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One Comic Con in Florida Reverses 'Drag' Cosplay Ban But Others Worry

TF Con , the Transformers Comic Con being held in Orlando, Florida has decided to reverse its reluctant policy on cross-dressing cosplay.

TF Con is the Transformers Comic Con set to be held in Orlando, Florida on the weekend of the 20th to the 22nd of October, 2023. It is expected that Robert Kirkman, Daniel Warren Johnson and Skybound may be turning up to promote the launch of the new Transformers comic book line being published by Image Comics. But they may have wanted to check just who'll they'll be dressing up as.

The TF Comic Con In Florida Reverses Trans Cosplay Ban
Photo from BotCon by Doug Kline from 2011, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The TF Con website initially told attendees "Due to Florida state law transgender individuals using a restroom consistent with their gender identity in a government building such as an airport can be charged with criminal trespass. The law doesn't apply to private businesses. Due to Florida state law cross-dressing will not be permitted as part of the cosplay contest or at the convention."

Basically, that would mean no woman attending the show could dress as Optimus Prime. This comes after an interpretation made by the show of recent Florida state law aimed at drag performances that will heavily fine venues that allow children access to "adult performances", with the definition of such being rather vague.

After considerable comment online, the show amended its policy to read "After careful consideration, we don't believe that cosplay at the convention would break any Florida state law. TFcon is a place for ALL fans to enjoy and harassment of any type will not be tolerated. If there are members of the LBGTQ+ community that bought tickets and feel unsafe attending TFcon Orlando this fall please email to request a refund."

Previously, the furry convention Megaplex being held in Orlando in September, stated that this year's convention will not be open to under 18 year olds, posting "after reviewing Florida SB 1438 it has been decided that for legal reasons and protection of our attendees, our venue, and the overall convention, Megaplex 2023 attendees must be 18 years of age at the time of registration pickup. Megaplex has welcomed younger fandom members and their families since its inception and making this change was very difficult. The Code of Conduct has been updated to reflect this change and emails are going out to those affected. While this change impacts the 2023 convention, it is unsure if this will have to continue for future years. It is our hope that this change is temporary and that we can welcome members of all ages back next year."

That was seen as a situation not representing other shows, but I understand that TF Con's earlier decision gave some events pause to consider the issue. Especially those hosting cosplay masquerade events, where cosplayers take to the stage to show off their costume creation, which often feature cosplayers dressing in a gender opposite to that of their usual identity. One organiser told me that it is possible that cosplay may be allowed but open cosplay displays, gatherings, that in any way consist of a performance may fall foul of the new law, depending on whether or not you interpret cross-dressing as "adult" or not. And they are looking to see how other shows handle the matter. It looks like we may have a summer of comic convention precedents to set.

Anime Festival Orlando 2023 kicks off today and has split its cosplay shows into two, the all-ages Happy Happy Cosplay GO GO GO Cosplay Contest and a 18+ Cosplay Contest. Bold Matsuri, a cosplay event next week in Jacksonville is specifying All-Ages cosplay events and the Cosplay Central Crown Championships take place at the Florida Supercon the week after.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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