Some notes from an online meeting, put together by Rei England.
You can write all characters as gender-neutral. However:
- People tend to unconsciously fill in gaps with their own cultural norms.
- Not having explicit queer identities can end up being erasing.
- For many of us, being queer is not as incidental as e.g. having brown eyes.
- You also need to cast blind, else you’ll likely reproduce gender/sexuality norms, too!
Think about it when you write your non-queer characters
Remember to respect pronouns, but also don’t have a token queer character exist in a vacuum.
- Provide them with alternative norms so that the character doesn’t have a terrible time.
- Think about social dynamics that might support or shut out queer characters. What do marriage, gender roles, relationships mean?
- Subvert usual power structures! Can you challenge them? Or give enough resources and a tight-knit group of allies to create a power fantasy for e.g. a trans character?
Think about the possibilities
It’s not just about having a same-gender romance!
- What about non-monogamy?
- What about ace/aro characters?
- Remember that there are different kinds of attraction and people can experience them separately (e.g. sexual, romantic, aesthetic).
- What about a gender that isn’t man or woman? Or a way of experiencing strong closeness and attachments to life partners that isn’t sexual or romantic?
- Remember trans and non-binary characters.
- Intersex people exist too!
- There’s a big overlap with neurodivergence and other non-normative ways of experiencing the world.
- … and many people experience lots of nuance and greys; e.g. when sexual or romantic attractions are difficult to distinguish, or tend to be towards different people, or everything is a bit fluid.
Remember, queerness not the only thing about a character! Tell a story about a queer person doing things, not about someone being queer
- Look up the stereotypes – and then avoid or subvert them (e.g. hypersexual/cheating bi people, ace/aro people who are cold and uncaring). Remember it’s easier if you have multiple characters so there’s not just one token example.
- Search out historical examples.
- If you’re looking for examples in fiction, also make sure it’s an example that queer folk themselves recommend.
- If you have human characters, don’t make the queer characters all non-human!
- Make it a positive sketch not just an absence (e.g. ace/aro/agender) – what does that mean to them and how they relate to others? what is there to celebrate about their experience, what perspective can they bring?
- Close friendships and chosen family are often important to queer people.
From Sue T Griffiths:
Quite simply put for non binary characters it could be – this character specialises in all forms of adventure, has a quirky sense of style (as in always has to have at least one item of clothing featuring a lotus flower) and enjoys meeting people but also has a secret agenda which is that they are hiding where they grew up. They are non binary and proud of it, and willing to mix it up whenever needed.
With bi characters, it can be fun to just do a tiny little reference… for example – you’re pleasing to the eye (referring not just characters from one gender and leaving it there).