As writers and creators, it is essential to recognize harmful tropes and stereotypes.
Marginalized groups, especially, have been susceptible to such misrepresentations over the years, leading to a lack of empathy and understanding. As a writer, I think its a a worthy effort to attempt to create a world that is inclusive, diverse, and reflective of the complexities of human nature. Maybe it’s my desire for fairness and balance that makes me feel so passionate about these topics. These posts have gotten a bit preachy but it’s important to me to hold true to my values and spread what little knowledge I have to those who are looking for this type of information and conversations.
Harmful tropes and stereotypes reinforce existing prejudices against marginalized groups of people, leading to discrimination, and exclusion of individuals. For instance, portraying black characters as criminals or aggressors perpetuates the view that black people are more prone to criminal activities than other races. Similarly, depicting LGBTQIA folks as promiscuous, sinful, or deviant further marginalizes them and reinforces inaccurate and harmful beliefs. Of course this should be approached with nuance. Every story requires something different. But breaking free from these narrow and untrue stereotypes to create storylines that reflect the richness and complexities of these communities.
Tropes and stereotypes often strip characters of their individuality and humanity and reduce them to one-dimensional caricatures. These convey negative attitudes, lack of empathy, and understanding towards marginalized communities and perpetuate their marginalization. It is crucial to recognize that fictional representation has a significant impact on how people from different backgrounds and cultures see and understand each other. Therefore, writers must create characters that accurately portray the diversity, complexities, and nuance of all individuals, regardless of their background.
Lack of Authentic Representation
When writers rely on harmful tropes and stereotypes, they fail to capture the true diversity and richness of experiences within marginalized communities. This results in a lack of authentic representation, making it difficult for readers from these communities to see themselves reflected in the storylines. Additionally, it is vital to recognize that representation matters and that marginalized groups need to see themselves in the media to feel heard, acknowledged, and understood. Therefore, writers must make a conscious effort to represent characters from different backgrounds and experiences accurately.
Consequences in the Writing Industry
The writing industry, like any industry, is not immune to perpetuating harmful tropes and stereotypes. This can affect the income, visibility, and representation of marginalized writers. Some writers may feel compelled to write stereotypical characters in fear of being rejected by publishers or rejected by audiences. Additionally, others may feel pressured to write 'diverse' characters just to meet a quota, which can lead to tokenism and inaccurate representation. As writers, it is essential to acknowledge these challenges and work towards creating an inclusive and diverse industry that promotes authentic representation, while also holding publishers and audiences accountable.
To create a more authentic and respectful portrayal of LGBTQIA+ characters, there are several harmful ideas or misrepresentations that we can attempt to avoid.
Some of these include:
Bury Your Gays: This trope involves killing off LGBTQIA+ characters, often as a means to further the plot or create emotional turmoil for the main characters. Avoid using this trope, which can send a negative message about the lives and worth of LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Gay for You: In this trope, a character who previously identified as straight suddenly becomes attracted to someone of the same sex, suggesting that their sexuality has changed. This can be problematic as it reinforces the idea that sexuality is a choice or something that can be easily changed.
Token LGBTQIA+ Character: Including an LGBTQIA+ character solely for the sake of diversity without giving them depth or a meaningful story can be seen as tokenism. Ensure that your LGBTQIA+ characters are well-developed and integral to the plot.
Stereotypical Characters: Avoid relying on stereotypes when creating LGBTQIA+ characters, such as the flamboyant gay man, the butch lesbian, or the promiscuous bisexual. Instead, develop characters with diverse personalities, interests, and backgrounds that reflect the wide range of experiences within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Queerbaiting: This involves hinting at or teasing a potential LGBTQIA+ relationship without ever fully developing or acknowledging it within the narrative. Refrain from using queerbaiting as a way to attract LGBTQIA+ audiences without genuinely representing their experiences.
The Tragic Queer: Steer clear of narratives that focus solely on the suffering, victimization, or unhappiness of LGBTQIA+ characters. While it's essential to address the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, it's also crucial to depict positive, empowering, and uplifting stories.
The Magical Queer: This trope involves an LGBTQIA+ character who exists mainly to guide or support a straight character, often possessing wisdom or special insight. Avoid using LGBTQIA+ characters as plot devices or solely for the benefit of other characters.
Coming Out as the Central Plot: While coming out stories can be powerful and important, not all LGBTQIA+ romance needs to focus on this aspect. Explore other aspects of LGBTQIA+ relationships and experiences that go beyond the coming-out narrative.
By eliminating these tropes, archetypes, and stereotypes from your LGBTQIA+ romance, you can create more authentic, respectful, and engaging stories that resonate with readers and contribute to better representation within the genre fiction and media as a whole.