For those in the table top gaming hobby, there is a high percentage chance Gen Con has some meaning. It is a four day gaming convention held in Indianapolis which, at last count, hosted over 45,000 people.
I was looking forward to Gen Con 2015 up until just a few days ago. Gen Con gives me a chance to play games that I do not get play at home. It also is a place where I get to see friends from all over the country and game and hang out for a few days. On top of all this, I also go to seminars and hear what the different companies will be producing in the coming year and write about it. Gen con is a manic high where fun and frolic are the name of the day and the post-con drop is terrible as you miss all the old friends you were able to see and the new friends that you have made.
The problem is that I was looking forward to Gen Con. Now, I’m conflicted. Indiana has signed into law SB 101 which is, on the face of it, a law meant to protect religious freedom. The problem lies in the wording which differs from the federal law which was designed to allow those who had clothing or dietary needs of their religions to be given leeway for their practice. Indiana’s law is written in a way to allow businesses and individuals the ability to discriminate against others based on religious belief. In particular, businesses could refuse to serve those in the LGBT community because of the owner’s religious beliefs. This means that at Gen Con the hotel that I am staying at could choose not to let me stay or a restaurant could refuse me seating. This gives me pause and makes me consider what to do.
Gen Con did not take the possibility of the signing of the bill into law silently. Gen Con sent a letter prior to the signing of the bill to Governor Pence which you can read here. The letter points out that the diversity of the crowd that attends Gen con is one of the convention’s main strengths and that this bill would put sections of Gen Con’s fan base at risk. I was heartened to see that Gen Con took some action in regards to this legislation. I just wondered what their next step would be since there appeared to be no changing course on the part of Indiana’s governor.
As expected, Governor Pence signed SB 101 into law. Gen Con released another letter which you can read here. In the letter, Gen Con states that they have been communicating with the local businesses in Indianapolis which all stated that they are going to strive to ensure all attendees have a wonderful convention. The letter also points out the that city of Indianapolis was against the bill the entire time. Gen Con points out that planning is a long term affair and that this bill will have an impact on negotiations for where Gen Con will be come 2020. Gen Con acknowledges in the letter that this bill will make people choose not to come to the convention and that they understand this. The letter also puts forth that Gen Con would like to hear from attendees about any negative experiences they have at the convention this year.
This is where my conflict arises. There were howls of outrage that Gen Con was not immediately pulling out of Indiana. There were calls to boycott Gen con for this reason alone. The thing for me is, I’m aware of what it takes to organize a convention of this size. There is no way to move that many people to another venue on such a short notice. In addition, Gen con is it’s own business now and could not afford the cost of the breach of contract lawsuit and fines at this point. It would most likely destroy the convention outright. In addition to all of these things, I know of people in the LGBT community that benefit from the presence of the convention in Indianapolis. These are people that work as servers, retail, hospitality, and other industries that are positively impacted by Gen Con. It feels like boycotting Gen Con would be adding insult to injury to these people.
What’s a geek bear to do?
I’ve mulled it over and looked and what others are saying about it online. The thing that has stuck with me has been the point that this will not withstand court action. I agree with the sentiment but feel the people that say this are dismissing those that are going to be that court case. One of the things that could come from me going to Gen Con is that I could be that person. I understand that this isn’t probable but possible. The law goes into effect on July 1st and there will be those pushing to move it into court quickly. The thing is, not going feels cowardly on my part. There are those in the LGBT community that live in Indiana and can not move. There are many reasons for this and all of them are acceptable. My boycotting Gen Con seems more of way of shielding myself from facing the discrimination that they may face on a daily basis now due to this law. I understand those that are boycotting both Indiana and Gen Con. There is no correct answer to this question. For me, I’m going to go to Gen Con and be out and proud the entire time. I will wear my gaymer tag on my badge as well as my shirt that says bearded, gay, and awesome. I will also pick up some shirts from Killer Bob, The Moody Bear, and Burly Shirts to wear at Gen Con.
No time to be a shrinking violet. Time to be out and proud and willing to take the lumps with those that have no way of avoiding them. I will still be lucky enough to go home afterward.