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LESSON Writing Gender: A Guide

Discussion in 'DEVELOPING CHARACTERS' started by Sir Basil, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. I think the name you're looking for is Aoharu x Kikanjuu. ;D


    Thank you so so so so much for writing this. I cannot even put into words how much this makes me appreciate you. I just really wish I could say more and I wish I could begin to divulge all of the details and the complexity of the levels of gratitude I am experiencing right now, but I sadly, have no words in which to describe them.

    I, a homosexual male, enjoyed this very, very much. I have always attempted to play all sorts of characters and all different kinds of people, but I have never ever been able to get a handle on people of the transgender and non-binary communities. I mean, I knew I didn't want to try because I worried profusely about the effect it may have on people of those communities. And I'm very glad that you said that some people read things and become embarrassed and, sometimes, angry. I'm very glad you said that because I, as a person, hate making others feel emotions that can lead to any kind of distress. (And I realize that sounds very cliche and sappy.) However, this has also given me the courage to attempt to write from the perspective of someone of the transgender and non-binary communities.

    Please don't hate me for being sappy?

    Now, I will say that this has inspired me beyond anything else I have ever read. I know that that might be unfathomable to comprehend or it may seem as if it is a lie, but I truly am touched by what you wrote. This is a work of art and I cannot be happier that it came to fruition. I agree whole-heartedly with everything you had to say and many things opened my eyes in ways I don't think anyone else, or any article, ever could've. I'm completely overwhelmed with absolute joy that this exists. (I'm sorry I'm such a sappy human, please forgive me, but I am not lying.)

    I really, very much wish that I can join your team in the Community sector of Iwaku Staff. This makes me want to become as eloquent of a writer as you, to create such a great understanding of such of a fragile (in some cases) topic. This makes me wish that I could simply drop everything and just write.

    I am quite lost. As a senior in high school, I cannot choose what to do. I have such a wide variety of interests and I'm so willing to do everything that I've just found that I cannot choose, but I believe that you have led me to make a decision. As many, many English teachers have told me, words are profound and powerful. They can have a great influence on those who are willing to listen, and those who wish to be understand something that may be out of their circle of knowledge. It creates and distributes knowledge in ways that some humans cannot begin to understand. I never began to think that that was why I was so drawn to words, that I was so drawn to the ideas of imagination through the simple, yet very intricate, stringing together of words. I so desperately wish to break this 'glass ceiling' that I've seemed to reach with my writing. I feel inadequate and I wanted to give up for a while, but got some drive to come back here. And now, I cannot fathom my life without my expression of the written word. I cannot begin to imagine myself in a world where I could not write. I cannot, and will not, allow myself to be without it from now on.

    Again, I must thank you for this. It was... Beyond anything I have ever read. And even though I've said absolutely nothing in regards to spark conversation about this topic, I simply needed to say this. (Even if it probably should've been put in a PM? XD)

    Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
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  2. That would be it XD
    I could have looked it up on my MAL but I was too lazy XD
  3. See, my list is exceedingly long, but I knew exactly what you were talking about. XD
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  4. The only way you can get experience in it is by doing it. Please, whoever reads this and has trouble playing characters across the gender spectrum, research what you're doing (as to be advised when writing any character), but there's little use in all that research if it isn't utilized. It's easy to fall into the trap (lol damn it) of fear and never write the character if you spend too much time weighing yourself down with your own identity and using it as a leverage to prevent you from writing characters outside your identity.

    If you happen to write a character of any identity other than your own, you're bound to make mistakes or run the risk of not impressing the people of that identity (across gender, race, mental illness, developmental issues, physical disability, culture, religion, etc.), but that shouldn't prevent people from writing them at all. If that's your preference, cool. Whatever tricks your trigger—but if you want to increase diversity and aren't out of fear, do the requisite research and just write it. If someone comes in to criticize your characterization, make sure they're giving you something constructive, and even if it doesn't look constructive to you, take what they're saying in mind (and in stride) and find a way to utilize that and put it in your writing.

    Freezing up at the prospect of or upon receipt of criticism prevents progress. I 100% understand it and still go through it to a point, but I'm also a writer and understand that I'm in a different place than most people.

