Identifying Individuals in the Cosplay Community Who Promote a Healthy Atmosphere
There's been a LOT of negativity going around lately, what with cosplayers, photographers, and voice actors being called out on their predatory behavior. This is a sadly true fact that absolutely breaks my heart. This is why I work so hard trying to be inclusive and helpful to my fellow nerds and want to continue promoting a healthy environment for future generations. I want this to be a great, thriving safe place for everyone to enjoy. But, I can't always be there standing over your shoulder telling you, "Hey, this is a bad mamajama." I wish I could, but it's not in the realm of possibilities for me. But I can give you advice on how to identify individuals worth giving your time to, to help promote a healthier atmosphere not only for you, but others as well.
I've been in the cosplay community for 12 years now, and it's really easy for me to see who to avoid in this day and age, but for those just now joining, or haven't been in very long, it's probably not as easy, and that's alright. Reading people is difficult and takes some toning. Even I still mess up and will befriend people who turn out to be really big jerks that do terrible things. So, the first thing you do, is start talking to the person. If they give you a bad vibe, you are more than welcome to walk away. Tell them goodbye, find your safe friends, and ignore that person. That is the easiest way to get rid of a toxic person. There may be a little backlash, but as long as you haven't done anything terrible, you should be fine. If you have done terrible things, own up to them and apologize. Rectify the situation and learn from your mistakes. I haven't been perfect in this, but have been trying to be better.
If they pass the initial test (not super creepy, friendly, have things in common), you add em on social media, right? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. It's alright to do a little snooping. See what they post. Are they messages of hate towards groups of people (homophobia/xenophobia/etc)? If not, see how their other interactions are online. Do they constantly beat down others? If so, are you standing up for them? These are all questions that may not be answered immediately. Just like with a romantic partner, friendships usually have a "honeymoon phase" where everything is perfect. This person could quickly become your best friend. So the toxicity may not show immediately. But, if you don't do your best to try to help this person be better as well, you aren't being a healthy part of the community.
I have been silent before when it came to bullying, and that isn't okay. It absolutely is one of the worst things I could ever do. In my younger days, I even participated in the bullying. That's such an ugly side of me. I don't like that I was like that, and it's why I work so hard to be the best I can be and also lift others up as well. Everyone deserves a chance. If you can, because I know it's difficult, try to stand up for yourself. No one can tell you you are worthless, because that's all false. You have so much to offer to the cosplay community, as well as the world. And you can't listen to the haters. We have to be better to ourselves so that we can be better for others. And there are some people we just can't change.
That being said, if we remain silent, we cannot expect anyone to change. If we do not speak up, we cannot end the cycle of suffering for victims. Like the aforementioned predators, they were able to do their harm for YEARS before the victims felt they could stand up and speak. And it's because most of them were bullied. A dear friend of mine was harassed by the really popular (and not in a good way) Voice Actor almost 10 years ago. She tried coming forward and was bullied by the VAs fangirls because they didn't believe her. Most of the time, victims won't lie about their situations. I have never lied about mine. But she honestly thought that she was hallucinating it all or that it never actually happened because of all the bullying and hate she encountered by trying to come forward. She is finally realizing that her story is similar to so many others because they finally felt safe enough to come forth.
If one person warns you of someone being toxic, recognize that and maybe avoid the person. Especially in the STL community, we have a lot of drama and a lot of toxicity, so finding out who is and isn't worth being around literally takes a two minute conversation. I'm not sure how easy it is with everywhere else, but hopefully it is that quick and painless to find these people. You also can't always believe everything you hear, but remembering that there are two sides to every story is crucial. Unless multiple people come at you with very similar stories. Then maybe believe them. As you read this, I hope that you take it pretty close to heart, but also recognize that it isn't the end all be all. Humanity is such an interesting factor for so many variables and therefore cannot be clearly defined by one person.
We as a community have to stand together. With all these huge scandals going on, it's absolutely torn apart the family that we've built. But we have to stand with one another and believe our victims. Finding those shining, wonderful people to help create a better tomorrow with for everyone. If you find those friends, those are the ones you have to hold onto. Be the best person you can, both for yourself, and for them. Everyone deserves love and compassion. You deserve love and compassion.