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Thread: How queer is too queer?

  1. #1
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    How queer is too queer?

    As a queer woman, I try to write queer characters, and love reading stories with diverse casts. But, I'm forced to wonder in the course of my own writing, is there a "just right" as opposed to "too much" queer?

    Out of a very large cast, I would estimate that about half of my characters are infected with The Gay™ in all it's glorious variety. One major culture has multiple genders in the same vein as certain Native American cultures, and have unique pronouns that the other cultures don't. They also have a different system of marriage because of this. Most of the other cultures in this setting don't have any real opinions on gender one way or the other, with a general understanding and acceptance of non-binary identities but nothing on a cultural level. Gay/lesbian/bisexual/pansexual/asexual/aromantic identities are also generally accepted and people pay attention to them about as much as Earth folks pay attention to straight people - as in, they're considered normal and not worth notice.

    However, with this being the case, how much can I emphasize the prevalence of queer folks to the reader without going out of the context of the culture where nobody would emphasize it? I feel like I've got a good idea, by just showing the people themselves and their interactions with others, but I'm not sure how to tell when it comes off as deliberate.

    Also, I'm not sure how to tell if my proportions of queer characters are "accurate." In our society here on Earth, queer folk very much tend to band together because of our marginalized identities. It wouldn't be unusual at all in a story set on Earth to have a large cast of all or mostly queer folks; hell, the "cast" in my own life is pretty much solid rainbow lol. But, if I'm supposed to try to get the reader to suspend disbelief in my fantasy world, then I must also suspend my own preconceived notions, right? And to me, that feels like acknowledging that in a world that is truly liberated from queerphobia, queer folks won't need to band together.

    Of course, there will still be the tendency for people with similar interests to group up, and since a lot of adult friend groups are built up of networks made by your partners/exes, their partners and exes, etc... there would still be the tendency to know more queer folk. What do you folks think?
    Show me your cute queer/LGBT stories please :O

  2. #2
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    On a slightly different note, a basic rundown of my cast so that people can offer suggestions on the level of diversity.

    Book 1:
    MC: Padraig - straight cis male

    Second POV: Essania - straight trans woman; hinted at but never blatantly stated, because it's irrelevant to her place in the story; she's just a girl

    Third POV: Beruin - bisexual male, Essania's partner (no, his bisexuality has nothing to do with his attraction to her, he views her as a woman regardless)

    Foil: Sel - polyamorous, pansexual and genderfluid, most often presents feminine (their "assigned" gender, although in this world children are referred to with neutral pronouns until they declare their own pronouns so there is no such thing as assigned gender). Sel is often an antagonist, and uses their male presentation as a disguise, so they hide their gender identity and let people (and the reader) assume they are a cis woman.

    Supporters: Jase - Padraig's partner, literally no gender because she isn't human, but adopts a feminine presentation, asexual and demiromantic because her species don't reproduce
    Anhel - polyamorous bisexual cis male, sel's partner
    Ar'rien - polyamorous straight cis male, Sel's partner
    Teia - straight cis female, Sel's partner, primary antagonist of the story
    Lirdarnaie - lesbian trans woman, deliberate "canon sue"/self-insert, this character is a self-hating trans woman who questions the idea that a trans person can actually BE their self-identified gender; they insist on male presentation and pronouns despite a strong female identity, and are generally a complete piece of shit mostly there to give me an opportunity to discuss/explore some of the issues I dealt with during my time in the closet, and for me to conveniently beat up as a way of kicking my younger self's ass for being a jerk. Their actual role in the story is minor antagonist

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Book 2:
    MC: Sel - since the story is from their point of view this time, their gender identity is a lot more obvious than in the previous story

    The rest of the cast is generally the same, because this story is an alternate view of the events of the first story, with a lot of things the reader didn't see the first time around. Also a very different writing style, since the first is written with a nod toward the "magic school" style of storytelling in the first half and zombie story (no actual zombies, but influenced by that style of storytelling) in the second half, while the second book is intended to feel like an adventure story. This story is entirely in Sel's first person PoV.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Book 3:
    MC: Ehlionney - wait that's me? what? Yeah, my online username is directly taken from my favorite character, who could technically be considered the overall heroine of the series, although she only appears in a few of the books. Ehlionney is a polyamorous, pansexual, trans woman, but I deliberately write her in such a way that readers will consider her a cis woman. Like, in fact, I never intend to actually "reveal" her gender. No hints, no big reveal, nothing. Because, a trans person IS their identified gender. She's a woman and nothing more.

