My name is Rosie. I’m 22. I grew up in Texas, about an hour south of Austin. I’m the oldest of 4 children; the child of teachers; on my way to be a teacher as well.
I’m a fan of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, of anime and manga, of magical girls and pirates. I’m a fanfic writer and reader, a con-goer and a casual cosplayer. I’m a nerd girl and a feminist.
I like Star Trek and blueberry muffins and really sweet tea mixed with lemonade and cowboy boots and my pet snake and playing N64 games.
And I’m bisexual.
In a lot of ways, my bisexuality is one of the least important things about who I am as a person. In other ways it is incredibly important. Being a bisexual woman changes the way the world treats me, the way our society treats me, and, sadly, it changes the way that fandoms and nerd culture and the media treats me.
And let me just say this: Fandoms, you really suck sometimes.
Before you click that read more, know this: I don’t speak for all LGBTQ+ fans. I speak only for myself, but this is as honest as I really know how to be, and I think that it’s something that should be said.
I don’t say this to be mean, I say this to be honest, and I am about to be really, really honest with you. You suck.
Let me begin with a question: Do you know how many books had LGBTQ+ protagonists in your high school’s library?
I do. There were 5. I know because I read them all multiple times. Geography Club, Rainbow High, Rainbow Road, Luna, and 8 seconds.
You see, it’s hard to be a queer kid. I grew up in Texas, not exactly known for being a safe and welcoming place to the LGBTQ+ world. I was surrounded by peers, classmates, and even teachers who were often very homophobic, very conservative, and did not make me feel safe being openly queer around them. I had it a lot better than many queer kids though. I was never physically bullied, I just had to be careful about who knew. I had to lay low about it, had to pass for “normal” as much as I could. You would think that at least I would be able to, as so many nerdy kids do, take refuge in all those nerdy stories. Have some Luke Skywalker or Jean Luc-Picard to inspire me, the way they inspire so many cliché bespectacled nerd boys. That’s what nerds do right? We use stories as a way to deal with how hard it is to grow up sometimes.
But, here’s the thing about media representation: You don’t notice it when you do have it, but when it’s missing- it is like an ache. I looked around me at every book, movie, TV show, comic book I had and saw no one like me. No Luke Skywalker or Jean Luc-Picard who felt the way I felt and dealt with these kinds of feelings. No bisexual girls. Not even any lesbian girls or gay boys. We, the queer kids, were not heroes or heroines, love interests or best friends, villains or supporting roles. We weren’t pirates or spacemen or cowboys or scientists or superheroes or wizards or jedis or ninjas or chosen ones. We had no place in those narratives. It was like we, the queer kids, were so broken and wrong that no author even gave us a second thought.
To steal a good metaphor from a good friend (thepanicmoon) media representation is like a mirror. You see yourself reflected back at you in a thousand spectacular ways. Except, for queer kids, we have no mirrors, we only have windows.
Those five books in my high school library? I read them all more than once. 8 seconds especially stands out in my mind as a book I must have read a dozen times. It was the tiny sliver of validation, that someone somewhere out there understood these feelings. I wasn’t alone. Fuck, can you imagine how that feels? To hold a a book in your hand, and for the first time ever see someone who feels and struggles in the same way you do? In ways you didn’t even have the words to explain before? In ways that you hide from your family and classmates every single day? Can you begin to imagine?
But I wanted, I needed, more. So I turned to fanfiction communities. It feels like an obvious route really. I was a nerd girl, and here, just a few mouse clicks away, was fanfiction.net and livejournal.com, and thousands upon thousands of stories that had queer characters just like me in them.
Yes, often the stories weren’t very good, clumsily written by teenagers, out of character often and riddled with typos. Sure. But it didn’t matter. Here was Draco, struggling with the same feelings of liking someone but being so afraid to say something because he had been taught all his life that it was wrong. Here was Naruto, in love with his best friend but being terrified that he would be rejected for being a “faggot.” Here was Hermione, wanting so badly to hold Luna’s hand but not wanting everyone else to see because it wasn’t ok for two girls to do that.
