To support the March Drive we asked a few members of our community to write a guest blog about their views on the OTW. Thank you to Cecilia Tan for contributing this post!
I’m not good at staying in the closet. Pretty much my whole life is about not letting myself be shamed by society into hiding who I am or what I do. In my earliest life, that meant I never hid the fact that I was “into” science fiction and fantasy. In my childhood, thing like Star Trek were only for the nerdiest of nerds. Then along came Star Wars and it gradually started to change.
Later, it was my sexuality that society didn’t want to hear about. In college I came out as bisexual, later as kinky, and later than that as polyamorous. All things that various segments of society say one shouldn’t be or do. However it has been a steady march over the past two decades of activism on my part and that of others towards greater and greater acceptance of “alternative lifestyles.” I live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal and where what was once an entirely underground, private BDSM scene now supports events where thousands of people show up. Things are gradually changing.
But I put myself in a closet of a type in 2006 when I started putting my Harry Potter fanfic online. I’ve been a professional fiction writer for twenty years now, and much of what I’ve written is explicitly erotic. In particular I’m known for being a kind of pioneer in mixing sf/fantasy and erotica. But when I started putting my fanfic online (which I’d been writing for a while “on the side”), for the first time in my life, I used a pseudonym. Granted, it wasn’t a very difficult pseudonym to crack: “Ravenna C. Tan” has “C. Tan” right there in it, no? Yet you’d be amazed how many people “find out” that I’m Ravenna C. Tan and are utterly amazed themselves. The very fact that people assume that there’s no way Ravenna could be me only proves my point, that fanfic isn’t something that “pro” writers are supposed to do. Or, if they do, they’re not supposed to ADMIT it. That’s what makes it a closet.
Once I started thinking of it as a closet, I couldn’t stand to stay in it any longer. If what I’ve stood for as an activist all my life is truth of self-expression, especially the freedom to express how we love, then the freedom to express how we love a book or a film has to count, too! So I linked my two Livejournals. I started speaking on fanfic panels at the science fiction conventions I traditionally speak at. I started using my real name without fear.
A huge part of being empowered to take that step, though, was the Organization for Transformative Works. In the same way that gay rights organizations help empower people to come out, and groups like the New England Leather Alliance help people to embrace their kinky side, the OTW showed me that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t nuts for wanting to write fanfic for a hobby when writing fiction is my day job. (What, like ballerinas aren’t allowed to dance at weddings or go to dance clubs?) Flying the fanfic flag was something to be proud of.
Now I’m trying to pay it forward. I’ve gained so much by playing in other people’s sandboxes: fun, validation, a place to develop and grow as a writer, community, great friends, feedback, and did I mention fun? It’s only fair that I encourage others to play in my sandboxes, too. I originally joined the OTW under my fanfic pseudonym. I recently re-joined under my real name, Cecilia Tan, and declared my own original fiction open for ficcing. Thanks, OTW! Keep busting down the closet doors!