    Second POV: Owma - demisexual cis woman

    Foil: Selina - straight cis woman

    Supporting characters: Sujin - lesbian cis woman
    Dadanau - gay cis man
    Pomprey - pansexual agender, Dadanau's partner
    Dorlaine - demisexual trans man, the only "reveal" of his gender identity is him casually mentioning having given birth to twins in the past and it being really painful

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Book 4:
    MC: Sakhra - straight cis woman
    Second POV: Sahamus - aromantic straight cis man, Sakhra's cousin
    Third POV: Damon - straight trans man, Sakhra's brother

    Supporting characters: Dorlaine - revealed to be Sahamus' grandfather and Krissa's father
    Krissa - polyamorous lesbian cis woman, Sahamus' aunt, Dorlaine's daughter
    Meighan - straight cis woman, Damon's partner
    Keanam - straight cis man, Meighan's brother; during this story arc he considers himself to be asexual and aromantic
    Wellers - gay cis man, Meighan's brother

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Book 5:
    MC: Dorlaine - covers more of his background and personal story
    Foil: Korrigan - sex-averse asexual, demiromantic, AFAB demigirl (as in, would be considered female by Earth society, sees herself as not quite female but not a strong enough identity to clarify it as something other than female), Dorlaine's partner, secondary antagonist

    Supporting characters: Elaet - pansexual cis man
    Luat - straight cis woman
    Hunter - straight cis man, Korrigan's former partner

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Book 6:
    MC: Meighan - this book is a side story taking place during the same time period as Book 4 but in a separate setting, while Meighan, Wellers, and Keanam are separated from the rest of the party
    Second POV: Czin - pansexual, androgyne, secondary antagonist whom Keanam falls in love with
    Third POV: Keanam - VERY big character development arc for him, including realizing that he was demisexual/demiromantic rather than ace/aro

    Supporting characters: Masi - aromantic, asexual, cis male
    Wellers - he returns in a much less significant role than his siblings
    Show me your cute queer/LGBT stories please :O

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Phantasmagoria's Avatar
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    Hi there! First of all, wow, you really do have a wonderfully queer cast! I love it! Are these books you've already written, or are some of them planned but not yet written?

    I'm the wrong person to ask about whether or not something is too queer, because I am all about making things more queer. One series I'm in the process of trying to revise/query has three main characters, a lesbian, a bisexual girl, and a straight woman (she's a shapeshifter though, so she's male sometimes, and we meet her when she thinks she's more male aligned). Later I introduce gay men, a lovely lesbian trans couple (I may be too fond of them, they're so sweet), a genderfluid shifter (I alternate pronouns depending on the character's current gender in that chapter), others I'm sure I'm forgetting... heh

    Anyway, I'm sure I'll get some flak for making my cast so very rainbow oriented, but I don't much care. It is a big cast, and there are some cis straight folk in it, naturally.

    I think there are times when stories kind of strain belief with this (I'm thinking of the US Queer as Folk, which seemed to exist in an alternate world where at least 50% but more like 75% of the male population was gay) but it doesn't bother me. Maybe in a better world where queer representation was already the norm and there wasn't discrimination against LGBT+ peeps, I'd be able to scrounge up some fuss over an over-saturation of rainbow squad coalition members...

    I also think that it depends very much on the story--like, if you have a cast of hundreds, why not make a good chunk of those hundreds some flavor of queer? Or if you have a group of queer friends you're centering the story around, because as you mentioned, Ehlionney, that's pretty normal for us to clump together in our current reality.

    Side note: interesting choice re: not informing your audience about Ehlionney's trans-ness. Do you worry about the Dumbledore effect (ie, that people relying on word of god that this character is trans would be upset it's not made explicit somewhere in the story)? I'd guess this would be much less of an issue in a cast as queer as yours, regardless!

  4. #4
    figuring it all out Staugaard's Avatar
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    Gay/lesbian/bisexual/pansexual/asexual/aromantic identities are also generally accepted and people pay attention to them about as much as Earth folks pay attention to straight people - as in, they're considered normal and not worth notice.
    Of course, there will still be the tendency for people with similar interests to group up, and since a lot of adult friend groups are built up of networks made by your partners/exes, their partners and exes, etc... there would still be the tendency to know more queer folk. What do you folks think?
    I feel like those are two opposite ideas. If people build groups around something, I'd think it's because it matters. It's a sub-culture of like-minded people, who share something that is not mainstream culture (accepted or not). Maybe I'm thinking about this in the wrong way

  5. #5
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    Well, that "Dumbledore effect" is kind of exactly the reason I want to do it.

    Our society is so ridiculously obsessed with the idea of "biological gender" that people are convinced there is "always a tell" when it comes to gender non-conforming people.

    I want to create a character, make them 110% indistinguishable from cis, and then "oh yeah, by the way, they're trans."

