Dear straight authors wanting to write LGBTQ Characters,
I think what you’re wanting to do is fantastic! Your own sexual orientation should not determine what sexual orientation your characters are. LGBTQ needs more representation and by authors of all genders and sexualities writing them into existence, you are really helping the cause.
Many straight authors write these characters well. Equal representation, accurate portrayal, etc. However, I see equally as many, if not more, straight authors do very similar things when writing LGBTQ characters and end up misrepresenting them.
Many a time I have seen LGBTQ characters in a story who are used purely for comic relief or have their sexuality as their only personality trait. I completely understand if you want a character who’s in there for comic relief, also completely understand if you want them to be LGBTQ, it’s a problem when you use LGBTQ characters to be the butt of a joke and to perpetuate harmful stereotypes. When you put in a gay character for an example, and they are a walking, talking stereotype whose pure purpose is to laugh and make fun of, it is simply degrading and misrepresenting of LGBTQ people. Also, there is more to someones being than just their sexuality. Just like any heterosexual person, LGBTQ people have personalities. People are complex and they aren’t just limited to who they are attracted to (or who they aren’t attracted to). Too many times I’ve seen an LGBTQ character thrown into a story for ‘diversity’, they have no significant impact on the story, they are usually misrepresented, and they seem to be a two-dimensional character with no depth to them, having their sexuality as their main focus.
Stereotypes seem to run rampant in many stories with ‘LGBTQ representation’. I’ve seen bisexuals represented as hypersexual beings who just want to get together with everyone, I’ve seen gay men hitting on every male who comes their way and acting overtly feminine, I’ve seen lesbians only wearing masculine clothes and having short hair and participating in masculine activities, I haven’t even seen a single trans person represented (there probably is, I just haven’t read a story with them yet), and so on. I’m not saying that some people don’t match these descriptions, there absolutely are! However, not every single LGBTQ person is a cardboard cut out. LGBTQ members are people too! We are complex just like everyone else! We are not one thing and we are not just a stereotype.
I’ve seen quite often straight authors have actually created a well-rounded LGBTQ character. They have depth, they can think, they have their own personality, they aren’t just one thing. Yet a lot of the time these characters are written into stories about discovering who you are and coming out. I’m not going to say this is a no go for straight authors if you can write a coming out story then do it! But don’t write one without actually knowing what it’s like. You don’t have to experience it for yourself but at least ask someone for their story and their experience, or else you end up with unrealistic stories that inaccurately represent what it’s like. Every coming out story is different. Some people have supportive parents, some don’t. Some people come out in their own time, some don’t. Some people feel anxious and scared when they come out, some feel happy and excited. etc. Every story is different! All coming out stories I’ve seen written by straight authors are the same: no one will accept me, I’m so afraid, no one understands, I must hide my true self, oh how I long to be with someone of the same gender without judgment but alas! I haven’t come out!
Seriously, every single story. Don’t get me wrong, some stories are like that. But not every single one.
Writing LGBTQ struggles. If you can write a story and accurately represent LGBTQ struggles, I absolutely commend you and I think that’s fantastic. To those who want to do that but don’t know how I recommend talking to someone with experience of these struggles so you can appropriately represent them. Struggles can include discrimination, dating, fetishizing, acceptance, etc. Too many times I see stories written by straight authors act like people can be openly gay, lesbian, bi, trans, etc. without judgment. No, struggles do not need to be a main focus in your story. No, you don’t have to include them if they are irrelevant (for example the story takes place around a group of friends who are all accepting). However, don’t act like they don’t exist. Do you really think that an LGBTQ person can go anywhere in the world without experiencing some form of discrimination? Even from just awkward stares as two girls kiss or straight up shouting and yelling that it’s wrong, people experience this every day all over the world. When you choose to ignore this, it can seem ignorant or just uncaring. On the other side of things, I’ve seen people try to write LGBTQ struggles and just miss the mark. You can tell they haven’t properly researched or experienced it themselves. I appreciate the attempt, just a little more effort was needed.
I thought this was an important topic to make due to the Queer competition happening at the moment. I know all sorts of authors will be writing these LGBTQ stories. I truly didn’t make this topic to offend anybody, simply to inform. To reiterate, I find no issue with straight authors writing LGBTQ characters, in fact I encourage it! Just as long as they are accurately represented. If you’re part of the community what’s your take on this? Do you agree or disagree? How about readers and writers, do you agree with what I’ve said? Has anyone got any counterpoints? Let’s have a civilised, educational discussion about this.