Tag Archives: fanfics

Scared? Representation vs. Cultural Appropriation

The last few days have been very frustrating for me.

Maybe it is the pull of the moon making me feel so off centered. Perhaps I am responding to the building national tensions in the U.S. Maybe I need to take a damn iron suppliment and do some selfcare.

Either way, there have been quite a few events in the last few days that have inspired me to take a long look at racial representation in fanfiction.

The spark that finally set off the brush pile building up within me, each stick representative of a casual racist comment – each as dry and tasteless as the last – was when I saw the following data from Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen on Twitter.

If this horrifying breakdown wasn’t enough for you, someone actually responded to this by saying:

“And if a white person were to write a book like that, you’d cry #CulturalAppropriation, right? Where then are the books meant to come from?”

I will not be listing their name. This is about more than one person.

This lovely person seems to be intentionally ignorant on the definition cultural appropriation and, perhaps even more alarmingly, seems to be living under the assumption that the statistics of authors who identify as races other than white cannot rise to take the place of the white authors who are currently dominating the field to obtain equal racial character representation (if we approach this with the understanding that this person is bringing to the table: that you can only write characters belonging to the same race as you. I’d personally be very interested to know what animal is writing 27% of our children’s’ books…).

Now boys, girls, and nonconforming pearls, we get to the point:

THE BOOKS ARE MEANT TO COME FROM ANYWHERE LINDA.

Ideally we would see a rise in racial representation among children’s book authors too, but as for the books themselves, they can be written by anyone who recognizes the importance of representation. Especially for the kiddos.

Most fanfiction is not something that a child would be interested in. No one wants to be read angsty Drarry before they go to sleep at night. Not even me.

However, the ideology behind the infamous comment is something that we, as fanfiction readers and writers, can address.

The difference between representation and cultural appropriation is incredibly important here. As a white author, I strive to ensure that my characters are diverse and not harmful to any groups. It is a complicated, scary road to walk, but I know that practice and collaboration will ensure that someday all stories will be naturally inclusive.

Cambridge Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

It is hard to nail down what cultural appropriation is, exactly. Cultural exchanges are natural and have been happening since people dispersed enough to have distinct cultures. However, cultural appropriation can be very harmful, especially when the culture being appropriated is a minority group that has been oppressed or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.

As fanfic writers and readers, we all understand the concept of plagiarism. Think of cultural appropriation like plagiarism: if you do not acknowledge the community that you are taking things from, you are gaining and giving nothing in return.

This is doubly important if you are privileged, and are able to use that to draw attention to a marginalized community in a positive way.

After taking the time to really learn and inform themselves, white authors of children’s books could use their power, influence, and privilege to share diverse stories and, by creating a place in their niche for these stories, plow the road for authors from within those communities to have a space to give voice to their own experiences.

I do not have a racial breakdown of fanfiction writers; it would be very helpful if I did. Certainly, a huge percentage of fanfiction features white characters and white main characters.

It is hard to say if this is because a majority of fanfiction writers identify as white and chose to feature white characters, or if it is the result of a mainstream society which, by and large, features white characters. Perhaps a combination of the two.

Roughly Three-Quarters of Film Actors Were White in 2014

SOURCE: USC ANNENBERG’S MDSC INITIATIVE

Want to read some more scary stuff? According to Maya Salam with the New York Times, researchers at USC found that of the top 100 films each year from 2007 to 2017 (that’s 1,100 films in total), representation of women, people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people and the disabled has remained overwhelmingly stagnant.

“Women have never accounted for more than 33 percent of speaking roles in a given year.”

Maya Salam

In short, the representation we see in terms of freaking anything through Hollywood is abysmal. However, as I will state time and time again, fanfiction is about giving a voice to the voiceless and providing some really beautiful representation.

When mainstream media fails anyone, fanfiction is there to help.

It stands to reason then that fanfic writers need to do a better job at including/identifying marginalized people in their stories.

I am guilty of this too.

After just ripping into J.K. Rowling last week for having a gay character in seven books and never indicating that he was gay, I’ve been doing some uncool shit also.

Oh hypocrisy, thou art mine only friend.

