There are plenty of articles about how to include good LGBT+ representation in your stories. Authors are drowning in lists of do’s and don’ts, and yet we still seem to be getting it wrong. After all, read the reviews for any book with queer characters or themes, and it’s only a matter of time before you come across the phrase “bad rep”.
I’m not denying there are problems with how LGBT+ people are portrayed in fiction. But the constant nit-picking can be disheartening to queer authors, especially when you never hear accusations of “bad heterosexual representation” or “bad cisgender representation”.
So here are my top tips for writing bad LGBT+ representation, based entirely on negative reviews and people whining on Twitter. (Please note this is intended as a light-hearted article. I’m a queer author who wants to see more queer characters in fiction!)
Tips for writing bad LGBT+ rep
- Write a queer character who doesn’t represent the reader’s personal experiences.
- Write a flawed queer character.
- Write sweet, heart-warming stories with happily-ever-afters for everyone. That’s unrealistic!
- Write dark, gritty stories where problems aren’t easily resolved. That’s depressing!
- Write a story about a friendship group where everyone is LGBT+ (straight people think this is statistically unlikely).
- Write a romance without sex scenes. You’re sanitizing queer relationships!
- Write a romance with sex scenes. You’re over-sexualising queer relationships!
- Be a straight woman writing m/m romance. This is an easy way to get accused of fetishizing queer relationships.
- Write a butch lesbian, a flirty or promiscuous bisexual, or a gay guy who loves musical theatre. Stereotypes are bad, which means all these characters are bad!
- Write a character who confuses people. It’s really not difficult. Try an asexual character who gets horny sometimes, or a trans character who doesn’t want surgery.
- Write a bisexual female character who ends up with a man.
- Write a bisexual male character who ends up with a woman.
- Write LGBT+ characters, but don’t write about them making out with each other. This way you can write openly queer characters and still get accused of queerbaiting, woop woop!
In all seriousness – if you want to write stories with LGBT+ representation, just go for it. Write the books you want to read. Write the books you needed when you were growing up. If you’re not LGBT+ yourself, find LGBT+ beta readers and listen carefully to their feedback. Put your passion on the page and try not to worry too much.
If you fancy reading a YA contemporary with #ownvoices asexual/aromantic rep that undoubtedly ticks some of the above boxes, try my debut novel Other People’s Butterflies.
And if you’re feeling brave, post your recommendations for books with “bad” LGBT+ rep in the comments. Gimme stories that are too sad, too sexy, not sexy enough, too confusing, or that break any of the bullshit rules that queer authors are expected to follow.
2 thoughts on “How to Write Bad LGBT+ Representation”
I love this!
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Thanks, it was a lot of fun to write tbh!