Going Over the Rainbow: The Diversity Dilema

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Ever since BookCon 2014 diversity has become one of the new buzz words around the publishing industry and among writers. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks tag showed a massive outpouring of support and desire for diversity in children’s books. While at the time the movement was primarily focused on cultural diversity it has grown over the last couple of years to reflect the need for all kinds of diversity; racial, physical ability, mental illness, sexual orientation and gender identity, and not just in children’s books. While this has been needed for years and nearly everyone your meet acknowledges this to some degree, there has been some push-back. Some authors felt as though they were being forced to write characters that might not fit their stories.

Thus came the rise of tokenism, diversity quotas and many instances of misrepresentation as well meaning authors attempted to correct their lack of diversity. Others refused to add diverstiy, citing the fear of getting it wrong. While the We Need Diverse Books campaign is crucial in highlighting where the industry lacks, it has not helped authors write more diversely.

Writing with diversity is something that every author should strive for. Yet, there isn’t much out there to show you how to do so. I’ve mentioned before, there are some stories that are not ours to tell. Jami Gold had a very helpful blog post about writing more diversely and I myself have written about it in the past. Yet there still seems to be a lot of confusion about what it means and how to go about it.

Especially how to go about it.

So, to that end I’ve developed a worksheet that you will hopefully find helpful in writing more diversely without falling back on stereotypes or feeling as though you’re just filling a perceived quota. The following info graphic is a shorthand version of the worksheet and is something I hope you’ll find both useful and educational.

Diversity Graphic

The Diversity Double Check (Info-graphic text)

  • Are you part of the minority you are writing about? Yes or no?
    • Yes. Awesome. Keep up the good work. Your story needs to be told.
  • No? Do you have access to people who are part of this minority and are you willing to ask questions and do research? Yes or no?
    • No. Please reconsider your stance. Writing truly diverse characters comes from learning about others and being willing to set aside our own assumptions.
  • Yes. Good. You’re headed in the right direction. Now, is your character’s story directly related to their experience as a minority? Yes or no?
    • Yes. Please take a step back and think about why you feel qualified to write about this experience. This is not a situation where empathy can help you write authentically. In order to write this you must have experienced it.
  • No. Alright. Are they the only character in the story representing their minority? Yes or no?
    • Yes. Caution! Why is this the case? You need to have a very compelling reason for this otherwise you may not be showing true diversity.
  • No. Good. You are on your way to a diverse cast. Now, do they have a stereotypical background, occupation or role in the story? Yes or no?
    • Yes. Caution! Why is this the case? You need to have a very compelling reason for this otherwise you may not be showing true diversity.
  • No. Awesome. Last question. Do they die? Yes or no?
    • Yes. Caution! Why is this the case? You need to have a very compelling reason for this otherwise you may not be showing true diversity.
  • No. Fantastic. You are well on your way to a diverse and well represented cast.

The questionnaire worksheet was created to help you ensure your story is diverse without resorting to tokenism or filling a perceived quota. You might find the answers to some questions uncomfortable. All this means is that you’ve uncovered internalized bigotry. This is not a reflection on you, but on the culture and society in which you’ve been raised. Knowledge is the first step to overcoming this perceived default state.

Even those of us who are part of a minority often find ourselves defaulting to white straight cis-gendered characters simply because this is what we see the most. It will take work to overcome this. The worksheet will help you find ways to incorporate diversity into your story—not effortlessly—but hopefully, seamlessly.

It will start you off with big picture questions about your story as a whole, from there it will take you to character specifics to help you better grasp the ways in which to reflect diversity. Lastly, there are a couple of exercises to help you get your muse used to the idea of writing diverse characters. This is not a quick fix thing. You will have to work at this, just like any other aspect of writing. It will take practice and you are going to make mistakes. It is part of learning and being a writer. But, I know you can do it and it will be awesome.

Diversity Worksheet generic (PDF)

Diversity Worksheet generic (docx)

Do you have any questions about how to incorporate more diversity into your stories? Have you found writing diversely a challenge? What about it feels challenging to you? What other kinds of worksheets or help would you like to see from me?

