OUTCon, Florida’s first LGBT targeted fandom convention, is a one-day event happening on Saturday, May 14 at the Miami Airport Convention Center.
The convention was founded by Jonathan Stryker who saw the need for an LGBT geek convention in South Florida, knowing there were several emerging geek-oriented queer conventions in bigger cities like FlameCon in New York City and GaymerX in San Francisco.
“I'm a huge anime geek. I love everything anime, love comic books a lot too, anything geeky I was into,” Stryker said. “I feel the LGBT geek community wasn't represented in the way that other states are doing it. Someone needed to start it down here, and that really inspired me to want to have representation for LGBT down here.”
A Miami native, Stryker has attended numerous conventions since 2005 and developed a growing passion for his geeky pursuits. His main interests are primarily with anime conventions, based on gatherings in which fans discuss and embrace Japanese animation and pop culture.
“I just really loved the environment. The people are super friendly, they love the same thing that you love, just share the fandoms and all the crazy things you love with other people,” Stryker said regarding his enthusiasm of attending anime and comic conventions.
By becoming involved in cosplay—the Japanese-coined term combining “costume” and “play”—Stryker began to make his own costumes by scratch, posing in character and uploading them online. Through social media, he has gained notoriety in the cosplay scene under the names “J Stryker” and “Stryker-kun,” which he goes by on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube respectively.
A majority of Stryker’s cosplay portfolio is from an anime called “One Piece,” a popular anime and manga in Japan about a group of pirates in search of the ultimate treasure of the titular name.
“There are themes about LGBT in [One Piece], the main character is super accepting of everybody, one of their friends is gay, there is a whole gay island full of drag queens, and all kinds of human species,” Stryker said. “It's so inspirational to me, it has literally changed my life.”
OUTCon is also aiming to help the community, as portions of the convention profit will go to Miami-Dade County Animal Services shelter.
“I’ve always had a deep passion for animal rescue, shelters and helping animals,” Stryker said. “So I wanted to do something where I could attach [it to] that and donate to charity.”
OUTCon will have convention staples such as video game tournaments, local vendors and a costume contest. However, it will also include unique panels like “Your Voices and Experiences Matter” on the subject of bullying and discrimination, a “Lip Sync for your Life-uh” contest inspired by “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and night shows like “Drag Show Extravaganza!” and a performance from Internet sensation Ms. Prada.
OUTCon Miami takes place Saturday, May 14 at Miami Airport Convention Center, 711 NW 72nd Ave, Miami, FL 33126. Doors open at 11 a.m. and admission is $10 at the door. Visit OUTCon Miami’s Facebook page for more details.