Writing LGBTQ+ Characters

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted here! I’ve been working on a lot as of late, but I’ve finally settled back down to work on my writing, just in time for NaNoWriMo! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be returning every Friday with a new blog post containing advice and fun stuff to help you guys along the way.

To kick things off after my hiatus, I’d like to bring up a subject which is very important to me.

One of the hardest things to get right when it comes to writing is representing characters who are part of a minority group. This includes people in the LGBTQ+ community, writing people of colour and people with disabilities, and many others. As a white, but autistic and trans man, I will be focusing today on writing characters who are in some way part of the LGBTQ+ community.

I’d like to kick things off by expressing my opinion on writing characters from a marginalized group when you are not, yourself, a part of that group. I know that this is an often divisive subject among both authors and readers. Personally, I feel that so long as due research is done, and the author is not trying to educate on issues that they have not personally experienced, there is no problem with including a diverse cast of characters. However, when trying to realistically touch on the challenges these people face, an author should involve a person with firsthand experience. Sensitivity readers are a must.

In the case of including LGBTQ+ characters specifically, I feel that the more we are represented for our own merits and not our struggles, the more we as people will be normalized and accepted in our day-to-day life.

So, the most important advice I can offer for this is; no matter what your characters’ sexuality, gender, or race, treat them as a person first and foremost. Everyone has their own hobbies, goals, wants and needs outside of their gender or sexual identity, all of which are ripe for exploration! If the character is new to the story, perhaps give them time to grow into themselves before coming out. People don’t often get so personal on the first date, but everyone handles it differently.

Secondly, I’d like to reiterate one of my earlier points, to always involve a person from the community you are trying to represent. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, however, it is important not to generalise people’s experiences. When writing nonbinary characters for example, even though I am trans myself, I will always sit down and talk to trusted nonbinary friends. I trust them to tell me if something is offensive, as well as what they like and dislike about my work. Misrepresentation may come in forms that you least expect it to. The important thing is to be open to change, and not to take it personally. I’d do the same if I was writing about a trans woman, or a gay man who just so happen to be cis. No friends? Make some internet buddies, but be cautious; you never really know who’s on the other side of the screen.

Finally, keep in mind that no two people are the same. For example: two queer men may both have been raised in Christian households, but that doesn’t mean they were both ostracised. One’s mom might have cried tears of joy when he told her he and his boyfriend were finally engaged. Perhaps the other never came out at all. One might be a musician now, the other might have found his place as a therapist, helping children come to terms with the same things he had to. If those two ever met, they might never notice the parallels. They might even despise each other. Just because someone is gay doesn’t mean they’ve had to live through a certain struggle. Just because a person is trans doesn’t mean they were always miserable before transition.

In conclusion, there is no rulebook for writing LGBTQ+ characters. It is a difficult thing to get right, and even harder to please everyone. So the important thing is to make sure that writing comes from a place of respect and understanding, and be prepared and open to change.

So basically, what I’m saying is, don’t be J.K. Rowling.

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