I’ve noticed on many episode stories that people are incorrectly portraying characters with mental illness, and lgbtqia characters, and I thought I’d create this thread to help people understand how to portray these characters a little bit more.
If you are educated on these topics, feel free to reply with some things you think could be added to this thread.
Also, if you have questions about anything in specific, leave a reply and I will probably have an answer!
If I answered a question wrong, left something out, or something in the thread that I said is wrong, please let me know!
I know there are many other similar topics that need to have awareness spread about within the episode community (race, ethnicity, etc.) but as a white person, I feel that it’s not my place to be trying to educate people about those things, because I don’t know a ton about them myself.
What to avoid
- Avoid generalizing. It’s not helpful and hurts the community. So don’t assume that all members of the lgbtqia are a certain thing (for example, assuming all lesbians hate men.)
- Avoid your stories exclusively having cishet (straight, non-trans) people in them. It’s not realistic and makes people think they’re not normal for being queer or trans.
- Avoid stereotypes. Stop with the “gay best friend”.
- Avoid only having lgbtqia characters to help the MC. This is a big one, kind of relating to the last one. Stop only using lgbtqia characters so the MC can be more interesting. The lgbtqia character(s) should be their own character(s), not just there for the MC
- Avoid having your lgbtqia characters have no personality. Don’t make their only character trait the fact that they’re queer/trans. It’s dehumanizing lgbtqia people.
- Avoid having **guys think lesbians/girls who are attracted to girls are "sxy" or “hot”.** This is one of the most frustrating ones. Please don’t add something like girls making out for the attention of guys and the guys thinking it’s hot to your story. It’s so disrespectful and makes wlw feel uncomfortable.*
What to include
- Include at least one or two queer/trans people! That small act can help so much for lgbtqia people reading the story!
- Include lgbtqia characters that are there for themselves, and not just for the MC!
- Include lgbtqia characters with personality! Being queer/trans shouldn’t be their only character trait! They should have lives, thoughts, feelings, and ideas just like any other character!
Some common stereotypes/assumptions
- Gay best friend - I and many other members of the lgbtqia community are sick of seeing stories, books, tv shows, and movies, where people use the term “Gay best friend”, and where there is a gay guy who is the MC’s best friend, and is literally only there to add flavour to the MC. It’s getting so annoying, so please stop. (Also, it doesn’t make it any better if the Gay best friend is a girl).
- Alll wlw (women loving women) dress like guys - A very common assumption is that all girls that like girls, dress masculine and “act like guys”. There are so many different types of LGBTQIA people. Gay girls can wear pink and dresses and skirts, just like any other girl can.
- All mlm (men loving men) dress like girls - Another even more common assumption/stereotype is that all guys who like guys are very femenine, dress femenine, and ‘act like girls’. Again, there are many different types of LGBTQIA people. Gay guys can wear hoodies and sweatpants and play basketball, just like any other guy can.
- The predatory gay - A very common misconception about gay people is that they essentially have no standards. That they’ll prey on anyone and everyone that’s the same gender as them. In the media (including episode stories), many gay people (women and men alike) will flirt with, prey on, and harass everyone who is the same gender as them, specifically straight people. There are also many relationships in the media which are built on this dynamic (one guy who thinks he’s straight, gay basically preying on him, guy who thinks he’s straight falling in love, and so on, and the same with girls). It’s incredibly frustrating because it supports the idea that gays are “predators”. Yes, there are some predatory gays, but there are some predatory people within every community. Highlighting the predatory gays is not helpful. (thank you to @hibiscusgravy for advising me to add this!)
- All wlw/mlm (specifically wlw but also mlm) relationships have a masc/butch, and a femme - This is a veryyy common stereotype. Many people assume that all wlw/mlm relationships have a masc and a femme, but, in reality, there can be two mascs, and/or two femmes. In lots of stories with lgbtq relationships, this is a stereotype that appears in them. I notice that this is a more common stereotype with wlw relationships, but a stereotype with mlm as well.
Lgbtqia- what the letters mean!
Lesbian! A Lesbian is a non-man who exclusively is attracted to non-men.
You can be non-binary and be a lesbian, and you can be attracted to non-binaries and be a lesbian.
- Gay! A Gay person is a man who exclusively is attracted to women.
Bisexual! A Bisexual person is a person who is attracted to 2+ genders, generally with a preference.
You don’t need to have a preference to be Bisexual.
- Transgender! A Transgender person is a person who identifies with a different gender than the gender associated with the sex they were born as.
- Queer! This term can refer to anyone in the lgbtqia+ community! Many people use this term if they aren’t comfortable with any label.
- Q uestioning! Questioning people are unsure of their sexuality, and are usually trying out different labels to figure out what they like best.