My upcoming novel, A Sherlock Holmes Tale of Deep Dark Intrigue (Also Murder) features a black John Watson. He is not the only attempt at inclusive representation I have in the book, however I have released not one, but two fanfics so far that include these characters, and I have made no mention of John Watson’s race.

This is problematic because then the representation that I am seeking exists only in my head *cough* Rowling *cough*.

Due to the original books, and almost every adaptation after, my readers will be assuming that Watson is white.

So it is easy, you see, for even good intentions to fail miserably when it comes to representation.

I am going to take a few steps back and examine how I can do a better job at this. Perhaps read some articles on how to write diverse characters well (I will share any good ones I find over social media if you want to explore this with me).

Looking back at the original graphic, the one that shows that just 23% of children’s books are written about characters who identify as American Indian/First Nations, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American, African/African American, I hope we can all identify the same troublesome statistics running throughout the fanfiction world.

This is a problem because fanfiction is the haven that people turn to when the larger society fails them. It is a place for everyone to feel welcome and, in order to achieve that, everyone needs to be represented.

I think it is to easy for writers to fall back on what’s always been done. What we know. There are no shortage of tales of white experiences out there. We got it. Yet so many stories seem to feature a mostly white cast almost on default.

To combat this, I spend a lot of time with my stories planning ways to make it inclusive and broadly representative.

I would be very interested to hear how you think we can increase representation in fanfiction. Please share in the comments below.

Call to Action:

We all need to be discussing this issue in order to create lasting change. There are so many individuals in the fanfiction universe, each with unique approaches and ideas. Only together can we be impactful.

Please share your thoughts below. We can tackle this problem.

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M.




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2019 Book Blog Discussion Challenge

To who it may concern:

Please consider this post the internet version of me throwing my hat in the ring. (I look pretty dumb in hats, so I really just store them in my bag for this exact situation; I go through a lot of beanies but it is so worth it.)

The 2019 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight was something I stumbled upon by chance, but I am incredibly excited about it.

At first, I wasn’t sure if fanfiction had a place here.

But this is exactly what M. Grace is about! Spreading the good word of fanfiction for all to hear. Proving that fanfiction has a space amongst the literary genres.

And this is exactly what M. Grace does. We write articles to inspire discussion around the issues relevant to the fanfiction community. We seek to promote a conversation in a space dedicated to representing the world of fanfiction, and all its contributions to the mainstream culture.

So if you are new to M. Grace, I encourage you to check out our news section and help us frame the discussion. Together we will explore the world of fanfiction and collaborate to advance the idea of fanfiction as an art form to the public.

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M.

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Move-In Day

The new roommate situation was going well.

Of course there was the residual awkwardness, at least on John’s end, that came from moving into a space that felt like it belonged so entirely to someone else.

John didn’t know very much about Sherlock Holmes yet, but this flat seemed to him like a perfect reflection of the man’s soul. Parts of it were organized extensively. There were beakers in the cupboard that seemed to be arranged both by size and glass thickness, impeccably clean, yet there were dishes in the sink and sprawling all over the counter, most with dried chunks of food and many that were busy cultivating colonies of mold.

A final look around the room confirmed to John that there was not a single place in this flat for any of his personal affects. It was probably for the best, he thought to himself. A lifetime of army life had left him with sparse few belongings, and he doubted he would really be staying here long enough to settle anyway.

However there was something about Sherlock Holmes. A magnitude. An electrifying excitement that, when he was truely animated, John felt like a small planet being swept into the orbit of a larger star.

John shook his head crossly, as if clearing the clouds from his mind. Such folly. He was no young boy, staring star struck at the tall shadow of an imposing general standing in his parent’s entryway. He was a grown man, a veteran of wars, a hero according to some.

Mr. Holmes may be an oddity, but he was hardly captivating.

Sherlock himself was currently sprawled across the sofa, clothes rumpled and hair falling down to cover his face.

John had come downstairs from unpacking his room to find the man like this, and to be honest, he was a little concerned that the way the man had his face shoved into the cushion would result in his slow, embarrassing death.

The rise and fall of the man’s back was slow. Too slow. Was he getting any air?

“Mr. Holmes?” John inquired somewhat nervously, a childish quake in his voice that had him clearing his throat abruptly.

