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 writing beyond your life experience!
bear
 Posted: Jul 15 2015, 06:55 PM
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hey friends! just curious about your opinion on writing things beyond your life experience! for example:
+ how do you feel about people writing about cultures they've never experienced and/or cultures they don't belong to? especially the cultures that are often fetishized?
+ how do you feel about cisgendered people writing about trans, agender, gender-fluid identities?
+ how do you feel about straight people writing about homosexual characters? what about, for example, men writing about lesbians? women writing about gay men?
+ where's the line between problematic things, stereotypes, and respecting individuals who actually do happen to fall under a stereotype, a la feminine gay men, masculine gay women?
+ what about neurotypical or able-bodied people writing about people who aren't?
+ whaddya think about intent versus effect??

i realize that everyone, to some extent, writes about experiences beyond their own! but there is genuine discourse about how okay it is, and i would love to hear your opinion - especially if you fall under an identity that is often written about by people who don't identify by it.

cheers!

edited to add further questions. c:

this raises another interesting question!

what does research mean to you?
is it:
+ looking up on wikipedia and other online sources? and what online sources? tumblr? .gov or .edu or .org pages? yahoo answers?
+ talking to people who belong to that identity?
+ you took a class on it?
+ this was your college major? your thesis?
+ one of your friends belongs to this identity and they're okay with it?
+ you have family under that identity?
+ a mix? something totally different?

edited 2x! <3

i'm seeing a lot of great points here! i'm loving it, but i'm beginning to see the trend of research being important regarding writing out of your experiences. i totally agree! research, sensitivity, modesty, and willingness to consider criticism are important tools in wandering outside your boundaries.
so! here's another question for ya, lay them grey matter thoughts all over my fluffy adorable bear ears, how do you feel seeing your identity being represented by someone who doesn't belong to it?
do you like it? feel indifferent to it? feel a little cringe?
ofc your reaction probably depends on how the character is handled, got any examples of characters being handled well? or being handled poorly?

please, no need to dish on fellow rpers! i ain't bout that passive-aggressive life. just curious about your opinions!
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Lucyfer
 Posted: Jul 15 2015, 07:44 PM
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QUOTE (bear @ Jul 15 2015, 06:55 PM)

+ how do you feel about people writing about cultures they've never experienced and/or cultures they don't belong to? especially the cultures that are often fetishized?


If they do it well and have done their research, then I do not have a problem with this. I've enjoyed writing Indian (as in, from India) characters, because I genuinely love many things about India and I like to explore it deeper by writing characters that are Indian.

I have also tried my hand at writing black characters (not African Americans, but those in England). I've done a bit of research on the differences and issues, but probably not as much as I should. I tend to just play them as I would any other character, though this is because they're usually in the same social class as the other characters in the group, or even higher up.

So I guess I also write a lot of UK characters, too. And then lots of Roman ones, if that counts. You know. Historical Cultural.

Overall, I don't have a problem with it, so long as it is done well. That's probably going to sum up every answer here.

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+ how do you feel about cisgendered people writing about trans, agender, gender-fluid identities?


If cis-gendered people have done their research and do it well, by all means, go forth. I am personally not comfortable writing them, but there is a lot I do not yet understand despite all my own research into the matter of non binary genders, and I know this lack of understanding will be problematic.

Unfortunately, what I've seen has been stereotypes more than anything, and this even from a gender-fluid person. They wrote over-the-top drag queens and kings, involved drugs, and so it didn't make me want to even RP with them to learn more about that type of culture. I know these things exist, and the drag lifestyle is pretty interesting to me, actually (I cosplay guys, so....) but seeing how extreme it was, it just seemed like a terrible trope and stereotype.

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+ how do you feel about straight people writing about homosexual characters? what about, for example, men writing about lesbians? women writing about gay men?


I write them the gays and lesbians. I don't consume my life around this idea, though, since I am straight. I actually have more respect for guys who want to write lesbians, then I do for a lot of women who want to write about gay men.

