Online fandoms have come a long way since the halcyon days of the internet, when the only way to find people with similar interests was to load up a GameFAQs message board on a sluggish dial-up connection. Nowadays, though, all it takes is a quick search on Reddit, Discord, or (RIP) Twitter to find millions of fans for every niche imaginable. Unfortunately, these size of these groups has led to toxicity, whether it’s Genshin fans bullying voice actors for being “cringey” or Lord of the Rings fans raising hell because the new series has black people in it. But at their best, fandoms can produce beautiful works of art, forge lifelong friendships, and give a sense of community to those sorely needing it. The LGBTQ+ anime fandom may not be the biggest or most notorious one out there, but to me, it is extraordinary.
For me, finding queer fandoms on the internet feels a lot like trying to find the right cliques in high school. While all the jocks and preps would converge at the cool kid’s table, I drifted away to hang with the nerds, metal-heads, and theatre kids. In the same way, queer fandoms live on the peripheries of social media, and you may need to know people to find them. Queer folks are frequent targets of online harassment, so their groups to be smaller and more private than more mainstream fan communities. That might seem like a downside, but it actually makes the discourse more authentic. When a group isn’t flooded with clout-chasers or kids mindlessly spamming emojis in the chat, it gives people the space to, you know, have a real conversation. What a concept, right?!
Like, I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but my LGBTQ+ friends are some of the most intelligent and imaginative people I’ve ever met. Many of us work in brain-heavy fields like tech and education, or have creative interests like art and music. This has led to some fascinating discussions, like how Neon Genesis Evangelion was inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential philosophy. One time we talked about how the Aegis from Xenoblade 2 was named after the famous shield from Greek mythology, which led to a heated nerd debate on the symbolism of The Iliad. Most people won’t notice or care about this stuff, and that’s okay. But it sure is nice to have discourse that goes beyond “this character sucks/this character is Best Girl” on the internet! (There’s a lot of that too, but you know.)
I’ve also noticed that queer fandoms tend to have more eclectic tastes than straight ones. Mainstream anime discourse centers around current shonen and isekai series geared towards adolescent males. But the LGBTQ+ fandom has introduced me to amazing series in fresh genres: magical girl (Flip Flappers), slice of life romance (Bloom Into You), sports (Yuri on Ice), and new takes on retro classics (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury) A lot of these shows have queer themes, but their dynamic characters and unique perspectives can appeal to anyone.
But the best thing about LGBTQ+ fan communities, in my experience, is their profound empathy. Almost every queer Discord chat I’ve seen has some kind of mental/emotional support thread, where people can talk earnestly about their problems without being judged. Our community faces mental health issues daily; a shocking 46% of transgender deaths are due to suicide. Since mental health care can be prohibitively expensive in America, and many therapists carry their own biases about the community, these spaces are often the only places that LGBTQ+ people have for support. Hate speech plagues the internet these days, which is why it’s vital for vulnerable people to find these pockets of non-toxicity.
To be fair, not even LGBTQ+ fandoms are always sunshine and rainbows (pardon the pun). The biggest issue I’ve seen is gatekeeping; in every marginalized community, there is some jerk-off trying to exclude folks based on impossible standards. The trans community has truscum: people who believe you’re not really trans if you haven’t had “the surgery” or gone through the expensive and byzantine process of getting your name and gender legally changed. (Yes, this is similar to the arguments TERFs make about trans woman not being real women because of X, Y, or Z chromosomes.) Ironically, even though queer folks are often victimized and harassed, there is a small but vocal minority who does the same thing to members of their own community.
Still, LGBTQ+ anime fans and gamers (or GAYmers) are my people, and I wouldn’t trade these communities for the world. At a time when politicians are trying to erode our rights, and you can’t go anywhere without people talking about “transgender issues”, we need a safe space to be ourselves. Queer fans have unique perspectives on the media we all love. And the smaller and close-knit communities can form lifelong friendships, even if only through a screen. These spaces are vital for members of our community, worth discussing, and, most importantly, worth protecting.
I think “wholesome yuri” is my favorite genre. There seems to be too little of that for gay males.
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I agree. Most BL seems geared towards heavy drama which is not really my thing
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