If you enjoy my posts please consider supporting me on Patreon. I would also be very happy if you would Buy Me a Coffee if you feel so inclined.

Going Over the Rainbow: Gay Male Characters

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With the end of a tumultuous and tragic Pride month there are more concerns than ever about how gay men are represented in media. So how can you, as a responsible author, help dispel many of the harmful stereotypes that lead people to commit horrible atrocities? By accurately and sensitively writing gay men. Please allow me to offer a few words of advice on this.

Gay/Homosexual Male: A man who is primarily attracted to other men to the exclusion of other genders.

Developing a Gay Character

So, how might you go about creating your own gay character? These questions might help you discover why your character has chosen this identity for themselves and how it impacts their life and relationships.

  • How do other characters react to your character’s orientation? How does your character react/respond to these reactions?
  • How does the society in your story react to gays? How does this affect your character? What assumptions do others have about gays/your character?
  • When did/will your character realize that they were attracted to males? How does/will your character think/feel about this? Is the realization because of a specific event, a gradual understanding/coming to terms, etc?
  • How does your character express their gender, whether by choice/effort or naturally, in terms of presenting, passing, self-image and comfort? Do they express their gender a certain way in the hopes of finding other gay men?
  • How does your character tell people about being a gay man (if they tell people at all)? If their coming out to their parents had a negative impact has this changed how they approach others about the subject?

Writing a Gay Character

As with writing any character, their sexuality is just one part of their whole identity. When writing your gay character here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You can have your character specifically state they are gay. This will help the reader understand where your character is coming from. Having other characters react and ask questions will help mitigate an info dump. Many readers will reject a queer coded character unless it is specifically stated, but this is your decision to make.
  • Before writing a coming out story think carefully about whether or not this is your story to tell. Every person’s story is different and if you yourself are not a gay man this might not be your story to tell.
  • Do let your character have close intimate non-sexual/non-romantic relationships with characters of all genders. Being gay doesn’t mean your character will be attracted to every man they meet. Be clear on character intent and watch wording to avoid confusing your reader.
  • Try to avoid making your character gay simply as a plot device. It should be an integral part of who they are, not a quirk.
  • It might be best to avoid having them be a so-called ‘flaming gay’ as this can perpetuate harmful attitudes toward femininity and can promote the idea that gay men want to be women. If you choose to write a such a character please be careful of using feminine stereotypes for their characterization.
  • Be very careful about having your gay character die, suffer tragedy or mental illness as this is an incredibly harmful trope and should be handled with the utmost care.
  • Be mindful of the character’s ‘gaze’ or how they describe other characters as they can end up seemingly sexually attracted to people you didn’t intend and can lead to reader confusion as to their sexuality.

 

Things to keep in mind:

Gay men are increasingly the subject of queer experience appropriation, infantilization and fetishization in stories. The popularity of the ‘slash’ (M/M) genre has perpetuated some very harmful stereotypes, tropes and the continued fetishizing of gay relationships. It has also led to the stereotype of white cis-gendered gay men being the default ‘gay’ seen in media. This excludes gay men of other races and gay trans men. Please always keep in mind you are writing a person, not an orientation.

Tropes:

Tropes are tropes for a reason and most of these are not bad in and of themselves, however like a lot of tropes they often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and thus should be used cautiously. Some of these are problematic in and of themselves and should not be used without extreme caution and sensitivity. These tropes are marked with an asterisk.

