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.