    Just. . .do it. Learn from any mistakes and don't beat yourself up too hard about it. It's roleplay, and you can learn from any mistakes. It's not like you're making something that will be seen by society at large. Then it'll be really important—and these fears you guys might have is the same sort of "fears" (and capitalism lmao) that prevents creators of any published or successful variety from writing and including characters of other identities in their works beyond the stereotypical forms. So you're far from being alone.

    edit: Before you "just do it", please ask yourself why you want to use or include more diverse characters in your repertoire. Make sure you know your motivation for this. If you're just doing it because everyone else is or you feel pressured to, you're not ready. lol

    Do it because you want to and you have a genuine motivation to expand your worlds, not because you feel you have to.


    Also, re: "trap", I've been roleplaying online for going on 13 years or so, and wowie zowie is that word contentious for a reason. People might have different definitions from each other about what it means, or "you're looking at the dictionary definition too much", but there's a marked majority of uses where it's predicated on sexual manipulation, or the writer doing some form of "haha look how funny it is that that guy fell for the trick of a crossdressing boy!" It also serves as a way to excuse certain behaviors or stereotypes that are generally associated with trans people by saying things like "but they aren't trans so I'm doing nothing wrong! uwu" or "do you have a problem with gender non-conformity? wow, how intolerant." I've had a few people insist that no, the character isn't "androgynous" and certainly not a crossdresser, he's a trap. Because he traps people. (It runs the gamut.)

    Traps to these people are specifically for gay pairings, usually mxm, where the intent is exactly "crossdressing to attract other men." It trivializes gay men (and people at large), trans people since a lot of (cis) people don't know where the divide between crossdressing and trans is—and I won't get into the overlaps because that isn't the point here—and crossdressing. Hell, it also trivializes the character because if someone knows what the term means and its contextual meaning in writing/roleplaying, they're automatically going to assume that the character's entire identity revolves around being a "trap". That's how problematic this word is.

    I'm using general text here (re: gay people instead of just gay men) but I know this is a phenomenon primarily in 'yaoi'.

    The word "trap" isn't used for innocent reasons and if the person is using it for just gender non-conformity and breaking gender rules, then I'd think they shouldn't be using the word "trap" in the first place. It's a specific demographic, written by specific people, usually for specific kinks. To call a character that is only trying to live their life as a GNC or non-binary person a "trap" is already a mistake in itself. They're GNC/non-binary/identifier here. Not a "trap".

    The common use of "trap" as a term across anyone who might vaguely break the gender binary is, I'm (not at all) sorry, a form of appropriation—not of the word, but the culture and identities. Because a "trap" being what it is is not just because of the dictionary definition but because of its popular use as well. It's not just "oh well that's the dictionary definition", it's that people literally use trap characters to manipulate people. As a form of kink/fetish.

    TL;DR trap is problematic and we're better off not using it at all when we can use more accurate words in the first place.
    #24 castigat, Jan 13, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
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  5. I've really enjoyed the discussions herein and think they are valuable.

    Here's some input from a smaller-brained species (me!).

    To put this upfront: I'm not as intellectual or wide-read on this subject (as far as current events/politics) as most of you. Terminology changes constantly and even though friends try to keep me current on it, I rather hesitate to use trending phraseology for fear it will be changed the next month or year (as often happens) and then, hey!, you're unintentionally offending someone.

    My point here will be: As much as possible (not always possible), I, personally, like to go with the "write what you know" creed when it comes to character behavior, whether it is touching on sexuality or other.

    (However, "write what you know" doesn't mean "write what you are." And I'm not saying that anyone can't or shouldn't do this or that. I'm not the writing police! This is just how it works best for me and of course, there are many times when we have to write outside our experiences.)

    For instance, if I'm going to write about a character wedded to guns or dagger/swords/foils, I like to have at least picked up such a weapon, or owned it, first. It's just more fun and comfortable for me. (I've fired a gun, fenced, and have a dagger, blah blah blah.) Again, this is a preference, not an absolute!

    I don't feel as comfortable writing about, say, the work of scientists and surgeons! But I can do it if I have to.