Agent Peacock | All Gays Love Theater | All Gays Are Pedophiles* | All Gays Are Promiscuous* | All the Good Men Are Gay | Always Camp | Ambiguously Gay | Anything That Moves | Armoured Closet Gay | Badass Gay | The Bear | The Beard | Big Beautiful Man | Bury Your Gays* | But Not Too Gay | Camp Gay | Camp Straight | Cast Full of Gay | Closet Key | Club Kid* | Coming-Out Story | Cure Your Gays* | Depraved Homosexual* | Everyone Is Gay | Experimented in College | Faux Yay | Flying Under the Gaydar | Forced Out of the Closet | Gay Aesop | Gay Best Friend | Gay Bravado | Gay Conservative | Gay Cowboy | Gay Groom in a White Tux | Gay Guy Seeks Popular Jock | Gayngst | Gym Bunny | Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: | Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?* | Hello, Sailor! | If It’s You, It’s Okay | Lover and Beloved | Macho Camp | Magical Queer | Manly Gay | Nobody Over 50 Is Gay | Sissy Villain* | Transparent Closet | The Twink | Word of Gay: Word of God*

Gays in Fiction

Gay men have been written about since the 1st Century and have been a constant fixture in human society all through the ages. A list of books featuring appropriate and accurate representation of gay men is a subject for debate.

Where We Are on TV 11

Lists of LGBT Fictional Characters  

Famous Gay Men in History

Alexander the Great

Michelangelo

Leonardo da Vinci

Oscar Wilde

Alan Turing

Emperor Hadrian

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

Babur

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp

Cyrano de Bergerac

Leonard Bernstein

Marlon Brando

Ferdinand I of Bulgaria

Caligula

Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès

Truman Capote

Giacomo Casanova

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tennessee Williams

Further Reading:

The Critical Media Project: LGBT

Gay Representation in Media by Dustin Bradley Goltz

Reinventing Privilege: The New (Gay) Man in Contemporary Popular Media

What Led to Lexa: A Look at the History of Media Burying Its Gays

Going Over the Rainbow: The Trope Trap

Going Over the Rainbow: Hot for You

Is there anything you feel I’ve left out? How would you handle writing a gay man? Have you ever written one? If you haven’t, would you consider it?

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Going Over the Rainbow: Lesbians

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It’s been a rough year for fictional lesbians and not a great one for the rest of the MOGAI population either.

I don’t have any new words to say about Orlando that haven’t already been spoken. I can only move forward and hope this series inspires you to write even more queer characters so that many more people can read your stories and see we are human too. That’s my greatest hope.

So lets just jump right into today’s subject.

Lesbian: A woman who is primarily attracted to other women.

Developing a Lesbian Character

So, how might you go about creating your own lesbian character? These questions might help you discover why your character has chosen this identity for themselves and how it impacts their life and relationships.

  • How do other characters react to your character’s orientation? How does your character react/respond to these reactions?
  • How does the society in your story react to lesbians? How does this affect your character? What assumptions do others have about lesbians/your character?
  • When did/will your character realize that they were attracted to females? How does/will your character think/feel about this? Is the realization because of a specific event, a gradual understanding/coming to terms, etc?
  • How does your character express their gender, whether by choice/effort or naturally… in terms of presenting, passing, self-image and comfort? Do they express their gender a certain way in the hopes of finding other lesbians? What challenges/opportunities does this present them?
  • How does your character tell people about being a lesbian (if they tell people at all)?

Writing a Lesbian Character

As with writing any character, their sexuality is just one part of their whole identity. When writing your lesbian character here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You can have your character specifically state they are a lesbian. This will help the reader understand where your character is coming from. Having other characters react and ask questions will help mitigate an info dump. Many readers will reject a queer coded character unless it is specifically stated, but this is your decision to make.
  • Before writing a coming out story think carefully about whether or not this is your story to tell. Every person’s story is different and if you yourself are not lesbian this might not be your story to tell.
  • Do let your character have close intimate non-sexual/non-romantic relationships with characters of all genders. Being lesbian doesn’t mean your character will be attracted to every woman they meet. Be clear on character intent and watch wording to avoid confusing your reader.
  • Try to avoid making your character lesbian simply as a plot device. It should be an integral part of who they are, not a quirk.
  • It might be best to avoid having them be a so-called ‘butch lesbian’ as this can perpetuate harmful attitudes toward femininity and can promote the idea that lesbians want to be men. If you choose to write a ‘butch’ lesbian please be careful of using masculine stereotypes for their characterization.
  • Be very careful about having your lesbian character die, suffer tragedy or mental illness as this is an incredibly harmful trope and should be handled with the utmost care.
  • Be mindful of the character’s ‘gaze’ or how they describe other characters as they can end up seemingly sexually attracted to people you didn’t intend and can lead to reader confusion as to their sexuality.

