Subject: I don't quite get the "If you're not X, don't write X characters" thing.
Posted on: 2020-11-14 23:44:24 UTC

I mean, I understand not wanting to see your identity appropriated and/or misrepresented by people who don't have the familiarity/insight/decency not to present characters of said identity as just another stereotype, especially a bad stereotype. I wouldn't personally feel comfortable attempting to write characters with identities I don't feel I know enough about to do justice.

However, when it comes to characters with identities I AM familiar with, because people I know personally share it, I don't see why I shouldn't be allowed to draw on that experience. The people I know aren't going to be representative of ALL people with X identity, obviously, but that's what happens when you get away from stereotypes and write people as people. Everyone is different, and you can't represent an entire group with one character written by one person, and you can't please everyone, either.

That's not to say we shouldn't make room for the word of people who are X identity writing about characters of X identity, because we absolutely should, deliberately and methodically and vocally; but I reckon it's not really fair to leave all the work of increasing representation to whatever percentage of people happen to be writers within a minority group. Telling everyone (including people of minority identities?) to stay in their lane and never even attempt to understand and empathize with members of a(nother) minority group well enough to write them convincingly seems like the exact opposite of what we want from society.

Also, speaking from personal experience, it can be really nice to see other people making that effort! A show on Netflix I enjoy, Sex Education, had an episode featuring an asexual character in its second season. They only touched on the topic briefly, but what they did say was affirming and positive, and I was surprised at how much it affected me. But, so often sex is presented as something that everyone must want so much they'll go to any lengths to get it, and just like the character in the episode, I absolutely went through a period of thinking there was something wrong or broken about me because I didn't then and have never yet felt that way. Having it a) actually talked about, and b) in a way that normalized it rather than treated it as a disorder? Really nice.

So, for my money, absolutely write people who are different from you, provided you take the time to do your homework, maybe actually talk to some of the people you're writing about, and do it with respect and compassion.

This has been Just My Opinion.


Reply Return to messages