    It's okay - you can say I'm lacking in imagination because I like to have had a "hands on" experience, however slender, if possible. You can diss me, I won't crumble. I'm pretty rich in self-love here! :angel:

    I don't like to identify myself by gender in discussion threads, because I think it's a disservice to all, but I think it is of some value here. I'm female. I grew up in a crowded household (two to a bedroom at least, except for the oldest son, pfft! so special! :fez: ) that was predominantly male. I had five brothers.

    I'm addressing how someone might come to have deep empathy of "other." There was cross-dressing and diverse sexual orientation in my home, even at a really young age. As the second-oldest child and female, it fell to me pretty early on to take care of others (cooking, babysitting, stopping fights, tucking the kids in at bedtime, retrieving a runaway in the middle of the night, etc.). There was no place to hide, really, and we got to see everyone's growing pains and disasters and feelings and struggles.

    It all depended on whether you wanted to extend your understanding to another or not.

    Sometimes people are wrapped up in themselves (not dissing this) and can't see things right under their nose or feel other people's feelings. Some of my siblings focused on being jealous of other siblings to the point of hatred, rather than loving them and understanding them. Frankly, I have more empathy than I have intelligence. I can put myself in other people's skins. The vulnerability when doing can be difficult (it can take a lot out of you to feel other people's pain, until you learn how to balance).

    When I was in my mid-teens, one of my very respected older friends who was bi-sexual, took me aside and hammered into my tiny mind how it was really okay to love anyone or make love to anyone of an appropriate age (of course, without causing harm to others--such as intentionally intruding into established relationships and causing grief) -- thereby demolishing the last false barrier that society had instilled in me regarding such things.

    Before I got out of my teens, I'd: lived with a lover who was (surprise!) a cross-dresser and bi-sexual; lived in a household of women who were (pick a label) gay, bi-sexual, straight, there was even a drag king (I mean who could keep track? Everyone was just who they were, preferences subject to change without notice and any kind of disapproval or prejudice was NOT cool); engaged to a male hustler; Ker-rist, what else? Became lovers with a guy, who while living a straight life, talked to me about his anxieties about coming out (needless to say, got my full support). Traded soulful discussions with an asexual guy going through a tough time, lived with a woman friend who was suffering through a romance with a beautiful man who hadn't come out to himself yet (but would). Oh yeah, and then there was the workplace, whose factory end of things was run by women that were proud to call themselves dykes (at that time), built like female wrestlers, hard partiers, tough as nails, and totally awesome in their kindness, sense of humor, fairness to all.

    Hell, much more when I hit 20. I had an undeserved rep. among straight women acquaintances as a kind of femme fatale which was totally wrong. Totally the opposite. Guys easily fell into rapport with me, that was all. I'm not here to mess anybody about.

    I guess my point is, if you live close to other people, to where you're sharing space/a bed and they pour their hearts out to you, and involve you in their daily life and thoughts and problems and past history, I think it's possible to have a pretty good understanding of what their life and feelings are like (even if you are not the same gender or have the same sexual preferences), and of how your particular friends/acquaintances tick. In fact, I used to drive one of my gay male friends crazy in that I could anticipate (when I wanted to tease him) almost his every response/choice. (And we didn't even live together.)

    I really do apologize if this post is too personal, rather than scholarly, but it's all I have to offer.

    My easiest characters to write (i.e. flows naturally and writing is joyfully done) are males of any sexual preference, barring a few personality types. I'll write females, of course, but it's a bit more of a chore unless they are shifters/androgynous, and then it's much more fun/relaxing.

    P.S. As an edit. I read a book early on re "the Male Gaze" (as Sir Basil described), wow, that was an eye opener, despite my personal experiences, which really gave me a heads up on more world-wide basis. A distressing realization, but necessary.
    #25 Ravenfrost, Jan 13, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2017
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  6. Agreed 100%. I'm an empath, myself, to the line that sometimes I end up becoming more stressed about somebody's stress than they, themselves (I'm working on it), so I can definitely say that personally, having this sense of empathy and witnessing various scenarios allows you insight into how said person actually feels.