Things to keep in mind:

Lesbians face unique challenges in modern society. As women who love women they are often fetishized, made the butt of tasteless jokes, and given little personal agency in media. Their stories are commonly portrayed as inherently tragic, as nothing more than close friendships, as a woman who simply hasn’t found the ‘right’ man, or as men-hating extremists. These stereotypes are incredibly hurtful and far from the truth. It is your responsibility as the writer to make certain your portrayal, while true to your story, doesn’t reduce your lesbian character to a stereotype or trope. Always keep in mind that you are writing a whole, complex person, not just a sexual orientation.
Additionally, if a term seems like it might be offensive, please err on the side of caution and omit it. Terms like ‘gold star lesbian’ and ‘dyke’ should not be used as they can be incredibly offensive. Dyke is a term reserved for intra-community use. Please refrain from using it if you are not part of the community. 

On ‘butch’ lesbians reecepine of Tumblr says:

There are privileges and disadvantages to lesbians passing for straight in the heteronormative world and in the LGBTIA+ community. An obvious advantage is safety. A disadvantage is femme invisibility (source), hence desperate queer coding which tends to lean towards masculine expressions (short hair etc.).

But often you can’t choose to pass or to be butch. It’s fairly common for pre-pubescent children to demonstrate gender nonconforming behaviour, but there is a strong association between high-level gender non-conforming activity and people later IDing as transgender or homosexual. It happens, it is stressful and it attracts corrective behavior modifications and abuse, from childhood onwards. Meaning a lot of lesbians don’t conform to gender norms and never have, and have been criticized their whole lives for that. I was assigned female at birth, have been socialized as female, and ID as cis. I’m (usually, relatively) feminine-presenting but have naturally masculine mannerisms, so I can pass for ‘not butch’ only if I go out of my way to act, and dress in what feels like a costume. My natural state of behaving, though, doesn’t mean I want to be or am trying to be male.

Tropes:

Tropes are tropes for a reason and none of these are bad in and of themselves, however like a lot of tropes they often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and thus should be used cautiously. Bury Your Gays is one of the most prevalent and one to be avoided.

All Lesbians Want Kids | Ambiguously Gay | Bait-and-Switch Lesbians | Bury Your Gays  | Butch Lesbian | Cure Your Gays | Dude, She’s a Lesbian | Girl-on-Girl Is Hot | Girls Behind Bars | Hide Your Lesbians | Lesbian Cop | Lesbian Jock | Lesbian Vampire | Lipstick Lesbian | Psycho Lesbian | Rape and Switch | Schoolgirl Lesbians | Token Lesbian

Lesbians in Fiction

Lesbians have been written about since the 2nd Century and have been a constant fixture in human society all through the ages.

Wiki List of lesbian fiction

Famous Lesbians in History

Sappho of Lesbos

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey

Mabel Hampton

Barbara Gittings

Jane Addams

Gladys Bentley

Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon

Eleanor Roosevelt

Lilli Vincenz

Jerre Kalbas

Barbara Jordan

Marie Antoinette

Virginia Woolf

Florence Nightingale (speculated)

Further Reading

avoiding-lgbtq-stereotypes | definitions | safe-zone-resources/truth/ | sexual orientation study guide | Civil Rights and Orientation | Theories About Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Sexuality | Wishlist for Fiction | Am I a Lesbian? A Journey of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification | Are Feminism and the Transgender Movement At Odds? | Gender Trouble 

Is there anything you feel I’ve left out? How would you handle writing a lesbian? Have you ever written one? If you haven’t, would you consider it?

