Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BronyCon: Adventures in Love, Tolerance, and Community

Hey everypony! I just got back from a long weekend at BronyCon in Baltimare. Above, you'll see a picture of my new pony OC, Lyric Wit. Overall it was a great weekend despite the organization of the actual con leaving a lot to be desired. Even though the programming was a little wonky and there was a lot of confusion between the staff about what was going on when it came to clearing rooms, cancelations, or rescheduling panels, I witnessed a lot of great moments; from bursting spontaneously into songs from the show in huge groups of people, to seeing fans express their love and creativity through original videos, music, and artwork, and even a very moving support group for people who were in the fandom because they really needed the positive messages and lessons that the show espouses. I even participated in a physical training session with some military Bronies. Yes, that's a thing and they are out their in larger numbers than you would ever expect.

My biggest reason for attending is my love of the show. The other reason was the documentary, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Male Fans of My Little Pony.

My boyfriend and I watched it and completely fell in love with the way the fan community was presented in the film. We had a chance to attend the convention and we wanted to experience it for ourselves, plus it gave us another chance to wear our Rainbow Dash and Soarin cosplays that we debuted at PAX East.

I will say that there was more social awkwardness at this convention than any that I've ever attended in my life. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but I'm making an observation. For almost everypony I talked to, it was their first convention ever. I heard some really sad stories from people! A 21 year old college kid told me he asked his friends to come with him and even though they watched the show and enjoyed it a bit AND his dad offered to pay for their trip, they wouldn't go with him. In talking to him I noticed he was a bit shy and awkward, but he was just a sweet person and I couldn't help but feel bad for him and hope that he made some better friends over the weekend. 

Unlike at PAX, when Brandon and I would separate, people did not approach me for conversations or photos. They gave me a wide birth. The only two times somepony did approach me, it went down really bizarrely. The first time was after a really sweet proposal during night one of Bronypalooza. Brandon ran up to the stage to try to get some photos and then this guy next to me leaned over and patted me on the back and said, "You're next. I got a feeling. Don't you worry!" He meant well, but it was a very strange interchange! 

The other time was in the cosplay lounge while I was fixing Brandon's wig. A guy dressed as Octavia came over and started preaching about how we need to be even more tolerant and loving as a community. Then he tried to hand out some cards for his bronyrock friend. I politely said that we only needed one since we were together. His response was, "Will I ever win?" Before thinking I said, "No." ...And then immediately backpedaled and said, "Not with me I mean! But one day! One day you will!" It was just weird because he was hitting on me while I was clearly with someone else. Ugh, I guess that was my Rainbow Dash insensitivity coming out. I... yeah. There were lots of weird moments when interaction did occur. 

As a girl, I was definitely in the minority. I'm not saying their weren't other girls there, but guys tended to travel in big packs and be in constant conversation with each other, showing off their new plushies of their favorite characters or picking out what panels to go to next.

When we asked how other people were reacting to the way the convention was run, they often didn't seem to notice the same issues that we had or they were willing to overlook them because of what attending the con meant to them. Perchance they weren't trying to attend as many panels. Perhaps they didn't have anything to measure the issues against because it was their first con. I have a sneaking suspicion that their experience was overshadowed by the relief of being able to hang out with other dudes who loved the show and network friendships/support groups with them.

I live in New York. Being "different" is the norm. I certainly take some flak from my friends about liking MLP: FiM, but they're pretty accepting because at the end of the day, we're all nerds! Some of these other con-goers are completely isolated in their fandom and that has got to be so hard. I have a group of friends and a boyfriend who love the same things I do and don't judge me too harshly if I introduce a new interest to the list. It's easy to forget that for a lot of these people, this is a very isolated event where they can come out of their shells and feel completely confident in who they are as men.

I've already written about the power of building community and finding your fellowship when it comes to achieving your goals and finding support through life's challenges, but this weekend really reminded me that there are people for whom that very idea is a challenge in itself. Because of it's themes of tolerance, love, and acceptance, these fans open their arms and hearts to anyone. There was a huge cross section of people. Obviously there were kids and their parents, groups of guys from 18-30 (and some even older!), but then there was a huge number who were "on the spectrum" (I met at least two who labeled themselves as having Aspergers), and there were a great many transgender fans milling about as well. It was great to see everyone feeling so comfortable in their skins as they moved through the halls despite how diverse the attendees were. It made me happy to see that all of those groups could get along and have a great time together. One guy at the support group panel told us he had Aspergers and said that although he was having a good time and found it easier to come out of his shell at BronyCon, he did feel like he was an arm's length away from everyone. After the panel a group of five strangers approached him and invited him to lunch with them. I don't know that I would have seen that happen at any other convention. Another guy told us about how he had met a girl at the con and had bucked up enough nerve to ask her out to dinner on Sunday night. "Go get her!" I shouted over the crowd at the panel. "Baby, he's gonna win!" Brandon exclaimed beside me. We didn't know him and yeah, it did seem like maybe this guy was doing that nerdy thing we all do, aka pretending not to put too much pressure on a new dating situation, but we couldn't help but HOPE that he was gonna get out there and make it work! I genuinely wanted the best for this complete stranger and I think that's what sets this con apart from others; the inherent heart.

Mostly this con reminded me how lucky I am that I do have friends in fitness AND in fandom. I hope I never take that for granted because they're the ones who get me through all the challenges this journey has thrown at me. Where do you go for support? Who do you look to for a helping hoof? Tell us about it in the comments!


  1. Anne you are one of the people I look to for my helping hoof. Even though I can be very extroverted, I have trouble accepting that people really do like me. I have struggled with weight through out my life. I have been in music and theater my whole life, but never landed the Dream "Lead" based on my kind of quirky look. After meeting you and Emily I have been inspired to look within and create my own opportunities. I've been involved in several cabaret style concerts, one with you and I feel that is a place that I can shine. I also have you to thank for the new fitness challenge. It was great to have you there last night reminding me not to beat myself up over our pretty pink shot being past my limit. You are an inspiration my dear and I am thankful to count you as a friend.

    1. Awww Shannon! That is the sweetest thing ever! <3 You should go after all your dreams! We only live once.

      Also, pink shots were DELICIOUS. :)

  2. Dude, that's it...I may have to give the show a shot...that video is so inspiring. Let's go to a doctor who con :)

    1. THIS IS WHAT I'm SAYING. It is a great show and that documentary is well worth it. Brandon bought a signed copy while we were at BronyCon and he almost never buys stuff.

  3. Hi, Thank you for your observations of the Brony community, it's pretty close to what I've experienced volunteering for EverfreeNW. I'm the mom to two tween Bronys & pretty geeky myself with spaceships; Serenity, Moya & the Tardis tattooed on my calf. What I learned & why I'm happy to support my boys in their fandom is it's about finding out what makes you special, using your talents to be brave & adventurous, being kind & giving & open. The generosity of the community is phenomenal. EverfreeNW raised over $20,000 this year for Seattle Children's Hospital & they were loads of random act of kindness all weekend (as well as in 2012), including someone getting my kid on stage during his favorite DJ The Living Tombstone of Ponystock.
    We're all happier nerd/geeks when we support one another & Project Reroll is great evidence of that. Thank you again.

    1. It's so true! And I think it's great that you support your Bronies! There are so many parents who are unnecessarily weirded out by the whole thing. I wish they would just give it a chance and ask more questions and attend these events with their kids instead of condemning them for what they like.

      ALSO. I want to see your tattoos! Those sound AWESOME. Moya is the greatest :)