    I've personally just never followed the "write what you (personally) know" bit, because I'm fascinated by the human psyche, and I enjoy going out of my comfort zone. People have expressed worry for me when I admit how I enjoy looking at information about serial killers, psychopaths... All that fun stuff 8D The only thing I haven't really ever delved into were characters who are religious, in the context of Earth religions. I'll do fantasy religions, but hardly ever Earth religions.

    I think the only real problem with writing now-a-days is exactly what you said earlier in your post--that a lot of things can easily offend a lot of people these days.

    Our generation is going through a huge wave of change, and some are being more easily accepted than others. \ o - o / We have reached a state where we have to be more careful about how we write, but at the same time—it's also better for writers. Because it forces us to have a more open mind, do more research... And thus resulting in, hopefully, better writers.

    It's always been a given that no matter what, you should take care of your writing and your characters, treat them with the utmost care, but in these days, it's something we must do even more than in the past.
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  7. I do think this post is very helpful for those seeking to branch out (especially for the first time, or among the first times.), but I also find it important to remember that all people are different, and nothing is static in every person. What I mean by that is that, for example, a transgendered individual may very well be someone most other people-perhaps even predominantly other transgendered people-would deem tasteless or even offensive, if they were to believe it was a fictional character.

    Some examples I have experienced first hand, for example: A friend of mine uses reddit to talk about sexuality a lot. She finds it much more pleasant do so on the internet, and also finds people more open-minded and honest. There was a discussion about women's preference in pornography and stuff like that. So, eventually, the exchange drifted to what and why women liked the videos they did. One poster's submission was quickly dissected by most people, who said the video was incredibly male-gazey (which is totally a real, and often unfortunate thing, but I digress), not enjoyable, and inappropiate for the discussion. The poster was told that men are encouraged to participate, but respect the place as being about women's perspective and so on. Well, turns out the poster was a woman, and she simply enjoyed the content because she enjoyed the focus on the woman and whatnot (I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the idea). Is that video respectable more because of that? Probably not. But does that mean a woman can't like it? No, and, she shouldn't be shamed for that either!

    Another very common example is the "basic bitch", or even the "fuckboi". We've all heard it. I personally hate the tendency to shame "generic" people for their preferences, but they're a decent example of why you shouldn't always overthink this sort of stuff. You're not sexist or mysoginistic for writing a female character that has an infinity tattoo and likes starbucks. You're not a misandrist for making a male character be overly stereotypically masculine. And you're also not transphobic for making a character express their dysphoria in cliched ways.

    I'm not saying that these are great things to do. It's a touchy subject, and it can easily hurt people. Sometimes-actually, often times-it's also just plain lazy and probably badly written. But it's not always an agenda of ignorance or even malicious intent. I have a friend who is gender dysphoric and she (then, he) once confessed to me things that would very much fall into the "Mirror scene" cliche. Sadly, but ironically, she also said she felt terrible for probably making people who view transgendered people as weird feeling validated, because she felt a certain way.I felt terrible just hearing that, because she already had enough issues on her mind, and here she was, feeling further invalid because she had to "upheld" something she wasn't.

    I myself have several aspects to my own personality (and beyond that, mental state) that would probably be a christmas gift for people who want to pigeonhole people, and stereotype them. I would prefer to just be who I am, then have to deal with the pressure of not being a certain way on top of that.

    I'm not writing this to shit on your post or anything. I'm also not writing this to say "Hey, people, just fuck about and fetishize and stereotype this, MEN AND WOMEN AMIRITE?". By god, no. I 100% agree that people who aren't something just CAN'T know (keyword, know) what it's like, because they're just not. You also shouldn't pointlessly fetishize other's lifes just for your own enjoyment and to sell shit. It's incredibly vile. BUT, you're not writing terrible things by default just because you assume someone else's position.

    Say, if a guy writes a character and just inserts "she" instead of "he", that isn't bad. Some women are exactly like some other men, and vice versa. Some cis-people are exactly like some trans-people. And some people, be it men, women, cis, trans, or otherwise, are exactly like the stereotypes that are linked to their group. And that's okay. I just hate the idea of shaming people for not delegitimizing cliches, if that makes sense. Some people are like the stereotypes about their demographic, and some are not. Both are okay. And both are okay to be written, as long as it's not serving to propagate and pigeonhole them as a whole.

