Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jash's Writing Tips: The LGBTQ+ Community 101

How to not offend people is really impossible to do. People comes from all walks of life, so what is inoffensive to one person is beyond redemption to someone else. So why make a part about not offending the LGBTQ+ community when writing?

Fact is that steps can be taken to make sure you're writing a character correctly so the only ones complaining will be those that like to complain about everything. Seriously, it seems that these days people get offended at nearly everything.

This is only an intro to writing LGBTQ+ characters as the topic is extremely complex. Especially as there are disagreements in the community itself. So if you think something should be discussed later, please tell me so I can write about it in a later part.

For those who are against the community, there is a section near the end for you. I try to keep these tips open ended but that's as much as I'll be covering on the anti-LGBTQ+ side of things. I just can't write about discriminating against the community so you'll have to look elsewhere.
To Write a Good Representation of the LGBTQ+ Community be Respectful

The most important thing to remember when writing about someone in the community is to write them as a person. That may sound like a simple thing to do, but some people don't seem able to grasp the concept.

Writing diversity merely to join on the bandwagon isn't the way to go. You can't write a gay, bisexual, ect. character and expect everyone to fall in love with them. You can't expect merely writing about the community to make you a good person.

Sure, there are people out there that will claim anyone saying your gay character is bad is homophobic, but that doesn't make it true.

A character is not merely their sexuality. A character is so much more.  A character has fears, desires, and other emotions not connected to their sexuality or gender identity.

So have them being gay, pansexual, ect. but make sure that isn't the be all and end all of their character. Good representation means a character, not a stereotype, so readers can feel good..

While showcasing the LGBTQ+ community is needed, the fact is that some people will be overly critical. You need to be aware of this so that it doesn't come to you as a surprise or a shock. If you are feeling overly anxious, wait until you are calmer so that you can better react to negative criticism.

Sometimes nothing bad will happen, but there is always a chance that it will. Especially if you kill off a bisexual, transgender, ect. character.

There is also a certain sect of people, both in the community and out, that don't believe those not in the community should write characters that are in the community. Even though they want more representation, some feel that only certain people should write certain characters.

Those are the people that there is no pleasing and if you show weakness they will continually bite at you.

To make sure you make as few mistakes as possible, you should do some research into the community itself. Though, I find, as long as I treat my characters as characters there is not too much research needed.

But if you are new to the community, whether an ally or actually in the community, you should do some basic research. Be aware that there are many divisions inside the community itself so you will probably run across conflicting information.

Such as some believe to be transexual you need to have body dysmorphia while others believe the opposite. There is conflict over what the definition of bisexuality is. While this may seem too confusing to handle, it gets much easier the more you learn about it.

If you have a friend that is in the community, or is a sexual or gender identity different than your own, you may find them extremely useful to learn from. Of course you should find out first if they don't mind odd questions first.

Because I've asked some friends odd questions that I wouldn't ask other friends. So I know questions can get awkward really quickly.
Be Aware of How You're Using the Character

An important thing to remember, and even be more aware of when writing about someone in the community, is to make sure you're writing them as a person. That you're not making exceptions to things just because they're asexual, genderfluid, ect.

This goes to both positive and negative aspects. You don't want them to be perfect as not to offend and yet you don't want only negative traits on them either.

Let's talk about killing a gay character off merely as an example.

If you are writing a story, or series, where lots of people die and you also have a diverse cast...well...people in the community are going to die. That's just being fair. A show like The Walking Dead has people dying all the time and so a gay character would have the same chances as living as a straight character in that show.

If we're being fair.

So if you can determine if you're killing of a gay character because that's the kind of story you're telling, now you have to determine if you're being fair when you do so.

This is easy: compare how you kill (or would kill) a straight character and see if it matches up with the gay one.

If it does, then you're being fair and good in your writing. If not, figure out the problem and how to fix it.

Stereotypes aren't pleasant to a lot of people. They can be either lazy, offensive, or both. A gay guy that is super into fashion is annoying. Not every gay guy likes fashion and there are already so many of those that reading about a gay guy that is horrible at dressing himself sounds amazing.

