Fandom as… Expression of Gender and Sexuality

“Fandom is female. Fandom is male. Fandom lets female play at being male. Fandom bends gender, straight, gay, prude, promiscuous… Fandom doesn’t care about norms or taboos or boundaries. Fandom cares too much about norms and taboos and boundaries…Fandom knows what you’re really like in the bedroom. Fandom is how you would never, could never be in the bedroom…Fandom is where you found yourself.” ~hesychasm on livejournal

I don’t often start my articles with quotes, Wanderers, but this one – this extract of a larger quote, linked above – struck me. What is it about fandom which allows us to be true to ourselves? What is it about fandom which gives us free reign to take social conventions and throw them out the window? What makes us feel free to cross-dress, to gender-bend, to play with sexuality, to explore parts of ourselves which would otherwise be suppressed, oppressed, hidden away? Why does fandom allow us to move beyond the boundaries set by political and societal expectations and become something more?

The number of questions bubbling in my brain, Wanderers, I can’t even begin to explore or express all of them.

Fandom is a special place for all of us, whether it’s meeting new people, doing new things, or posing challenges to yourself to take your creativity in new directions. Maybe this is why fandom has found a place in so many lives as a path to an understanding of who we are.
Of course, fandom provides us with a literal as well as a metaphorical place to explore who we are: conventions. It isn’t an everyday occurrence that people dress up as their favourite characters and no one bats an eyelid at them.

Taking the opportunity to go to a convention allows you to explore a different side of yourself: a performer where previously you were more back-stage, a make-up artist where previously you were the star, a wardrobe mistress where previously you were the audience. It allows you to experiment and find new skills, develop talents and find ways of making your face into a mask. Convention and cosplaying allows us to become someone else, and for many people this is something which they find extremely liberating.

Conventions, and cosplaying in particular, allows us to divorce ourselves from the reality of our lives. Maybe normally you’re shy, buttoned-up and scared to talk above a whisper. In costume maybe you’re outgoing, vivacious and loud. Maybe being in character allows you to explore what it would be like to be loud and vivacious all the time. Maybe being given that opportunity to play pretend lets you begin to adapt your everyday behaviour patterns. Maybe cosplays and conventions will change your life.

Maybe, Wanderers, fandom is as important to us as it is simply because it allows us to be someone we’re not, just for a little while. Maybe it’s important because it lets us be more ourselves than we have ever been.

So, my question to you, Wanderers, is this: What is it about fandom which helped you find yourself?

Hannah Carter (can’t wait for the next opportunity to cosplay!)

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This entry was posted in Fandom As..., Issue Thirty-Nine and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fandom as… Expression of Gender and Sexuality

  1. mekare says:

    Mmh, very interesting quote and interesting question! I think, just being exposed to so many different concepts and ideas is what helped me grow the most. I am not a cosplayer at all, but reading fic (and reallife experiences of fans) really broadened my horizons and educated me on so many issues. And then of course, there are these instances where you read something which you are not sure you are going to like and end up with “hello there kink I never knew I had” *g*

    Maybe it’s important because it lets us be more ourselves than we have ever been.

    Yep, the main reason: no judgement. (at least usually). Fellow fans are way more accepting than your average neighbour. 😉

  2. Elspeth says:

    //What is it about fandom which helped you find yourself?//

    Slash and yaoi. Hands-down, what helped me find myself as an 18/19-year-old confused about my sexuality back in 2001-2003 was slash and yaoi fanfic and fangirls. I can thank aestheticism.com, minotaur, Harry Potter and Highlander slashers, Weiss Kreuz and Gundam Wing yaoi fangirls, and my all-female & almost-all-queer college anime club for the relative lack of emotional trauma that accompanied figuring out that I was attracted to other women.

  3. Marta Layton says:

    I’m not sure this is the whole story, but a big part of what I love about fandom is it’s intentionally counter-cultural. It’s telling the show creators and book authors and the like: you do not own this story, it is important to me and so I am going to continue on with it and put my own thumbprint on this narrative. So if you’re sick of the Doctor always being male with a pretty, young companion, you make him a her, or you make the companion a grandmother or whatever else. Or you give us a companion that the doctor still knows and respects but who is now a grandmother, like with the Sarah Jane stories. It’s a very liberating way of engaging with these stories. That’s a big part of why I use fandom to explore those parts of me that society usually tells me are best not aired in public: because really when it comes down to it, that’s the whole point of fandom. Or at least a big part of it, for me.

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