Why stories are important, and how fanfiction helped me find myself


This was my first tattoo:


I had it done over a year ago in honour of my pen names. The blue jay needs no explanation, and my fanfiction pen name is a variation of ‘freebird’. I also thought the image of the bird flying from the cage represented the freeing of my creativity. But at the time, I wasn’t ready to admit that my debt to fandom was even greater than that. Now, with hindsight, my choice of tattoo has even greater personal significance and here’s why…

Yesterday was an incredibly important day for me. I travelled to London for an appointment at a gender clinic. At that appointment I was given the go-ahead to start physical transition, a process that will gradually take me closer to where I need to be on the outside, in order to match what’s on the inside.

While I was in London I met up with a wonderful friend for lunch. This friend is someone who I had only met once in person before, but who I have connected with online for years because of our mutual involvement in the fanfiction community. During a conversation over lunch I told her about the fundamental ways in which being part of fandom has changed my life for the better.

Through fanfiction I unlocked my creativity, the start of a process that has led to me writing for a living. Before that, I never realised I had the kind of imagination that could create characters and stories. It wasn’t something I’d ever attempted before.

Through connecting online with other fandom people, I discovered an amazing community of queer people and their allies, a space where it was okay to be different, where love is love


Through a fanfiction story, I discovered my true self — the self I’d buried so deep I didn’t know he existed. The story was about a trans man, and when I looked at him I saw myself. It took me a few more years to dig through my denial and find the courage to go after what I needed, but that story set me on the right path and gave me what I needed to find my way.

So, it seemed fitting that I should be sharing part of my momentous day yesterday with someone I know from the fanfiction community. And our conversation made me realise how much I have to be thankful for. Thank you fandom. Thank you to the creators, the readers, the friends I found through you, and most importantly, thank you for giving me the missing piece in the puzzle that was me.

About Jay Northcote

Author of LGBT romance. Trans (he/him), Parent, cat herder, professional procrastinator.
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20 Responses to Why stories are important, and how fanfiction helped me find myself

  1. Alexa Milne says:

    Fanfiction changed my life too. It brought me to writing and fandoms and many online friends who know more about the real me. Good luck with everything.

  2. naelany says:

    it’s funny how things can work out from something like that, isn’t it? I’m glad it helped you so much 🙂 I’m proud of you

    • It’s amazing. Makes me think the Universe has a plan… Thank *you* specifically for betaing one of my very first fics btw. I think it was for a contest where I couldn’t enter unless it had been beta read. I put out a call for help on Twitter and you replied 🙂

      • naelany says:

        I did? I’ve beta’d for so many people, it’s hard to keep track lol. But you’re welcome, I’m glad I was able to help, even in a little way 🙂

  3. I’m so happy that you were able to find the you that you had buried so long ago. This community has been a source of continual love, support, and help for so many of us, and I’m so grateful it brought me to you.

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  5. paulinejon says:

    Through fanfiction I entered a whole new world. I made friends who a travelled thousands of miles to meet and I met you just 100 miles away. It’s great to see some of my favourite authors replying here. I wish you as smooth a journey as possible through your transition to who you were always meant to be.

  6. dawnsister says:

    I think a lot of us out there owe the unlocking of our creativity to fanfiction, reading and writing it. I discovered the M/M romance genre because I was searching for better/happy ever afters, rather than the horrible fates so many same sex couples seemed to be given in films at the time. I was overjoyed to find so many that thought along the same lines.

    • Yes! I’d always had a fascination for gay fiction but hated how much of it ended tragically. I was so glad to find HEAs in fanfiction, and then in the LGBT romance writing community.

  7. Tamara Henry says:

    Hi Jay

    I consider you a huge inspiration to everyone. I applaud your bravery and I wish you well on your journey.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

    A huge fan Tami

  8. Ariana says:

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful moment, and I am sending you my heartfelt wishes for your journey ahead. <3

    I recently discovered that we share the fandom you're talking about. It also had a huge influence on my life, and although it was not as profound as in your case, it really helped me to overcome a very bad time in my life. I met some wonderful people I'm still in contact with (one, funnily enough, I'm going to meet in London in a couple of weeks time). And it was through this fandom, I found my way to m/m romance, to GR and in effect to your great books!
    Thank you so much for those!

    • Sorry I missed replying to this before. Thank you for your comment and best wishes, and I’m glad that fandom helped you through a difficult time too.

  9. Eve says:

    OMG I had no idea,
    Good luck &
    Thank you for sharing
    & my apologies on misgendering you these past like 3 years
    May Peace & Love be with you 🙂
    — Eve

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