However, sometimes stereotypes fit into a given genre. Say if you're paying homage to an old series and so stereotypes are needed. If they weren't used then, guess what, it would be much harder for people to get the references on their own.

So make sure you're not using stereotypes merely because you have run out of ideas. Leave your story and come back to it later. Sometimes all a writer needs is some time to think.

There will be critics who will not like your work and you'll need to see if their criticisms hold any weight. It is the internet and people will complain about everything and make petitions because something didn't go their way.

Sometimes these critics will have a big backing as they may be popular and/or their opinions are popular at the current time.

The best way to judge criticism for an LGBTQ+ character is to make sure you've done everything in your power to write the character both realistically and with respect. If your genre calls for stereotypes, the latter will be more important than the former.

So if you've made sure to give the bisexual, demisexual, ect, a proper death scene you shouldn't change it or apologize because people complain. A person in the community, or an ally, may say that death isn't part of their identity as a reason the character shouldn't have died.

But as long as the death was respectful and not different from a straight person's, you did nothing wrong.

If You're Anti-LGBTQ+ be Aware of Backlash

You are free to write about what you want. If you want to paint the whole LGBTQ+ Community as beyond evil, that is up to you. I'll never agree with you but my feelings against censorship means that things I don't like written have the right to be.

Doesn't mean I can't complain, but that is a different post.

So you are free to write what you want but you have to be aware of the reactions you will get. If you say that an aromantic is lost because they don't love or that a gay person can never have a relationship like a straight person, there will be a wave of backlash.

There will be people complaining and they will have more than a right to. So don't be surprised that when you demonize an entire group of people that they will get more than a little angry.

If you say "marriage is between a man and a woman" people will get mad. If you say "homosexuality is a sin like every other sin" people will get mad.

So don't complain and act shocked when people get mad. You were more than aware of what you were doing. Writing what you want doesn't mean people can't complain. Freedom of Speech means you have the freedom to say what you want, not that you're free from criticism.

One of the things that people who write anti-LGBTQ+ things will say is that they're being discriminated against for their beliefs.

Listen, someone not liking what you're doing doesn't make them discriminating against you. Some people don't like some things. It'd be like saying me not liking the title of the movie Heaven is For Real means I loathe every single Christian and all their beliefs.

I don't, I'm allowed merely not to like a title. And other people are allowed to not like certain characters or plot lines.

Freedom of Speech isn't freedom from criticism. Freedom of Religion merely means the government can't make laws against your religious practices, not that everyone has to agree with you.

And if you are surprised about how vocal some people get about how much they loathe your works, remember that there are fanboys/fangirls that get just as vocal about their favorite tv show, book, movie, ect.

So if someone is extremely vocal, it doesn't mean they are discriminating against you.

Someone from the community might not like what you're doing and they're free to say what they don't like about it. Even bringing up personal stories of hardships.

Just as someone is free to throw criticism at you, you are free to defend yourself. It is your right to stand your ground and say why you did what you did, no matter if I agree with you or not.

However, don't pussy out. In that I mean don't seem like a crying child because people aren't bending over backwards for you.

Make a good case for yourself while acknowledging you know that your writing would anger people. Don't act shocked or surprised, be there with comebacks  and don't back down.

I respect a person more for how they react to criticism than to what they did. The ability to show strength is much more respectable than trying to backtrack about what you did because you're scared of people's reactions.
All of Jash's Writing Tips






  1. Is it necessary to include a LGBTQ+ character. Will people be angry if you don't.

    1. It isn't necessary for you to include them if you don't want. It's really a personal decision on the author.

      I, myself, like to include them but it's a personal choice on my part.

      It depends on the people who read it, but some will. Some will also complain if you're straight and write LGBTQ+ characters.

      I think the most important thing would to be make sure you're not writing a token character just to fill in a quota. Not to put the character in because you're running down a checklist.

      Good representation is representation and not making more token characters.

      I like to point out the show Hannibal for racebending and genderbending while not shoving it in your face. Each character is a person with hopes and fears of their own. Of course don't watch the show if you don't like violence or cannabalism as you probably won't get through the first scene.