With many cities turning up rainbow this time of year, it may be crossing the minds of many writers to explore the possibility of varying sexualities in their characters. It’s becoming more and more common in television and movies, not to mention the field of politics. The truth of the matter is the LGBT+ community is still largely underrepresented. If you decide to write an LGBT+ character or two, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Avoid Stereotypes or Tokenism
Being the “token gay friend” is a lonely experience. It means going through life without anyone who understands the feelings and bewilderment that can come with being “other.” Writing a token character is not a kind action. If anything, it is dooming your character to an existence of locking up their feelings and ideas.
In a similar line, many people are inclined to write a stereotypical gay person. What might that look like? The popular feeling currently might be a white, effeminate, hipster male obsessed with theatre.
This man might exist, but that doesn’t mean every gay man looks, behaves, and is drawn to the same things. One reason many people in the LGBT+ community are drawn to the arts is the acceptance that tends to come in these areas. Consider these things when creating your characters. Where do they feel comfortable? Why? A stereotypical answer may be appropriate, but it is by no means the only option.
- Look at “Unlikely” Characteristics
In line with avoiding stereotypes, consider turning them completely on their heads. The bisexual girl who likes pink and tinkering with computers. The gay man who works for a construction company and creates music during his spare time.
One “unlikely” characteristic that is much more common than some may think is the LGBT Christian.
There are many varying beliefs around the Bible and sexuality. Christians are torn on the matter. Some believe being attracted to the same sex to any degree is a mortal sin, while others believe the Bible does not refer to the modern concept of homosexuality, with many historical instances being more about slavery and child rape than committed, healthy relationships. There are also LGBT+ people who believe they have been called to a life of celibacy.
The most important part is, these people exist. It is important to acknowledge their experiences.
- Explore Inner Conflict
Coming out, whether to yourself or to others, as LGBT+ is not an easy task. It often comes with a great degree of internal struggle.
There are many reasons for this. Some people struggle with internalized homophobia. These are ideas pressed upon them by society that tell them of their supposed inadequacy. Others have a great deal of trouble reconciling with God. A literal reading of the Bible, without historical context, can be a very painful experience to someone still coming to terms with their sexuality.
One important piece to keep in mind: being LGBT+ is not, to any degree, a choice. Many people have tried to pray themselves straight. Many people straight-up ignore any interest in others. It next to never works. Before they come to terms with themselves, many often wish with all they have to be straight.
No one would willingly choose a life of discrimination, pain, and rejection.
- Learn the History
Why is June Pride Month?
What happened at Stonewall?
What was DOMA?
When was gay marriage legalized across the whole USA?
Which state was the first to try to legalize gay marriage?
Answer these questions for a better understanding of what LGBT+ characters have gone through.
- Do. Not. Kill. Them.
LGBT+ characters are cropping up more often in television, books, and movies. They are also killed disproportionately often. It’s turning into a trope, something to wait for and even expect.
Think of how damaging this is. Imagine being a young teen, just starting to be attracted to your peers, and seeing all the characters like you dying.
This is a terrible, terrible message.
As always, characters should never be killed for shock value. It is a cheap tactic that many readers find very upsetting. As always, the death of any character should be carefully considered. Does it make sense? Is it the best move?
Then kill them. But not because of a personal trait they cannot control.
LGBT+ people exist. Representation is a wonderful thing, but let’s strive to do it right.