This was discussed on another forum I used, but the amount of women (assumed straight) wanting to roleplay gay men, and only gay men, made it seem like they were fetishizing it. Of course, this is a site with a lot of anime and manga fans, so yaoi is a term that gets thrown around a lot. I've always wondered how gay men feel about it, since it really seems like they're being turned into a fetish by straight women, more than lesbians are a fetish for straight men...

But, overall, I have no problems with it. Love is love and lust is lust. It is good to do research on the culture and problems that face the community, but so far as writing a convincing romance or character, I don't think it is that problematic. Not everyone makes their life revolve around their sexuality. It's when people do that, that I think it becomes a problem.

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+ where's the line between problematic things, stereotypes,  and respecting individuals who actually do happen to fall under a stereotype, a la feminine gay men, masculine gay women?


The problem is when that is all that defines them. Like, if your character is only their sexuality, you've fucked up. Now, if that feminine gay man has a life outside of his sexuality, that's legit. Go ahead and make him a florist. Give him some cool friends. Give him a life.

Feminine gay men exist. Masculine gay women exist. They don't exist as only that. Breathe more life into them.

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+ what about neurotypical or able-bodied people writing about people who aren't?


I generally do not write about people who are neuro-atypical (is that the word) because I am paranoid I will get it wrong and offend people. I find this happens more often than not, that people romanticize mental and physical "non-typical" things. Depression is the worst, because, you know "true love" always fixes it.

I have written characters who have suffered problems in the past, don't get me wrong, I wrote a gal who was in an abusive relationship for three years. It fucked up her self-esteem, self-worth, left her depressed and such, but I've never written someone with a permanent, needs medication, sort of illness.

The same is true of the non-able-bodied, mostly because I know I'll slip and forget something. Like, forget the person can't hear. Those who I've seen try it, focus a ridiculous amount of attention on the problem. There's a lot of "DeafxMusician" pairings on that other website, and I've glanced at a few of them and just...ugh. All the mentions of "vibrations" and the reiterating the deaf one can't hear is terrible.

If they can pull it off, if they are sensitive to the realities, then go forth. I haven't seen it done, though.

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+ whaddya think about intent versus effect??


No idea what you're trying to get at here. If you mean they have good intention and all, that's great, but intention paves the way to hell. Like romanticizing depression. If the writer is going to argue their intent, and not fix things that are wrong, they that's not cool.

Now, if they have good intent, and are willing to listen and fix things to get the "appropriate" effect, by all means!

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bear
 Posted: Jul 15 2015, 08:47 PM
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this raises another interesting question!

what does research mean to you?
is it:
+ looking up on wikipedia and other online sources? and what online sources? tumblr? .gov or .edu or .org pages? yahoo answers?
+ talking to people who belong to that identity?
+ you took a class on it?
+ this was your college major? your thesis?
+ one of your friends belongs to this identity and they're okay with it?
+ you have family under that identity?
+ a mix? something totally different?
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Lucyfer
 Posted: Jul 15 2015, 08:52 PM
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QUOTE (bear @ Jul 15 2015, 08:47 PM)
this raises another interesting question!

what does research mean to you?
is it:
+ looking up on wikipedia and other online sources? and what online sources? tumblr? .gov or .edu or .org pages? yahoo answers?
+ talking to people who belong to that identity?
+ you took a class on it?
+ this was your college major? your thesis?
+ one of your friends belongs to this identity and they're okay with it?
+ you have family under that identity?
+ a mix? something totally different?


All of the above?

Except tumblr. I despise tumblr as a place of information, but I do use all of the others when I can.

Like, for Rome and India, I've taken lots of classes in regards to these places and their religions, their people, their cultures, and such. I've eaten food that was supposedly (in the case of Rome) from that time, and I've had Indian friends introduce me to their cuisine.

Wikipedia isn't really a bad source. I prefer other sources if I can find them, and usually I'll go to books. I don't think a particular website ending has anything to say about the legitimacy of something.

My college major was religion...so that helps with a lot of historical things, and with some modern-day culture stuff.