You’d think that this was a little fandom oasis for me. In many ways it was.
Well, except it wasn’t that safe after all. Because liking these stories was a tiny step out of the closet, and the fandom was there waiting. Waiting to yell that I was a “pervy fangirl”, that I was “ruining the characters”, that I had “no respect for these stories”, that I was “a bad fan” a “dumb fangirl”, “a gross sick weirdo” who was “dragging the story through the mud.” This was WRONG and BAD and I was WRONG and BAD for wanting these things.
And of course the old favorite “it isn’t appropriate for children.” My existence, my being, I, am inappropriate for children. We can’t have people like me in these shows for kids. That would, of course, be horribly horribly inappropriate.
And I got older, and I saw so much of my own feelings in the shows and books I was reading. Jesus guys, look. Look, here was a man who had a hard time expressing his feelings, who had to look after his little brother, who wanted to do what was right, who liked dorky things and wanted to please everyone, just like me. And he had a “profound bond” with that angel, and Cas was “his boyfriend first” and was “the angel in the dirty trench-coat who was in love” with him. And look, here was all this coding, all these parallels to how I felt, and maybe there was something to this?
And in one of those windows, I began to see a tiny reflection, like maybe this was a mirror after all.
Well, except that it “isn’t that kind of show” and that it wouldn’t be “manly” and that once again I was “ruining the characters” by being a “pervy fan” and I was “Selfish” and “Stupid” and “dumb” and “Delusional” for ever EVER EVER thinking that Dean could be like me in this way. Don’t be so STUPID. Why would Dean EVER be bisexual like you? After all, Dean is normal. “Stop trying to ruin him with your fantasies.”
And when we try to talk about how this hurts us, how it makes us feel like we aren’t wanted and don’t belong, marginalized and insulted in our fandoms, a thousand people leap at us because we are “Whiny” and “overreacting” and “special snowflakes” who take things “too seriously.” We try to see these windows we have as mirrors, and then the fandom throws a stone. And all those almost-mirrors shatter, don’t they?
And it isn’t just Dean Winchester. This happens again and again and again. It happens when we really think that maybe this character will be the one. It happens when we give up hope and just write fanfiction with no hope of it being canon. It happens when we draw fanart or start ask blogs. It happens when we ask for REAL representation.
And sometimes an actor or an author or a director says something hurtful and dismissive or even straight out queer-phobic and a hundred thousand fans LEAP to their defense. How DARE I say that this hurt me? Don’t I know that calling this actor or writer homophobic is MEAN? You see, fandom, you care more about those people than you do about me. I’m not surprised. I’m used to it. After all, I’m not a “real fan” as you’ve told me so many times. I don’t belong in your narrative or your fandom. Not really, apparently.
And sometimes it happens even when it isn’t “all in my head,” It happens when I watch Cardcaptor Sakura and Yu Yu Hakusho. And there is Tomoyo and there is Yukito and Touya. There is there blushing, and their flirting, and their love story. There’s Sensui and Itsuki, and how much Itsuki loves him inspite of the madness.
These are CANON couples, my friends. Touya and Yukito are CANON. Tomoyo’s feelings for Sakura are CANON. Itsuki’s feelings for Sensui are CANON. And EVEN THEN I have had fans turn on me, telling me I was wrong, telling me to shut up, that I was reading to much into it. I had to go and find interviews from the writers, pull up manga scans and translations, trying to show that NO. NO. NO. For real this time, REALLY REALLY LOOK SEE. I swear to god there IS someone like me in this story! Why won’t you believe me?
So you see, fandom, it comes to this: You are supposed to be a safe place. You are supposed to the oasis for all of the mismatched, marginalized, lonely nerd kids out there.
But you aren’t. Not always, and not consistently, not for people like me.
So next time you want to remind us about how “haha lol 2 guys can totes be friends without fucking you stupid fangirls” and you want to tell us to “Stop ruining these characters with your pervy stupidness”, maybe take a second and don’t.