As I was pimping the workshop to other attendees (because what else do you do when you’re presenting?), I noticed something:
A handful of people I talked to felt they didn’t need to go because they were already part of the GLBTQ community.
On one hand, I understand this mindset. I mean, you’re writing about things you already know from personal experience, right? You’re probably writing characters from the same point of view that you live in--whether you’re a gay man writing gay men or a lesbian writing lesbians, or whatever. It’s fantastic you’re writing GLTBQ characters, either way, don’t get me wrong.
But this answer of “oh, I’m already gay, so I don’t need to go to a workshop teaching me how to write gay people” also irked me. A lot. Enough to get me writing a blog post after goodness knows how long of not even looking at this website (because I’m still trying to figure all this out).
Because there is a huge swath of people and potential characters that you don’t represent, no matter who you are, where you fit within (or outside) the GLBTQ community, or what you write. We as writers should stretch ourselves to write different types of characters in our stories. We should just write characters of the same sexuality and gender identity as we are. And if you feel you can accurately write about anyone in the GLBTQ community just because you are also a part of it, I would strongly encourage you to reconsider.
No one is above research. Unless you’re writing a character who is, at their root, you, you probably need to do some research and reach out to people who live with the sexuality or gender identity that you want to write about. Just because you’re, for instance, a gay white man doesn’t mean you can accurately write about what it might be like to be a transgender woman of color. Hell, I can’t write accurately about writing a transgender woman of color, because I’m not one (but I recognize that it would be fantastic to include more of their stories, and if I ever decide to tackle a character like this, I know it will take a lot of research and talking to people and running it past beta readers in that community).
Research, sensitivity, and respect are vital if you’re writing about any minority, whether or not you’re part of a subset of that community. And I think there’s an inherent cockiness that goes with the “but I’m already part of this community” mindset. Yes, you are. And that can give you great insight into characters like you. But doesn’t it get boring to just write the same type of character over and over again? Or is that just me?