One of the greatest things about creating fanwork is the ability to tailor the content to something that corresponds to one’s life and way of thinking. This allows for greater freedom to create and imagine, to play with a universe that has already been drawn up for you. It is because of this freedom that headcanons exist. For those not deep into the fandom life, a headcanon is an opinion one holds that they believe to be true even though it is never stated as such in the original media. One popular—though much disputed—headcanon is that Sherlock Holmes, from BBC’s Sherlock, is asexual. I personally subscribe to this theory and have created several fanfiction stories using the concept. My headcanon is that Sherlock is a demi-romantic asexual who is in love with John Watson.
When I was first coming to terms with my asexuality the Sherlock fandom was incredibly important to me. Writing stories portraying Sherlock as asexual allowed me to work through the confusion I had about my orientation and the fears I had for the future, just as reading similar stories reassured me that I was not alone. Unfortunately, in the past five years things have changed in the Sherlock fandom. Discourse has overtaken the tumblr tags and quarrels abound. It no longer feels like the safe place it once was for me. The main battle is between those who believe Sherlock is asexual and those who believe he is homosexual. Both sides are adamant in their beliefs and often refuse to consider where the other is coming from. At the end of the day it is a fictional television show and not as desperately important as people are making it out to be, but that doesn’t stop the arguing. What inspires me to stay in the fandom, however, are the content creators who keep working to show Sherlock as asexual despite the controversy going on around them. Every week new art or fanfiction is posted online for people to enjoy and relate with. And slowly, ever so slowly, fanfiction recommendations are taking back the tags from the discourse, giving hope that the safe place it once was will be reestablished.
During the time that the Sherlock fandom has been overrun with discourse, I’ve had time to explore asexuality in other fandoms. One surprising place where it is embraced is the One Direction fandom. I don’t write real people fiction, nor do I often read it. One Direction, especially Larry (shipping Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson), is my only exception. And one can imagine how surprised I was to see that people are creating stories to deal with their thoughts and feelings on asexuality by using versions of the singers we love. It was exactly like what I’d been doing in the Sherlock fandom. One story that really affected me was “Ace,” by aclosetlarryshipper. She wrote a beautiful coming of age story wherein Louis is asexual and has to come to terms with feeling broken and lost while not wanting to disappoint his boyfriend Harry. The sharpest, most striking piece of the story is when he comes out to Zayn and is met with rejection, a feeling many of us know all too well. I’ll be honest, I cried. I cried for Louis, I cried for me, and I cried for all of the people who have ever felt that lost and alone. Scared and broken.
I think why “Ace” affected me the way it did is because in Sherlock stories you never see that kind of brutal rejection. It is very much a fantasy place where even if John is momentarily confused, people almost never delve into that kind of pain unless it is in past tense with John there to soothe the memory away. Of course, it has a happy ending, but the author makes you wait for it. You really get into the melancholy of it before finally being pulled out by friendly apologies and romantic advances. It is truly beautiful and will stick with me for a very long time.
I am going to wrap this post up by linking you guys to a few stories that I think do a particularly good job of representing asexuality in the fandoms mentioned. One of which, of course, will be the story mentioned above! Even if One Direction and real people fic isn’t your thing, I highly suggest checking it out.
“The Elephant in the Room” by Kantayra
Technicalities by TheMadKatter13
And Not Or by ShinySherlock
The Issue of Cuddling by lavvyan
Labels by Pic_Akai
Black. Two sugars. By solrosan (this focuses on Molly Hooper, not Sherlock, but is one of the best I’ve read)
Looking in the dark (with an empty heart) by starsinoureyes
Ace by aclosetlarryshipper