Updated: Mar 3, 2019
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
Like many queers growing up in the 90s and 2000s, for me fanfiction was a light in the darkness of self-hatred. Twist and Shout, an alternate universe Supernatural fan fiction set during the Vietnam War, was undoubtedly my favorite. The authors' description of the fanfic is as follows: "What begins as a transforming love between Dean Winchester and Castiel Novak in the summer of 1965 quickly derails into something far more tumultuous when Dean is drafted in the Vietnam War...In an era where homosexuality was especially vulnerable, Twist and Shout is the story of the love transcending time, returning over and over in its many forms, as faithful as the sea."
I've always been a romantic, or more accurately, obsessed with the idea of love and whether or not I was going to find it. I remember from a young age believing that I was never going to find "true love" or a "soulmate." I remember thinking that someone like me could never deserve love. Growing up, I think it's easy for individuals who see themselves everywhere in films, books and television shows to assume everyone else has the same experience. When, in fact, that is far from the truth. Due to a lack of seeing my story told, I used to believe that to be gay was to accept a life of hate and an existence on the outskirts of society. As I've grown older, I've been lucky enough to live in a time where films like Moonlight, Brokeback Mountain, and Carol have changed the landscape of popular media and I'm thankful for that. But I think about how empowering it would've been to have seen art like that when I was younger. Without such art, I turned to fanfic.
Twist and Shout made me feel safer in my own psyche, it gave me hope that my kind of love wasn't a joke or an abomination. It was something to write stories about. There are adorable scenes that fill you with joy, like when Cas and Dean kiss outside Cas' apartment or when they plan a trip to the beach. There are moments where you can feel your whole heart shatter, like when Dean gets drafted into the war. Of course, this wouldn't be fan fiction without the steamy sex scenes. The passages of passion between Dean and Cas seem like fever dreams, they are forever perfect. The setting of this story illuminates the years of discrimination felt by queer individuals. The story reminds us that not too long ago, American citizens were allowed to die for their country, but were warned to never talk about who they loved. I was enthralled and lifted up by being able to see myself in every scene.
Like so many other young queers, I read queer fanfiction as a way to cope with my own internalized homophobia. I used characters I loved as a stepping stone to accept the love I wanted to see in the world, to reflect my hopes about who I wanted to be. I used stories like these to inspire me to be unapologetically queer, to demand representation. Representation in art acts as bible passages read during an exorcism, and growing up as a queer latino man, that meant exercising demons of “machismo” and self-loathing.
I often find myself reflecting on how far I've gotten from the depths of "the closet.” I never believed I would feel pride in who I am and who I love, but lately I've been feeling empowered to celebrate my existence. I want others to know that they are not alone and that there is art which reflects all kinds of love. I want to celebrate our existence. I will forever be thankful for this small work of writing for making me feel alive. As Cas tells Dean, "Don't ever apologize for us." I won't be apologizing either.