All my friends that I know, if they know I roleplay, they don't usually know the details. I've never asked my friends of varying identities to look at what I write, nor have I asked permission. I mean, I've never asked my straight, white friends, either. Now and then I'll ask them about stuff, but that's not usually because I want to know for writing purposes (it might end up useful later), but more as a thing that just came up and I was curious about their opinion or thoughts on the matter.

But I'm going to say that literally all of that is acceptable research methods. Holistic research is the best--so doing a mix is good. Don't go off just one friend's experience, and don't trust just wikipedia.
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alyeska
 Posted: Jul 15 2015, 09:13 PM
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QUOTE
+ how do you feel about people writing about cultures they've never experienced and/or cultures they don't belong to? especially the cultures that are often fetishized?


do your research
it is really not that hard to be respectful.
i am all for people exploring different cultures and writing a vast array of characters with varying backgrounds and settings. in fact, i find it really disappointing the amount of times i have reached out or been approached for historical fantasy, and the other party has instantly defaulted to what ends up being a watered down version of medieval england.

and maybe it's just that people don't want to do research, simple as that, but it is something that makes me very sad.
i do also though think that a lot of it stems from people not wanting to offend or fetishize, but that could be as easy as actively consuming media written and created by people who are a part of the culture you are trying to write about. instead of taking notes from white people writing characters of color, seek out people of color's own experiences (which i think is something that could be said of p much every question here, along with do your research) because at the very least then, you are both improving your skill as a writer but also contributing to representation in media and supporting writers of color in the process.


QUOTE

+ how do you feel about cisgendered people writing about trans, agender, gender-fluid identities?

+ how do you feel about straight people writing about homosexual characters? what about, for example, men writing about lesbians? women writing about gay men?



  while i fully understand and acknowledge that gender =/= sexuality, i wanted to put these two together because these are kind of personal for me to talk about and my feelings on them are mostly the same.


so, pretty much… same as above.
do your research

consume media written by and about marginalized identities. keep an active effort to avoid fetishizing them or capitalizing on real life traumas that are not yours to benefit from. acknowledge and avoid stereotypes that harm the queer community.

that being said, my preference leans heavily towards writing queer characters (as in, i am sure i have a heterosexual character around here somewhere?)
and while i will acknowledge that there are definitely certain 'things' that make queer and straight realities very different, i don't necessarily know how much i would agree with an idea that queer characters need to be written differently from straight ones. (gender, on the other hand, i believe is completely different in this regard because while you should always write a trans woman as a woman, let's say, you should never disregard or ignore the realities that exist at the same time just by reality of being a trans woman)

sometimes there are certain dynamics i see, like, "closeted x out", which make me feel uneasy because a lot of the time i personally feel like writers are trying to capitalize on the very real and complex, and quite frequently very painful, reality that is coming out for the sake of fulfilling some sort of angst factor in the role-play. and i get it, i do, conflict = plot, and so on, but as someone who has lived through that, i can't help but wonder how much of it is really based around the selfish use of the pain of marginalized identities (which, i think, could be said of pretty much every case in every question here)

however while the fetishizing aspect of this scenario of heterosexuals writing queer characters both frustrates and uneases me, i do think there is a larger part of this which i have spoken in depth about elsewhere, and bird kind of touched on it in the romance thread re:

QUOTE ( bird)
trying out relationship dynamics and sexuality and stuff in the safe comforting space that is the internet


which is something i wholeheartedly support, because i think writing is an amazing and wonderful self-help resource and because i do believe that there are a plethora of writers out there who use writing to tackle rl issues, especially re: sex/sexuality and relationships (myself included) but i digress- so,

i have come to basically two conclusions, through the unpackaging and tackling of many of my own internalized issues (of which there are still many to sort through, obviously);

(also excuse my cissexist language here, please, i am not meaning to insinuate anything re: genitalia)

1) that a (somewhat large) portion of the women writing gay men do so out of a/n (either subconscious or conscious) desire to explore their own feelings regarding sex and sexuality, and writing men allows them to do so solely as outside observers. writing allows them an active role in this, without actually having to *participate*. (of course, it could be argued that the female character =/= the female writer, but i think this tactic stands as a solid resource, especially for survivors looking to re-explore their sexuality in a safe, healthy manner.)

