Writing #ownvoices Characters


Hello all,

I wanted to discuss writing genderfluid characters as a genderfluid author and what #ownvoices means to me, because the concept of #ownvoices has been around for a while now.

Recently, a young actor (Kit Connor; played Nick Nelson in Heartstoppers) was forced to come out as bisexual because people (I hesitate to call them fans!) were accusing him of queerbaiting! Now, I am happily out and proud as genderfluid and have been since I was 19, but not everyone is ready to come out, and some people may never feel safe enough to come out. Not to mention, it is impossible for a real life person to queerbait based on their own identity. The story itself was a gay love story, it doesn’t get more queer than that, and the author of the graphic novels herself said that the characters were all played by queer actors. It wasn’t enough for some people, and I feel that the people who harassed this actor felt entitled towards his identity.

This is, of course, the downfall of #ownvoices as a way to group authors. There are many reasons why someone might not want to out themselves, but more than that, no one owes anyone an explanation for their identity. Gatekeepers at Pride? You can get lost. It felt unreal reading the headline on Twitter that Kit Connor was forced to out himself in order to appease the masses. I cannot stress this enough: you are not entitled to anyone’s queer identity. I am furious about this issue, as you may be able to tell.

I honestly am not sure that #ownvoices is a necessary taxonomical grouping. Maybe some authors feel like this type of label helps with marketing, and all the power to them. But to readers out there, I must say, no one owes you an #ownvoices text or owes you the truth about their identity. You are doing harm by demanding this of people, and I must again say this – you are mostly harming closeted queer people or queer people who are still figuring out their identity.

So what if a straight person writes a queer book? It’s not worth the possible harm you may cause to possibly expose a non-queer writer writing queer novels.

Anyway, I write some characters after my own experiences which are technically #ownvoices in some ways (Me and my character from Weekend Girl are both genderfluid) but not in other ways (my character Ignius in Far Patrol is a dragon. I am obviously not a dragon). I just am tired of people gatekeeping the queer community and am so so angry that a young queer man felt no other recourse than to out himself.

Do better.

(To those of you who are on the same wavelength as me, I am not directing my rage at you)