Social justice and writing

Hello, readers! How are you doing? Well, I hope!

I come here again today to talk a little about writing.

I am a member of a writer’s group in which we mostly talk about fun stuff, but, every now and then, have a serious conversation here and there. And this is what happened not too long ago.

It all started when a writer asked how he could write a homosexual character without being offensive, since he is heterosexual.

The first answer he got was (rather aggressively worded): “Don’t. I, as a non-heterosexual person, am personally offended that you even want to represent us”. 

Others, like me, didn’t feel like he didn’t have the right to represent a homosexual person on his book, because he is not homosexual. Most of us opened up to answer questions, and to tell him that he is free to write about anything as long as he does his homework and does it respectfully.

The damage had been done already, though. Before those of us who wanted to open up the dialogue got there, the guy had already gotten a major dressing down by this person, and even considered giving up on his book or ever writing non heterosexual characters again.

This is my problem with certain extreme concepts of social justice. Trust me, I would like to see us represented by LGBT+ writers. But I don’t want to discourage other people. I don’t want other people to feel like they can’t write about us at all. How else will we become visible if we are not normalized? As long as we are the other, we can’t really expected to be seen as we are – humans like everyone else, but with our personal struggles.

Well, that was it from me for now. It was mostly a vent about something that made me sad and disappointed. 

Fellow writers – LGBT+ or not -, I turn the question on to you now. How do you feel about people from out of a community representing it? Any opinions are welcome!

See you on the next post!

18 thoughts on “Social justice and writing”

  1. This is a really great post; I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it until now. I don’t think I’d want some straight guy representing me, but I also don’t like even being looked at too carefully at the grocery store, and I can see why both things are probably sometimes necessary, if only because straight guys make up a huge group of writers and someone needs to check my id when I buy fruity booze at Safeway.

    Anyway, did you know some mysterious stranger nominated you for another award!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was just published last night, so maybe that’s why? And I totally get you, I confess I would prefer to be represented only by the people with the same struggles and all that, but I also have straight writer friends doing a pretty nice work of not making us invisible by working with me and others more patient, so I’m seriously torn, but the one thing I feel is that shutting down the conversation before it even starts is definitely not the way to go.

      And I feel that this stranger is a certain jerky robot. >.> (Going to check it out, thank you!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oooooooh, I saw the date as “5/6/2018” and thought with my sleepy head that it had been published a month ago.

        Shutting down the conversation probably isn’t the way to go, but sometimes it feels safer if only to make sure the representation is good. But the patient people who are willing to learn about groups outside their own experience are the good ones, and maybe good things can come of it.

        Also I would have nominated you for this one even if we hadn’t agreed that you would have every award inflicted upon you until the end of time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Damn. I keep forgetting about the date formatting thing lol We do day/month/year here, I should really get that changed.

          And I totally get it that the knee-jerk reaction is to be defensive. I would have taken it much less kindly if the writer in question had wanted to write a whole book about the experience of being a non-straight person, but he merely wanted to include a non-straight character in his book and wanted more information as to how to do it respectfully, so I felt the harsh reaction was unnecessary. I can see both sides, but I hate seeing the conversation shut down and people being barred from learning. Even the people who told him ‘don’t write it until you’ve done sufficient research and talked to the people in the group you wish to represent’ didn’t bother me. It’s the ‘don’t ever represent us at all’ that rubs me the wrong way.

          And thanks, I’ll (curse you in my mind) be happy to suffer through it!


          1. That date format makes a lot more sense lol. I just forget there’s a rest of the world out there.

            Wanting to have characters or a character from any of the lgbt community is good, and the harshness probably is unnecessary. Maybe that’s what we need, just a ton of gay or trans side characters in things until having a not straight or cis main character seems as normal as anything else.

            Thank you for your suffering and I’ll join in with cursing me. Damn me, always doing stuff.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thanks for pointing it out, I might have confused someone else!

              And that’s pretty much it. We have a long way to go, but barring people from seeing us as, well, people won’t get us there. Hopefully one day we’ll slowly become more visible to the point where people won’t have to ask how to write a non-straight character because it will be a common thing. A girl can hope.

              And it was a pleasure to suffer for (some) cause. :D Keep doing stuff!

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I think most people like seeing their own community represented if the representation is fair and well-researched. This is like telling a male author that he can’t write female characters. And If I were to write a book, I’d want more characters than just a bunch of straight white girls. Anyone who bars an author from representing a community different from the author’s on the grounds of being offended is absurd.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the comment! I feel the same, on both accounts – researching well, and not ignoring the fact that other than straight white people exist in the world. I totally understand that many of the representations are either offensive of make us barely visible, but we need MORE and BETTER representation, not less, as far as I’m concerned. :)

      Liked by 2 people

        1. It could make for an interesting horror story. A character wakes up one day and finds out everyone is him or her (a bit of a Being John Malkovich vibe, but outside their head).

          Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a matter of “write what you know” that I disagree with. So a female writer shouldn’t write a male character, a person of colour or one of another nationality than her own. What about historical writing, Sci Fi or fantasy, which are also things the writer couldn’t experiment by herself?

    Wrong answer!

    “Know what you write”, ie make research and write the characters that fit your story, is how it should sound. I have very few Romanian characters in my books, and plenty of foreign ones, of various countries and races. Also, my stories happen in various time periods, from the Viking Era and Byzantine Empire to modern era. I haven’t written many characters of different sexuality (only one bisexual) just because, on one side, I don’t understand much the different sexualities and genders things (I think I am demisexual too, but I didn’t know such a thing exists until 2 years ago on RPG-D), but I have written extensively males and females of various races, ethnicities, professions and education levels, with the associate research :). I have researched even santeria and candomble ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is what I think too. Know what you write should be every writer’s mantra. It would avoid so many offensive and insensitive depictions of people, as well as making for much better written material. When it comes to sexuality, since it’s something a lot of people live with day in and day out, that’s even more true – and more important, as it’s real people seeing themselves represented. Like I mentioned to someone else, LGBT+ people will only stop being ‘the other’ or invisible when we make those characters the norm, not some plot device. And that requires those characters to be written by writers other than those inside the community – as long as they do it with respect and remember they are writing about real people.

      Liked by 1 person

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