The Flaming River Con fosters, showcases, and celebrates LGBTQ+ geek voices

Prizm News / September 3, 2019 / By BJ Colangelo

Earlier this summer, I had the distinct honor of speaking on the “Queer Fear” panel at San Diego Comic-Con. As I spoke alongside actors, filmmakers, and critics to discuss queer representation in horror films, a panelist made a comment that sort of infuriated me. I’m paraphrasing, but she expressed believing part of the difficulty getting queer stories greenlit is because “you have to think about the states in the middle of the country who don’t always identify with these stories.” I immediately leaned into my mic (the only person on the panel not hailing from Los Angeles) and said, “Y’all, I’m from Ohio. We have plenty of queer people who don’t just identify with these stories, they need them.”

Photo courtesy of Flaming River Con

An unfortunate reality is that a hell of a lot of cultural trendsetters live in a misconstrued reality where the lived experiences of anyone living between the coastal cities are ignored in favor of an “idea” of how we as queer folk really live.

Enter: Flaming River Con.

In 2017, Brittney Orcutt founded Flaming River Arts (FRA) with a goal to “foster, showcase, and celebrate LGBTQIA+ voices and the community, and combat bigotry by increasing the visibility of queer and marginalized persons within geek culture.” In addition to the yearlong events, FRA is ramping up for the second coming of their flagship event, Flaming River Con.

Photo by Lumos Photography

The Midwest’s premiere queer geek convention, Flaming River Con is dedicated to LGBTQIA+ geek culture, focusing on queer vendors, art, comics books, zines, podcasts, panels, and workshops. This family friendly event is free to attend (suggested $7 donation), and completely accessible for all.

“This year’s con is going to be bigger and queerer than ever,” says Orcutt. “We feel very honored to spotlight our more marginalized persons within geek and LGBTQIA+  communities.”

Some of Flaming River Con’s panels include “Cosplaying While Black,” “Asian Representation in Media,” “Toxic Masculinity and Comics (featuring Tony Isabella the creator of Black Lightning),” “Afrofuturism,” ‘Drag Queen Story Time,” “Comics and Mental Illness,” and so many more.

Last year, I spoke about queer representation in horror at the first show and this year I’ll be giving a lecture called, “Children of the Night and Other Bloodsuckers: The Coded Queer Representation of LGBTQ+ Folx in Vampire Cinema.” Sure, the Cleveland Public Library isn’t as big or flashy as the San Diego Convention Center’s iconic “Hall H,” but there’s a sense of relief knowing that this convention is by us and for us.

Flaming River Con is September 21st in the Louis Stokes Wing of the Cleveland Public Library at 325 Superior Ave E from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more by going to their Facebook page.


BJ Colangelo is a social emotional theatre teaching artist with Cleveland Play House and a professional horror film journalist and theorist. Her work has been featured in publications like Blumhouse, Medium, Playboy, Vulture, Birth.Movies.Death, Bloody-Disgusting, and has contributed essays to the books When Animals Attack!, Creepy Bitches, and Hidden Horror 101.