- Intersex! Intersex is an umbrella term. XX intersex (A person who has the chromosomes of a woman, the ovaries of a woman, but external genitals that appear male) and XY intersex (A person has the chromosomes of a man, but the external genitals are incompletely formed, ambiguous, or clearly female. Internally, testes may be normal, malformed, or absent) both fall under that umbrella. (thank you @Melc144 for the correction!)
- Asexual! Asexual is an umbrella term. Graysexual (someone who experiences low amounts of sxual attraction) and Demisexual (someone who doesn’t experience sxual attraction until they have developed a romantic or emotional attraction to a person) fall under the umbrella. Someone who labels themselves as Asexual, generally doesn’t experience any s*xual attraction.
- Aromantic! Similar to Asexual, Aromantic is an umbrella term. Grayromantic (someone who experiences low amounts of romantic attraction) and Demiromantic (someone who doesn’t experience romantic attraction for someone until they have developed a s*xual attraction to them) fall under that umbrella. Someone who labels themselves as Aromantic is generally someone who does not experience any romantic attraction.
- Agender/genderqueer! An Agender/genderqueer person is someone who does not identify themselves as having a particular gender.
Other sexualities and gender identities!
- Pansexual- A Pansexual person is someone who is attracted to people without noticing their gender. To Pansexual people, gender is irrelevant and doesn’t matter.
- Omnisexual- Similar to Pansexual people, an Omnisexual person feels attraction to all genders, but they notice their genders, and may have a preference.
- Panromantic- Panromantic people feel a romantic (but not a s*xual) attraction to people regardless of their gender.
- Bigender - Bigender people feel connected to two genders, and they identify with both of those gender identities.
- Genderfluid - Genderfluid people shift between different genders. One day they may use they/them pronouns, and the next they might use she/her pronouns. It could also vary by the hour, or something else.
- Nonbinary - Nonbinary is an umbrella term for any gender other than Male and Female. Nonbinary people don’t feel a connection to any specific gender, and instead, fall somewhere in between male and female. Nonbinary people usually use they/them pronouns or neopronouns
- Two Spirit - Two Spirit is an umbrella term that refers to different sexualities and genders in Indigenous Native American communities. This is a cultural term that is reserved for those who identify as an Indigenous Native American.
- Demigirl - A Demigirl feels connected to both female and nonbinary. Demigirls generally use they/she or she/they pronouns.
- Demiboy - Similar to a Demigirl, a Demiboy feels connected to both male and nonbinary. Demiboys generally use they/he or he/they pronouns.
- She/Her/Hers- People who exclusively use She/Her/Hers pronouns are generally Female. Some people use She/Her/Hers pronouns non-exclusively, and may not be Female.
- He/Him/His- People who exclusively use He/Him/His pronouns are generally Male. Some people use He/Him/Gus pronouns non-exclusively, and may not be Male.
- They/Them/Theirs- People who exclusively use They/Them/Theirs pronouns are often Nonbinary. Some people use They/Them/Theirs pronouns non-exclusively, and they may not be Nonbinary.
- She/They- People who use She/They pronouns like to be called by both She/Her/Hers and They/Them/Theirs. You can use them both when talking about the person who uses She/They pronouns!
- He/They- People who use He/They pronouns like to be called by both He/Him/His and They/Them/Theirs. You can use them both when talking about the person who uses He/They pronouns!
- Neopronouns- People who use Neopronouns generally fall under the Nonbinary umbrella term. They are people who don’t identify with any pronouns besides their own set of (or unique already existing set of) pronouns that they feel comfortable with. Some examples of Neopronouns are Ze/Zir/Zers and Xe/Xem/Xyrs. Some people who use Neopronouns are also comfortable with They/Them/Theirs pronouns!
- Any pronouns- People who use any pronouns are comfortable by being called he, she, they, and pretty much anything else!
One thing to know about sexualities, is that they are simply labels. Meaning, if you are more comfortable with the bisexual label, for example, but you don’t have any preference and/or are genderblind, you are still valid and still bisexual. Same with any other sexuality.
Lgbtqia story recs!
Fiancée for Hire - JJ
Preconceived Notions - Sofia Zverev
Bisexual Bachelor(ette) - A.J. MacArthur
Labels! - Delirium Cupcake
Getting Over Her - LemonJay
Lesbian in High School - Meg
Questioning - Meg
Lesbian Love - Kat Goods
My Mafia Queen - Viola Musaraj
The Pact - Nia Page
Shoot Your Shot - Lys Dulce
Feeling Different - Being Unique - Nadi
Hers - Nia Page
Soulless - TLDax
Breaking Boundaries - Adri
Camp Heimat - Phoenix_Hope
The Blue Line - Eysenck
Second Chance - Hiding the Truth - Josie Jackson
SnakeBitten - LORALEI.WRITES
Make Me Stay - Rae
Daisy - Bertha
Please let me know if you have any more recs!
