The following is a list of things I should never, ever have to say. As someone who attends many, many cons for professional and personal reasons, it should be noted that I, in fact, almost never have to say them.
Yet, every single one of the issues raised below transpired at this year's Lunacon (either to me directly or as reported to me by people I know and trust or loudly in the same room I was in), often more than once, and it's just simply not okay.
To be clear, I blame none of this on the con staff or organizers, who continue to be lovely and gracious people. Nor is this directed at my friends old and new from this year's event.
With that in mind, consider this an open letter, that I will no doubt be adding to over the next few days.
1. Cons are crowded.
Please bathe. Note: hanging out in the swimming pool does not count as bathing. Despite chlorine, other people appreciate it if you are relatively fresh before you get in the pool.
Please wear reasonably clean clothes.
Please be aware of how your scent impacts others -- this includes not wearing lots of perfume. Lots of people have allergies and chemical sensitivities.
2. Cons attract diverse audiences, including members of the LGBTQA community.
It is not appropriate to shout "lesbian!" at a woman, regardless of her sexual orientation.
It is not appropriate to assume that lesbians are there for your pleasure and entertainment; as such, do not ask them to kiss, engage in an orgy, or otherwise amuse you. No, I do not care that you were "only joking." When you engage in this conduct, you are in the wrong.
Similarly, I don't care how much slash you read or write, queer people do not exist solely for your masturbatory convenience.
It is not appropriate to inquire to a trans person you do not know as to whether they've "cut it off yet" -- WE DO NOT GOSSIP ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE's SURGERY (and this goes for all surgeries for all people, not just those related to trans folk).
Do not mock asexual people. Asexuality is a valid orientation, not a defect.
3. Cons attract diverse audiences, including people of different relationship styles.
It is not appropriate to assume that just because you are [insert relationship style here] other people are too.
It is not appropriate to imply that the way you conduct your relationship(s) is the best way and that everyone else should follow your example.
It is not appropriate to insult other people's lifestyle choices.
It is not appropriate to encourage other people to break their vows and promises.
It is not appropriate to break your vows and promises; if you must, please don't do it with an audience who is then put in a terrible ethical position because they know the object of your betrayal.
4. Cons attract diverse audiences, including people living with disabilities.
Do not pet a service dog when it is working.
Do not pet a service dog without permission when it is not working.
Do not bitch about wheelchairs and scooters.
Do hold the door for people of all abilities -- it's polite! (this raised controversy -- I mean "hold for the person behind you" not "run ahead and open" -- discussion here)
If you are physically able to navigate stairs and encounter a crowded elevator, please allow people who have to take the elevator to board first.
5. Cons attract diverse audiences, including people of a wide range of ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds.
Do not mock other people's religious garb.
Do not assume someone is sexually available because of the ethnic or racial category you think they fall into (hell, don't assume someone is sexually available, period -- but the particular event that sparks this remark is the most shockingly appalling thing I've heard in YEARS).
Do not say racist crap to anyone. Saying racist crap to people you presume to be of the same racial group as yourself? Still offensive, because with any luck, they are anti-racist and PoC allies. THERE IS NO SAFE SPACE FOR YOUR RACISM; get over your shit.
6. Cons attract people of all shapes and sizes.
Do not tell people how to eat.
Do not make assumptions about why people are the sizes they are.
Do not say "real women have curves." While I understand the size-positive origin of this phrase, statements that begin "real women" or "real men" are inherently offensive. You don't get to decide whether another person is "real" or not.
Your personal aesthetic preferences are not facts.
While we acknowledge that eye-contact is not comfortable for everyone in this community, please don't avoid looking in people's general direction. People exist. Please acknowledge that as best you can.
7. While in many ways cons have different standards of behavior than other social events and groupings:
It's still appropriate to wear shirt and shoes in an eatery. Please fucking do. (Bare feet turns out to be a bigger and more complicated topic than I had any idea of -- more here)
It's still polite to introduce folks when groups encounter each other. People are wearing name tags -- it's not that hard.
DO NOT TOUCH PEOPLE WITHOUT PERMISSION. Even if you know them.
Do not tell people how to stand, what facial expression they should wear or what other aspect of their personal conduct that does not violate standard social norms of courtesy and respect they should modify to please you, especially when you have no actual friendship or other positive history with them.
Not all public displays of affection are appropriate for all public spaces. Do not hump in the lobby. Do not flog people in crowded corridors. Just because something is not explicitly on this list, doesn't mean it is AOK.
8. An explanation for inappropriate behavior does not excuse it. An explanation does not absolve you of saying sorry, nor give you permission not to attempt to learn from your mistakes.
9. Do not hover on the edges of a conversation you are not a part of for thirty minutes! Either interject relevantly in an attempt at social networking or go away. Understand that you are not entitled to anyone's time, but that it is also reasonable to expect people to be gracious with you, even if they do not wish to engage in discussion with you.
10. The hotel staff are people with jobs. They are not your servants, slaves, or sex-toys, nor are they robots or other objects without feeling. RESPECT THE HOTEL EMPLOYEES (and tip the housekeeping staff).
11. If you are on a panel you are obligated to prepare for it. This goes doubly for panel moderators.
Make out a list of bullet points you may want to address.
If you have been assigned to a topic you don't know anything about, don't feel comfortable addressing or are not interested in discussing -- be proactive, either by asking to be removed from the panel or doing research in advance. Not showing up or showing up and derailing the panel are not okay.
Respect the moderator.
Do not insult the other panelists.
Do not insult the audience.
Be on time.
Plug your work only as relevant.
Be gracious. If you have a beef with someone's behavior, address it post-panel if at all possible.
Try to be useful to your audience. You are there to serve.
Silence your cellphone.
12. If you are attending a panel be a courteous audience member.
Do not fall asleep. If you are about to fall asleep, go to your room or the Con Suite. (note: as was pointed out to me, this is not useful or polite advice in cases of narcolpesy -- good info at link).
Do not listen to your iPod.
It's rude as an audience member to interrupt panelists. Raise your fucking hand.
Do not raise your hand and keep it up for twenty minutes starting before the panelists have even introduced themselves (meanwhile, if someone does this at a panel you are attending, try not to come to fisticuffs with them in the hall over it post pantel).
Do not talk.
Disagreeing with the panelists is fine; do not insult them.
If you think you might need or want to leave the panel early, please sit in the back.
Come prepared with questions the panelists will be thrilled. Note: a speech is not a question.
If you are attending a panel for which you suggested the topic and are not a panelist, do not try to moderate the panel from the audience.
Respect moderator requests to move on, especially if you have brought up an adult issue during an all ages panel, something illegal, or something which, while legal, might be an extremely triggering topic (e.g., child sex robots) for the panelists.
Silence your cellphone. If it rings, turn it off. If you must answer it, leave the room. If you are using your mobile device to Tweet, take notes or other relevant activity, try to be sensitive to others about it (in a darkened audience, sit in the back -- the screen glow is a bitch)