    And then when the inevitable "but there were no signssssssss omg" what do you mean signs? She looks like a girl, thinks like a girl, acts like a girl, she IS a girl, there were millions of signs that she's a girl. "No, the signs that she's trans" well, the fact that she is a woman who was born with a body not typically seen as female, that's a sign right there, right? "But we didn't seeeeee it" why does it matter? "Because there NEEDS to be some kind of way for us to discredit her gender, we need to see some kind of evidence that she's something other than a 'genuine' woman" well, there you go folks, you just admitted that's it's not really about the signs, it's about your prejudice. Take a moment to think.

    That's basically my crazy fantasies of how it should go down. Most likely it'll just fly over their heads though. T_T

  6. #6
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    I see your point, Staugaard I think what I was trying to say was that people would still be drawn together because of interest in the sense that, well, a lesbian would feel out of place in a group of straight girls even if there's no concept of prejudice, because they're aiming in completely opposite directions lol. And asexual folks would probably feel out of place in a conversation about sex.

    Stuff like that. So even though they're perfectly accepted in the situation, and people will definitely just make friends with whoever, there are still some conversations that only really make sense with fellow queer folk.

    My brother is the most understanding person in the world, but if I talk about girls with him, the things that interest me and that interest him are completely different, but both of us have no issues having the same conversation with people of the same orientation. Even when I talk to lesbians who have completely different tastes than myself, we at least have a common framework. When guys talk about girls I just can't understand it. Even if we both find the same woman attractive.

    On top of that, like I said, a lot of friend groups are formed because of your dating circle and the dating circles of your partners over the years, which are often formed by THEIR dating circles over the years, ad nauseam.

    I have a couple friends left over from high school (almost 13 years ago now lol), pretty much all of which were friends of my ex-wife, because I had moved to that school later. I have a few friends from my time in the Army, but most of my friends from that part of my life were actually the local civilians that I either dated or were friends with people I dated. When I got out of the military, I moved to Kure, in Hiroshima, Japan. I knew nobody at all, met a cute Brazilian/Japanese girl at a bar, next thing you know I'm meeting like 2/3rds of the Brazilian immigrant population of Kure LMAO

    In adult life, most of our new acquaintances are introduced to us by people already in our lives, rather than through school or work. And since our partners are inevitably a big part of our lives, they steer the route we take through social circles. And the more selective we and our partners are about our dating habits, therefore, the more selective our social circles will be. Regardless of sexuality.

  7. #7
    figuring it all out Staugaard's Avatar
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    I agree with you analysis of how groups are formed There's just still something about this sentence: "a lesbian would feel out of place in a group of straight girls even if there's no concept of prejudice, because they're aiming in completely opposite directions lol. And asexual folks would probably feel out of place in a conversation about sex."

    There's a bit of tension in each example. I get this image in my mind of someone standing in a circle of friends, silent and smiling awkwardly. Sure, they accept her, but when she goes to stand with her other friends, who happen to share her sexuality or gender identity, then she loosens up and starts talking. So something is going on, right? If sexuality or gender identity really didn't matter, then the situation you describe above shouldn't occur in my mind. Ingroup-outgroup dynamics rely on differences (even small ones) having some sort of significance.

    I'm being Devil's Advocate here, I know.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Underdawg47's Avatar
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    Knowing who is who to me involves the cultural environment you place your characters in and how willing they are to reveal themselves. If the cultural environment is conservative and sexually repressed, most likely you will know very few queer characters because they will do their best to stay hidden and be out only among those they think they can trust. But in a more sexually liberated culture, you might know a lot more queer characters depending upon the degree in which they out themselves.

    In the 1970s I didn't know any other queer people, but there were people I suspected of being gay. To be openly gay in the south at that time meant ridicule and ran the risk of being targeted for violence.

    But now in the very same area many people are out as both transexual and gay. They still run the risk of ridicule and perhaps violence, but that is rare and government officials will not arrest you for sodomy laws and you can be married. But still many people still feel uneasy about being out to everyone.

    I live in a very liberal area of the country. I am open to my close friends, some coworkers, and only certain family members. Coming out to someone is a never ending process and it always comes with the risk of rejection. I think a novel should reflect the environment vs the openness of each individual character. I doubt that in any cultural climate you will ever know the sexual identities of the majority of people you meet.
    “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short.”

    Armistead Maupin quote.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW Phantasmagoria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ehlionney View Post
    Well, that "Dumbledore effect" is kind of exactly the reason I want to do it.

    Our society is so ridiculously obsessed with the idea of "biological gender" that people are convinced there is "always a tell" when it comes to gender non-conforming people.

    I want to create a character, make them 110% indistinguishable from cis, and then "oh yeah, by the way, they're trans."

