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  • Writer's pictureVendela Ahlström

Writing LGBTQ+ relationships

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

I saw this prompt on The Writer Community's Instagram and thought I'd share my view point on writing LGBTQ+ relationships. As you might know, although I haven't spoken about much, my main character identifies as a lesbian woman. And so, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the topic of writing gay characters.

Photo by Maria Vlasova

Here is the thing, I don't identify as gay, lesbian or bi. I'm straight. Yet, when my I started painting my character Saga in my mind, I saw her in a relationship with this amazing shield maiden. I love writing their scenes and I think they're a true power couple, but I realise that writing LGBTQ+ characters comes with responsibilities.

I want to begin by saying that when I grew up I didn't feel like there were enough LGBTQ+ characters in YA fantasy. There was always Malec from The Mortal Instruments and Evangeline and Elane from Red Queen, but most relationship took place in the background. It wasn't often, or ever, that I stumbled upon a main character in a homosexual relationship for instance. LGBTQ+ felt sparse and as a teenager I would have liked more diversity within YA fantasy. I do recognise that there were several LGBTQ+ novels in the YA genre, but most fell under YA contemporary and I'm not a huge reader of the genre. It's not that I want to only see LGBTQ +relationships in YA fantasy. It's that I want to see a realistic, diverse cast.

When I received critique from my CPs I got questions like "does no one mind that Saga is together with a girl?" or "What does her parents think of her relationship with a girl?" And my response was simply "no, it doesn't bother anyone". Thing is, although my WIP is influenced by history, it is fantasy. And so I've decided that homosexual relationships are part of the norm in my world, just like any heterosexual relationship.

Furthermore, this is not a coming out story. It is not about a gay experience, or about being gay. I have not had to come out, and I am not gay, so with respect to the LGBTQ+ community I cannot in all fairness write about those experiences. It is not my place. I suggest turning to Own Voices for such stories as they are theirs to tell.

I realise I am in a very privileged position as a white, straight woman. I try to be inclusive and diverse in my writing without being inclusive and diverse for the sake of ticking boxes. I want to create a realistic and respectful universe where everyone is allowed. But I want to encourage readers to pick up books by diverse authors. Diverse books are not the same as diverse authors and as important as I think it is to have diverse books on the shelves I think it's more important that the industry is open to diverse authors and Own Voices.

If you are unsure about what Own Voices is I suggest checking out this post by @writinggibsongirl which is very easy to understand and explains the meaning behind Own Voices.

I am also aware of popular, and even damaging stereotypes. I saw a very good post on Instagram, which I cannot find anymore, that covered some LGBTQ+ stereotypes that may be harmful and damaging to the LGBTQ+ community. It made me very aware of pitfalls one might fall into just because we are surrounded by these in media. While I was relieved that I had not written a stereotypical LGBTQ+ character in this way, at least not from my point of view, it gave me in insight into how easily we can harm our readers if we are not careful.

So yes, I think LGBTQ+ characters and relationships are incredibly important to include in writing. But as a white, straight CIS woman I am also aware that there are boundaries and aspects that I should not cover in my writing. I am doing my best to write LGBTQ+ characters with respect and I hope that my writing achieves this.

I'd love to hear your comments on the topic. Do you agree or disagree? How do you approach LGBTQ+ characters and relationships?

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