“Sherlock?” He said again, more firmly.

No response.

He supposed this was one way to get a flat to himself.

Walking over a little to quickly from the kitchen – he was not nervous – John reached the other side of the couch and crouched down, shaking the man’s shoulder with the intent to wake him.

A muffled groan and Sherlock tossed his head so that he was facing towards John. He was clearly still passed out, eyes moving below thin lids covered with spidery blue veins.

John was frozen.

This man, this strange man, was incredible to look at. His face was slightly lined with age, the indents on his forehead indicating a life spent deep in thought. His skin appeared very fine though, and his features delicate. John knew that he himself might be called rugged, if someone was being kind, but Sherlock was the epitome of aristocratic English beauty.

Hair laid across the man’s face, covering half an eye and part of his nose. Unbidden, John’s had swept it back behind an ear. Sherlock’s hair was thick and possessed a slight wave that, were it wet, John thought the man might be able to get it tied back.

When his hand had returned to his side, John flushed.

He couldn’t believe what he had done. How… improper.

Jumping away from the couch, he gathered up his hat and coat, abandoning his walking stick in his haste to leave the flat.

The soles of his shoes hit the stairs with some large measure of force. Really, it was a miracle he didn’t fall down them hat over expertly shined heel.

The front door took but a moment for his hand – his damnable hand – to open, and he was out.

As John rushed down the street in search of a nearby ale, he missed entirely the large shadow that now stood in the window of 221B Baker Street.

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The Two Most Idiotic Men in the World

John and Sherlock continuously ignore ‘moments’

The first time that John and Sherlock met, neither of them really noted the other. In fact, if you asked them today, they would have a completely different story of their first encounter. 

The truth however, is usually not what either party thinks it is. In this case, the truth involves a particularly rainy night, a single coach, and an inadequate overcoat. 

***

John Watson was walking rather quickly down the street, broad shoulders hunched inward in a way that made the usually imposing gentleman look like he was in possession of a much smaller stature than he had. His brow was furrowed in frustration and his hat was pulled down low. 

It was scarcely eleven, and already the establishment he had been at had asked him to leave. His buddies had jeered for a moment, but quickly settled back into their cups when the owner had turned to them, ready to throw more men out.

It was true that John was the most rambunctious man in the place, but wasn’t it just his luck that he should have been singled out amongst his peers, who had been nearly as loud and disruptive as he. It seemed like ever since he has gotten back to England, he has had nothing but poor luck. 

To top off the night, the weather had taken a turn and he found himself in a simple overcoat, ill prepared for the rain and bone-numbing chill of a London night. 

He shook violently, drawing his coat even tighter around himself. Little good it did him, the wool was soaked through and heavy, clinging in all the wrong places. The damn thing would doubtlessly shrink, and be entirely useless to him. 

The alcohol he has so joyfully imbibed so excessively just  a little while ago now left him feeling cold, dizzy, and very down in spirits.

Truly, there could be no man in the whole of England who was more miserable tonight than he. 

***

Speaking of more miserable men, there was in fact one such soul. Sherlock Holmes, who found himself once again in an unknown part of the city, was striding through the lamplit streets, eating up the blocks rapidly with his long legs and drug fueled vigor. 

The last few days were a blur, and Sherlock felt as terrible as he looked. His dark hair was matted and much to long, falling about his face in wet strands. A thick black coat was wrapped around him firmly, his only solace on the nights he was unable to return to his flat and ended up sleeping it off in an alley. 

Tonight though, he had a single thought. He needed to return home. He didn’t know what drove him so. Perhaps it was the drugs – an obsessive thought that had wormed its way into his skull and proceeded to push through piles of grey matter to the front of his brain, squashing any other impulses that arose. 

He felt violently ill, the high receding along with his boundless energy. He wasn’t quite sure where he was headed, but he was sure that he didn’t have the money for a coach. It grew more and more likely that tonight he would stay in this unknown neighborhood, and wake to the light of day just as lost and penniless as before.

He passed a lone man walking rather aimlessly, and was quick to go around him. This hour of the night saw all sorts of undesirables, of which he readily recognized himself as one of them. However, Sherlock had never needed the rob another person, nor felt the need to harm another. The same could not be said for everyone else out on these streets. 