    And then when the inevitable "but there were no signssssssss omg" what do you mean signs? She looks like a girl, thinks like a girl, acts like a girl, she IS a girl, there were millions of signs that she's a girl. "No, the signs that she's trans" well, the fact that she is a woman who was born with a body not typically seen as female, that's a sign right there, right? "But we didn't seeeeee it" why does it matter? "Because there NEEDS to be some kind of way for us to discredit her gender, we need to see some kind of evidence that she's something other than a 'genuine' woman" well, there you go folks, you just admitted that's it's not really about the signs, it's about your prejudice. Take a moment to think.

    That's basically my crazy fantasies of how it should go down. Most likely it'll just fly over their heads though. T_T

    Ah okay that makes sense. I totally get it now

  10. #10
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ehlionney View Post
    ...

    I want to create a character, make them 110% indistinguishable from cis, and then "oh yeah, by the way, they're trans."

    And then when the inevitable "but there were no signssssssss omg" what do you mean signs? She looks like a girl, thinks like a girl, acts like a girl, she IS a girl, there were millions of signs that she's a girl. "No, the signs that she's trans" well, the fact that she is a woman who was born with a body not typically seen as female, that's a sign right there, right?
    "She looks like a girl, thinks like a girl, acts like a girl" -- What does this mean? What does it mean to "think like a girl?" What does it mean to "look like a girl" if how one is physiologically configured does not determine whether one is a girl or not? What does "act like a girl" mean?

    I think you have set yourself a very difficult challenge. If you want your stories to make any kind of point about transgender people, then it becomes of central importance to your story that the characters are transgender. I am not sure you can write a story in which your character's transgender status truly does not matter, and then turn around and say "Aha! They were transgender all along, so see? Transgender status does not matter!" Because by making the point of your story "transgender status does not matter," you have made the transgender status matter to the story. You can have it be incidental that your character is transgender, but then it has to remain incidental.

  11. #11
    Vickichuuuuuuuuu Ehlionney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lakey View Post
    "She looks like a girl, thinks like a girl, acts like a girl" -- What does this mean? What does it mean to "think like a girl?" What does it mean to "look like a girl" if how one is physiologically configured does not determine whether one is a girl or not? What does "act like a girl" mean?

    I think you have set yourself a very difficult challenge. If you want your stories to make any kind of point about transgender people, then it becomes of central importance to your story that the characters are transgender. I am not sure you can write a story in which your character's transgender status truly does not matter, and then turn around and say "Aha! They were transgender all along, so see? Transgender status does not matter!" Because by making the point of your story "transgender status does not matter," you have made the transgender status matter to the story. You can have it be incidental that your character is transgender, but then it has to remain incidental.
    That's the point though. "looks like a girl, thinks like a girl, etc" there isn't any rule for what that defines, because if she is a girl, and thinks, she's thinking like a girl. By default. For example: I'm transgender. I'm a woman. I have a body. Therefore, I have a woman's body. Even if it doesn't quite look like what other people think a woman's body looks like, it's still a woman's body because it's mine, and I am a woman.

    And her being transgender is purely incidental to the story. It won't ever come up in any way, won't be relevant to anything going on in the story, and the story isn't intended to have anything important to say about being transgender. The only point at which it will become relevant at all is within the fandom (if any).

    Any "point" that I wish to make about trans folks, will be made through other trans characters in the series. There's two other trans women, as well as a few trans men, and several non-binary people. They will all have varying levels of visibility within the story. A big portion of why I want this particular character to pass completely under the radar, is because if I show nothing but visible trans folk, it will reinforce the idea that there are always "signs" when someone is trans. And I know personally among my trans friends, we tended as youths to see our favorite characters as secretly trans. That was a big part of the inspiration for me to make my personal favorite in this story a prime example of such.

    A good example of another writer doing the exact same thing is Suspu, creator of the comic "Shootaround" which follows a high-school women's basketball team as they try to survive a zombie apocalypse using the teamwork they developed on the court. One of the main characters is completely out and proud with her friends, there's a scene where they go back to her house so she can get her hormones, there's scenes later on with her agonizing over whether to tell a cute guy that she is trans, etc. And then in the epilogue of the story suddenly one of the major characters, a gay man, is shown with a baby and admits that he got pregnant because testosterone is hard to find in the apocalypse. completely out of left field. No build up, never a single sign, several readers went back to critical scenes looking for ANY sign, complained to the writer, etc. But the vast majority of the queer readers loved it. Especially the trans men. Because, for once, they were being depicted as a "normal" man, exactly how they should be, instead of a constant emphasis on their otherness.
    Show me your cute queer/LGBT stories please :O

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