I had never heard the term “queer” – in a positive context, at least – until I was a freshman in college. I never saw Paris is Burning until the year after that. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit collected dust in the back of my bookshelf, lest my Catholic mother catch a glimpse of it and keel over in shock. My exposure to queer art and media as a teenager was limited, to say the least. Even with the endless resource that is the Mighty Internet, the sheer volume of information out there overwhelmed me.
However, being a giant nerd, I went to the next best thing: slash fiction.
A fantasy and science fiction fan since I was a kid, I’d been reading fan fiction since the fourth Harry Potter book. Slashfic, which features same-sex characters in romantic pairings, was only a click away.
On a cloudy evening in 2009, over twenty-five women, including myself, crowded into a cramped hotel room in Philadelphia. In their day-to-day lives, they were housewives, college students, archeologists, lawyers, nannies, and sign language interpreters, but that night, they were all the same thing: fan girls. Specifically, they were gathered for MiniMerlin 2009, the first unofficial fan convention for Merlin, a new Arthurian legend-inspired show on the BBC. Out of desperation to gain some semblance of order in the midst of this gaggle of chattering fans, someone popped in a DVD and shouted above the din, “The vid show is starting!”