TGIFemslash: A Space of Our Own
By: Jessica Wolff
TGIFemslash or TGIF/F, billed as a gal pals convention, is the place to be if you love femslash of any kind. The femslash community is dedicated to pairings between women in multiple fandoms and TGIF/F celebrates all of those pairings, canon or fanon. The con was held the weekend of April 7-9 this year in a Holiday Inn located a shuttle’s ride away from the Los Angeles airport. The convention is smaller than others such as ClexaCon, boasting a record attendance number this year of 110 attendees of diverse genders, orientations and backgrounds. However, this allows for a more personalized con experience. Though it is not a convention that hosts actresses or creators, it emphasizes the importance of fandom and the importance of fan created spaces.
TGIF/F was founded in 2015 by a group of fans wanting to meet others in the fandom. Previously, the founders hosted five conventions devoted to Quinn and Rachel or “Faberry” from the series “Glee.” As “Glee” was nearing its end, they were inspired to create a separate convention devoted to multi-fandom femslash. The first convention in 2016 hosted around seventy people and was a great place to celebrate femslash of different varieties. Any movie, TV show, book or videogame that has a femslash component is likely to be discussed at any point during the weekend.
Individual fandom panels at this year’s TGIF/F included shows “Supergirl,” “Wynonna Earp,” “The Legend Of Korra” and “Steven Universe.” Other panels on the schedule were multi-fandom and included fan fiction panels, a panel about the history of femslash and panels examining leading ladies and power dynamics in femslash. However, attendees were not limited to the scheduled discussions. Anyone could host a DIY panel at any time, which allowed flexibility in allowing attendees to talk about whatever they wanted to. Topics in these panels ranged from the newly released Power Rangers movie to classic series “Xena: Warrior Princess.”
One of the longer panels was about diversity and representation in the media. As most, if not all attendees, are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is a topic near the top of their priority list. Much of the emphasis of the discussion focused on the importance of everyone being able to see themselves in the media they consume. The discussion soon turned to specific examples of representation in media, both good and bad. A list of shout outs and callouts to specific content was written on the board, with a couple of shows and movies in the center as a recognition that while some things were done well in the show, other things could be improved in the long run. The discussion was entirely driven by the fans and everyone who wanted to say something had their voices heard.
The convention was about far more than just panels. An icebreaker at the beginning of the convention allowed people to be partnered up and get to know other people’s fandoms by having each attendee create something for their partner’s favorite fandom despite not being too familiar with it. Friday night included a show of fan videos of multiple femslash pairings as well as a screening of original works by con attendees with a Q&A session afterwards. Saturday night featured a costume contest and a San Junipero themed dance party that played danceable fan videos on a screen as attendees danced. Sunday ended with an open mic night that allowed attendees to share their talents with everyone and included everything from musical performances to live readings of fan fiction.
One of the highlights of Sunday was a live auction of several themed gift baskets of fan goods and other fan items made by or donated by attendees. The “Supergirl” related ones were the hot items, including fan-created Catco magazines with an article with Lena Luthor’s face on it and beautifully carved wooden Supergirl, Catco and LCorp logos. Intense bidding wars formed over the majority of items, causing alliances to be formed as attendees agreed to split items in the baskets depending on their preferences. The auction ended up raising around fifteen thousand dollars for the convention, assuring that the convention could continue next year and assured that it will be bigger and better than the previous year and keeping the attendee costs down.
The convention also hosted several rooms where people could hang out ranging from the party room to the quiet room, depending on attendees’ preferences. The party rooms were packed after the main convention had ended for the evening, allowing people to continue to make connections and talk about the fandoms they love late into the evening. Those who needed a break from all of the excitement could hang out in the designated quiet room to unwind. The convention suite was also open during the convention for DIY panels as well as various card and video games that attendees could play with. Having so many options allowed the convention to be a customizable experience and everyone could get as much or as little as they wanted out of the convention.
TGIFemslash allowed attendees to sit in panels with the fan fiction authors and fandom personalities that shaped their fandom experience, as many of them were there to discuss the fandoms they love writing and participating in. TGIF/F also made it easy for new friendships to form by bonding over their shared love of fandom and fan fiction. The convention suite had several sheets of paper adorning the walls that people could share fan fiction recommendations as well as a prompt box where anyone could write down prompts for fan fiction authors looking for their next story. There also was a swap table that people could drop fandom related goods and somebody else could take home to add to their growing collection. A frequent occurrence throughout the weekend was an attendee mentioning an obscure movie or TV show and having several people yell back in excitement about it. If there was a topic an attendee was interested in, they were guaranteed to find at least one other person to talk to about it.
The final panel of the convention called “Thank God I Found Fandom” is the longest and most poignant moment of the weekend. All of the attendees sit in a circle and talk about their experiences. Though everyone has different backgrounds and deeply moving stories, the overlying message is how important this convention and fandom is to them. Most of them talk about how safe they feel to be themselves or how they’ve found their best friends or significant others through this and previous conventions run by the organizers. The people who have never been to one of these conventions before talk about how welcomed they were into the growing community despite not knowing anyone prior to the weekend. Participation was not a requirement, but many attendees spoke and pushed the scheduled two-hour panel to three hours. The panel is a huge indicator of how important fan created spaces such as this one are, especially to marginalized communities such as the LGBTQIA+ community.
The need for fan created LGBTQIA+ fan spaces is especially apparent given the events of the past year. The first TGIF/F convention was held in February last year in the same hotel. The most discussed shows among several single-fandom panels were “Person of Interest” and “The 100.” Two weeks after the convention a worldwide discussion about representation in the media, particularly the bury your gays trope, was sparked by a series of LGBTQIA+ character deaths that started with “The 100” and included “Person Of Interest.” The mass shooting in Orlando was also a huge blow to the LGBTQIA+ community that had a major impact. Many people in those fandoms found support and comfort within their own community and emphasized the need of responsible media representation and fandom spaces to bring people with similar interests together. This year’s TGIF/F expanded the discussion of the importance of representation in the media of people of all sexualities, races, genders and religions and emphasized the need for the community to create their own content so that their voices are heard.
TGIF/F may not be a traditional convention, but it is still a meaningful one. It would be best described as a weekend long celebration of femslash both canon and fanon and the fandoms that bring people together. The convention emphasizes a safe space and welcomes everyone who loves femslash. While you won’t get a photo op with your favorite actress (though you can get a picture with one of the cardboard cutouts around the convention), you still get a very rewarding and fun experience. TGIF/F also allows for crucial discussions about media and how we want to be represented in it. Everyone is able to have their voice heard and the community continues to grow as newcomers join the found family of the convention. There will continue to be a need for welcoming and open spaces created by fans and for fans that bring them together to talk about the topics that mean the most to them and TGIF/F will be hosted again in 2018 to provide that space.