by Libertad Araceli Thomas
As an aspiring writer, over the past year I’ve heard and read perhaps a dozen reasons why some writers are reluctant to incorporate queer narratives in their work in progresses. I mean, I get it, writing characters outside of your comfort zone isn’t always easy. What do they always tell us, write “what you know”.
As unreal as it sounds a lot of people don’t know any Queer people personally and want to hold onto that excuse but in order to unlock something deeper from your writing, I think it can be a learning experience writing what you don’t know.
Don’t get stuck in a rut with bogus cop-outs. Let me share with you the most common excuses I’ve heard and some pointers on how to overcome them.
1.) I’m not sure I can make a queer person believable.
Wait a sec…Is that all? If this is your biggest issue allow me to politely tell you that it’s called research for a reason. This one is actually the easiest and funnest to fix.
Expand your world. Introduce yourself to some new people. Take a genuine interest in befriending people of different backgrounds with different experiences from your own. Chances are the only thing you’ll discover is that Queer folk are no different from straight ones.
Don’t we all stress about the future? Don’t we all have an unhealthy obsession with Doctor Who?(No??? Okay maybe that’s just me, lol) One thing is definitely for sure is that we all have dreams and aspirations. Don’t let the sexual orientation of your character/s hinder your chance to make an amazing story that doesn’t settle on stereotypical portrayals.
Sometimes working a queer presence in your manuscript is the easy part. Finishing that baby? Now that’s the hard part.
2.) My main character’s a POC/Disabled/Non-Christian. It seems like too much stuff for one book.
Sadly, I’ve heard thus more than once. The reason why it’s problematic is it assumes that only white, able bodied Christians can be queer. By excluding queer culture from a “non-default” narrative is to erase the struggles of a POC/Disabled/Non-Christian character dealing with sexual identity.
There are plenty of people that can identify with all four. Trust me when I say this, It’s not too much. Books that center on an Intersectional queer protagonist are few and far between. Instead of following “trends”, why not be a trailblazer? I promise that if you did, I’d be your number #1 fan.
3.) My story doesn’t call for it.
So what you’re saying is that your story demands that everyone be straight?
If your answer is yes, then there’s a huge chance your work in progress is “fantasy”, because no world that exists today is made up of only straight people.
If your answer is no then go back and ask yourself. Do all my characters have to be straight? After all, you do want your book to be realistic, right? Help normalize Queer identities the way we do straight ones and then just maybe this won’t have to be a thing that stands in your way in the future.
4.) I’m afraid of offending people who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community.
This one is reasonable. It’s something even I struggle with. There’s a certain level of fear that comes along with including narratives you don’t normally identify with yourself. Maybe you’ll write something that lots of people connect with and that’s all we want to do, right? Yet there is still a small chance you’ll make the mistake of upsetting a lot of readers and that’s not a fun experience.
The way I felt when I picked up a book called The Sisterhood by E-Fierce is a feeling I can hardly describe in just a few words. The main character was Afro-Latina, like me and was questioning her feelings for girls just like I did at that age. I can’t begin to imagine the impact that book could have made had It had been around when I was younger and I’m so glad it’s out there because often the Afro-Latinx narrative is missing from books.
Sexuality isn’t something we talk about in Latinx culture so girls like I was at that age have few outlets to express their feelings. So in conclusion to my point, there is no growth without the risk.
Tons of readers would rather someone try than to exclude it altogether. If you miss this time, who knows maybe your next swing could be better(Who am I kidding, it’ll definitely be better!) and I don’t know a reader alive who wouldn’t appreciate the effort.
Libertad Araceli Thomas is one half of Twinja Book Reviews, a book blog that celebrates diversity. Between mastering her handstands and perfecting her butterfly kicks, she can be caught reading and promoting a good book!