How Fanfiction Helped Me Embrace My Queerness
An ode to mid-00s femslash on LiveJournal.
In 2004, I was obsessed with a British band called Busted. Every day, I spent one hour after school online – my internet usage was heavily restricted - searching for anything I could find about them from photos to radio interviews to fans’ experiences of meeting them.
This went on for much longer than I care to admit, but eventually, I stumbled across something called “fanfic”, wherein fans would make up stories about the band. After reading the first one, where a fan met the band and was asked to go on tour with them, something clicked inside my brain. There was little chance of me meeting them IRL because they never played shows near me and there was even less chance of them inviting me to tour with them (as anyone who has heard me sing will verify), but I could certainly live out that fantasy on my LiveJournal account.
What fanfic really did for me.
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For about a year, I continued to read very PG content on the family’s desktop computer - the non-PG stuff was (badly!) written in a notepad that I kept far away from my family – but then I stumbled onto a fic where a female reader left the male guitarist for a female TV presenter and I loved it.
You see, around the same time as I became obsessed with Busted, I’d become to realize that I definitely wasn’t 100% straight, but I wasn’t comfortable with it. It could have been the less-than-positive reaction that another girl received when she was outed at my school or it could have been the fact that my family has a strong conservative streak, but either way I figured that, as I still liked boys to some extent, there was no point in bringing it up. Something that unfortunately proved to be a recurring theme in my coming out process.
So, fanfiction was once again an outlet for me. This time, significantly more important. I could read stories about romantic relationships between two female celebrities or even write ones where that girl who played Mia’s BFF in The Princess Diaries wanted to date me. (Yeah, I’m impressed by the accuracy of my gaydar too.) I didn’t have any queer YA lit at home or in the library and I certainly wasn’t brave enough to ask for it outright, so I read queer fanfic on LJ and Fanfiction.net and wrote it secretly.
These queer fanfics showed me that LGBTQ+ people weren’t degenerates, as the people who write the opinion columns of the Daily Mail (Dad’s paper of choice) would have you believe, and they weren’t destined for a short unhappy life, as the majority of crime shows that our family watched depicted. They were – I was – as normal as normal can be. I learnt through fanfic, as opposed to any kind of actual sex and relationships class in school, what bisexuality was and that it was completely normal to feel this way. Now, I knew how to describe myself, if I were ever to come out, which made me feel a lot better*.
Fanfic filled a void that I didn’t know was there and helped me to be happy about my sexuality. It helped me make friends online, who I only knew via their screen names, who were the first people I came out to. This encouraged me to come out to people that I actually knew, like my best friend and, eventually, my family. Fanfic didn’t make me queer, but it made me happy that I was queer.
Why I still read and write fanfic.
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In the years since I first discovered fanfic, a lot has changed. I came out slowly, to online friends, IRL friends, and my family. Eventually, I realized that it coming out did matter to me, whether or not I had a girlfriend at that particular point in time, so now my sexuality is plastered in all of my social media bios for the world to see.
Given that I’m now open about my sexuality and I can easily get any queer lit or other media that I desire, you might wonder why I’m still active in fanfiction. Mostly nowadays, I use fanfic to ”fix” a lack of diversity in my favorite properties.
At first, I wasn’t doing it deliberately - I just thought that Ginny and Hermione made a much more compelling couple than Ginny and Harry – but then I started to realize that there was still not a lot of queer representation in my favorite shows/movies/books. And that pissed me off. Why was I consuming this media if I couldn’t see myself in it?
Thankfully, in the past couple of years, I’ve dramatically increased my queer media consumption, but there are still some shows that I love that need queer main characters. Some have even attempted to introduce LGBTQ+ characters, but the network has straight-washed the characters. So I decided that if I couldn’t see the representation, then I was going to create it myself. If Criminal Minds can’t see that Tara and Penelope literally belong together, then the people who follow me on Tumblr will. I may be a little bitter about the lack of that particular pairing…
I still get enjoyment from reading and write queer fiction, both fan and not, but aside from sticking one finger up at the media companies, I like to hope that somewhere in the world, a young, insecure, queer person is reading my fanfic and realizing that being gay isn’t something that they need to fear. It’s natural, normal, and it can be pretty damn fun.
*For clarification, I identified as bi at 14, but I’ve since learnt more about myself and terminology surrounding sexuality and gender identity. I’m actually pansexual, but I use the term queer because I like reclaiming slurs.