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

10 Tips for Making Tumblr Work for Writers

 

As a die hard introvert online social media is not my forte. Though it certainly makes things a bit easier by giving me a screen to hide behind, but even then I struggle. So today I’ll be going over something that does work for me and might for you. Tumblr. It’s not just for SuperWhoLock and hipsters. ^_^

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Jami Gold’s blog today. Follow the link below for the full post.

10 Tips for Making Tumblr Work for Writers

Going Over the Rainbow: Writing a Character Who is Transgender

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Trans Terms

Transgender issues have been in the spotlight lately with Target’s new policy and North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation. Neither of these news items tell us much about just what it is like to be a trans person, other than that going to the bathroom in public places can be like playing Russian roulette where all the chambers are filled but one.

I decided to go ahead and write this after seeing a post on a Facebook group I’m a part of asking writers how they write genderqueer characters. While well meaning, many of the comments showed a fundamental lack of understanding of what it means to be trans or genderqueer. So I’ve tailored today’s post to cis-gendered writers looking to write trans characters sensitively. As I’ve said before, there are some issues best left to trans or genderqueer writers, but please don’t be afraid to write a trans character. I’m hoping this post will help you be more confident in portraying them.

Transgender (adj.)

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms – including transgender. Some of those terms are defined below. Use the descriptive term preferred by the individual. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.

(http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender)

Writing a Transgender Character

So you want to write a transgender character? That’s awesome! Here are some thoughtful questions that you can ask yourself about your character to help you better understand how they see themselves and how they interact with the world:

  • Which gender does your character identify as?
  • How does this gender manifest and how does your character show/perform it?
  • How does your character think/feel about being transgender? Does it give them an advantage/disadvantage? Is it a big deal to them or not?
  • Do they deal with gender dysphoria? If so, how do they handle it? If not, what other identity challenges might they face?
  • When did your character discover that their gender identity did not match their assigned gender? What kind of experience was it?
  • Does your character plan to transition to their gender? Why or why not? If so how do they plan to transition (hormone therapy, surgery?) and what challenges might they face?
  • How does the character interact with the world?
  • How does your character want to be perceived by others? How are they actually perceived?
  • How do other characters react to your character? Do they use their chosen name and pronouns or not? How does your character handle these reactions?
  • How does the society in your story treat your character?

This is just to get you thinking about building a complex character who is transgender. If you can’t answer all these questions now, then just keep them in the back of your mind for consideration as you continue to develop your character.

  • Keep specific gender traits for your character consistent. A character worksheet can help you to make sure you have the details down.
  • Don’t fall into gendered stereotypes for gender expression. There is nothing wrong with any of the activities themselves, but be careful about using them to portray a specific gender expression. Remember that some people are gender non-conforming. A female character can act masculine without being trans.
  • How your character expresses their gender should fall in line with their personality. They are still the same person no matter which gender they identify as. Personality traits are not gender dependant.
  • Pronoun usage should match your character’s chosen pronouns unless the character speaking is someone who refuses to address your trans character properly.
  • As with pronouns, names should stay consistent within a scene. If your character prefers a particular name for their gender identity this should be used when the character is the point of view character in the scene. Other characters might use or disregard their chosen name with appropriate reaction/consequences.
  • Remember, gender identity is independant from sexual orientation. A person who transitions from male to female and is attracted only to men may identify as a straight woman. A person who transitions from female to male and is attracted to men would most likely identify as a gay male.

 

I hope this will help you get started writing a transgender character. As with any gender identity it’s important to remember you are writing a person, not a gender. Who they are is more important than what they identify as and while it is a large part of their personality, it shouldn’t be the sole focus.

Special Note:

It’s worth it to note that crossdressing is not the same as being transgender. GLAAD states:

While anyone may wear clothes associated with a different sex, the term cross-dresser is typically used to refer to heterosexual men who occasionally wear clothes, makeup, and accessories culturally associated with women. This activity is a form of gender expression, and not done for entertainment purposes. Cross-dressers do not wish to permanently change their sex or live full-time as women. Replaces the term “transvestite.”

