- February 24, 2020
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I’m sure most people have seen the image that went viral recently, that of a toddler in a wheelchair staring at an ad in a Target store—the model for the boys’ clothing ad was also in a wheelchair.
It’s a powerful image. That little boy saw the message: I’m not alone. There are people out there like me.
It’s a connection that feels so good when it happens.
My short stories feature a pair of demons living in middle-aged bodies. They even have sex (off stage, but still). They could have swapped bodies for younger, thinner ones but for some reason I don’t yet know, they choose to remain where they are. And even though they’re demons, I like them because they seem like middle-aged people. They’re not all-knowing creatures simply because they’re older. They have quirks and wrinkles.
My novel Magical Ties includes a minor character named Ro, a smart, beautiful woman, and her girlfriend, Alicia, who’s a mechanic—among other things. Including a lesbian couple into my story wasn’t a “thing” to me because frankly I see no difference between them and a heterosexual couple. They date and go grocery shopping, and I’m sure there will be arguing in future books. But I also remember the time I went into a bookstore with a friend who checked out the LGBTQ+ shelf and sighed. In the entire store, the fiction and nonfiction for that category were lumped together and barely covered one shelf.
Being invisible can be a terrible thing.
So, while Ro and Alicia didn’t have to be a same-sex couple (they could just as easily been Robert and Alicia), I made the decision to include them as they are.
But it’s tricky to add characters simply because they’re underrepresented in books. It can feel forced, and who wants to read something artificial? Not me. Which is why there’s no hard-of-hearing or deaf character in my stories. I’m hard-of-hearing, and every time I’ve considered it, the character refused to form. Maybe I’m too close to get a handle on one. Will I ever? I don’t know.
So, writers, what do you do?