Writers often fall short of realizing how different it can be to interact with the world as an LGBTQ+ person. Everything about you factors into this tangled web of worldview and interaction.
Sometimes, it’s radiant and accepting, and sometimes, it’s displacing and alienating. And every now and then, it’s both at the same time.
While this article is less advice and more a distorted sort of inspiration, I hope it helps flesh out your LGBTQ+ characters and the experiences that shape them into who they are.
So I’m an immigrant, and I’m out to my family. One thing you need to keep in mind when writing LGBTQ+ people of color is how the specific culture views family interactions. Where I’m from — socioeconomically and regionally — family is everything. You don’t have to like them, but blood is blood. Do my parents misgender me every day? Yes. Do they also spend thousands of dollars for college classes? Yes. The way we interact since I came out has been stilted, on thin ice, the words “pansexual” and “nonbinary” skeletons in the closet, but there is that necessity to keep me close.
Not everyone gets that. Depending on the way a character’s family views familial bonds, they get the sort of unlucky that ends in severe trauma, or worse.
But, I got that. It changes the way I act around them. Means that I have to handle a raised eyebrow every time I wear a dress, means that the world comes undone when I ask to cut my hair, means that who I am to my parents will never be the same. This Wikipedia page is helpful for looking into ethnic minorities and what it can mean to be LGBTQ+ within them.
There’s my gay friend group and my straight friend group. The straight one is made of my oldest friends, the ones who’ve known me since I was the new kid with the thick accent and ethnic lunches. They know me best, and I am eternally grateful for their friendship. But it’s bumpy. It’s the sort of bumpy where the wrong joke gets you a weird look, the sort of bumpy with ‘so you make up pronouns?’ and a casual ‘I’m not using anything past they’ from my best friend of six years.
Then, there’s the gay friend group. Innuendos and relation and acceptance. It’s everything the other group could be, but it’s not them, and so, even years later it feels wrong. Like shoes that are just a little too big. I like to think I’ll find a place there, but it feels like a betrayal to the people who saw me through coming out, those who raised me.
Being LGBTQ+ can sometimes be as much of an identity crisis as being an immigrant. Not knowing who you are or where you fit. My LGBTQ+ friend group would make fun of the person I am around old friends. My old friends wouldn’t touch my other group with a ten foot pole. I don’t think it makes my relationships any less real, but I mean to convey this general idea of displacement.
I once wrote a personal essay on being nonbinary in English class. It wasn’t for pity points, wasn’t a cry for help—just a topic near and dear to my heart that I thought would make a fine paper. One mistake: homophobia was a prevalent theme. I didn’t mind outing myself to the teacher, but she made…quite the ordeal with it. Casually mentioned her gay friend next class, brought a whole show for pride month. And that was truly lovely of her—I got so, so, so lucky, but all it felt then was alienating. Like I was some child different from others that needed to be coddled and told I was special.
This experience proves the double-edged sword of coming out. Perhaps this article is quite void. Many LGBTQ+ authors that write books centering around LGBTQ+ experiences have sets of their own that may be similar. But, this is that second side, the one where nobody quite gets it, not really. Where being cared for can feel like being alone. When nothing is crashing down on you, but someone thinks your world must be falling apart.
The show Love, Victor has the main character ask “what is the perfect level of gay that will keep everyone happy?” and many LGBTQ+ individuals feel that. It’s something you can show to make your story more relatable and to flesh out character experiences in those subtle ways, the little things that make them too much and then not enough.
is a high school freshman in New Jersey. She likes (in no particular order) books, music, science, history, running, and (of course) writing and is always up to learn something new! Find her on Instagram at @writing_stoot.