Hiya! I haven’t seen you around much so I’m Shannii. You might see me going on extended rants about diversity from time to time. Nice to meet you!
Thanks, @Kanubish for mentioning my thread!
Of course, I’ll always say that Episode has a real problem with actually encouraging different types of diversity. I mean, until recently, it was almost impossible to make characters with female body types who didn’t wear heels and “girly” clothing. It’s still quite impossible for men, unless you wanna put a hijab on him (God knows why they chose hijabs before dresses or skirts or something). That deters a lot of people from writing about nonbinary characters because they’re limited to very binary body options and clothing choices.
I feel like the same goes for a lot of trans characters on Episode. Until recently when @purplezombieattack mentioned what body types could be used for when, I really struggled because you can’t really a transition visually from start to finish. I’m quite lucky because the trans woman I’m currently writing about has gone through her transition and the story isn’t about her being trans. In fact, I spent a lot of time asking trans people on here and on Wattpad how I could mention that she’s trans when everyone knows but no one really cares enough to bring it up. They got used to it and they see her as a woman, so it’s not about to come up any time soon, haha.
There’s still a big issue with body type representation, though. I got lucky when I thought of Hannah. She’s already transitioned, so I could very easily use a female body type on her. But what about trans women pre-top surgery? These body types don’t cover the scope of cis-people or trans people.
That’s why I kinda understand people who avoid certain minority groups in their stories. I mean, I would love to create a character with a prosthetic arm or who has a wheelchair, but Episode just doesn’t give us the capability for that kind of thing. Then they throw a disabilities shelf at us and they’re so underprepared that most of the stories had nothing to do with disabilities and they thought it was enough to throw in stories from a disabled writer that were about able-bodied people just because they think that’s representation.
Not for me. Most readers don’t care about the writer when they’re reading. In fact, they usually don’t even know who the writer is or what minority groups they’re a part of. That shows with how many people say “this story doesn’t have a single disabled/black/Asian/Arab character in it” every time a new shelf is released. It’s just not good enough to only feature writers because they’re part of a minority group. I didn’t choose to be mixed or bi and I’d rather be celebrated for my contributions to my minority groups, not for simply being a part of them. And I’d much rather see authors from all different identities themselves who represent that minority well regardless of whether they’re part of it or not.
Sure, we don’t want to talk over people from that minority, but most people who represent the minority well are people who know a lot about it, i.e. members of the minority group. But if you’ve put in the time and care and effort and research to make a great character from a minority group you don’t belong to? That should be celebrated as well. There’s more that one place on a shelf.
I’m not sure if I agree with the whole LGBTQ+ argument. I’m someone who promotes authors getting a few different minority groups right rather than trying to represent too many in their story and failing. As such, I personally wouldn’t encourage limiting people from using the LGBTQ+ acronym if they’ve missed out a letter or two. I think it discourages people from taking time and care to make these characters because it seems a little like gatekeeping the use of the acronym. I mean, we’re all in the acronym and we should all get to use it to describe ourselves and our stories! I understand you don’t want to go into that too much at the moment, but I’d love to have a discussion with you whenever you can.
In terms of what can be done instead? I think awareness should come first. Instead of focussing too much on the use of the acronym, we (and Episode, frankly. This is their company) should instead try to remind people that trans characters do exist. The people with experience can show others how to do it well and give them some resources. I’m going to write a blog post about trans characters soon enough and I would love some input. It’s going to be quite like a Q&A for cis people (since that’s the perspective I most understand), but I will need lots of help from my trans friends on here and elsewhere, so if you can give some input, that will be much obliged.
If you’re interested in finding out a little more about my blog, click here. The homepage is a little slow at the moment, but I’m going to get that sorted out ASAP.
Interestingly, I also disagree with this. Misgendering cis people is a huge cause for stress and upset and does often cause body dysmorphia in its own way. Many people forget that body dysmorphia can come in different forms and cause things like bigarexia or anorexia.
I know cis men who become obsessed with health and fitness to the point that it damages their body out of fear of being called a woman, even when it’s just intentional maliciousness. The toxic masculinity causes them a lot of distress and mental harm when they’re misgendered. They pour money into the supplement industry and some kill their hearts with steroids. Cis men, in particular, can go really overboard with hurting themselves out of the fear of being misgendered. The same with women. Some become anorexic because they don’t perceive their body to be “womanly” enough. Some develop an obsession or addiction to plastic surgery. I’ve seen it happen before.
Don’t get me wrong: it happens to trans people way more and I understand that it can be extremely damaging, but many cis people know what it feels like to be misgendered and for that to cause them serious body perception issues. It’s great that trans people have created the terminology that we can use for all people. In fact, we owe a lot to trans people in general. Like Stonewall. Trans women, in particular, have been at the forefront of LGBTQ activism for at least 50 years because they experience these issues at a greater volume when compared to any other group of people. But if we want people who aren’t part of our minority group to understand our struggles, one of the most important things to do is relate it to stuff they already experience so that they can understand and empathise better.