2) sexuality is something that is so often skewed or exaggerated by the media and the (dishonest) cultures around us that roleplaying and writing about it can be used as a tool to explore ones own sexuality and curiosities, while doing so over the internet and being afforded that level of anonymity allows them a safer space when there are things that might otherwise prevent them from exploring it irl, or they simply aren't ready or don't know.
i knew i liked girls when i was ~8 years old, but some people are never even presented queerness as an option. just because someone currently identifies with one gender or sexuality (and i understand these are two completely different things) doesn't mean that this is necessarily the one they will down the road. there are entire spectrums of gender and sexuality out there, and both i believe can be fluid things. if writing can help someone to explore those spectrums at their own pace, and adjusted to their comfort levels, then more power to them.

tldr;
i am all for people breaking down gender and sexuality boundaries at their own comfort, just please don't fetishize human beings.


QUOTE

+ where's the line between problematic things, stereotypes, and respecting individuals who actually do happen to fall under a stereotype, a la feminine gay men, masculine gay women?


^ covered that one up there i think, kind of ?


QUOTE
+ what about neurotypical or able-bodied people writing about people who aren't?


i feel like saying do your research is becoming a common theme here but
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i am not neurotypical and p much none of my characters are, whoops, but i do try my hardest to remain respectful of other mental states as well as consume my fair share of media written by authors of varying mental states themselves.
i will say i can't stand authors like john green bc while i am not sure of his own mental state nor do i really care to question it, he, like many others, seems to have this running theme of writing mentally ill teenage girls as "quirky" side characters for his main to project their romantic/fetishizing bullshit onto. and while he claims to do so under this guise of "pointing out how terrible it is to make a person more than a person" he never really does anything to address said belief in his book other than throw in a few fake-deep quotes and call it a day, without actually tackling the idea of mental illness or toxic relationships at all.

book spoilers under the cut that inspired my point originally
  
so basically in his book "looking for alaska" which, ya know, being alaska, i had to read, he has this main character "pudge" who goes off to boarding school, and meets a handful of equally eccentric characters; alaska young being the shining star around whom these quirky little planets orbited. and so he falls in love with this girl, alaska, who, you are led to inference, has a slew of addiction problems and a habit of putting herself in unsafe situations for the thrill of it.

so, anyway, in the middle of the book, john green kills alaska young. or, as he likes to put it, he "isn't sure what happened"

alaska gets drunk and speeds off campus in the middle of the night, supposedly to visit her mother's grave, and crashes her car, subsequently killing herself in the process.

but alaska you say, horrified, it's only halfway through the book

i know, loves, i know, bc you see, what is even worse than alaska ~maybe not maybe~ committing suicide, is that now you, the reader, must flip through the remaining pages of pudge's inner emotional turmoil as he comes to grips with the pain of losing this girl that he loved, who, he frequently reminds himself, had a boyfriend she loved.
now, that could be all well and good and i am all for healthy exploration of grief, especially after losing someone close to you, but all of this grief boils down to turning this girl's death into some big, huge mystery for pudge to solve and overcome, which john green then turns around and angrily denies, bc that was not his intention and thus his readers, a fan base largely comprised of teenage girls, are placed with the blame when they are quite rightfully upset over his portrayal of mental illness as a whole as well as his frequent reduction of female characters to unrequited love interests.


as for being able bodied, well… i'm not, either, but the majority of my characters are and i'll have to get back to you on how much of that is pure fantasy wish-fulfillment on my part mixed with utter frustration. but anyway, moving on, bc my feelings on this are largely the same as everywhere else in this big garbled mess of opinions.

