DragonCon was overwhelming in all the best and usual ways, but I was not prepared to be emotionally overwhelmed this year. It happened twice.
The first time was the first day of the show. I’d come back to the table from grabbing a quick lunch, bringing it with me. There was nowhere else to comfortably sit and eat except our artist alley table. As I was preparing to scarf down my lunch an attendee came up and very politely asked if I’d had a few minutes to chat before I dug in. I said yes. They proceeded to tell me, with tears in their eyes, that the Oracle for Hire years had given them one of the only examples of positive representation of a trans character they’d seen, and that helped them along their own journey of transitioning. I believe they said, “My life is better because of you.” We hugged, and after they departed I came very close to crying into my lunch.
Over the years there have been several trans folks who have shared similar stories with me, and I have equally treasured every one of them. But this one hit differently because of its modern context, both in politics and my personal life. I’ve had several friends transition over recent years, including the child of a very dear friend and one family member. Coupled with the rise of disgusting, shameful legislation aimed at outlawing trans folks’ treatments and even their existence, it made for a hard-hitting emotional sledgehammer.
The second came the very next day. Two folks came up to our table and didn’t know I was going to be at DragonCon! They bought one of the big Volumes that collects all of the Oracle for Hire years, and proceeded to tell me they were purchasing it for their friend who is a big fan of my work. It was a pretty common interaction until they revealed this friend was severely disabled, so much so that he is confined to a bed, and that when they came out of a recent coma it was my comics that he wished to read first. I almost fell over. As an added treat for their friend I agreed to record a short video for him, holding the big book and thanking him for loving my work! It was all I could do to not start weeping as I was speaking.
On the third day of DragonCon I got a break from being emotionally overwhelmed. On the fourth day I made someone cry.
A young lady strolled up to our table and I asked her how she was enjoying DragonCon. She said she was overwhelmed by the artist alley, as she was an illustrator herself but was intimidated by how professional everyone’s tables and setups were, and that she was still “only a coffee shop barista.” I jumped right on that statement to shut it down. I encouraged her not to think that way, and not to view having to work a non-artistic job was making her “lesser” to someone who is lucky enough do it for a living. I told her very plainly that lots of writers and artists have day jobs, and that she herself is very much still an artist. That triggered something emotional in her and she began to cry as she said, “Thank you, I think I really needed to hear that!” I quickly came around the table to give her a hug.
DragonCon is an unforgettable show in so many ways, but this year hit differently. Like an emotional sledgehammer.