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There are a lot of questions on this site about how to approach things specifically to do with LGBT characters, where the action/story in question isn't specifically about their sexuality.

Is it okay to kill off a main LGBT love interest?

How do I write LGBT characters without looking like I'm trying to be politically correct?

An LGBT main character, but the book isn't about LGBT issues

So this seems quite a common theme.

So I suppose the overarching question is "Should I do anything differently when writing about LGBT characters compared to heterosexual ones?"

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    It seems like you are trying to create one canonical "LGBT character writing" question so any further questions on the topic can be closed as duplicates. I don't think this is a constructive approach. The topic is too broad IMO to handle it with one generic question.
    – Philipp
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:20
  • @Philipp I fundamentally disagree, the answer is the same for all of them. Treat them the same as non-lgbt characters Jan 3, 2023 at 14:43
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    That's a very simplistic answer that ignores that the experience of LGBT people is different from the experience of straight/cis people. It works well for a first iteration, but not too great for the goal.
    – Divizna
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:18
  • @Divizna - Not really... As someone who's not straight, I think that treating LGBT people differently to anyone else is fundamentally wrong. and only goes to further cement "us and them". Everyone's experience is different from literally everyone else's, regardless of sexuality, so I don't find this argument holds water. Jan 3, 2023 at 18:31

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Avoid inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes.

One of the other answers suggests that if you wouldn't think twice about doing X if the character were non-LGBT, then doing X to an LGBT character is fine too. But that becomes problematic when there are biases in society about X and LGBT people. It means you might unintentionally invoke a stereotype that you wouldn't have in the other case. So that's something to be aware of.

Stories don't exist in isolation. They're consumed by people that are part of a society with all sorts of biases, so those biases affect how the story is read, and vice versa. On the upside, that means a good story can (slightly) improve society, but on the downside a poor/careless story can make it (slightly) worse.

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    Personally, I disagree with this... Deliberately avoiding something that might be a stereotype cuts out that section of the community that might happen to conform to the stereotype. If we followed this answer you could never write about an overly flamboyant gay character. Sure, not everyone who's gay is overly flamboyant, but there are plenty who are. You just shouldn't make them overly flamboyant because they're gay and you shouldn't only write LGBT characters that conform to stereotypes. Jan 3, 2023 at 10:38
  • @ScottishTapWater I didn't say that people should necessarily avoid stereotypes altogether. That's one thing you could do if you're aware of potential stereotypes cropping up. But, as you suggest, you could also make sure there are enough LGBT characters that don't conform to that stereotype. Or deal with it in other ways. On the other hand, if you just assume that everything is fine because it would have been fine if the character was straight, then the stereotype will catch you unawares and shit hits the fan.
    – user54131
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:21
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    When you realize you are writing a stereotypical character but don't see any good reason to change that character, then one way to deal with that is through lampshade hanging. Just point out how they behave improperly stereotypical within the work. Either through narration, through another characters commentary or through internal monologue of the character showing self-awareness of how stereotypical they act.
    – Philipp
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:24
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Treat an LGBTQ+ character the same as any other

If you wouldn't treat a heterosexual cisgender person that way, don't treat an LGBTQ+ character that way. It's that simple.

For example, if you have a wedding between two lesbians, write it as you would a wedding between two heterosexuals. Also, if you have a transgender character, you can mention them having surgery or taking hormones, but you don't have to linger on the fact they are transgender.

Does it honestly change much? It doesn't generally impact the plot much.

Example-

"Oh, by the way, I'm a bisexual," Alex says.

"Great," the protagonist says. "What does that have to do with stopping the Dark Lord?"

"Uh..."

It only changes the plot where sexuality or gender is relevant such as:

Ex1-

"By the way, I'm a lesbian," Alex says.

"Great," the MC says. "That doesn't help us stop the Dark Lord."

"No, but I'm attracted to you. I'm confessing."

"Oh."

Ex2-

"By the way, I'm gay," Ryan says.

"Great, how does that help us stop the Dark Lord?" the MC asks.

"I can try seducing him?"

"..."

Ex3

"By the way, I'm transgender," Stacy says.

"Great, how does that help us stop the Dark Lord?" the MC says.

"Because the Dark Lord is a manifestation of my internal struggle with understanding my gender identity and the weight of society pressuring me to be a girl."

"What-what do I even say to that?"

...

It only creates a difference on specific circumstances, situations where gender or sexuality are relevant.

Stories thrive on conflict and drama both internal and external.

What if the character thinks they like guys but learns they like girls instead? Now they have to break up with the guy and explain the truth. Great external conflict.

What if a character thinks they are a girl but begins transitioning into a boy? They now have to rediscover themself and question what it even means to be a boy or a girl, or if those words hold meaning at all. Great internal conflict.

Just treat an LGBTQ+ character with the same respect you should treat any character or person you meet in real life.

