This year I had hoped to attend numerous panels live, but my schedule got away from me. I did though manage to get to one panel live for ClexaCon Virtual 2021, which is one of my favorite panels every year. Each year I actively try to get to the LGBTQ+ Actors panel and I was so excited to see that there would be two panels this year devoted to LGBTQ+ actors. The slight downside for me was that one fell squarely when I had a rehearsal I had to attend. I wanted to share my brief thoughts and wrap up from the panel I could attend for all of you that might be interested in learning what I did.
Set at 7 pm PST on Saturday April 17th, the hosts of Lex Hang Out, Ellie Brigida and Leigh Holmes Foster, headed the panel of five LGBTQ+ actors. The panel was made up of Lys Perez(she/her), Michelle Mary Shaefer(she/her), Jenna Laurenzo (she/her), Shaan Dasani(he/they), and Troy Rockett (he/they). Just to start I will say accessing the panel was pretty easy, I just put in my code and then hit play near start time. There was an ASL interpreter, which I was excited to see was something that was include in I believe most if not all panels based on images I was able to see of the rest of the streams. For this panel there was also a voice interpreter present for Michelle Mary Shaefer.
I listen to Ellie and Leigh weekly on their podcast Lez Hang Out and I already know the two are skilled interviewers. This definitely stood out on their panel as they had not only done their research, but deftly added in questions that had been submitted to them by fans/convention participants. They began by discussing work of the actors on the panel and elements of representation. While I won’t get into everything from the panel, I do want to share some of the highlight moments that stood out to me. In this particular section they learned from Jenna Laurenzo that Lez Bomb was inspired by her family and herself, but the focus was meant to be on the pressure cooker of emotions that is tied to coming out. Shaan Dasani discussed their role on These/Thems and how his character Asher was the heart of the show. While there were comedic moments their character stayed as a sort point of emotion for the series as a whole.
Troy Rockett was asked a fan question in terms of representation and how he feels being seen as someone who represents queer adoptees of color. They mentioned that while they have not really been able to explore that in their acting that he has a project that they are working on exploring that topic with. Michelle Marie Shaefer was asked about whether she saw deaf representation in media and if that influenced her. She said that she never really saw anything and wanted to create that representation. That is what inspired her to create Real, her two episode series that showcases her real life. She did discuss that she does feel limited, even with an interpreter, as this feels like a limitation on her voice and story. Lys Perez discussed her shift into acting and how she felt like she needed to do something during the course of the 2016 election. She wanted to lend her voice to change and felt like by presenting positive representation through acting she could do that. During this discussion she did note that she had the means to make a career shift, but that it was still hard.
The next section of the panel focused on pulling yourself up by your bootstraps to create projects. Jenna discussed coming up with Girl Night Stand and how it went unexpectedly viral. It actually helped with Lez Bomb, which she had been working on for six years. She was able to have doors opened to her with the smaller project. Lys explained that while she has not presented her own projects yet that it does take a group effort to get you into the acting field. Michelle discussed how she had wanted rep to exist that she wanted and that she wanted to show from scratch what being a deaf person was like. Her ultimate goal is to create a television series and is currently working to get some features funded. Shann had worked behind the scenes and when he shifted to acting found himself working a crowdfund, which was exhausting. They have worked to find good representation who have helped to promote them. Tory discussed that they are now working with teams to ensure that there is not just one type of way for the media to present trans people.
Shann and Troy were then asked to speak a bit about trans representation and their thoughts on how rep is evolving. Shann says that they see masc representation being something that is shifting and that those who are masc presenting should not have to fit with rep that that has existed in the past. He also thinks that rep is coming along and is working on his own projects. Troy mentioned just waiting for television to be ready for the beautiful writing that is out there. He is working to promote and create hubs for queer trans stories. They are working to make more and more support and create hubs.
The final portion of the panel examined tips for those trying to enter the realm of acting and production. Shann said that they think that working on your craft is always important. He mentioned working and networking as much as you can. Lys mentioned that she thinks that it is important to examine yourself and promote things that you might not think are interesting. Sometimes the things you don’t expect will really be what helps you build a connection. This then evolved into a discussion of how experiences influenced your identity and Michelle mentioned that through her writing she worked to connect more deeply with her characters and grow through those characters. Jenna mentioned that finding the parts of yourself that you might not really think are important or might actively push against, once you embrace them they could lead to positive things. Shann mentioned how tying into pain and realizing how others connect to that can help with your process. This was then mirrored by Troy who mentioned that feeling joy and being able to fall into a joyful role is creatively fulfilling.
I absolutely loved this panel and am hoping to be able to check out some of the panels when they are made available. While this is the only panel I could cover live I do really enjoy going back and reliving moments from previous conventions. I sometimes just watch previous panels for the fun of it and you can find them on the ClexaCon YouTube channel. You can find out more about all the ClexaCon Virtual 2021 guests on their official website.