On December 16, 2020, The Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Foundation fellowship held a training session for us, the fellows. And what a fantastic training session by TransCanWork it was. It was nice to be “around” gender divergent people like me.
In this post, I’m talking about adding TGNC characters and LGBTQ in general. Like Drian (the lead moderator for the training) and the other moderators said, there’s a massive difference between gender identity and sexuality. The L, G and B are fairly easy to write they’re “normal” people who happen to be straight, gay or bi; there’s not even a need to add that to their description.
That ease of writing such a character is profoundly altered when you write gender divergent characters.
First, don’t add one unless it’s relevant to the story. Otherwise, you’re using us as a political tool and prop. That is a sure way to get the TGNC (Trans/Gender Non-Conforming) community “canceling” you, which is essentially destroying yourself and credibility in the eyes of the community. For example, don’t use a T/GNC character in this way to think you’re “woke”: JOHN says to MARY: “Oh, yeah. She’s trans. Cool huh?” MARY TO JOHN: “Yeah.” They wave and smile at trans character.
There is NO reason for that trans/GNC character to be in that script if that’s all they get. They need to have a substantial role, a reason for being there. And it shouldn’t be about their transness alone, but about them as a person who happens to be trans/GNC.
Second, speak with TGNC folks. We all have different experiences. Some, like me (an AMAB GNC person–Assigned Male At Birth), have fought with dysphoria our entire lives. Others who’ve gone through full transition or no aspect of transition besides clothing, have had none. It’s different for all of us. We are not a one-size-fits-all experience.
Third, you need to learn the nuances of our community. It is an erratic one. We are extremely sensitive about certain things, like pronouns. Not all of us are as forgiving as I am. I only care that you recognize and try to remember my pronouns and respect my existence, others will destroy you, will lambaste you, will “cancel” you for one slip of the tongue.
Fourth, learn about the social and psychological aspects we endure. Those of us who are veterans are something like 20x greater to attempt suicide over the general population. Our gender divergence isn’t a psychological issue or mental health issue. The reason my community has a significantly higher rate of psychological issues is because of the lack of acceptance and extreme intolerance by cisgender people. That hatred messes with a person.
Fifth, treat us as normal people with normal problems—finding love, working, family, etc.—but having to deal with them in different ways due to living our genuine lives, lives as we truly are. The issue of acceptance by loved ones is a major issue we must navigate, not all that unlike family disputes over politics, sports teams and similar topics.
Sixth, TALK TO US. Talk with as many of us as you can. Asking us questions educates you and helps you understand the diverse lived experiences we have.
Seventh, have a TGNC person read over what you wrote. I’m always available to help you better understand my community. I don’t have all the answers, but I can direct you to others with different experiences.
Remember, like all minorities, the LGBTQ+ community has paid a high price for being out. That price increases 1000-fold when you are a gender diverse person. Treat us with the respect we deserve, not at a prop.
PART II, coming next week, will offer you examples of how to properly and respectfully incorporate gender divergent characters into your scripts.