QUOTE

+ whaddya think about intent versus effect??


see my feelings re: john green lol.

no, but really, i'm not sure, because i think "i didn't intend for it to come off that way" can be used as a rather easy get-out-of-jail free card to excuse ignorance or avoid self-improvement, and that is frustrating as hell.

and so, in conclusion, aka

tldr;

research

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XANDER
 Posted: Jul 16 2015, 01:26 AM
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man this topic is SO BIG and i have SO MANY THOUGHTS on it, because i have actually bashed my head / wrung my hands over this subject for years - but i will try to be concise!

as everyone has said already, do your research. research is going to deeply inform what you are writing about, how you should write it, and possibly even deter you from writing it altogether, if it reveals layers of complexity you do not want to wrestle with. research research research!

now, that being said.

you will always potentially offend someone with potentially offensive content.

that's it! the chance will literally always exist. every time you write something a little edgy, you are flipping a coin that either your partner will get pissed, or some outside observer will get pissed. if you are extremely unlucky, the pissed off person will come and yell at you for what you're writing - extraordinarily unlikely, but it could happen.

my personal recommendation is to accept this, get over it, and keep doing your best. you will never write all the things you want to write, explore all the things you want to explore, or get to know yourself the best you can if you shirk from certain topics or themes or characters. at some point you are going to write something really embarrassing or misinformed or super edgy, and it will be bad, and someone may or may not tell you. stay humble, and if you want to get super weird, just don't post that shit anywhere anyone else can see. only god can judge your IM logs (or at least that is what i tell myself.)

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+ whaddya think about intent versus effect??

this is its own topic, but i think you'd have to start by arguing whether or not RP has effects on the material world, and if so, what they are.

broadly speaking, i think intent only matters on a case-by-case interpersonal basis (you are my friend and i called your haircut ugly but i love you i am sorry); overall, effect / result is the superior metric.

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bear
 Posted: Jul 16 2015, 03:54 AM
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in the words of a renowned coulro capitalist: "i'm lovin it!" all these responses are gr8.
edited the first post to add a few new questions for all u barberbaes.
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Lucyfer
 Posted: Jul 16 2015, 08:25 AM
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QUOTE (bear @ Jul 15 2015, 06:55 PM)

so! here's another question for ya, lay them grey matter thoughts all over my fluffy adorable bear ears, how do you feel seeing your identity being represented by someone who doesn't belong to it?
do you like it? feel indifferent to it? feel a little cringe?
ofc your reaction probably depends on how the character is handled, got any examples of characters being handled well? or being handled poorly?

please, no need to dish on fellow rpers! i ain't bout that passive-aggressive life. just curious about your opinions!


I'm going to respond to this because I only have one "example" of a time I was annoyed by someone playing things I belong to, poorly, and it's sort of a running joke with him now anyway xD

But usually, I'm not offended. Straight, white, atheist, cis-gendered women are pretty common and come in lots of forms, from annoying valley girl to cynical asshole. I rarely find a depiction so abhorrent that it matters since...well, I'm kind of part of the norm? The atheist thing is usually the only thing I get riled up about, but that's because a lot of people like to do the "angry atheist" stereotype/trope, and it bothers me to no end.

ANYWAY, the guy. So, I have a friend who lives in Sweden. We aren't the same gender, religion, race, or any of these things. I never brought up his depiction of women because I know he's an erotica writer (published!), but they were always these insatiable, lustful creatures. Like, there was no other woman he could write for a while. Given, his men were hyper-lustful, too, but he did them in a more believable fashion. It was clear he was trying to work out an understanding of women and women's sexuality in his writing, and I mean, go him for never being one to repress that and to be wholly comfortable of the idea with sexually empowered women, but man...sometimes...

So then his fiance brought it up one day in the OOC boards, about how he plays "women no woman would want to be", and I noticed things starting to change. She's also basically me (White, female, cis-gender, not atheist but not religious? if that makes sense). So he is actively getting better at writing women now, as I've been having fun in an RP we're doing based on Vampire Hunter D, and he's playing a nun, well. And a not-hyper sexualized man (though he kind of has to, as D, who is like his hero anyway, haha). So, yeah.

tl;dr

Most people don't botch the depiction of what i am, unless it is by botching being an atheist.

