Hello SE friends, Gwen with you today, and together we will venture further into the theme of diversity. In June, I wrote about including racial diversity in your stories. Here’s a link to that post. In July, I focused on financial diversity and offered suggestions which you can read about here. Last month, I wrote about physical ability. Here’s a link to that post.
With each of the posts in this series, I’ve shared a personal experience rather than political or polarizing information. We are all different. No two of us are the same. This is particularly true with this next topic of gender identity.
We’ve all heard the rhetoric, and we all have our opinions about this topic. If you could, I invite you to set aside those judgments for a few minutes, as I share a story that might help you with your character’s turmoil.
In the Fall of 1965, I climbed into a Greyhound bus and traveled through the night to San Francisco for college. I had never been there before this trip and to this day, I remember the awe I felt seeing the lights and the skyscrapers.
Within the first few weeks of classes, I met my future husband. He thought me beautiful and of course, I fell in love. Soon we were planning our wedding. Shortly before our vows, he shared secrets that were unsettling. He told me that he felt he was a woman locked within a man’s body. He had dreams that both enticed and frightened him. I thought this was something that would pass. It did not.
After the wedding, he tried dressing as a woman. At 6’ tall and medium build, he looked like he was going to a costume party. He stopped this practice when he heard someone laugh. Then he began researching how he could make the medical transition. And I started taking classes in abnormal psychology.
I told no one about my experience or his. How could I? Because he was also suicidal, my focus was on keeping him alive.
I’ll stop here and mention that this marriage ended after a couple of years. LGBTQ+ was not openly discussed at that time. For the most part, information was underground and finding it was difficult.
My former husband suffered his confused identity, and I did with him. Because of this situation, I was introduced to a world I did not know existed. I learned the difference between transgendered and transvestite, words I had not even heard before my marriage. All of it was frightening at the time.
We aren’t privy to the personal journey of those carrying banners or shouting for recognition on the streets. Most of us don’t like noise, and often just turn it off. With my then spouse, however, I couldn’t ignore the reality I was thrown into, and that fact forced me to look deeply into the topic.
If I could reduce my experience to one thing it would be that irrespective of gender identity, there’s a heart beating that wants acceptance.
I offer the following suggestions for consideration if you choose to include a character or characters who are LGBTQ+.
- Consider your own sexual identity. What makes you a sexual being? What qualities or traits do you identify as male, female, or nonbinary? Are these aspects physical, mental, or both? Could your character be a muscular man and a shy woman at the same time?
- Recognize your hesitations and judgments about gender issues. We all have our opinions on this. Social media has made certain that we are aware. If we can step back and acknowledge our own perspectives, we are less likely to impose them on our characters.
- Realize that physical characteristics are not determinate. Your character need not be androgynous, that certainly wasn’t the case with my former. Physical appearance is only a small part of who we are.
- Research the topic and consider talking with someone who identifies as LGBTQ+. There is much material available now and reading will help you give life to your character.
That’s it for me today, my friends. I hope this post has proven helpful in some small way. Gender identity is a complicated matter, and I have barely touched the surface of all that it entails. I’d love to hear from you. There is so much we can learn from each other.
Take good care of yourselves and enjoy the last few days of summer. All the best…