    Aside from that, this post clearly took work and I very much appreciate and agree with your considerate intent! Also with male gaze. It's very apparent in a lot of work throughout all mediums, and it's just so gross. Similarly, I don't like women's literature (I don't really like the idea of this being a genre to begin with, in all honesty.) for the same reason, because it often propagates the archetype of handsome, needy but dominant man and beautiful, nurturting woman with submissive tendencies. That's a good example of when not to do it though, I think. If you're gonna write a woman to do nothing but idealize the motherly role, you're doing women a disservice by advertising a role already hard to escape for many women.

    Sorry, I kind of drifted off there, I suppose. I'm not good at streamlining my thoughts very well. Anyways, I hope you didn't take offense to my criticism, and I apologize if it was worded rudely at any point. I just find it important to not shame anyone for something that isn't actually bad.
    #27 alaska, Jan 14, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2017
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  8. Hey @alaska It's always good to hear more points of view.

    I had a few responsive thoughts, even though, yeah verily, I may be the least of those gathered here.

    You're right of course, though stated differently--we are all just flawed humans, and no one should be idealized or asked to carry the flag for their particular race, gender type, nationality, etc.

    Caring too much what other people will think of us is a stumbling block for many of us, no matter what our orientation. It crippled me socially at one point, before I could move past it.

    I know what it is like to be expected to carry the banner to some extent for a group of people --and in the end I did not comply, despite losing the support of people with whom I had deep ties and having connections cut and becoming a pariah among them. There are some hurts we have to endure, and how we endure them is our choice.

    I hope everyone feels free to be who they are without the burden of being a poster child. When you don't worship at the altar of conformity, or don't meet certain criteria, it can be damn hard to walk through a lot of this world and I don't disrespect anyone that makes a choice to fly under the radar. We are complicated beings with different strengths and weaknesses.

    Porn. Everyone has a different trigger. Sometimes what turns people on is not politically admirable, but as long as it harms none in reality (and I think all of us here know the boundaries, such as child porn is not acceptable), I cannot censor people for what elicits a response in them and I don't care to judge. I'm not talking about any behavior subsequent to viewing or reading, etc., but just the attraction itself. Whether it's S&M or hearts and flowers or wotever, it is their freedom of choice even if it may seem distressing to another person.

    I would like to believe that some of us in this world can come to know each other very well. Despite not BEING each other. XD On the other hand, no one of any sexual persuasion or gender type can know what it is like to be me or you 100%. That is unrealistic of course.

    I'm not irritated at people for writing dominant male characters or submissive female characters, etc. I don't think people are tricked into reading those and in modern life, there are readily other choices available to readers.

    Yeah, the "male gaze" thing is a real bitch. The first thing however is education - know your enemy. Which is, of course, the conditioning and brainwashing many of us receive. (Edit: I should have clarified that I understand that males can be just as victimized by the above conditioning). Once you know the deal, it's easier to try countermeasures of your own, however you chose to do so. Some chose a public forum. Some just incorporate it into their private everyday lives.

    Okay, enough of my yapping!
    #28 Ravenfrost, Jan 14, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2017
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  9. A lot of what you write has a very well-grounded basis in truth, but there's also something I think I have to point out.

    Clichés are clichés for a reason. Because they're a concept or other that's overused. Say, the kid who wants to become a hero because of the injustices in the world.

    Stereotypes are more often than not based by some concept of truth. Say, the "mirror" scene to refer to the body dysphoria of somebody who is transgender.

    That does not make either of them inherently bad. This was actually something we went over various times in my writing class—using clichés and stereotypes is tricky... But that's where your own talent as a writer comes in.

    The writer has to be aware of these things as clichés and stereotypes, and use it to their advantage. Simply using a cliché or a stereotype for the sake of using it refers to rather... Primitive writing, for lack of a better term. (I'll start referring to them as C and S because it takes a while to get that accent XD) Primitive does not equal bad. And you are very true, many times, these things are not made with ill intention, they're simply written that way because that's what the writers knows about X or Y thing, but they didn't actually bother to go further into it than simply what they know.

    I.E. it becomes superficial.

