Whew, it’s been a busy week!
Today’s topic is about myths; those pesky little stereotypes that are best avoided.
Myths are incredibly prevalent in our society, whether they are classical or contemporary, and they often find their way into books. (Okay, more then often. They’re like a giant weasel burrowing admix everything. Or maybe that is just my plot holes talking…)
As you can see by the title of this post, this is the second half of my whole thing about writing with LGBT+ characters. Let me be entirely honest for a moment; this is a post that I thought would be far easier to write than it actually was. For one, there are thousands of different ways to approach this topic. There are also a lot of questions.
When writing about ‘minority’ groups, it is easy to say that all humans are humans and they should be treated as such. However, there are always certain things to avoid. That is where stereotypes come in.
Everyone knows that it’s frustrating when someone stereotypes you; no matter who you are. One of the problems with LGBT+ characters in media and books is the number of stereotypes that are repeatedly used again and again. I think at least a few of the more recent queer characters that are starting to show up are finally avoiding many of these stereotypes, but they can still be a problem. Stereotypes have a way of sticking around.
On the heels of that, let’s get into the actual discussion…
Before I get into my over-passionate list of a few stereotypes, let’s go over some basic stuff:
According to the New Oxford English Dictionary (third edition), sexuality is defined as: a “capacity for sexual feelings,” or, “a person’s sexual orientation or preference.”
So… what are the most commonly used sexualities?
Lesbian: A woman who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to another woman. (Gay is also an appropriate term in some areas. It mostly seems to be based on personal preference.)
Gay: A man who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to another man.
Bisexual: Someone who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to two or more different genders.
Transgender: Someone whose gender is something other than what they were assigned at birth. (While trans is not exactly a sexuality, it is certainly a valid LGBT+ identity.)
Pansexual: Someone who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to multiple different genders. (While this may seem very similar to bisexuality (and it is), pansexuality is an entirely separate identity. Pan and bi can occasionally be used interchangeably, but it is entirely based on personal opinion and there is a debate about whether or not they should be, most people seem to stick with whichever one they feel more comfortable with.)
Asexual: Someone who does not necessarily experience sexual attraction. Most people who identify with asexuality experience romantic attraction,
All right, now that that is out of the way: what are some of the basic stereotypes to avoid?
Note: these are based off of things that I have run into around the net, and they are undoubtedly influenced by my own opinions. There are probably some mistakes as well, please let me know if you find any. I will be happy to read your comments.
The butch and girly-girl lesbian relationship. Surprised? I know, they’re cute. But it’s just one version of a relationship involving two girls. It is true that there are many lesbians who fit the butch stereotypes, but everyone else needs representation too. To be clear, this is not on the list because it is a bad one, it is here simply because it seems easy to fall into.
The sex craving gay/lesbian/bi/pan etc. While physicality can have a major place in many written relationships (just think about a lot of the popular books out there right now), relationships are about the emotional not the physical. To be honest, this is something that can easily be overdone with straight relationships as well, but I think it can be a major problem with LGBT+ relationships, especially since there is some phobia out there about LGBT+ people being attracted to everyone they meet: entirely not true! Simply put: if you are not writing in a genre that asks for a ton of sexual stuff, this is something that I highly recommend avoiding.
The feminine/stylish gay man. This is very similar to the first one I mentioned; not all gay men wear flamboyant clothes, talk in high voices, or giggle. While there are some gay men who may fit this stereotype, there is also a large majority that does not. Let’s mix it up a bit shall we?
The greedy bisexual/pansexual. Bi and pan people have the capacity to be attracted to multiple genders, it is certainly not a mark of greed. It is an ability. Bi and pan people are not attracted to everyone they meet, and being bi or pan does not mean that they wish to be in multiple relationships at once.
The confused bisexual/pansexual. This one mostly seems to stem from a lack of understanding that bi and pan are both valid sexualities. While some people might be confused, the chances are that someone who is identifying with any of the LGBT+ terms probably knows whether or not the term fits them. To be clear: writing a character who is questioning their sexuality is an entirely different (and absolutely appropriate) thing!
The tragic death. Okay, this is probably the worst one of all. It is tempting to kill off one half of a relationship for drama and *ahem* mental torture (I am guilty of falling into this plot trap). However, this is entirely overdone in LGBT+ relationships. There are very few (but more than there used to be!) LGBT+ characters who get a happy ending, and I think that this is stereotype that should be broken. Do you remember what I said about books showing people the world in my last post? Everyone should be able to read about characters in relationships that they identify with who get to have happy endings!
All right, there it is in its mess and confusion. I know that I strayed off of the path of strictly talking about writing characters at a few points, but hopefully that did not occur too much.
Again, if you have any comments or corrections, please let me know!
Until next time!
(And a cute puppy gif, because that was pretty intense):