Then they annoy me 7 times out of 10.
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knox
 Posted: Jul 16 2015, 12:23 PM
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laska made all of the points i wanted to bring up but by a much more articulate means and with shia gifs. (drats! foiled again!)

laska, girl. everything you said right down to the trouble with john green novels:

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so i really have nothing to say here because ya'll summed it up perfectly.
writing about people from various backgrounds/settings requires some modicum of
1. research
2. research
3. risk
and even when you're going for something controversial a little 4. respect.

how do you feel seeing your identity being represented by someone who doesn't belong to it? do you like it? feel indifferent to it? feel a little cringe?

if said person is really trying/doing their best to do any of those aformentioned^ things, sure. i dig it. but there are times when i've seen people (in writing or otherwise) epitomize bisexual individuals as sexpots, or god, depict their bisexual characters as being unsure about their sexuality. why do people treat bisexuality like it's not really a thing? i am not confused about my sexuality and even if i was why would that lead me to be promiscuous??? if your bisexual character holds claim to either of these traits it should be because they're part of their overall identity not because "oh, but that's how bisexual people operate."

user posted image

stop. bisexual is not synonymous with hypersexual.
and while we're at it can we quit romanticizing mood and anxiety disorders?
what is UP with that?
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always_xo
 Posted: Jul 16 2015, 02:04 PM
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+ how do you feel about cisgendered people writing about trans, agender, gender-fluid identities?

The problem is always going to lie behind the potential for fetishism. Trans individuals have been a subject of fetishism for so long (and continue to be) that there really is a fine line between what is fetishism and what is someone trying their best to really understand someone else's life experiences. That being said, I think it is possible for cisgender people to portray trans individuals as long as they have DONE THEIR RESEARCH (see previous posts). It's not some sort of flip of the switch transition or someone who woke up one day not feeling normal, but it is so much more complex then that. I took a transgender studies class that really helped open my eyes to a lot of topics that I think are really important to be aware of when portraying transgender individuals. This being said, I am not transgender. There was a riot when Jared Leto played a trans woman in a movie which could have cast a trans woman and so I know there are people who feel similar to that about this topic. I had a trans woman in my class call out my professor who was a cisgender butch lesbian saying that she was uncomfortable with a cisgender woman teaching a class on trans studies even though this is what the professor did her dissertation on. Many trans individuals dropped the class because they were uncomfortable with the material being talked about in these ways (ie saying trans was an identity). I think the best answer for me personally for this question, is to ask your partner. Ask your partner how they feel about trans characters and if they have topics or ideas they don't want to be included in the roleplay.

+ how do you feel about straight people writing about homosexual characters? what about, for example, men writing about lesbians? women writing about gay men?

This topic is always one that is really hard for me to address. Much like Alaska, I really like writing queer characters (even my straight characters are sort of queer). That being said, I am a queer woman who is incredibly passionate about my sexuality and has (cue angry feminist lesbian music here) been bombarded with sexuality my whole life making me feel like the outcast in my own culture. That being said, I do believe it is entirely possible (and easily so) for heterosexual people to write LGBT characters. The only thing that irks me is when it falls back onto heterosexuality. For example, if we are doubling in a roleplay about an open relationship, if you agreed to have all different creeds of character, I expect to see your character give me depth with pairings other than mxf. You don't have to be gay to see how this could be a bit annoying.

I wholeheartedly agree that "straight" women (I can't speak for men) play gay male characters as a way to explore sexuality and sex of queer people with still having a decent enough distance from the topic. Before I came out of the closet, I roleplayed strictly gay male characters. For some reason, after I realized my sexuality, I stopped roleplaying gay males as much and started roleplaying gay females. Of course, this is not how it happens for everyone, but it is possible that it can happen this way for people. Roleplaying can be an important component in self identity and finding out who you are. I give a lot of credit to people who are willing to try it, even if they realize that it's not for them and that they do not wish to continue a queer character roleplay.

I'm a little bit more uneasy, as counterproductive as it is, with males playing lesbians. Part of this is probably my experience with males fetishisizing lesbians and then turning around and saying that they don't like gay men. If you can not accept all different parts of the LGBT spectrum, I don't know that I can play into some fantasy that you have about women. I know that their are males who can roleplay as lesbians though in a way that is not fetishism and demeaning, but I'm always wary going into the roleplay initially. Maybe I'm just bitter because I've been gawked at one too many times on the street with my girlfriend by men. But these ideas and these bitter feelings seep into my roleplays as they often do with people who have been marginalized in some way.