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  • As guidance for writing sure. On the other hand, I tend to go along with Reb Tevye. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddler_on_the_Roof If they would agree I would agree.
    – Boba Fit
    Jan 4, 2023 at 0:18
  • The point about mentioning sexuality is a good one. It would be weird if someone introduced themselves as "Hi, I'm Alex, and I'm straight," so it's likewise weird to bring up anyone's sexuality apropos of nothing. Obviously, there are things you can do with this, like making a character obnoxious or protest too much regarding their sexuality, but then that circles back into using it as a plot/character element.
    – Aos Sidhe
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:45
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TLDR: sexuality really isn't that important a character trait, don't make a big deal out of it unless it's really integral to the plot.

Just don't make a big deal about your characters being LGBT. Treat them exactly like what they are, normal people. Think to yourself, "would I make a big deal out of X if my character were straight?". If the answer is no, then don't make a big deal out of it. If your character's sexuality has precisely nothing to do with the story, don't mention it just to tick the gay character box.

On the other hand, if your characters are on a grand adventure and talking about how much they miss their families, it's perfectly fine to have your LGBT one talk about their same-sex partner. Just do it in exactly the same way as your straight character talked about their wife. The same goes for if it's a rom-com, it's absolutely fine to have the two love interests be whatever sexuality you want, just don't focus on the sexuality itself, focus on the characters.

Not making a big deal out of it doesn't just apply to the story, it applies to how you think about your characters when you're writing them to. For instance:

  1. Yes you can kill an LGBT character
  2. Yes you can have an LGBT character cheat on their spouse
  3. Yes you can have an LGBT character's main love interest die a horrible, graphic death
  4. Yes you can have an LGBT character be the nicest/most horrible person in the world
  5. Yes this random character your book can be LGBT just because you feel like it (but don't retcon it)

The key is making sure that you're not doing these things (or doing them differently) because they're LGBT, that's going to stray into tokenism or prejudice very, very fast.

I guess the only exception to this would be if you're writing about the hardships that come along with being LGBT. In which case, sure, you need to make more of a deal about it. However, unless you're LGBT, here be dragons. I'd strongly advise against writing about this sort of thing unless you really know what you're talking about.

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LGBT people tend to be politically valued, so it's more controversial doing bad things to them.

LGBT people are fairly popular in a lot of creative circles, and are generally seen as proper people who are acting in a good way who you shouldn't stigmatize. As such, it's not seen as good to criticize them heavily or have them be pathetic or evil.

You can be openly cruel to other groups.

Some groups, you can openly murder and use stereotypes about. The Russians are very popular villains and you can freely stereotype and be rude about them, especially with the recent war, The british are popular villains and generally fine to stereotype and murder black fathers are a popular target of stereotypes and racial abuse.

Some groups will of course be offended by this, but generally you're less likely to get people offended if you do x to a British or Russian or black father character than an LGBT character or other groups.

In general for all groups, if you want to be sensitive it's good to do some research first.

If you don't want to be offensive to anyone, including LGBT people, black fathers, the British, or Russians, you should do some research into cultural values of your chosen group, be careful about portraying a group as evil, and be careful about using people of a disliked race/ sex/ sexuality to drive the plot by dying. That said, it's more risky if you do it to LGBT people.

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  • Are you actually suggesting that it's more okay to be racist about black dads that it is to be homophobic..? That's a hot take and a half Jan 3, 2023 at 18:29
  • It is sadly very common, and so clearly it is more acceptable. I didn't say it's more okay, just that it's generally a pretty common plotpoint, e.g. in the recent TV show Sandman where the black fathers are evil people who abandon their children and relationships.
    – Nepene Nep
    Jan 3, 2023 at 18:48
  • This seems phrased in a very charged way. Historically, they were "acceptable targets" and any usage of them had to "show the consequences of their lifestyle" (i.e. kill them or otherwise end tragically). Now that our societal consensus has shifted to LGBT people being equal and deserving of the same rights and freedoms as anyone else, this is no longer the case, but the previous dynamic still leaves scars and patterns. I'd phrase it less as them being "politically valued" and more like taking care to be tactful around someone you know has been through trauma.
    – Aos Sidhe
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:42
  • It is currently acceptable to leave scars and patterns on other groups though like the British, or Black fathers, or Russians, and not care about trauma, so that's not a general moral. It's more that one particular group is protected by another group.
    – Nepene Nep
    Jan 5, 2023 at 15:17
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    You seem to have confused "common" with "acceptable". The headline in the Union-Tribue is a demand to stop perpetuating the stereotype, and the BBC article says "Hollywood [...] clearly needs to find fresh evildoers". The New European article is more tongue-in-cheek, and never really answers the question in its headline, but even that one mentions the fact that Russians do object to being stereotyped as villains. Or perhaps it's a case of "acceptable to whom?" - if you're writing for homophobes, go ahead and be cruel to LGBT characters; if you're writing for racists, be cruel to Africans.
    – IMSoP
    Jan 5, 2023 at 17:42

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