***

A driver sat upon the front of his coach, nearly asleep. The steady rain and late hour left him wishing for hearth and home. While his attire kept him warm enough, his horse looked damn near frozen and there hadn’t been a single person yet who found themselves in need of a ride. Perhaps in a few hours he would make his way down the seedier parts of town to try and catch the drunks who still had money in their pockets and were in need of a quick drive home, but for now it was to risky to sit and wait in that area. 

Gregory, the driver, considered himself a godly man. He was an honest soul who had never had real cause to fear the things that haunted the imaginations of more sinful men, but he shivered to his very bones when a tall figure pushed through the dense fog not more than ten strides from his carriage, and made towards him. 

The gaunt man was wrapped in a thick black coat, falling well below his knees. His face was drawn, pale and dirty. His face was clearly fine boned, but had strayed towards the skeletal. Cheekbones stuck out like knives, and his eyes appeared dull and sunken. 

He was shivering slightly, but Gregory chalked that up to the cold night. 

No longer in motion, the figure was no less imposing but slightly more pitiful. He has stopped by the driver, just slightly in front of the carriage but not yet close enough that Gregory was worried that he would grab him. The man swayed where he stood, uncertain what to do with his hands as they fiddled with the sleeves of his coat. 

“Never expected to find a driver at this hour,” The man rasped. 

Gregory pulled himself up straighter, now entirely awake. 

“Yes well, ‘er I am. Are you in need of a ride sir?”

The man’s hands continued to pull pointlessly at his sleeves. 

“I was hoping to get a ride towards the tower,” His eyes darted left, no longer holding Gregory’s gaze. “Only thing is, I haven’t any money on me.”

Gregory gave a long suffering sigh. Of course.

“But Detective Lestrade is an colleague of mine, and were you to deliver me to the yard I am sure he would pay you.”

Certainly, Gregory thought to himself, a detective would pay for this bums travel fare. That seemed as believable as the Queen emerging from the fog next. 

Before the weary driver could tell this man to shove off, another figure appeared from the fog. 

This man seemed the direct opposite of the wraith currently hovering near his coach. This man was considerable shorter and broader, and walked with none of the violent sure-footedness the first man had possessed. This man was slowly winding his way towards the pair, hat pulled low, and breath doubtlessly foul with drink. 

“What is going on here sirs?” He mumbled, in a very amenable way if you’d ask him, still a distance from the pair. 

Then, a bit louder, “Has this carriage been spoken for?”

Finally. Drunks paid well, had they the ability, and Gregory would be sure to get his money up front. 

“Not at all friend. Where are you heading?”

The tall man was staring only at the ground now, beginning to shuffle his way backwards. The driver had completely dismissed him now, focused on the friendly customer who would no doubt pay. It was hopeless. 

Turning, the man stared up into the sky for a moment, letting the cold droplets clear his mind and wash his tangled hair off of his face. 

The voice of the approaching man carried through the fog, chatting with the driver about the many injustices he had faced this night, and how fortunate he was to find a coach at this hour. 

He heard the slightly slurred voice call out to him as he walked away. Something about sharing the carriage ride, but it was all to easy to simply let his mind get washed away with the rainwater swirling down the street as he wandered off again into the night, following the swirling pools of water as they too rushed down the street in search of a gutter. 

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Drama, fics, and really good pics

: from learning about ships to writing their own, this fanfic writer talks about their Fremione obsession

Hey there ficfans, it’s finally here! A weekly segment I like to call: “A Short Look into the Many Marvelous Fanfic Writers, the Extra Exciting New Things they are Working On, and What Inherently Inspires them” but was forced to cut down to “Weekly Writer” when my friend said she would literally barf if I chose the other name. Rude.

But on with the show!

This week’s writer is new to the scene, but started out strong with an already lengthy and oh-so-popular Fremione fic starring this dynamic couple in a post-war universe, trying to navigate the twists and turns of their new lives. They bond over shared experiences and their old school-day antics, and struggle to define their changing relationship even as evil stalks this peaceful new world.

Even in the Darkest of Times is being written by MischiefProlonged, and has reached almost 70k words in less than a month. This is one author who doesn’t leave their readers hanging!

