When I began writing my novel Artifact of the Dawn, I knew that my protagonists would ultimately end up in a romantic relationship together, although that journey for them is merely a subplot. I could have chosen for one of them to be female and have them be a heterosexual couple. However, I know there isn’t enough LGBT representation in mainstream fiction. My novel falls into the science fiction genre, and I wanted the fact that my protagonists are bisexual and gay just to be a part of who they are, without it having an impact on the overall story.
Why LGBT Representation Matters
While there is LGBT literature available to read, when looking specifically at mainstream fiction with LGBT characters (primary or secondary) the representation seems to be extremely low. I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but from the numbers I could find, it looks like there is less than 0.001% LGBT representation in mainstream fiction today (if this is incorrect, please let me know in the comments). Considering that currently in the United States, about 4% of the population identifies as LGBT, you can see how woefully underrepresented this demographic is in literature today.
LGBT representation matters because as young people are reading modern literature, they should see a fair representation of all people, regardless of sexuality and gender identity. Showing that representation will demonstrate to those children, who are not LGBT, to be more tolerant and not view those who are LGBT as strange or weird. It will also help those who are LGBT to know that they aren’t alone in how they were born and that there is nothing wrong with them.
Including LGBT Characters in Your Writing
There may be many reasons why authors do not include LGBT characters in their stories. I’m sure prejudice may be one factor, while I think fear may be another. Fear of reprisal from their readers, fear of not being able to sell their work because it will be seen as “gay” or labeled as LGBT literature, and finally fear of inadvertently offending the LGBT community by misrepresenting their character. While these are legitimate fears, I would like to challenge other writers to include them anyway. It just takes a little bit of time and research to make sure you’re representing your characters accurately. As long as it’s not specifically a romance novel, I think it’s fair to portray LGBT people just like…well, people because that’s who they are.
I know when it comes to portraying transgender, non-binary and even asexual characters, things can get a little confusing. Despite being genderqueer myself, I decided not to include representation for those parts of the LGBT community in the first novel as I didn’t want the entire emphasis of the novel to be on those issues. However, that’s not to say I wouldn’t include such characters in the coming sequels. It just has to be the right fit for the new characters I plan to introduce.
Have you included any LGBT characters in your stories, or have you at least thought about it? Knowing now how underrepresented the community is, would you consider it in the future?