Queering Your Writing

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May 17, 2023

Queer is a huge spectrum and the umbrella gets larger as we humans find language for various aspects of gender identity, orientation, and ways of existing outside of the heteronormative majority. According to Statistics Canada, there are approximately 1 million folks in Canada who identify as LGBTQ+. That’s a lot of people who are looking to read about people like them. But reaching this audience isn’t the only reason to consider adding queer characters to your writing.

Your audience is ready to explore the stories of people outside of their own lived experiences. Your readers may have friends and family who are queer, or they may just be excited to read a diverse array of characters. We live in a world full of different people and if you want your writing to be authentic, you probably want to consider writing some LGBTQ+ people into your work.

Once you’ve decided you want to write some LGBTQ+ characters and you’re clear on the reasons why you want to write them, the only thing left is to write them with authenticity and sensitivity.

How do you do that?

  1. Do your homework. There are a lot of ways to research writing queer characters. You can read books or articles written by folks in the LGBTQ+ community. Look for personal blogs. Get on Twitter and check out tags like #queer and #LGBTQ. Follow queer authors and read the stories they post.
  2. Consult with sensitivity readers. If you’re writing about someone outside of your lived experience, particularly someone from a historically excluded group, think about hiring people from that group to read your work through the lens you’re writing about.
  3. Understand that queer characters are complex, just like everyone else. What other aspects of their personalities, their identities, their relationships are important, beyond their orientation? What is their favorite TV show? What kind of food do they love? Are they dog people? Are they allergic to chocolate? When I enter a room, I don’t generally lead with my queerness. I talk to people about how much I love Star Trek or cats or those chocolate topped donuts at Tim Horton’s.
  4. Avoid damaging stereotypes. Don’t include a trans character just to “trick” a straight person or make your one queer character the villain. Bisexuals cheating on their same sex partner with someone of the opposite sex is a tired trope. Having an asexual character set up just to be “cured” by their new love interest is crass.
  5. Have fun. You might make mistakes. You might use a term people no longer use. These things happen to every writer. No matter how much research you do, you can still make mistakes. But if you genuinely want to write diverse characters because you believe a broader range of people should see themselves in your work, do it. Your intention will shine through, even if you mess up.

It can be a daunting task to start writing outside of your comfort zone. Writers are often told to only write what we know. But if we did that, we’d have a lot of one-dimensional stories. You can do this.

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