I sat down (figuratively. Don’t go meeting up with strange internet people, no matter how good the fic) with MischiefProlonged, who explained to me where their passion for this ship came from.

I think that Hermione and Fred are like perfect compliment. Hermione is always seen as this bookworm and then Fred is the prankster. But he is also super intelligent to be able to come up with all of the products for the shop he has, and Hermione can be pretty f*cking devious with all the crap she and the other two have done. So it’s like they both have the same trait but opposite reputations for them.

As MischiefProlonged had only very recently started writing fanfiction, I found myself curious about their new experiences with this crazy world.

I first found fanfiction when a special family member introduced it to me. She told me about ‘an archive of our own’ and then I got bored one day and tested it out. I used to read books, now I just read stories online. It’s a problem.

I’ve mainly stuck with the Harry Potter fandom since then because none of the other books I really enjoy seem to have a large following. Then I started looking up specific characters.

When I discovered people were writing about “ships” (and I learned what a ship was) I really got into it. I love a good romance so I got sucked into my favorite ships and just kept reading everything I could find on them.

I now know everything I ever need to about Fremione. And I still have no idea about the lingo. Someone commented on my story that they “stan” my character and I had to google it. Who the hell comes up with these words? Was it Stan? Can we call something a Kaila? I KAILA your story.

Official motion to begin using KAILA as a term. What will it mean? Only time will tell.

Someone second this motion, fast.

Next, because I am a nosy person at heart, I asked MischiefProlonged why they chose to start writing their own fic. What inspires a new user to write a 70k ode to their favorite ship?

I JUST WANTED FRED AND HERMIONE TO LOVE EACH OTHER LIKE WAS INTENDED.

Relatable.

MischiefProlonged also mentioned their frustration when reading other fanfics. It’s a feeling every fan knows all to well: you want very specific things to happen, and when they don’t, you get frustrated. Isn’t that what inspires all of us, at the end of the day?

I bring an actual f*cking plot line. That’s part of what bothers me with some fanfics is that there isn’t an actual story behind the ship. Like it’s cute at first but it doesn’t make me want to keep reading scene after scene of cute shit. I want an underlying story that will keep me intrigued.

What does the future hold for this budding writer?

In the grand scheme of things fanfiction is just something fun I got into because I was bored. It has developed into more of a hobby now that I’ve started writing my own, but it’s not something that has changed my life by any means.

I really enjoy reading other people’s stories but wish that if they started writing then they would finish it. One of my favorite stories was updated three years ago and I’m pretty pissed about it. Can I just finish it for them? I’ve got some ideas…

Oh the agony. I still cry over my favorite unfinished fics – floating forever in the land of misfics toys.

Given that I just discovered the fanfiction life a few years ago, I don’t really know where this is heading. I am mainly just a reader who comes out of the woodwork when I’m bored to gorge myself on stories.

I’m not usually one to comment on people’s stories, though now that I am writing my own I may have to start.

I think if more people got into it that would be cool because it would give me more stories to read!

My my.

So after flying through the twenty chapters currently posted of MischiefProlonged’s fic Even in the Darkest of Times, I was dying to know what is going to happen next.

Instead of begging in the comments for updates like I normally do, I had the opportunity to just flat out ask them!

Unforuntatly for us all, MischiefProlonged was not keen to share to many deets.

With my current story, I just want to keep writing until I think it can be the end. I don’t have a specific ending in mind, just certain scenes that I can write about. I’ll make ’em fit chronologically somehow.

Also who knew that smutty scenes were so much fun to write?

I’m not sure if I’ll ever write another story after this one honestly. I just love my current characters so much that if I wrote another story it would just be them doing different stuff.

Okay maybe I will write that.

That sounds fun…

Ah, the tentative wonderings of a writer who hasn’t quite realized how addicting it is to write fanfiction. It brings a joyful tear to my eye.

Any last comments, MischiefProlonged?

Can you make me famous? I feel like I could be famous.

MischiefProlonged

Honestly, after reading that wonderful fic, I believe you really could be!

I will be following MischiefProlonged on AO3, because I am eager to see what they do next!

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Well, that’s a wrap on the Weekly Writer. Be sure to check out MischiefProlonged’s fic.

