With the legalization of queer marriage last year, it seems like equality is far closer in this country than it has been for centuries. But there is still a ton of work to be done.
Why am I bringing this up now, and in a post about writing of all things? Because LGBT+ representation is still extremely scarce, both in film and books.
Of course, there are many different ways to approach representation of anything, and I cannot possibly cover everything in one post. Nor do I know everything. But one of my goals for June is to talk a bit about including ignored sections of society in books.
When speaking about any group that is not traditionally considered a majority (at least in modern times), there is always a lot of debate. I think it is common knowledge that people are afraid of things that they do not understand; no matter what it is.
Part of what books do is help to create understanding around topics that might not necessarily be talked about around a dinner table. This is not the case for all books, nor should it be, but, whether the author intends it or not, books often carry messages.
The topic of this post is a tiny splinter of a much larger one, and it is only part of one side, but I believe that it is an important thing to talk about. I have run into many things around the internet about how some people see a ‘queer or gay-agenda’ being shoved in their faces; I find this ridiculous. But I’ll talk more about that in a separate post.
While I could easily go on a very long rant about my own views, I am simply going to harp on the fact that it is still hard to find good representation of minority groups in film and books.
It is true that there are far more LGBT+ characters in TV nowadays, and the number in books is rising as well; however, it is still quite hard to find books with good queer role models.
Yes, the rising amount of representation is extraordinary and wonderful, but there is a difference between the what media sees as ‘queer’ and the actual diversity of the term.
In my cloistered little world, I may not know very much, but I hope that I can at least recognize a few of the major questions relating to dealing with queer characters.
I know that a lot of people who have not written many queer characters often wonder where they should start:
How is writing queer relationships different from heterosexual ones?
How should they go about defining who has which role in a partnership?
How can they avoid offending people, including the LGBT+ community?
To start with an overview of each:
1. Queer people are still people; in short, it is a pretty safe bet to start writing their relationships just like you would any relationship. It has highs and lows, understanding and confusion, just go with it.
2. Who says there should be roles at all? Not everything needs to be defined in black and white or male and female.
3. Try to become at least slightly familiar with the typical stereotypes that you should stay away from. Do a bit of research. There is a ton of material available.
Clearly, there is much more to say about each of those, but I am going to start with a few general questions before really getting into the more nitty-gritty stuff…
First off: why include representation anyway? This is pretty self-explanatory, but I’m going to talk a bit about it anyway.
A bit of a personal story: One of the first fantasy books that I remember reading more than once is Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. I started reading at a late age, but I quickly started searching for chapter books; the Song of the Lioness series was one that I absolutely fell in love with. The main character, Alanna, is fierce as hell and just as strong. She follows her own heart and passions despite what society expects her to do, and she manages to grow stronger with each mistake she makes. She is also incredibly stubborn. Reading a book with such a strong female main character was, and still is, a major inspiration.
What does this have to do with LGBT+ representation?
Representation is all about showing people that something is possible. Every community and group of people needs its heroes and heroines. Including diverse characters in anything is a way of showing the people who are different that it is okay to be them. Having an entire world with strictly hetero-cis-white representation would be extremely diminishing to everyone who does not fit those confines.
While this world is not one with strictly white-hetero representation, it is the majority of what people see in media (film or books).
Now, clearly this conversation could reach straight into equality as a general concept, but I’m going to try to bring it back to books.
My view in this post is mostly focused on America since it is the country that I am the most familiar with. The book that I started in April for Camp NaNoWriMo has very few straight characters; this was not an accident.
Over the past month or so, I have been occasionally searching for books with LGBT+ characters to add to my to-be-read list. The number of books that I am finding with characters who are something other than gay/lesbian is pitifully small.
I very rarely read anything that is solely (or even mostly) romantic, and that undoubtedly makes the number of books even thinner. But, even when including romance, there are still very few.
For a world, and a country, with a large number of people who identify on the queer spectrum (whether it is gay/lesbian, pan, bi, trans, asexual etc.) this is something that I find sad.
Now, I know that my approach in this post may be slightly heavy handed to one side, and I have not even gotten into the writing part of the discussion yet, I think that there is very little that should be skipped over.
Because I am trying to keep each of my posts on this topic relatively small, I am going to end here for now. I hope to tackle an question that better pertains to actually writing next time.
Hopefully you will bear with me through my plethora of posts regarding representation… and I will try to keep my personal rants out of the way and to a minimum.
Until next time…