What to avoid
Avoid generalizing. Don’t act as if all mentally ill people are one thing. It’s very hurtful.
Avoid only having mentally ill characters to help the MC. Stop adding mentally ill/poc/Lgbtqia+ ONLY so that the MC can have more personality.
Avoid calling people “mentally ill” or with their illness first. (For example, "A schizophrenic person
Avoid your characters using terms/phrases as if they have a mental illness when they don’t. For example, don’t have your character say things like “I’m so OCD” because they like to be organized, or saying things like “I’m depressed” because they are sad.
Avoid having the LI swoop in and magically cure the MC. This is incredibly triggering and unrealistic. Mental illness takes time to work through. While it is okay for the LI to help the MC through their struggles, and help them get over them, it is not okay for them to completely fix them. Getting over mental health problems is something that takes a long time and a lot of different things. It’s not something that can be “fixed” so quickly and by one person.
Avoid having characters with mental illness seem like criminals. This is a very common stereotype. Please don’t make mentally ill characters seem “crazy” or use mental illness as an excuse to make characters “crazier”.
What to include
- Include at least one or two characters with mental illness! It really helps to see our representation in stories!*
- *Include calling people “people with mental illness” and putting their illness second! (For example, “A person with schizophrenia”.
- Include options to skip scenes that could be triggering (like self harm and sucide). Simply adding an option to skip that scene can be incredibly helpful for readers with triggers.*
Some mental illnesses and what they are!
- Depression- Someone who has depression has experienced drawn out feelings of sadness. They likely lost interest in things that they used to enjoy doing. There are many different types of Depression, such as MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), and Bipolar Disorder.
There is a difference between Depression, Being depressed, and Sad. Depression is a diagnosis, Depressed is a big, long, drawn out emotion, and sad is a feeling. Depression is not self-diagnosable. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- Anxiety- Someone who has anxiety has experienced many feelings of worry, to the point where it’s hard to live their everyday lives without being worried about something random. There are many different types of Anxiety, such as Separation Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety, and more.
Anxiety is not self-diagnosable. Please speak to a medical professional if you think you may have it.
- OCD- OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder. Someone who has OCD has rituals/superstitions that they need to do. For example, someone with OCD might need to do everything 3 times. They might have a voice in their head telling them to shut off the light and then on again or that something bad will happen. There are many different ways people can experience OCD, and many different levels of it.
People who like to be organized/neat do not necessarily have OCD. OCD is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis, so please don’t self-diagnose before speaking to a professional.
- Bipolar Disorder- Usually, people with Bipolar Disorder have Mania and Depression. The Manic episode generally comes first, and the Depressive episode generally comes second. Each episode can last as little as a day, to as long as a month.
Bipolar Disorder is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- BPD- BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder. People with BPD generally have very drastic mood swings. They could be fine one second, and then the next second, not, for what seems like no reason at all. People with BPD also may act different or have a little bit of a different personality around different people. Many people with BPD have a recurring thought that things may not be real, and they may have abandonment issues. People with BPD’s emotions are heightened. Their anger and sadness, especially, are very intense.
BPD is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- ADHD- ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. People with ADHD usually find it hard to focus, and have trouble staying still. It also may cause people to get lost in thought often, and get easily distracted.
ADHD is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- PTSD- PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. People with PTSD have experienced something very stressful and traumatic in their past and have trouble getting over it. They may experience flashbacks or re-live the event in their minds.
PTSD is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- DID- DID stands for Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). People with DID have two or more separate identities. The two identities have their own way of experiencing things. People with DID usually dissociate when they switch personalities. Switching is generally not something that they can control or choose to do.
DID is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- Anorexia- People with Anorexia (Nervosa) restrict their food consumption to try and cut down their body weight. People with Anorexia may experience a fear of gaining weight, and a fear of certain foods.
Anorexia is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- Bulimia- People with Bulimia (Nervosa) binge eat (eat a lot of food at once) and then take extreme steps to try and get rid of that food. People with Bulimia might try to vomit the food out, abuse laxatives or diuretics, or exercise excessively.
Bulimia is a mental disorder that requires a medical diagnosis. If you think you may have it, please speak to a medical professional.
- Insomnia- People with Insomnia have trouble sleeping/getting enough sleep. This could involve waking up a lot during the night, having trouble falling asleep, or having trouble sleeping at all.
Insomnia is a mental disorder that does not require a medical diagnosis.
Story recs with characters with mental illnesses!
I Need a Therapist - Clem
Speak - J Miley
Please let me know if you have any more recs!
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