Monday, May 19, 2014

One for the LGBTeam

Let me tell you something.

I think the whole “scoring points for LGBT” thing I see people say so often these days is stupid. Yes, this is a thing that exists. I’ve seen people use this term quite often, in fact.

By LGBT points I mean: When characters in media are portrayed as gay, lesbian, bi, or trans, it’s obviously just a half-assed attempt of the creator(s) to garner an audience or ratings - or all of the above. That it’s often seen as “unnecessary” for a character to be gay and there’s no way that they’re doing it for any reason than to get attention because that’s totally how the creative process works.

And I hate it when people act like a scorecard is necessary for any of these less-than-often portrayed characters in media, because all the same it discourages creators from portraying these types of characters. Writers shouldn’t feel remiss about including a gay or lesbian character in their story because they’re worried people might accuse them of trying to connect with the LGBT crowd.

All I have to say is: Why does this have to be seen as such a negative thing? When straight characters are portrayed in media, no one accuses the writers of trying to score any points with the “heterosexual crowd”, so why should it be any different for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender? Or any of the minority for that matter. No one should feel pressured to avoid risks or following their creative path simply because people will judge them for “not understanding” what it feels to be that minority, or whatever.

Here’s a secret, and it might come off as a total shock to people, but hear me out.

Most of the things people write about in fiction? They’ve never experienced before.

Crazy, right?

They say write what you know, and that’s why research was invented. That’s why the internet is such a vast and boundless source of information. There are interviews, documentaries, biographies that are readily available for you to utilize if you are confused. That’s why you read stories and talk to people and learn and grow as a person and as a creator. That’s the beautiful thing about writing fiction! So long as you show that you have a reasonable understanding of the topic you’re writing about, you don’t have to be gay or bi or trans or any minority group so long as you understand. We’re not some bizarre alien species from a distant planet that can’t be empathized with. We feel and love and think like every other human.

Allow me to put it this way. Personally, I have no idea what it’s like to be straight. Yes, there was a time where I thought it was possible for me to have romantic feelings for a boy, but my true feelings towards them had been completely superficial - a simple want to have what everyone else has. I’m aware of this now, but back then I was confused and maybe even a little bit of a closet homophobe, not so much afraid of gays but of the possibility that I might be myself. I have never been physically intimate with a member of the opposite sex, and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing heterosexual characters in my stories.

Characters will write themselves. Sometimes they’ll surprise you in ways you can’t imagine. Back in high school and college, my first two drafts of PROJECT SERAPHIM revolved around my protagonist who started initially as developing feelings for a man. She was a much different character back then. I had intended to write her as asexual in the current incarnation, but my plans had been thwarted during the creative process in the second novel, where I realized that my character was, incidentally, starting to develop romantic and sexual feelings towards another woman. This was hardly a game changer for me, even though it was the first time I had ever written a novel that centers a closeted lesbian. It’s actually something that I can relate to. Something that I know. But in reality, it’s not that much different than when I was writing her having romantic/sexual feelings towards a man.

Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of scrutiny. Take risks. It’s your story, these are your characters. Let them make their own decisions, love who they want to love, and be who they want to be. That’s not to say you must write minority characters, but this is just me saying that you shouldn’t be afraid of doing so for fear of being judged for it by any sides. And if anyone accuses you for trying to score some points for the LGBTeam?


No one’s really been keeping track of the score, anyway.

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