PLEASE NOTE: Transgender persons are not cross-dressers or drag queens/kings. Drag queens/kings are men and women, typically gay or lesbian, who dress like men or women for the purpose of entertainment. Be aware of the differences between transgender persons, cross-dressers, and drag queens/kings. Use the term preferred by the individual. Do not use the word “transvestite” at all, unless someone specifically self-identifies that way. (http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender) Wording changed to be more inclusive.

Further Reading:

Going Over the Rainbow: The Gender Divide

Going Over the Rainbow: The Trope Trap

Going Over the Rainbow: What is Gender Dysphoria?

Not just one way to be transgender…

Tragic Tropes: Transgender Representation in Contemporary Culture

Answers to Your Questions About Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression

Trans FAQ

What’s the difference between being transgender or transsexual and having an intersex condition?

S/He Parents of transgender children are faced with a difficult decision, and it’s one they have to make sooner than they ever imagined.

The K-12 Binary Schools are becoming ground zero for clashes over transgender rights.

ABOUT GENDER IDENTITY

Transgender

How NOT to Write a Trans Character (this post contains language and terms some might find offensive)

What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.

‘Orange Is The New Black’ Actress Tells Katie Couric Why It’s Not Cool To Ask About Trans People’s ‘Private Parts’

Going Over the Rainbow: What is Gender Dysphoria?

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Yesterday on Tumblr I had an anon ask an excellent question about gender dysphoria and what having an episode feels like. So I thought I would share it with you all here as well. This is one of those things that unless you experience it yourself it can be difficult to comprehend. I did my best to explain it but I highly recommend that if you decide to write a character who experiences gender dysphoria while you do not, that you have someone who does, beta read for you.

gender dysphoria episode ask

[Text: Anonymous asked: Could you describe of what a gender dysphoria episode is like? I understand the basics I think, but was wandering if you could describe it in more detail? Or maybe you could point out a part in the Jeweled Dagger that shows this?]

My Answer:

sorrowsfall:

Gender dysphoria is something that is only briefly mentioned in JD during a conversation between Genevieve, Olivia and Nora.

“Nora often wishes she’d been born a boy. She hates being a girl.”

 “I am sorry, Nora. That is a difficult thing.” 

Nora shrugged. “I make do. Though if you can get away with dressing as a woman maybe you can show me how to dress as a man. It would make me a lot happier than wearing this fucking dress.” 

Genevieve blinked at the course language then smiled. “I’d be happy to help.” – (The Jeweled Dagger)

The scene I mentioned in my post yesterday has the dysphoria front and center. (This might be a bit spoilery for both JD and Daggers and a rather long reply, so I hope you don’t mind). Lafayette might be genderfluid but being forced to present as a gender they are not currently experiencing can be just as difficult and disorienting as it would be for a trans person.

Current circumstances have forced Lafayette to come to Court as Genevieve. The dysphoria starts as they’re getting ready with them not recognizing themselves in the mirror.

As he got ready Lafayette kept trying to get into the right mindset. He could pretend to be Genevieve but he hated doing that. It was like trying to wear something that didn’t quite fit and chaffed, except it was internal rather than external. Watching himself in the mirror as he started applying the paste to his skin made him uncomfortable and left him with a sick hollow feeling. Did Rona not understand what she was asking of him, demanding he only appear as Genevieve? He wasn’t some actor playing a role. Though he supposed this wasn’t much different from the days he had to pretend to be male too. – (The Daggers of Ariyon)

I’ve deal with this myself a lot (it’s one of the reasons I hate mirrors so much). Imagine going into your bathroom to get ready in the morning, yet the person staring back at you in the mirror is not you. Intellectually you know it’s your face but your gut is telling you this is all wrong. Sometimes, if I’m having a bad day, this will set off either a panic attack or a depressive episode that can last hours or days. Other times I end up self-harming. Yeah, mirrors are not my friend. :/

Hearing the wrong pronouns can result in an episode too.

