Posted by Anushka Maheshwary
I find myself harkening back to this one particular song whenever I am having a particularly hard day, on the days when even getting out of bed and facing the world feels like asking too much of myself. “but like flower petals that will bloom again, get better day by day, get better day by day,” are words that I sing it to myself while making necessary trips to the dining hall, my lectures for the day and the library so that I can cling to some semblance of normalcy as the days pass me like frighteningly gusty winds. In the place that I call home, constituted by love for and of women, I didn’t have an older sister to look up to, one who would introduce me to the ways of the world and in the process also to the world of fan-fiction. So it was only when I was fourteen, and my mother felt the necessity, for the purposes of contacting her at work, to get me a phone with a reasonably good internet connection, at the time at least, that I first came across fan-fiction as such; it wasn’t until much, much later that I ventured into queer fan-fiction.
Queer fan-fiction has been, for me, the site of precisely that creation of a sense of community and solidarity, that has a unique grounding in a love that, in the truest sense of the word, is unconditional and speaks of hope and the possibilities that the future holds for identities under attack, for a people that, in Lorde’s own words, weren’t meant to survive.
I distinctly remember the emotionally exhausting time before I had to take the board exams in twelfth grade, I remember my mother trying to get me to step out of the house so that I would finally get some air, make certain for myself the existence of the world “out there” and my receding to the dark, almost non-existent corners of the house with my phone instead; if anyone were to ask my mother to paint a picture of her daughter I think it would come dangerously close to that “reading fan-fiction in the corner” meme.
There has been, for lack of a better phrase, a pattern to the frequency of my intake of fan-fiction, and it uncoincidentally speaks a lot about burnout in the face of consistent pressure to perform well in class, life at large, to do better than peers. It also inadvertently reads into, heartbreakingly so for my mother, how ill-equipped our communities, even the ones built on the foundations of a deep, genuine love like my home, are to address our mental health concerns, to locate these concerns in our larger social and political context and not to view them as personal failures.
I was reading this article just yesterday on how one has forgotten about one of their most central needs that of the desire for a community that one can meaningfully speak of with respect to a sense of belongingness and solidarity in that mutual sense of belonging. As a queer woman of colour, I was able to locate that sense of solidarity in queer fan-fiction produced by queer fans and fandoms of colour. For one of the panels at flame con, a queer ComicCon held in new york city that I did not have the good fortune to attend, the discussion was centred around the history of queer fan-fiction and the panelists, queer women writers themselves, talked about writing queer fan-fiction as a process that is both an exploration of the writer’s own identity as well as the creation of a canon itself that is caught in an endless loop of creative influence over the popular imagination of characters as such; the text or subtext becoming the site of the revelation of the duality of this process and for those of us reading, a source of strength and hope.
As a queer woman of colour, I was able to locate that sense of solidarity in queer fan-fiction produced by queer fans and fandoms of colour.
Audre Lorde spoke of creating spaces that are grounded in love and highlighted its necessity for marginalised identities, those of us who find locating any space that can be called their own difficult. Queer fan-fiction has been, for me, the site of precisely that creation of a sense of community and solidarity, that has a unique grounding in a love that, in the truest sense of the word, is unconditional and speaks of hope and the possibilities that the future holds for identities under attack, for a people that, in Lorde’s own words, weren’t meant to survive.
If I were to borrow Jose Esteban Muñoz’s distinct style of speaking about a queer utopia to write about queer fan-fiction myself, then one can comprehend this hope, concealed and unconcealed in the texts and subtext of queer fan-fiction, as understanding the nature of these possibilities neither as grounded in some nostalgic past nor as a yet to arrive future, but one that is constantly deferred and delayed- “a utopia in the present”.
One of my favourite stories, and also, not so surprisingly, favourite genre of fan-fiction, has magic woven through each word of each sentence: a story of seven boys, sharing the same names as the seven boys constituting one of the biggest boy bands in the world- BTS, such that one is never too certain of how close these representations are to the boys themselves or whether they are representations at all, each with magical powers of their own. In the magical realism of this world, the magic is simultaneously a real, tangible thing in the story and a metaphor for so many other forms of struggles that shape the way one navigates life and the world at large, bits of one’s identity that tethers to the physical world and how one loves- magic in a sense then becomes a word that barely manages to contain all of this in it; magic, here, becomes a site for coping, tethered to survival.
So I return to these stories, as I return to that song, that speak of anxieties and loneliness and sadness that runs through all of us in a way as we cope with the pressures of navigating through the world all by ourselves, as we’re forced to exist and act individually, but also at the same time of hope and belonging and a manifest sense of community that is central to healing and coping and how the ways in which one loves and the possibilities of that act and process of loving are tethered to one’s identities, to one’s queerness.
I haven’t been to a therapist as of yet, I am not sure when I will work up the courage to, so I am not sure if this bone-deep sadness that I feel coursing through my blood, walking alongside me to class and lying down beside me on the bed even on not so tiring days, is a tangible thing or not; I am not sure what it is, what to call it. However, what I do know is that I am learning to ask for help, to understand myself as more than just the sum total of achievements and failures and grounding myself in and building communities of healing. So as I make my way to my first lecture of the day today, I keep hum that same song, out loud today, as I dare to look up at the sky and let its beauty settle into my chest, and think about healing slowly, in a nonlinear, sense of the word, like a windflower.
Anushka is a queer feminist and student of philosophy, who’s a little tired of speculative metaphysics and a lot in love with queer fanfiction and Audre Lorde.
Featured Image Source: Gaysi