How the LGBTQ community can find themselves in fanfiction

My first encounter with fanfiction was spurred by Commander Lexa’s death by bullet wound on The 100. I was an upset high schooler in search of an outlet that could and would tell the stories that Clexa (Clarke and Lexa) deserved. I wanted to find a place that would explore further into their possible stories that could have happened if Lexa had not met her end. I did not know much, if anything, about fanfiction as a medium. I was unaware of the sheer effort and hours of time that go into each work. Yet, when I had nowhere left to turn for the representation I was wanting to see so badly, I was thrown into the platform Archive of Our Own. Archive of Our Own hosts works from over 30,000 fandoms with tagging systems within each individual fandom so users can filter what they want to see, a response to the media overload on the internet that we as a society face each day. I quickly learned I was amongst a passionate community of creators who were interested in telling stories about characters they loved; characters they wanted to see grow in different ways than they were portrayed on screen and in more depth than a weekly show could ever accommodate.

Even today, GLAAD’s most recent Where We Are on TV report shows that queer women remain underrepresented in television as a whole. Representation of queer women of color is even further behind. These characters are rarely the lead of their series or even heavily focused on in the larger picture of the show’s storytelling, save for some anomalies like Starz’ Vida, Hulu's The Bisexual and a vast collection of web series like Carmilla and How to Not. It’s for this reason that fanfiction still continues to reel in audiences who are looking for better or more representation of themselves. Fanfiction gives characters and couples we love the space to grow, and empowers fans to believe that they can lead happy and fulfilling lives even when the characters on screen are not living those lives. Fans have even led movements to campaign so that what holistic representation we do have on screen continues.


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Networks and studios used to issue takedown notices for fanfiction fairly often, but I believe they are now recognizing the power of passionate fans. It is fans’ passion that can actually save television nowadays. For example, Netflix’s Sense8 may not have been fully renewed for a final season, but it did receive a finale special, in large part due to the outcries from fans on losing such an inclusive and relatable cast of characters who organized with petitions, a social media plan, and direct contact. Brooklyn Nine-Nine found success with its own fan outcries on social media, as it was picked up by NBC after FOX canceled the show. And currently, the fans of the cancelled sitcom One Day at a Time are pushing for a new service to pick up the show,and have spurred interest by other platforms in continuing the show. Fans perhaps have more power now than ever to influence the shows they love, and yet, people continue to turn to fanfiction.

When representation has not met the standards of imagination on screen, fanfiction writers can dig deeper into the worlds and character relationships and pull out what television writers refuse to or cannot explore with time, budget or other constraints. These brand new worlds inspire many people in underrepresented communities, and they absolutely inspired me as a high schooler coming into college. At that point in time, I did not know what my life would look like, being a part of the LGBTQ community in this new space I would call home.

It was fanfiction that allowed me to see that happy beginnings, middles, and endings did exist for young queer couples. It allowed me to see myself having a group of friends who loved me for all of me. This was not the reality of the screens in front of me. It was words written by fans that made me feel like I could thrive in whatever environment I entered, whether that was an alternate universe or the world we live in today.