+ where's the line between problematic things, stereotypes, and respecting individuals who actually do happen to fall under a stereotype, a la feminine gay men, masculine gay women?

I think stereotypes can often help people create characters in a roleplay that they are unfamiliar with. That being said, stereotypes should not be relied on so heavily. It's okay if you need a base for your lesbian character so you give her a nose piercing and a suburu, it's not okay if you rely entirely on stereotypes and make her a home depot regular man hater. If this is what your roleplay is based off of, fine. But don't take stereotypes to far, or even to heart. As said earlier, queer characters really don't need to be written any different than heterosexual characters. So what, they kissed a boy once? Their life experiences may affect them as a character, but not every gay person had some life trauma which contributed to their gayness. I mean, characters like Super Man and Wonder Woman could so easily be written as LGBT characters without actually changing anything about them. The Green Lantern was originally a gay black man, yet no one really knew that for a long time until he married his partner at the end of one of his story arcs. Stereotypes can be fine as long as they're not hurtful, but don't take them to heart. They're rarely true.
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abbey
 Posted: Jul 22 2015, 08:35 AM
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i'll try not to rehash what has already been said in this thread, with varied success. some of this is formative thought. i'm breaking it down into what i've thought about and now follow instinctively, and that will hopefully answer some of bear's questions.


- write what you want. know that it may be bad, however good you want to be.

bad in two ways! stylistically bad and subjectively bad, which is the 'questionably morally objectionable' kind of bad and the lesser of two evils. there is usually (but not always) a golden ratio, in that the less stylistically bad you are, the less objectionable your material becomes. which isn't to say it becomes more moral, but the message may be better delivered and that message probably isn't hail satan.

Nabokov being a fantastic writer and humanist is what elevated Lolita from being a smutty trash french lesson. then you get into controversy, which is different.


- what if i don't want to be bad?

you have two (2) choices. you can stick to writing that you know is family-friendly. there is no shame in that, just like there is no point in pushing the envelope because you can, but it is limiting and it means less growth for you as a writer. if i was an artist and i painted still life because no one has ever been upset by a still life, i would fall behind on my training in landscapes and portraits and other interesting subjects.

if you don't stick to still life, someone will inevitably come along and think you are bad. i write about things that, without mincing words, may make me seem like a bad person. i've written from the POV of a nazi for the past few years and glorified it. i've certainly done the research and i hope i'm writing from a good place, but there is no arguing that ABYK wouldn't be a story without all of its exploitative, unfair, harsh and offensive material. while i'd be mortified if someone was really hurt by it, especially if they lived through the war or knew someone who did, it's likely they would be.

i console myself thusly: i think there was merit in writing it! that's all. that intent doesn't have to hold water with anyone but me, the writer. it has informed the material.


- don't feel the need to qualify yourself.

there are experiences you'll have in life that will enable you to write very honestly and accurately to what you saw, felt, heard and knew. they may make you better equipped to write about that subject than you were before.

research and improving your work are both more important.

oh, i've been tempted. i understand the urge to say, 'as a ______ with a history of ______, i am qualified -- nay, entitled! -- to write about this.' ignore the temptation. your qualifications as a writer have less to do with your identity than you think. race, gender, sexuality, class, profession, politics -- they shape you, but you shape the writing. a good writer can fake authenticity. a bad writer can make lived experiences sound like farce.

the question of 'writing outside our lived experiences' poses another semi-visible question: how good are we at writing inside our lived experiences? which leads into...


- how do i feel about X person writing Y?

i'm okay with it. it helps that i like to cringe, so even badly written stuff is like cake to me.

imagine a straight woman writes a story about gay men in a well-defined and realistic relationship. now imagine a bonafide gay man writes the same story, only it's hypermasculine oo-RAH and the men are caricatures and the whole thing has a fixation on ball sweat, for a reason my tiny lady brain cannot comprehend. i'll take the first story every time.


WELL THAT'S ALL FOR NOW

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