Yes, trans people are more at risk of misgendering and it is more likely to cause stress and issues with mental health. But it does happen to cis people too. We can use that to unite us.
I definitely agree with this. I started a thread full of people who would be happy to help people with their stories, as @Kanubish mentioned earlier. if you’d ever like to provide help, that would be awesome!
This. So much. I’m tired of people thinking that every LGBTQ story needs to be about someone coming out, or that every story with a black character needs to have racial injustice. I’m tired of people acting like straight, white and cis is the default state of being and stories about straight, cis white characters are “for everyone” while other stories about other identities have to be political and they’re only for that minority group. Bull.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can actually answer your questions.
Me personally, I’d love to see some good Christian characters represented. We often get pushed into the role of the antagonist, fighting against LGBTQ people and abortions. Blaming women for getting pregnant when the man was in a position of power and was predatory and the woman was young and impressionable (I’m looking at you, Georgia). The truth is that there are good Christians and bad Christians and I think it’s extremely damaging that we only see the bad. I’m a bisexual Catholic, an ally to trans people (I hope) and I support secular abortions even if I would never get one myself. The Church is not the State and I’m tired of people conflating the two.
I’m mildy dyspraxic, my brother has Aspergers and my dad is dyslexic. I would personally love to see autism as well as disorders that can affect learning to be covered a little more on Episode. Especially dyspraxia! To be honest, most people don’t even know what it is. When I tell people that I have dyspraxia, they laugh and say “nah you just can’t catch a ball”. In fact, even people who know I have dyspraxia can forget and treat me badly because of it – my mum tells me that I’m failing my driving test on purpose and gets very angry. I think some representation in the media in general would really help the way I’m treated. People might finally see that I’m not making this up and it does seriously affect me.
I’d love to see accurate representation of mixed-race people. I think this is where a lot of authors on Episode really fail. They give a character tan skin, green or blue eyes and curly hair (sometimes. Other times it’s straight) and say that the character is mixed race. Then they have the mixed characters only really identifying with their white side. Sure there are probably some mixed people out there who have somehow not inherited anything but a slight tan from their black side, but the likelihood? Not even some cultural stuff? Nah. And that’s just mentioning the conventional type of mix. I’m Asian and Afro-Caribbean. My baby sister is Asian and European. Not all mixes have to be black and white.
My main tip is to think of a character’s purpose in a story before people think about what they look or act like or anything like that. Think about what they’re going to do in your story. Give them a reason to be there. Then think about their identity and their look. Build them from the ground up. If you do that, you’ll never have characters who exist just to add to the diversity. In a fantasy story, you might need a teacher/wise old man character. So that’s their purpose. Then you can say to yourself: you know what? What if this wise character isn’t bearded and old? What if he’s a little person? That’s how you get Game of Thrones.
The same can be said about my story, to be honest. When I was writing The Queen of Freaks, I knew that my main character needed some advocates within the palace trying to stop the King from killing her. Her saviours weren’t lovers. They are her sister and her best friend. Both women. Then her brother comes in later. None of them have any sort of romantic involvement with her because I thought of the purpose (to be the princess’s advocate and protector) then I gave them their look and identity and personality after. This means they’re important to the story and it gave me a chance to challenge conventions and make the brother gay, too. A gay protector of a straight woman… a man protecting a woman out of sibling love instead of romantic involvement. Imagine that! It ended up becoming a really interesting story! Spoiler alert: her sister is being forced to marry her brother’s lover.
The rule of thumb for me is answering these questions in this order.
- What purpose do they serve in the story?
- What is their personality like?
- What makes them unique?
- What struggles are they going to go through in the story?
- What are their aims?
- What do they look like?
It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start for any new writer who wants to write about different minority groups.
Hmm. I think the real issue here is a lack of empathy. We exacerbate that often as members of different minorities. We make it seem like you have to be a member of that minority group to truly get it and we tend to hold minority characters to a higher level of scrutiny than straight, white, cis characters. This can be damaging. It discourages people form writing about our experiences because they’re so terrified of representing us badly.
The truth is that there are examples of both good and bad representation of straight, white, cis characters. There’s so much to choose from that they’ve had the true scope of humanisation, both positive and negative. To be honest, I’d rather 500 more portrayals of people like me, even if a few are done really badly. Then we can learn from them and improve. But at least there will be a place for us to start – somewhere to learn from – instead of writers being crippled by the fear of representing us badly.
So that’s why I encourage education. Lots of education and encoraging people to try to represent us. Sure, it’s great when they ask us for help to make sure that they’re not doing anything wrong, but they’re not going to get there if they’re too scared to represent us in the first place! Then we complain that there’s a lack of representation. Frankly, at the moment I don’t blame them.
Sorry for the huge reply. I had a lot to say!