guts to cosplay on the streets of Parramatta.

I walked into the con as chill as can be when I was bombarded with noise and people, my senses took a big step into a world of chaos. The quiet chill place I was in yesterday had turned into a hustle and bustle of peers with a passion for Cosplay, Dragon Ball Z and so much more. I had to use one of my major coping strategies for such a moment. Thomas Kuzma had put on the metaphorical mask of Emperor Kuzco, and was now speaking in the third person.

The crowd went wild as I went through the con, I would respectfully say hello to the costumed characters and posed for fans that wanted photos. As the day roamed on, I would check anxiously to see if it was time for me to take the Seminar Stage to talk about diversity. Lo and behold after so many photos I had to go upstairs to be one of the panellists at the Diversity Now panel.

Oh you want to find out more about this panel don’t you? Well you have to wait! I got up to a large variety of exciting shenanigans and you are going to have to read about them first.

Once ‘Diversity Now’ was all over I walked out the back of the seminar hall with the other panellists to talk more about what we can do to make this world a better place. I will admit I was out of my element because I didn’t know enough about the LBGTQIA(I think I got that right) community but I have to say I learned so much more about a community that we should listen to. We got some fantastic photos and everyone handed out business cards before parting ways.

The day continued to flow smoothly; I would walk about, chatting, hugging and laughing with my friends whilst getting excellent feedback on the talk. As day two started to finish I was greeted by a friend who was hanging out with some excellent cosplayers. A cute lady dressed as Psylocke invited me out to get dinner and party with some friends I knew. I accepted and an hour later I was dressed up and eating Japanese food with friends, some classic, and some new.

The night was fun, hilarious and exciting, but an aspie like me knew where my limits were. I left at midnight went home to sleep and recuperate for day three. Sunday popped up without any notice and it was time for me to go scientific for my last day of the con. I dressed up as Rick from Rick and Morty and made my way in, with a lot less people staring at me.

I spent the day in a vain similar to Friday, just relaxed, checking out art that my friends made. Astonishingly I bumped into last night’s crew who were mostly all together, minus for one or two sleepy heads. I hung out with the cute Psylocke gal and we talked about fun topics like TV shows, food and wacky friends. Breaking away from the group I decided to get changed and take some me time.

I walked around, spending little bits of cash here and there, I saw some excellent cosplays and few more friends huddled around for some reason. Walking up to this different batch of friends I found out they were hunting for the Cheez TV hosts! We dashed around the con searching for and stalking the two charming and hilarious hosts. Luckily enough we found them after running around one corner.

We started chatting, bonding over 90’s things like Pokemon, K-zone and Dragon Ball Z. Whilst we were taking tons of photos I couldn’t help but start singing the Cheez-TV song. Hearing my voice they pulled me in for a photo. Lucky me, huh…

The rest of the day was pretty pleasant; I mean spending time with friends really helped me drown out the rest of sensory stimulating systems. The last hour rolled out and I realised I hadn’t spent any dough! I dashed to the Madman Booth to buy as much Dragon Ball Z stuff as I could (two movies and a Vegeta figure), a couple of art pieces and grabbed my items from my friend. Georgie Loons was busy entertaining kids with her spectacular balloon skills. The fact that she is also a childrens’ entertainer was a plus. I grabbed my stuff and ran for the door.

As I ran for the door I saw the friends I made that weekend. I strolled over as cool and collected as can be and said hey. After saying goodbye to Psylocke I left on the next train up to the mountains where I would be walking home in the fog and the rain.

Okay so let’s move onto the main attraction. How did the panel go?

Well starting off we all introduced ourselves, there was Anny Sims and Will Wong representing the gay and queer people in the cosplay community. Sarah Brennan-Dunn was representing the transgender community and was a volunteer for Supanova. One of Supanova’s staff, Lexxie Reyes was there on board and we were very lucky to have comedic transgender star Jordan Raskopoulos from Axis of Awesome joining us to talk about her experiences.  Lastly, they needed me Thomas Kuzma there to be the key item for the panel on diversity, a white male. Nah! I was there representing autism, disabilities and mental health.

The panellists and I started talking about what made us feel comfortable in the world of pop culture and how we were introduced into the geeky world. As we continued into the seminar, we went into a deep discussion about what it means to advocate and what we as a community can do to help make a change in the world we live in.

I talked about how I started off advocating and now I am making a significant change to the minds of people today. That a simple group of families came together 50 years ago to make a school and today we have an organisation that supports a thousand kids on the spectrum across Australia.

Jordan and I went on to relate the similarities in our stories, from hers about being a woman in the body of a man, discovering who she really is, to my story about being a depressed teenager discovering that I have High Functioning Autism.

Emotions started to flood the room as the audience got a chance to talk about their lives. There was one woman there who is asexual and  feeling lonely, only to discover that a large group of asexuals were on the other side of the audience.

As the seminar came to a close one of the main people behind Supanova came to the front and gave one of the most inspiring talks I have heard. He thanked everyone for making it to the panel and moved on to say the following:

Supanova is not made up of a bunch of people that run a convention every year. It’s not the volunteers that take the time out of their day to come there and help out. Supanova is you, the community of cosplayers, geeks, artists and fans of quirky things. When something happens to this con that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, please tell us, because you mean the world to us. It doesn’t matter who you are, regardless of sexuality, race, disability or gender, we want to create a safe and loving environment.

Everyone was moved by the host’s talk, so many people could feel so much warmth, to learn that their troubles had been recognized. By the end of the session you could really feel a sense of self in the room, no matter who you were, we were all together in that moment.

Okay so final thoughts. I am pushing seventeen hundred words here, so I’ll make this brief.

The Good:

  • Embracing diversity
  • The Guest Stars (Cheez TV, Dragon Ball Z, Deadpool guest stars!!!)
  • The expansion of food stalls.

Development areas:

  • I couldn’t find any places for cosplayers to take time out. Beanbags and lounges anyone?
  • More notifications of what was happening and where.
  • No proper Mr Whippy! Ok there was one, but it was closed by the time the con ended…

Rating:

A

 

See you guys next time!

 

 

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Emperor and a Gentlemen 2: Diversity Boogaloo