    Just because you've got a cis-female character who's a stay-at-home mother, raises her kids by herself, does all the chores by herself, prepares food for her husband and gives him a kiss on the cheek when he comes back home doesn't make you a misogynist. Of course it doesn't, why? Because this idea of the stay-at-home mother/wife has a basis in reality, various women were as such in the past and even today.

    But that's where the problems can begin to arise or where you can go differently.

    Is what you do with this stereotype. If your female character is just that, can be described by saying that she's a stay-at-home mother, then you've failed as a writer. Again: it doesn't make you a bad person, it just makes you a novice writer.

    Because at the end of the day, a story and its characters should never be able to be summarized in one sentence.

    Say, this stay-at-home mother may also be the leader of their neighborhood association to make sure that their neighborhood is as safe as possible. Maybe she also has a small greenhouse out back so she can grow her own vegetables because she cares very much about her family's health and buying organic food at the supermarket can get very expensive. Maybe she also never learned how to drive, and thus chooses to take a bike whenever she needs to go out and buy groceries with a small wagon attached so she can take the youngest child, and doubles as an instrument to carry back the heavy groceries. Both for her own part of not contributing to pollution, but also to make sure she stays in shape because of how much she stays at home to do all the chores.

    A character should never be defined by their C's or their S's. There is nothing wrong with using C's and S's when making a character—nothing wrong with making a young male character who's in college and loves to party every weekend and gets drunk with his friends, nothing wrong with having a trans-girl look at the way a cis-girl's body develops different than her own and envying it. Because people like that exist, but at the end of the day, that isn't all they are.

    If one uses a C and an S, they give themselves another level of difficulty in order to ensure that their character isn't just a superficial character who can only be defined by their C's and their S's. You take those clichés, you take those stereotypes, and you grind them up and mold them to do what you want them to do, to make them something new and refreshing, despite having aspects that one sees every day.

    The unfortunate truth is that many writers do not take this extra step to define their characters. Such can be seen by the fetishizing of certain sexualities (homosexual males, especially) and sexes (must I even point out how misunderstood being intersex is?). People only take what they know as passer-by's knowledge and don't go further into it. They don't dissect it, they don't make it their own.

    And that's what we, the writers of today, have to try to not do. Step back and look at all these C's and S's, and make them more than what they are.

    And then there's the concept of satire, when somebody takes certain clichés and stereotypes and takes them to the extreme—the difference with satire is that you know that they are aware of the genre or whatever they are parodying, and it thus makes it absolutely fantastic.

    One Punch Man by ONE is one such example—You've got Saitama, who can beat anything and everything in one punch... And as such, is incredibly bored with just about everything in life because he no longer feels excitement... Because he can be everything in one punch. ONE takes the cliché of "overpoweredness," and makes the character aware of their power to use it as a basis for comedy, but also as a wonderful aspect of a much larger story.

    So yes, we should never condemn the use of clichés and stereotypes—rather, we must accept it and encourage people to use it in new and refreshing ways o - o /

    And I just have to point one more thing out—"transgendered" is not actually a correct way to refer to people who are trans! Transgender, without the 'ed, would be what you'd want to use oUo/ Just a small heads up.
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  10. @Alyxsandre I agree 100%, I suppose I haven't been able to put that into words just then. It is lazy, and often poorly done writing, even if it isn't done without malicious intent. And it depends on the surrounding writing that determines whether it is fine or not, I feel. As you said, a character should not be defined by these clichés, but instead that is just a part of them. I suppose, unless you want to make a roleplay or other written work that revolves around a struggle associated with it. Perhaps something like a piece about coming out, or about transitioning. Point being it's not an absolute to never focus on it, but yeah.

    I feel the key difference is exactly that distinction.

    Is that mother you're writing, in all her maternal devotion, more than just a house wife? Is she a fully-realized person, with opinions and achievements? Then I do believe that is alright entirely. But if she is nothing beyond that, then it is problematic. See, if a woman decides to be entirely devoted to her marriage, children, and housework, and that works for her, then hey, more power to her. Again, this is what I want to stress; I don't want to shame anyone in real life for their personal choices. But if your written character is nothing more than the above, then I do feel it propagates this domestic role in a way that is overall unhealthy and opressive, even if not malicious in intention.

