Ampersand (glossary term)
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An ampersand (&) is commonly used in fandom to describe a character relationship that is gen, as opposed to one that is sexual and/or romantic. (In describing the latter, the symbol "/" should be used instead.) Gen relationships include those that are familial, collegial, or platonic in nature.
The distinction is particularly important when the characters involved are close family, where a sexual interpretation of "/" means that the relationship is incestuous. However, the use of "&" also differentiates between colleagues who simply work together and those engaged in an office romance, and between platonic friends and friends-with-benefits.
The distinction between "/" and "&" is notably significant in exchange fandom, since there are many gift exchanges in which matching is done on pairings. Some exchanges allow only "/" pairings; others allow both "/" and "&". If someone requests an "&" relationship, this means that they want to receive a gen story in which the relationship between the characters is depicted as non-sexual; the rules of such exchanges require their assigned author to write the characters in genfic. If, on the other hand, someone requests a "/" relationship, their author must include a significant level of romance/smut.
Exchange fandoms distinguishing "/" and "&" relationships in the tagset:
- Black Is Beautiful
- Chocolate Box
- Fandom 5K
- Gen Freeform Exchange (allows only "&" relationships and individual characters)
- Hurt/Comfort Exchange
- Space Swap
- Turing Fest
Debates have arisen regarding whether emotional non-familial relationships that are neither strictly platonic, romantic or sexual, most notably queerplatonic relationships, should use an ampersand, "/" or something else entirely. Many creators will use both.