Continuing on with the theme of taking blog topic suggestions friends have given me on Twitter, @northie_writer suggested that I write about how easy or difficult it is or isn’t to include non-cis queer people in romance stories. Honestly, I don’t have a ton of non-cis queer people in previous books I’ve released, but an upcoming book has a character who is genderfluid.
Before we start, if you are not versed with what it means to be non-cis or are not versed in gender identity, this is a great jumping off point.
As you can see from the above NPR glossary, there are a lot of terms people use to label their gender. Or they prefer not to label their gender at all or feel they have no gender. Gender expression varies greatly from one individual to the next. Even two people who identify as men might express themselves differently. Not every genderfluid person will express themselves the same.
It really is up to the individual how they express their gender based on internal feelings, their dress, behaviors, and so forth. When dealing with other people, it is always a great idea to ask about preferred pronouns and gender terms.
I’ve always identified as cis-gender male and connect with my gender assigned to me at birth. I use he/him pronouns, but would not be offended if someone used they/them. Even if someone called me she/her, I don’t think I’d get all that upset. Sometimes I do like to paint my fingernails (because a guy likes to feel pretty sometimes) and I have a penchant for cardigans, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel male and connect with that gender.
Regardless, in POSSIBLY TEXAS (coming March 2021), there is a character who is genderfluid.
Auguste Anderson is biologically male, assigned male at birth, generally uses he/him pronouns, but identifies as genderfluid. He expresses this a lot in his clothing choices. He spends his days at the barn down by Susurrus Creek, working on his art, and then does mysterious things when night falls. He’s also the person who shows the main character, Jordan, around Possibly proper.
He is “The Boy from the Barn,” which you will learn more about when you read the book.
For me, writing Auguste has been as natural as writing any other character I’ve ever written. A character’s voice pops into my head, and I just seem to understand them. Maybe I don’t understand how it feels to be genderfluid or non-cis since I am cisgender, but I understand what it means to be Auguste.
Writing Auguste is like writing any character who is radically different from myself–which is almost all of my characters, to be honest. I write who they are as a person, as I see them in my mind’s eye, and try to honor that. I do my utmost to be respectful and educated about different identities, ethnicities, genders, religions, and so forth, all while keeping my mind open to learning more each day. However, I also try to stay true to the character.
One thing I keep in mind when writing different identities is this:
If I am writing someone of a different race or ethnicity, I could speak to dozens of people who align with that race or ethnicity, but none of them will have the same experience. Though they will have many things in common (most likely), experiences differ from person to person.
The same can be said for non-cis queer people. I could never one-hundred percent describe the experiences of a non-cis queer person so that every non-cis queer person would say “It me!” when they read the story. All I can do is learn as much as I can about non-cis queer people and do my best to honor that while staying true to the character. I also have to do it fearlessly–like I do with all of my characters. I can’t get into my own head about whether or not what I write will align 100% with every person who shares a character’s identity. I will most likely ruffle feathers unintentionally. I have to accept that and be willing to listen to people who feel I did a character injustice or was not as respectful as I could have been.
It’s all part of being a writer. You hope you are respectful and educated and kind, but sometimes you might fuck up. All you can do is keep an open mind and be open to listening, learning, and growing.
Aside from these facts, there is one thing I am certain of when writing a non-cis queer person in a romance story.
Love is universal for those who experience it.
This goes for ANY character I write. Sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, creed, sexuality…love is love. Culture and environment (not to mention nature vs. nurture) might play a role in how someone expresses their love, but the feelings are the same for everyone. When we find our person, it’s the same for us all. A non-cis queer person will not feel love in a different way than a cisgender queer person. Love is love is love is love…
In the end, I’m still writing a story with a romantic element between two human beings. What they look like, how they identify, and how others see them doesn’t factor greatly into their human experience with love.
When people read about Auguste, I do want to represent non-cis queer people well and be as respectful as possible. But I also don’t want people to think that how he loves is different because of his gender expression (or lack thereof). Like many people, Auguste wants to love someone for who they are, and have that person return the love, regardless of how gender is expressed.
So, to make a long story short, I don’t find writing any character difficult based on their identity(ies). As long as I can keep an open mind and lead with kindness and respect, things usually fall into place.
And if they don’t, I’m always willing to learn and grow.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,