How to Write (and how not to write) LGBT characters

discourseful:

I saw a post earlier about writing LGBT characters that I hated a lot so here’s my take, as a non-binary lesbian and as a writer, on tips on how to write/not write LGBT characters.

A couple notes:

1) First and foremost, if you’re not LGBT, you need to talk to actual LGBT people about your characters. Seeing posts like this aren’t going to Cure you of any internalized homophobic or transphobic ideas that you might have, and LGBT people can point out problematic aspects that you wouldn’t realize could hurt LGBT people. Even if you ARE LGBT, be conscious of writing identities you can’t personally relate to. If you’re not a trans lesbian and want to write about one, talk to trans lesbians.

2) Going off of this… not all LGBT people agree on everything. (Hence why i’m writing this post in the first place!) However, if you have MANY LGBT people saying something you’re writing is problematic, don’t dismiss it just because one person disagreed. This is also why it’s good to talk to multiple LGBT people, not just one, about your characters.

The Actual Tips:

1) Writing feminine gay men and masculine lesbians… is not a bad thing, so long as you do this respectfully. This is something I see being toted as a “NEVER, EVER DO THIS”, and that’s blatantly wrong. Butch lesbians and feminine men exist, and deserve representation. If you have one lesbian character who’s masculine, predatory, objectifies women, etc, yeah, that’s a problem- but you’re capable of writing gay characters without doing this. (And if you’re not… don’t write gay characters!) Edit (anon suggestion): Not all mlm characters are “smol beans”, either- there are lots of masculine mlm who need representation too.

2) Gay people have gay friends. Unless they literally have no friends at all, we tend to have gay friends. Even if they’re in the deep south and are deeply closeted, they *probably still know another gay person*.

3) Don’t write the GBF trope. Literally just don’t.

4) Give your LGBT characters personalities just like you would cishet ones. Give them quirks and fears and goals like anyone else. BUT, this doesn’t mean “don’t overdo telling people your character is gay!!!”, because that’s another thing I see said a lot (primarily by cishets). LGBT people talk about being LGBT, especially around other LGBT people. A lot of us LIKE to joke about how gay we are or jokingly call inconvenient things homophobia. You can make them developed characters without totally ignoring their identity altogether. (This, though, is still another thing to be done sensitively, as with writing ‘stereotypical’ characters.)

5) Don’t write trans characters using ace bandages unless you’re making it explicitly clear how harmful this is. Please. Yes, this happens IRL, but this is a form of harmful representation that can perpetuate trans people injuring themselves through unsafe binding. (And you can find afab trans people to ask about other forms of bonding if you really can’t figure out some other way to write this.)

6) Additionally, a lot of trans people don’t just pass automatically if they bind once or cut their hair or wear a wig or put on makeup. (Unless they haven’t hit puberty yet.) I have trans friends who have been presenting as their gender for years and are still misgendered. I’ve read a number of books where a trans guy puts his Long Hair in a hat and binds and then suddenly everyone genders him correctly. This isn’t the reality for a lot of trans people. We get misgendered by our family, by friends, and constantly by total strangers. And if misgendering is a factor of our dysphoria, it *hurts*.

7) Unless you have a lot of LGBT characters, don’t make your villain LGBT. Consider WHY the hell you feel the need to make your evil character(s) gay or trans. Even IF you have a lot of LGBT characters, you should still think about why making someone who we are meant to root against and hope gets defeated into a LGBT character is so important to you.

I’ll probably add on to this later because I have a lot of thoughts on this, but other LGBT people feel free to add on as well!

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