Also can we give them a shout out for those amazing photos?!

Follow me too! M. Grace. The fanfic activist. Keep track of this site’s adventure’s by clicking that follow button.

Check us out on Twitter, Insta, FB (lords why), Pinterest… we are everywhere. Like AI robot spies O.o

.

M. Grace

Fanfiction is a Revolution

There are moments in life where you discover something, and are for a time unware of how profoundly it will affect you.

For me, fanfiction was one of those discoveries. (Some things that didn’t even come close to making the list were crossfit, ice fishing, and rollerblading. Ew)

A fun discovery slowly became an irreplaceable part of my world. At first, the lingo was confusing, site navigation baffling, and the smut shocked me. I struggled to find my way, but once I found it I never looked back.

Now I am a veteran of thousands of fics read, hundreds of authors followed, and dozens of my own baby-content out there for others to enjoy.

Smut doesn’t really shock me anymore either. Good? Bad? Who can say.

But what is fanfiction, Auntie M?

If that is what you are thinking then I just have one question for you… how did you find this website? No really, I am wondering. Email me.

Anyways.

Fanfiction is where a creator takes the characters or the story from a piece of work that they love – maybe it is a TV show, a movie, a book, a play, etc. – and makes their own world.

Occasionally, people will take inspiration from more than one world, and that lovely unicorn is called a cross-over.

Of course, most everything that can be written already has been. Vampires? Been done. Does that mean that every book written about them since Bran Stokers’ Dracula is worthless? Of COURSE not.

Fanfiction is taking elements from someone’s story and making them your own.

Every creator brings their own wonderful interpretation or world view to a work, which refreshes old stories and re-inspires the public to love them.

It is really beautiful, when you think about it.

After all, what young teen cared about Dracula before Stephanie Meyer brought us the breakthrough hit Twilight? (Oh, there will be more on this subject later -_-) After that craze, the market was flooded with vampire books. The success of Twilight, inspired by Stoker’s universe, brought back the excitement of vampires.

Essentially, I am a passionate supporter of fanfiction being far more widespread than most people give it credit for. It is not a small niche interest group on the internet; it is a cultural phenomenon that shapes the trends we see in our movies, TV shows, books, etc.

Consuming Fanfiction: A Guide

I could write a really detailed dictionary of fanfiction terms, but that would bore everyone except me. So if you have questions, I encourage you to email me, or just head on over to AO3 or Fanfiction.net and start exploring!

The only advice I would give is to be watchful of the tags on each fic. If you aren’t looking to read something violent, sad, or otherwise potentially harmful to your well-being you can steer clear of those works. There is something (thousands of somethings) for everyone.

Fanfiction and Me: A Love Story

To me, fanfics do an amazing job of capturing the essence of our society. They lack the generic appeal of mass-marketed media, and represent the wonderful diversity of our world.

Fanfics are written by anyone for anyone.

They are written by all sorts of folks with a myriad of different experiences and identities. These intersectionalities provide readers with a truly endless glimpse at the breadth of human existence.

Something that I have always valued is how fanfics represent queer culture more completely than I have ever seen before. The fanfics that I read as a baby gay were the first positive representation and community that I had experienced. Seeing my favorite characters re-imagined as people that reflected my own identity was unbelievably impactful. They showed me that my experiences were not odd, or unusual.

Take Harry Potter for example. The fandom of fandoms. A book series that overtook my generations’ imaginations. Through fanfiction, we can see these classic characters firmly represented as people of color, queer individuals, and so much more.

So, if you are a person who finds yourself in need of an ally, fanfiction can provide that for you.

When I needed a space to find myself, fanfiction allowed me to do that.

It has unequivocally made me a stronger person. It gave me the language to describe what I was feeling as a young queer person and gave me a community of people to reach out to. This level of representation does not yet exist in the mainstream, but damn it folks, we will create our own representation.

The more time I spend thinking about this, the better I feel about that thought. It’s more accurate that way, don’t you think? This beautiful grassroots movement of people creating and connecting, providing spaces where people can feel affirmed?

We don’t need a boardroom full of Hollywood shot-callers to approve our stories. WE approve our stories, and we will never stop telling them.

M. Grace