LGBTQ+ cosplayers show off their craft

Whether it’s a comic book, a fairy tale, a film, television show or video game, most people enjoy some form of pop culture. Sometimes fans showcase that through a T-shirt or bumper sticker, or maybe it’s made clear through their use of social media. Other times they express it through art.

One such avenue is cosplay, a hybrid term for “costume” and “play” believed to originate at the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention in California. Participants known as cosplayers — dedicated fans of any and every skill level — wear costumes that represent some of their favorite characters. It’s a hobby that’s grown into a worldwide phenomenon over the years.

As such, cosplay has long appealed to those who are LGBTQ+ — many of whom have found their community through fandoms, subcultures of fans who share strong interests. The performance art can be used as a tool for cosplayers to express their authenticity, individuality and more.

That’s why Watermark spoke to LGBTQ+ cosplayers throughout Central Florida and Tampa Bay, assembling Avengers and visiting galaxies far, far away to showcase their craft. Here they share why they love what they do, captured by creative designer and photographer Dylan Todd.

George Lewis, He/Him/His

Identifies As: Gay

Cosplaying As: Mace Windu, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”

“I like the process of creating the cosplay. Picking a character, building the costume and the thrill of the first time wearing it out and seeing the reaction when people see it.”

Brian Parsley, He/Him/His

Identifies As: Gay

Cosplaying As: Obi Wan Kenobi, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”

“It’s a fun way to escape reality, flex our creative muscles and meet like-minded people.”

Jazz, She/Her/Hers

Identifies As: Bisexual

Cosplaying As: Harley Quinn, “DC Bombshells”

“Cosplaying has done wonders to my confidence journey for the last 10 years. I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

Naomy D, She/Her/Hers

Identifies As: Bisexual

Cosplaying As: Green Lantern, “DC Bombshells”

“Much of the anime, video games and comics I enjoy have so many characters I relate to and am inspired by. Through cosplay, it lets me step into the skin of those characters and feel empowered by them to feel like I can also be as strong and resilient as them.”

Ash, Any Pronouns

Identifies As: Pansexual, Gender-fluid

Cosplaying As: Catwoman, “DC Bombshells”

“Cosplay is a way for me to express my interest to the people around me and join in with a community. I love to be silly and have fun, and cosplay lets me do that.”

Kitty Paz, She/Her/Hers

Identifies As: Bisexual

Cosplaying As: Poison Ivy, “DC Bombshells”

“I love the people I’ve met through cosplay and it’s never too late to get into it. I didn’t participate in my first cosplay until I was 30 and I’m glad I did.”

Chelsea Hooks, She/Her/Hers

Identifies As: Bisexual

Cosplaying As: Batgirl, “DC Bombshells”

“For me cosplay is about believing in myself. It’s about finding inspiration and creative outlets, trying something new and having confidence in what I’ve built.”

Davi Oddity, They/Them

Identifies as: Pansexual, nonbinary/ transmasc

Cosplaying as: The Mad Hatter, “Alice in Wonderland”

“The countless hours I’m spending creating something special for a look and then seeing the look all come together is the absolute best feeling.”

Sue Cyde, He/They (when in drag, any pronouns)

Identifies as: Queer, trans man

Cosplaying as: Headless Alice, “Alice in Wonderland”

“Cosplay is what got me into playing around with makeup and beginning to create my own costumes; I believe this was the foundation for developing skills that I would eventually go on to utilize in my drag.”

Josh Ashley, He/Him/His

Identifies As: Pansexual

Cosplaying As: V, “Cyberpunk 2077”

“Cosplay is for everyone … I have friends all over the world that I’ve met through cosplay, and I would’ve never met them had I not just jumped into this hobby.”

Lilabelle Quaintrelle, She/Her/Hers

Identifies As: Pansexual

Cosplaying As: Miss Spider, “James and the Giant Peach”

“People who are queer like to play with identity a lot, and cosplay is a really fun way to do that and try on different personas until you find one that you feel comfortable with.”

Charles Parilla, He/Him/His

Identifies As: Gay

Cosplaying as: Scarlet Witch, Marvel Cinematic Universe

“Cosplay is a chance for me to relive my childhood authentically, sort of like a ‘do over’ without worrying about other peoples’ approval.”

Jay Sebring, He/Him/His

Identifies As: Gay

Cosplaying as: Doctor Strange, Marvel Cinematic Universe

“The cosplay community is one of acceptance and self-expression. A place where you can be anything you can imagine without prejudice and judgement.”

Leif Thomas, He/Him/His

Identifies As: Gay

Cosplaying As: Captain America, Marvel Cinematic Universe

“Cosplay brings people together. Emulating one of my heroes feels great, but letting others feel like they met someone they admire is what it’s all about.”

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