Sunday, August 11th, 2013 08:24 pm
I've seen a lot of people talk about slash fandom as a queer space, but I'm not sure I've seen anyone talk about femslash fandom as one.

When I started out in online fanworks based fandom I identified as straight and had extreme difficulty finding femslash for anything I was interested in. Figuring out where the femslashers are at and figuring out my sexuality have to some extent gone hand in hand, and hanging out with other femslashers has been a hugely positive experience.

Now for me joining "femslash fandom" wasn't like joining, say, Homestuck fandom, where I signed up for the right forum(*) and bam, there was a group of people all talking about Homestuck. If there's a cohesive group of people constantly talking about and creating femslash for fandoms I'm into I haven't found it, though Homestuck fandom comes close. Those who are into femslash more consistently (it's only about 25% of my output) or are into fesmlash dominated fandoms like Xena may have different experiences.

What I have found is loose collections of friends with femslashy tastes, and femslash themed communities like [community profile] girlgay. "Joining" the fandom (such as it is) has meant slowly getting to know and connect with these people via posts, discussions, comments and the creation of my own femslash.

And pretty much every one of these people is queer. Not all are lesbians, despite fannish cliche: not only are there bi/pan women like me, there's also lots of asexual and aromantic women, non binary gendered people of various sexualities and a few queer men. There's also straight men and women, but they're definitely the minority, at least in the circles I usually move in (I have occasionally stumbled into spaces where femslashers are mostly straight men, and I stumbled out again as quickly as I could)

Femslash fandom is so queer that queerness is taken for granted. I found this a bit confronting: One of the main reasons I took so long to identify as bi is that I didn't want to do so until I was sure the label fit, but I couldn't be sure how it fit until I tried it. But now here were Actual Queer Women accepting me as one of their own by default! For the first time, rather than being assumed straight and having to imagine what it would be like to tell everyone I was queer, I was being assumed queer and had to go out of my way to tell people I was straight. Which I did, and people were fine with it, but that moment of "being" queer felt tantalisingly comfortable.

The advantage femslash fandom has over all the other queer majority spaces I could have gone but didn't (like my uni's LGBT room) is that I had an ironclad answer to the question "but if you're straight, why are you here?". A combination of social anxiety and not fitting my subconscious ideas of a Proper Queer Woman means I still get a little paranoid in explicitely queer spaces that people will point and hiss "SHUN THE HETEROSEXUAL". In femslash fandom, as long as you like femslash, you're welcome.

And then of course there's the femslash itself! Stories about women being with women written (mostly) by women for women, something I have craved for as long as I can remember. Like slash it's queer stories that usually aren't bogged down with Serious Business. And through other femslashers I've been introduced to new femslashy or explicitely queer canons, and am now working with other queer women to create our own f/f visual novel. All of this has helped chip away all my internalised heteronormative "But how does a girl with another girl even work?" and has helped me deal with all the erasure and attacks I experience because of my sexuality in the world at large (including in fandom, which even when it's trying to encourage social justice has an unfortunate tendency to equate the sexualisation of women with the male gaze)

None of this is to say femslash fandom is perfect. I imagine it's unpleasant for trans men or non-binary gendered people to be assumed female. We can be smugly superior towards those with less "progressive" tastes (eg anyone who prefers slash (sexist!) or het (homophobic!) or gen (prudish!)) which is pretty unpleasant for all the fans (queer or otherwise) who happen not to be into fictional f/f. I sometimes feel guilty for making "too much" het myself, which is silly. There's gatekeeping within femslash too.

There's also the uncomfortable relationship with f/f aimed at men. I encounter a lot of male femslashers on deviantArt and while they've all been perfectly nice and some of their art is great it still feels a little weird. There's also all the femslashy canons aimed at and/or created by men, which can cause vicious disputes between fans and detractors about whether the work is creepily fetishistic.

And then there's the typical misunderstandings between Western media femslashers, anime/manga femslashers and video game femslashers etc etc.

But for me, creating femslash and hanging out with other femslashers has overall been a really positive experience, and I felt like talking about it. So, now I have :)

If anyone has different experiences I'd be interested to hear about it! Though preferably not just pondering the unpopularity of femslash (either with yourself or with others), I'm kind of bored of that subject and it tends to take over femslash discussion.

(nb I've used "queer" to mainly mean "not straight" since that's the way it's usually used in these discussions, but I don't mean to erase the experiences of straight-but-still-queer trans people. Also I just sat and typed this out in one sitting so have almost certainly forgotten obvious stuff)

(*)shakes cane at newer Homestuck fans who have no idea what I'm talking about ;)

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