Monday, November 30, 2015

Yes, They Should Have Queer Characters

Because I drabble in that whole writing thing, I belong to a couple of writing groups online. For the most part, I enjoy those communities. But as with any group of people, sometimes the shit that happens there makes me question my decision to interact with other human beings. (I know, I'm such a loveable person.) The most recent example of this happened when someone shared an article by Danika Ellis, called "Every Book Should Have Queer Characters."

Apparently, suggesting that books include queer characters provokes the same reaction that one would have to the demand that they murder a litter of puppies. The horror! The outrage! From what sick, twisted mind did this demented plot emerge??

Along with all of that indignation, the most common objection was the insistence that if a book isn't about gay sexuality or romance specifically, there's no need to have a queer character in it. Apparently, if such an identity isn't central to the plot, the mere mention that a character might be queer is a distraction, it's beside the point, it's shoehorning a gay agenda into an otherwise acceptable plot.

Obviously, this argument doesn't make any sense. We are constantly shown examples of characters being overtly straight, even if there is no romance plot or subplot, or if the story has nothing to do with sexuality. A male character might notice how attractive a woman is, female character might speak of ex boyfriends, and yet another male character might speak extensively of his carefully-cultivated, masculine appearance.

So why can't we have a man in a story admire another man's physique? Why can't we see a woman talking about her past girlfriends? Why can't we see someone pulling a shirt on over their binder? Straight and cisgendered characters are constantly given opportunities to define and express their sexualities and identities. Why is it such a stretch to think that queer characters should be afforded the same opportunities?

We can't limit queer characters to books specifically about being queer. That only reinforces the idea that straightness is default, and that queer identities are these strange other things that need to be qualified, or that don't belong in "normal" settings. Showing them in a variety of books and genres will help to normalize queer experiences and identities.

This isn't about filling quotas, as opponents to such ideas like to claim. Having a diverse cast of characters is nothing more than an honest reflection of the world in which we live. In such a world, it's backwards to demand justification for wanting more LGBTQIA (or black, or disabled, etc.) characters in a book. In such a world, we need more people asking why such characters aren't already there.


  1. K...You're an intuitive writer and I appreciate how you brought this to your audience's attention. I have been working on a book for the past 2 years and I have to be honest...your point of view made me stop to think about how characters are portrayed. I have interacted with individuals who have a range of characteristics and have simply accepted each person for who they are...not thinking how I might characterize them in a book. Thanks for this well written blog post. I look forward reading future posts.

    1. Mission accomplished!

      But in all seriousness, thank you for reading. It's humbling to know that what I wrote helped you to consider these things. And I look forward to reading your book someday!