    But, otherwise, yes, you're spot on!

    @Ravenfrost I'm glad you replied, and I wholly agree with you. Especially the part of hoping to understand one another, without being one another. I think this is what it all boils down to, in creating and writing, and even acting out a character. Empathy.
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  11. This is by far one of the most nuanced and well written guide to gender I've seen on the site.
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  12. I thought that this guide was great and for the most part I agree. We must remember that there will always be exceptions. I am small town caucasian pretty much through and through. I wouldn't, for example, try to play a black man that was raised up in an urban setting but on that same note, I would probably have just as hard a time accurately portraying a white man raised under the same conditions. I believe, and this is completely my own opinion, that there are other factors in play that make it more complicated than a person of one color cannot play a person of another color. I am also heterosexual through and through so playing another gender besides male has often been difficult for me.

    I would probably offend someone no matter what I tried to play outside my gender or race. On the same note, I would probably offend someone by not adding variety. I could be called out for "white washing" my stories. To get right to the point, no matter what you write, chances are that someone will be offended. You can't please everyone. We shouldn't let this hinder our efforts to expand our creative boundaries. I believe those people that do get offended should throw advice on how to improve our versions of the characters rather than throwing stones. Educate rather that eviscerate. Then we can all become better writers rather than worry about if our writing offends someone because it probably does.
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  13. I agree completely. Can't please everyone. Also, I think people are often far more worried than they should be about writing outside of their personal gender-race box.

    As a woman, I have only been 'offended' by a male writing a female maybe once in my life. And that was because the character was constantly thinking about her own breasts. Even then, I was more confused than offended - where the hell did he get this idea? Did he think about his own dick constantly?

    Generally if you do some cultural research and treat the character like a human being rather than a stereotype you'll be fine. There's no single way to exist as a member of these groups, so it's actually not that difficult. And the pitfalls aren't actually that bad. So what if you accidentally write a man 'thinking like a woman' (false dichotomy)? There are literally billions of men in the world, each with a distinct personality. Some of those will think like women.

    The annoying thing is the people who want diverse casts and 'representation' are often exactly the same people willing to gut a writer for the slightest misstep. I think they're a very vocal minority, though. And it's actively counter-productive to good stories, so my feeling is just ignore them.
    #33 Behelit, Feb 3, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2017
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  14. As a transwoman, I really love this guide. I've seen too many people attempt to portray characters of groups they aren't a part of and horribly misrepresent things.

    However, I do have one thing I want to say--sometimes it's not a bad thing to have a character whose defining trait is their gender identity, or their sexuality, or anything like that. However, if you do, the story should revolve around that character's struggles related to that aspect of their identity. A very good example is this webcomic about a transwoman (and written by a transwoman). The story wouldn't exist if Rain were cisgender. The plot centres on the fact that she is trans, and the conflict and developments generally rely on that fact. But the story is an incredible depiction of the kind of things that we go through, and it couldn't be what it was if it didn't focus so much on Rain's gender identity. The author even does side comics called Ryan the Totally Normal Guy to poke fun about how cis privilege would defuse so much of the drama in the story.

    It's okay to write a character from the launching point of "this characters is transgender/gay/whatever" so long as you build outward from that point and realistically portray the kind of things that they have to deal with because of who they are. I don't think it's fair to stories that are about those struggles to say that it's always wrong to write a character whose first defining trait is one aspect of their identity.

    To clarify, that aspect should never be their only shred of personality. But from experience, there are just some things that bleed into every part of who someone is and to change that one thing would change everything. If I was a cisgender straight male like people thought I was early in my life, I wouldn't be even close to the same person. I wouldn't have the same passion for equality without having faced discrimination head on. I wouldn't have my quirky social awkwardness if I wasn't so anxious about every new person I meet accepting me. I wouldn't have the same views and experiences with romance if I didn't have to struggle with the fact that I'm a homoromantic girl who looks like a guy and holds no attraction for most people of compatible orientation. So much of my personality is shaped by what I've gone through, and what I've gone through for the past three years has been defined by the way I'm treated because of my gender identity.

    But seriously I don't want to sound too critical because I really love your guide.
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