Nate didn’t look convinced until Olivia stuck her head out the door. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on her.”
A small jolt shot through Lafayette at the ‘her’ but he shoved the feeling aside. – (The Daggers of Ariyon)

It always gives me a start, like a sudden drop, makes me dizzy, nauseated and confused. That’s usually when I have to stop and forcefully talk to myself to prevent a full episode. I have to remind myself that people look at me and see a certain gender.

You probably have a mental image of yourself. The way you see yourself when you’re imagining doing things, or even dreaming. This is very normal, yet I don’t have a mental image of myself. I *know* what I look like, yet my mental image is just a shadowy figure. I’m never ‘myself’ in dreams. If I am it’s probably a nightmare. From what I’ve read many trans persons experience similar things, their mental image of themselves doesn’t match the external. And I don’t mean just that you think your looks aren’t what you want. This goes a whole lot deeper.

Sometimes, for some people, just having to look at or feel parts of their anatomy that don’t fit their gender can result in an episode. Others actually feel as though they are missing breasts or a penis, it’s been likened to phantom limb syndrome. This has lead to speculation that while the brain is wired to have those parts of the anatomy, they aren’t physically present. As you can imagine this can be terribly disorienting. You never feel whole, or normal no matter how hard you try.

Lafayette doesn’t have the luxury of staying home. As many of us don’t. We have to deal with the dysphoria and hope we don’t break down in public. I personally felt it was important to explore this aspect of being gender non-conforming though I know Lafe’s experience won’t be exactly the same as other people who experience gender dysphoria. Their dysphoria is different even from my own.

It’s my sincere hope that writing about this helps educate people and provides a basis for understanding.

Here are some links that might help too and I’m always happy to talk. ^_^

What does gender dysphoria feel like?

How does gender dysphoria feel?

 

Going Over the Rainbow: Writing an Asexual Character Part 2

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I apologize for this post being late, but I spent some extra time to make sure I covered as many topics as possible.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the asexuality spectrum and how to write asexual characters.  Last week we discussed more about the spectrum and went over some terminology for various points on the spectrum as well as things to keep in mind and questions to ask yourself.

This week I’d like to show you how to put these things into practice. We’ll look at some examples of asexual characters in the media and why the character may or may not be a good representative of asexuals. We’ll also go over how to write romance with a character who identifies as asexual.

As you’ll hear me say many, many times over the course of this series; you are writing a person, not an orientation. This fact needs to be in the forefront of your mind at all times to avoid stereotypes and othering language.

Continue reading

Going Over the Rainbow: Writing an Asexual Character

Last week we discussed what asexuality is and the challenges faced by many asexuals. We really only dipped our toe in the water though, there is a lot more to being asexual than what I can cover in a couple of blog posts, so I very much encourage you to click through the links and do your own research too.

So how do you go about writing this mythological creature? First, lets see where on the spectrum your character might fit.

Asexuality Flowchart

The above flow chart should give you a good idea where to start with your character. (You can also download the full chart here).

There are a lot of terms up there you are probably seeing for the first time. Don’t panic. Though if you need a moment to panic go ahead. No judging here. To help let me go through some definitions for you.

  • tumblr_nppf4wwfpm1tdi2euo1_500

    Image from Asexualscience on Tumblr

    Demisexual: attraction only after an emotional bond is formed.

  • Fraysexual: attraction fade after getting to know someone (opposite of demi).
  • Cupiosexual: wanting a sexual relationship but not experiencing sexual attraction
  • Graysexual: very rarely having sexual attraction and/on in very specific circumstances.
  • Lithosexual: experiencing sexual attraction but NOT wanting it reciprocated.
  • Autochorissexual/Aegosexual: disconnect between oneself and target of arousal.*
  • Placiosexual: wanting to do sexual things with someone but being alright with the feeling not being reciprocated or acted on.
  • Abrosexual: orientation is fluid
  • Apothisexual: someone who is asexual and sex repulsed.

Okay, I’ll give you a moment to digest all that because it is a lot to take in all at once. Who knew there were so many ways to not want sex?

