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Many children’s book authors want to be more inclusive when writing fiction books for kids. In particular, they want to include LGBTQ characters in their stories for many reasons. Some want to challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones when writing. Others want to write books that an underrepresented group can identify with in order to help more kids relate to the books they read, see themselves reflected in the media, and feel less alone. Some writers want to add these characters in their stories because it’s simply realistic for them to be there. And most writers know that the world needs more LGBTQ representation in the media and more variety when it comes to the current selection of LGBTQ fiction books for kids.

However, they’re also afraid of misrepresenting the community. So instead, they don’t try.

If you want to include LGBTQ characters in your fiction books for kids, don’t be discouraged. Here are some tips for avoiding LGBTQ stereotypes in your stories.

Know What Stereotypes to Avoid
 In order to effectively avoid writing LGBTQ stereotypes that hinder equality, you need to know what to avoid in the first place. Here are the major stereotypes to steer clear of.

The effeminate gay man: Though flamboyant gay men certainly exist, not all gay men are effeminate, so it would be a poor choice to portray all gay men like this. In some media representations, the effeminate gay man is also seen as something to laugh at, dismissed at a joke. And sometimes, being labelled as such can lead to abuse and assault. If you’re describing your character as such, ensure that you’re not doing so just so he can be a young woman’s best friend or a diva for entertainment purposes.

The manly lesbian: Similarly, another LGBTQ stereotype to avoid is the manly lesbian. Mainstream society tends to only recognize lesbians as butch women who are unnatural or threatening. For these women, walking in society as a butch lesbian is difficult as they often get verbally abused for their lack of femininity, and many have to battle for their right to wear what they want to in a world of “girls should wear pink.” If you are going to use this type of character in fiction books for kids, remember that being butch is simply a different way of being a woman, that there’s nothing wrong with it, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean that she wants to be a man.  

The promiscuous or confused bisexual: There are many myths about bisexuality. Bisexual men and women are both often seen as promiscuous simply because their dating pools are doubled. Bisexuality shouldn’t automatically be associated with infidelity or having many partners, though. Keep this in mind when writing bisexual characters in your stories. In addition, stay clear of writing bisexual characters who are “just confused” about their sexuality.

Avoid Clichés
In addition to avoiding stereotypes, it’s important to avoid writing clichés if you want your stories to resonate with the LGBTQ community. Some storytelling motifs in fiction books for kids have recurred too many times, including the unattainable best friend, the homophobic friend, the gay football player, or the lesbian cheerleader.

Writing the same motifs again will bore or frustrate the readers that you’re trying to connect with, and it may even make you seem like a lazy author (which, of course, you’re not).

Do Your Research
When stepping outside of your comfort zone in your writing, it’s always important to dedicate enough time to researching your subject. The same is true for writing LGBTQ characters in a way that avoids stereotypes. If you know anyone in the community, talk to them. If not, go online and ask your questions in a respectful way.

When performing your research, keep an open mind and be honest with yourself about the beliefs you hold about gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Be open to the possibility that what you believe may be outdated and wrong.