Press Release: June is recognized as Pride Month in the United States and abroad, which is what prompted the staff from one of Michigan's fastest-growing events to announce their plans to become a designated "Safe Space".
Starting June 1, Shuto Con, an anime and popular arts convention of Lansing, revealed their newly-recognized status as an event with zero tolerance for harassment.
"Ever since I first started our convention, I wanted to create a place where fans of all walks of life could get together and celebrate their dedication to fandom without worrying about being judged and harassed by others," said Stefanie Shall, founding Chairwoman of Shuto Con, going on its third year.
Advocates for Youth, a sexual education advocacy group, defines Safe Spaces as, "a place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability."
In addition to eliminating gender discrimination, Shuto Con staff will attempt to put a stop to any hurtful speech or actions directed toward attendees of their April 5-7, 2013 event. Included in the plans to support their Safe Space initiative are increased security staff, policies against discrimination, and safe rooms where attendees can go if they are feeling harassed.
"Even within our own self-built communities, there is a constant source of harassment that has turned many people away from doing the things that they love, like cosplaying which is the Art of Costume Play, and I felt it was time to stand up and end the harassment that is being put out by like-minded fans." said Stefanie Shall.
Stefanie and her husband, Joe, both serve as leaders to the event, and have witnessed unchecked bad behavior at similar popular culture events, as avid travelers to similar shows nationwide.
Together they made a commitment to have their convention be a place where attendees respect one another, reflected in the attitude of their staff on issues of harassment and hosting panels including "It Gets Better", modeled after the viral campaign to prevent suicides in gay adolescents.
"We plan on featuring our 'It Gets Better' panel as a headlining event for our 2013 convention, and one of our lead Voice Actors, Greg Ayres, is set to host it again. This panel will be open to the public, and will be the only event at our convention that you will not need a Membership Badge for. We wanted to do this so the youth of Lansing could come in for free and hear a famous Voice Actor tell stories about personal struggles with his own life, hear stories from participating attendees in a hate-free environment, and help all overcome their own struggles by providing a Q&A time." said Stefanie.
Additional information about Shuto Con and Safe Spaces can be found at: http://shutocon.com/safespace.html