When I was growing up, I was introduced to a game called Perfect Cherry Blossom, downloaded onto my computer by a family member. I remember it being very hard at the time, and most certainly not something a young child would ever be able to beat.
Fast forward a few years, around high school, and I found myself stumbling into the same game. I found out it was part of a larger series called Touhou, which was a number of “bullet hell” games that were notoriously hard. Mainly, the games focused on conflicts between humans and supernatural creatures, more easily referred to as “youkai.” The music was amazing, the character design was great (the character art, not so much, considering it was drawn by a single drunk guy) and the stories were interesting. However, what really reined me in was that the entire cast was female.
Yes, every single one of them.
(Okay, there’s like ONE guy but he wasn’t in the games available for Windows anyway.)
Now don’t get me wrong here—I’m not saying I stuck around because I was attracted to them all. I am very much incredibly gay, but these games helped me realize that. More specifically, the fandom for Touhou helped me realize I was gay. (Incredibly gay. Just making sure we all remember that.)
Given that the cast of characters was all female, this greatly affected the composition of fanfiction, which as we all know is one of the three pillars of fandom, along with fan art and shipping wars. Instead of the overwhelming heterosexual pairings one would see in mid-2000’s fanfiction for about any given fandom, every romance-oriented document was tagged with three distinct characters: F/F.
As I read through scenario after scenario of popular and unpopular ships, I experienced something that many people today are still fighting for:
Fucking. Queer. Representation.
The characters were interpreted in a multitude of ways, but as someone blossoming into puberty (read: tumbling down the ugly tree) I was able to see a thousand different queer relationships. Healthy, unhealthy, unrequited, pining, angst, and happily ever afters (Also murder? There were some weird pairings).
This helped me to normalize the idea of same-sex relationships to an incredibly comfortable extent. I began to question the ideals that had been drilled into my mind by society, as well as my own sexuality. I had been told time and time again that boy went with girl, and that was it—there were no other options, and any deviation was ridiculed.
It didn’t help that my only understanding of romance was the heteroromantic variety. I wasn’t quite sure what romance was, considering I had never allowed myself to acknowledge having feelings for guys, and at one point I tried asking a girl out through a letter in her mailbox in class. When she told me no, I crossed out her name and put someone else’s, and then put that letter in their mailbox. Needless to say, it did not end well.
However, seeing an entire community accept and encourage the production of same-sex fiction was something that allowed me to feel better about being gay. It allowed me to sit down and seriously talk to myself about what it meant, and how I didn’t necessarily need to change because of it. Even better, I didn’t have to tell anyone.
It wasn’t until freshman year of high school that I came out to my parents, which was thankfully incredibly easy. They didn’t care one bit. (Well, they did in the good way. You know what I mean.) My family helped me ease into my identity, and through a variety of rocky and unsure relationships, trials, and tribulations, as well as a boyfriend who cheated on me with three other people (Fuck you, James) I settled into what I am now. Incredibly gay, incredibly cute, and still pretty bad at Touhou games.