The simple answer is that representation is important. I believe this very strongly, and I will argue it with anyone who says it isn’t. Representation for any minority group is important.
My friend and Beyond the Trope co-host, Michelle, talked about it today on the podcast blog, with an emphasis on racebent Hermione Granger and this incredible quote about how harmful it can be to deny people mirrors and representations of themselves. She sums it up much better than I can here.
And I feel the same way. How many kids grew up not seeing themselves in books or movies or television? How many of those kids are still struggling with that in adulthood? Isn’t it time we stepped up to the plate and gave them characters who look or think or feel the same ways?
I think it is. I think it’s time we move toward making the diverse book conversation no longer necessary, because white, straight, middle-class male is no longer the absolute default. We’ve made a lot of progress in bringing more female voices into fiction (though we still have a long way to go, especially in comics and video games), but those voices still tend to be filtered through specific racial, religious, and sexuality lenses.
They say that every story has been told before. But wouldn’t bringing in more voices and viewpoints help recreate those stories in new, unique ways--and possibly even bring in brand new narratives?
So, I guess, that’s why I write GLBTQ characters in my fiction as often as I possibly can. It’s why I’m doing my best to include more racial diversity, as well, and exploring religious diversity and mental or physical disabilities for certain characters and stories. I feel like I owe it to the future audience of my books to stretch myself and challenge my own unconscious biases (because everyone has them).
It’s not easy, having this conversation and intentionally setting out to write diverse characters in a world still filled with homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, racism, ableism, and more. I’ll admit I’ve had moments of crippling terror that I’m not doing it right, or that writing queer characters will only paint me into a niche that no one wants to read.
But that’s not a reason not to try. The fact that I--and probably other authors--can feel self-conscious about writing diverse characters is a sign in itself that we need more stories about marginalized groups. And I, for one, am going to try and get over that fear of telling people what I write to help get these narratives out in the world.
For those interested, I’m co-presenting an entire workshop on writing queer characters on February 21st, through the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers!