As this blog goes live, it is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This blog will look at how fiction writers can deal with homophobia, transphobia and biphobia sensitively and authentically in their writing.
Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia continue to be present for many people. Whether it be acts of violence, microaggressions, or continued state-led oppression, LGBTQ+ folx have to continue to fight for equality.
So it’s no surprise that themes of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia exist in fiction writing.
Fiction writing is perfect for exploring difficult topics safely. Through fiction, we can see characters’ reactions and the impacts of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia on people.
If you choose to include homophobic themes in your writing (we’ll look why you might decide to do this later), you’ll need to consider a few things:
- the language to use
- which characters will be the abuser/abused
- the reactions of the supporting cast
- how the homophobia is dealt with by the characters
Thinking about when your book is set is going to have a great impact on the homophobia that you write and the consequences for it. It will also impact on the language you use throughout your writing, including the homophobic language you choose to use.
How your characters deal with abuse and abusing others will also be impacted by the time but you will need to consider the type of abuse you are writing. Physical acts of violence are pretty universal, so when you write a fight, you’ll be using the same language.
But writing about microaggressions might change. For instance, in an office is the gay character always excluded? Is the trans character deadnamed at the bookstore?
When we write stories with homophobic content, we need to do it sensitively. That might not mean changing the language: if the character will use offensive language, we should have them use it. If we are going to have a physical assault, we should write it.
But by writing sensitively, we should as ourselves:
- will the homophobe win?
- does the homophobia advance the plot?
- will the reader understand it is the character, not the writer, who is homophobic?
Homophobic characters are villians! And the redemption story is a little cliché now. By ensuring that the homophobe is never allowed to win in the end, you will be ensuring that homophobia is portrayed as it should be.
Also, by ensuring that your homophobic, transphobic or biphobic theme is essential to the plot and not incidental or casual, you will be ensuring that you are writing with sensitivity and authenticity.
By doing these things, you will be signaling to your readers that it not you but the characters who are homophobic.
But one of the biggest questions you should ask yourself is: do I need to write this?
Homophobia has a massive impact on people’s lives, there’s no denying that. But there are so many other things that impact people’s lives too. Writing LGBTQ+ stories doesn’t mean you have to write about homophobia. If the characters wouldn’t experience it, why are you forcing them to?
Fiction, as well as reflecting the real world, gives us the opportunity to explore other worlds, where homophobia, transphobia and biphobia don’t exist.
If you are writing LGBTQ+ fiction that contains homophobia, transphobia or biphobia, I offer a range of editorial services that will benefit you. Find out more about my services or, if you’d like to discuss your writing project, you can book a free video call with me to chat.
Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.
To find out more and to work with Nick, use the buttons above.
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