But wait, you say, how do I write a romance without sex being a part of the equation? Or how do I show that my character really loves their partner/significant other if they don’t find them sexually attractive?

Easy. No really it is easy. I promise.

You know how to write friendships. Of course you do! You know that there are ways to show affection, appreciation and consideration for another person that do not involve anything overtly sexual or physically intimate. There you go. (For a great list of non-sexual intimacies see Nonsexual Intimacies (Part 1 of 5) – The Wordsmith’s Forge).

Ah I see your brow furrowing. That’s just friendship, right?

Is it? You care deeply about your friends don’t you? You love them, want the best for them and care what happens to them. But we make the distinction between friends and those we are romantically involved with for our own reasons. While you love your friends, you may, or may not, find them sexually attractive. That’s the difference; the ability to feel sexual attraction. Of course, this can, and sometimes does change. It all depends on the person. There is no wrong way to be asexual.

5075celebrity-pictures-big-bang-theory-boobs-vista

On The Big Bang Theory it is hinted that the character Sheldon is asexual.

So while you consider that let’s look at some tips for writing asexual characters:

  • Keep in mind that asexual does not mean emotionless. Your character should still have emotional actions and reactions to events in line with their personality.
  • If the setting allows for it, it might be good to have your character specifically state they are asexual. This will help the reader understand where your character is coming from. Having other characters react and ask questions will help mitigate an info dump.
  • Be wary of having a plot that calls for the character’s asexuality to be a problem fixed by ‘good’ sex or a sexual relationship. In this instance it might be better to rethink your character’s orientation.
  • Do let your character have close intimate non-sexual relationships with other characters.
  • Try to avoid making your character asexual simply as a plot device. It should be an integral part of who they are, not a quirk.
  • If your asexual character is a minor character it might be best to avoid having them be the comedic relief as this can reinforce stereotypes of asexuals being socially inept, naive or virginal.
  • Asexual does not always mean aromantic and vice versa.

As with every other orientation keep in mind you are writing a person first and foremost. If you are still a bit unsure about how to go about this why don’t we focus on your character and who they are and how they practice their asexuality.

  • Decide where on the asexual spectrum your character lies. Does it change/fluctuate? Under what circumstances does it fluctuate? (Keep in mind that this can change over time)
  • How does your character think/feel about being on the asexual spectrum?
  • How does your character feel towards sex? Neutral, sex-repulsed, sex-positive? Does it depend on the circumstance/person?
  • If your character were to find themselves in a sexual situation, what would their reaction be?
  • How does your character tell people about being asexual (if they tell people at all)?
  • How do other characters react to your character’s asexuality? How does your character react/respond to these reactions?
  • How does the society in your story react to asexuality? How does this affect your character? What assumptions do others have about asexuality/your character?
  • When did/will your character realize that they are on the asexual spectrum? How does/will your character think/feel about this? Is the realization because of a specific event, a gradual understanding/coming to terms, etc?

Writing an asexual character isn’t any more challenging that writing any other character. We are just people after all. Please join me next week as I go further into ways to write asexual relationships using non-sexual intimacies and tropes to avoid.

*Autochorissexual was a term coined by psychologist Anthony Bogaert to describe identity-less sexuality and is listed as a paraphilia. To combat the negative stereotypes associated with paraphilias the term aegosexual might be more preferred. As someone who identifies as moderately aegosexual I take exception to it being listed as a paraphilia or fetish because, as defined, it doesn’t completely fit the definition of a paraphilia.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns please leave a comment. Next week I’ll go further into how to write your asexual character with examples and tropes to avoid and why.

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Going Over the Rainbow: The Asexuality Spectrum

Going Over the Rainbow: Aromantic

Going Over the Rainbow: Getting the Kinks Out

Going Over the Rainbow: Moving Beyond the LG in LGBT.

Understand Asexual People

Asexual Orientation

What is it like to be asexual?

Asexual Spectrum

Asexuals Anonymous

The Thinking Asexual

PRIDE-Sexuality-as-a-Spectrum.pdf

On Autochorissexualism and Akiosexuality