The geek community surrounding Salt Lake Comic Con has not been a pretty place for the last several days, in the wake of the announcement, via Facebook poll, that the convention was thinking of inviting author Orson Scott Card as a guest. Card has spoken out against the LBBTQ+ community since the mid 1990s, and his hateful rhetoric has been extremely damaging to many marginalized people.
Utah is a very conservative state, but Salt Lake City itself leans much further toward the middle. The culture of the city is built on a foundation of the counter-culture of the extremes that surround it. The local breweries make fun of the state with their names, while winning tons of awards. We have a huge Pride celebration every year, and a judge struck down the ban on gay marriage months before it went to the Supreme Court. That being said, Utah has some of the most vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth in the country. Teen suicide rates in Utah almost doubled between 2011-2016, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens attempt suicide at four times the rate of straight teens.
Salt Lake Comic Con has gone out of its way to try and bring in as many people from as many walks of life as possible. At nearly every convention, there have been panels for the LGBTQ+, talking about gatekeeping within nerd culture, feminism, and more. The con has always strived to make everyone feel welcome and they’ve done a good job of it thus far.
However, when the possibility of Card coming was announced, to say that it didn’t go over well would be an understatement. There were many threads all over social media, some in closed groups and some open to the public, that got very nasty where even confirmed panelists for the con were getting kicked out of the closed group for the panelist for stepping over a perceived line. There was a meeting between SLCC management and several prominent panelists from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. It got ugly with a lot of hurt feelings, mostly on the side of a community that already has a high suicide risk.
It seemed to all stem from the idea that Card could use the platform to share a much more “tolerant” message, but it was unclear if those were his true motives. The last time Card attempted to express a more tolerant message was right before the Ender’s Game movie came out. This new desire to right wrongs would be happening about a week before Card’s new television show Extinct comes out, and he has a new book hitting on the 10th of October. The timing speaks volumes about Card’s true intentions.
Late last night, Salt Lake Comic Con made the announcement that Card would not be attending the con in several posts to a couple of different groups and people involved:
“As many of you know, there was the prospect of Orson Scott Card coming to #SLCC17. We put it out to the community for feedback and we got it. Mr. Card is not coming to #SLCC17. Thanks for your input. We know there were strong emotions on both sides. Let’s move on and get ready to celebrate a great Fifth Annual Salt Lake Comic Con together with respect, unity and diversity.”
This is a victory for the people who were against Card in the first place, but much like all fights, this is one that many people aren’t going to forget. There were some truly terrible things said to people behind closed doors, things that no one is forgetting anytime soon, and there is a cut on this community that isn’t going away. It’s a cut, it will heal, but there will be a scar remaining. It’s one that will fade over time, but it’s never really going to go away. We’ll always remember how we got it.
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