The Queer Affirmation of Fanfiction
What comes to mind when you think of fanfiction? For me, it’s queer representation. Fanfiction provides a way for lgbt+ people to explore and discuss their identities. Many of us find solace in lgbt+ headcanons or canon queer characters in a world that can often be against us. Whether it’s a pridefic or a coming-out story, queer fanfiction tends to give us hope. Hope for inclusivity and taking pride in who we are.
Many people who read and/or write queer fanfiction aim to find or create a vision of LGBT+ safe spaces or explore our queer identities and our experiences of being queer. Some queer fanfiction is written via headcanons of presumably non-LGBT+ characters as queer, while others incorporate existing queer characters, and yet others involve both.
A main reason we, as LGBT+ people, ‘headcanon’ fictional characters or public figures who are presumed to be non-LGBT+ as queer is to feel more represented and seen in media and everyday life, or to create a space in which we can engage with our experiences of being LGBT+. Given the range of LGBT+ identities that exist, and the lack of proper LGBT+ representation in most mainstream media, headcanoning characters as queer is a natural response.
On the other hand, when we consume or create fanfiction involving canonically LGBT+ characters, we appreciate the existence of canon queer characters as well as have a way to explore our experiences as LGBT+ people. Similar concepts apply when it comes to other marginalized identities such as race and neurodiversity.
It is gratifying to make or consume media that represents aspects of who you are when much of the world refuses to positively acknowledge some of your identities. In many places around the world, it is not safe or rewarding to always be open about your identities as an LGBTQIA+ person, so at times, we seek comfort in fiction that affirms and supports our identities.
There are some reasons why it can often be safer and easier to seek LGBT+ representation in fanfiction:
- Fanfiction is often written anonymously, which makes it less likely that creators and audiences will face backlash and censoring for engaging with queer-positive media than is the case with other forms of fiction which include queer/otherwise marginalized representation
- Since it builds on a pre-existing framework of characters and settings, it can be easier to write fanfiction or make fanworks that build a new fictional world from scratch
- Fanfiction is often more discreet than other forms of media such as movies and physical books, and it can therefore be safer for some people to seek queer portrayals in fanfiction
- Queer fanfiction communities online can be a welcoming space for people whose identities are not necessarily accepted in everyday life
Given these reasons, it’s easy to see why queer fanfiction can be more accessible as compared to other forms of fiction containing queer representation. I myself have written LGBTQIA+ fanfiction, both published and unpublished, ranging from introspecting on the experience of an aroace character upon realizing her identity to a fanfic that ships a canon nonbinary character with the reader. Additionally, I have read various fanfics involving LGBT+ identities. I find that at times, it is comforting and healing to me to engage with queer identities through the lens of fanfiction. Other queer fanfiction readers and writers have expressed similar sentiments.
Overall, queer fanfiction can give LGBT+ people a space to be themselves and write about queer experiences. Whether it’s by creating inclusive fictional worlds or finding solace in existing ones, engaging with LGBTQIA+ fanfiction can be a gratifying experience for us.