by Shanyn Hosier
Happy Pride month! Did you know June was chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan? Or that Bill Clinton was the first US President to declare June a month to observe LGBT Pride (then called Gay and Lesbian Pride) in 2000? Events all over the world are staged in June to celebrate the LGBT community and promote their civil rights.
I make it a point to include LGBT characters in all of my stories. Why? Because whether we choose to be aware and/or accepting or not, every one of us comes into contact with LGBT humans all the time in our everyday, average lives. I don’t see the point in denial, but rather a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and include these individuals.
I recommend keeping the following points in mind when writing contemporary LGBT folks in fiction.
- LBGT people are normal. Their personalities and idiosyncrasies are as varied as any other group of human beings. Racial, cultural, ethnic, historical, gender-based, and geographical influences enrich their individualities. Keep in mind that despite the proliferation of (sometimes self-applied) labels, it’s important to watch out for overused—and sometimes hurtful and destructive—stereotypes.
- It’s good to know the lingo, so familiarize yourself with LGBT terminology, both PC (GLADD’s terminology guide is a good starting place) as well as slang vernacular. For contemporary help, try Urban Dictionary (better if you already know a word or phrase but not its meaning), Wikipedia, and the Online Dictionary of Playground Slang). When in doubt, err on the side of being respectful and sensitive.
- While things are getting better, the choice to come out can still be fraught with anxiety and trauma, and a character’s backstory ought to reflect this. Families and friends of LGBT adults and youth aren’t always universally supportive. The world at large doesn’t always accept that being LGBT isn’t merely a choice that can be reversed with sufficient focus or dedication. LGBT youth are twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers to report harassment/bullying either in or out of school, as well as more likely to be at risk for homelessness, depression, and suicide.
- Living openly as an LGBT person is a courageous decision. Despite the historic progress made in LGBT rights and equality in recent years, discrimination is still legal in many places. For instance, while same-sex marriage is now legal in many states, fewer workplace protections exist. A gay couple could get married on Saturday, then fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartment, and refused healthcare treatment (and any other myriad other public services) on Monday, solely because of their sexual orientation. Keep these issues in mind while writing your characters’ fabulous gay wedding, because your heroes and/or heroines are likely stressing about them.
Hopefully it’s becoming obvious that when you come right down to it, writing LGBT characters is actually no different than crafting any other flavor of compelling, sympathetic character. Like all other human beings, LGBT people are complex, varied, and vital members of society. As such, they deserve to be portrayed accurately in all forms of contemporary media. Putting yourself in their shoes is a good start.
Shanyn Hosier adores reading and writing in the same way she loves breathing and eating, deriving a similar nourishment from each. For more information about current and upcoming releases, please visit her website, www.shanynhosier.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.