In January 2018, HavenCon creator Shane Brown announced that the fourth convention, held that April, would be the last for the state’s first and only geek and gaming convention dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
Qmmunity reported on HavenCon’s then-supposed fate, and at the time we believed the convention had been put to bed once and for all. Well, dear qweeahs, we’ve since been informed HavenCon is indeed alive and well and, come this April, HavenCon 5 will glide through our galaxies yet again.
HavenCon’s newly minted board chair Kathryn Gonzales, who began working with the convention in 2017 as their official youth liaison, explains: “Last anyone was aware, Shane had decided – for health and personal reasons – that the fourth year was going to be the last year.” According to Gonzales, the HavenCon team was disappointed but understood Brown’s reasoning for calling it quits. But within months, Gonzales says Brown and the team eventually rallied to keep the convention going, and so began a conversation on how they could tweak and fine-tune future events, specifically the 2019 convention. Somewhere along the way, however, Gonzales admits that “Shane was very deeply hurt” and ultimately decided to resign. “Again,” reiterates Gonzales, “with this idea of focusing on his health, personal stuff that he needed to get taken care of, and acknowledging … that he felt he was starting to be boxed out.”
Suffice to say, there has been some blowback within the qmmunity since Brown’s resignation. “I don’t know that all the healing is done yet, and I don’t know if it ever will be,” acknowledges Gonzales. What she does know, though, is that the new team is committed to moving forward. “Like I said multiple times from the stage of HavenCon, Shane started a family, it’s important that the family stay together, that we continue to offer that feeling of home. … So we’re going to keep doing what it takes to do that.”[image-2-right]
The new HavenCon board – along with an executive director, officer director, and a team of dedicated volunteers – has been hard at work revamping this year’s convention. Last year’s festival favorite Tracee Cocco (Star Trek) is a confirmed guest for HavenCon 5, and Gonzales says to expect more announcements regarding panels, vendors, and guests in the near future. (Stay up-to-date by subscribing to their newsletter via their website.) While it’s unusual for cons to bring back the same guest again and again, Gonzales says Cocco – who identifies with the LGBTQ community – has always been popular among the queer geek and gaming crowd, even for Gonzales herself. She recalls, “My family is mostly conservative, and at one point somebody was like, ‘How did you turn out the way you did?’” Her response? “‘You sat me in front of the TV and I watched Star Trek for 18 years. What did you expect was going to happen?’” For Gonzales, and countless others, seeing a queer person on the Enterprise was life-affirming.
Initially, HavenCon 5 was planning to feature a new program called House of Haven, combining sci-fi, geekdom, and cosplay with drag culture via year-round local drag shows and culminating in a final showdown at the convention. Unfortunately, due to changes in staffing, it’s unlikely House of Haven will continue, but shout-outs are due for HOH prelim winners Alexander the Great, Dandy Velour, and Drew Hart.
At the end of the day, says Gonzales, HavenCon 5, just like its predecessors, will be a safe haven where Austinites and folks from all across Texas “can come and be geeky and queer at the same time – they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
HavenCon 5 touches down Fri., April 19, through Sun., April 21, at DoubleTree Hilton North, 6505 N. I-35. (Gonzales also notes that the hotel has been a wonderfully supportive partner in HavenCon’s lifetime.) Weekend passes and tickets are available online. $15-600.
Interested in becoming a sponsor, vendor, artist, or moderator for HavenCon 5? You can submit an application on their website at www.havencontx.org.
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