By Jazmine Nieves
Every day I work tirelessly on my writing; whether that means jotting down ideas that sprung upon me during class, talking to myself loudly and animatedly about characters and major plot points both in public and in private,staring at empty space as my mind plays over scenes to be created, or actually sitting down in front of my laptop and “writing like I’m running out of time,” to quote from the play Hamilton.
I spend most of my time on developing characters. When I watch movies, TV shows or read books, it’s the characters that draw me in, not the plot or the action or the clever writing. It’s the people I’m reading about, empathizing with, cheering for, crying over, relating to. I laugh with the characters, love them like my friends, my family. So in my writing, I take extra care with the characters I am creating. I put pieces of myself, my loved ones, and my enemies into them; and I mold them to the image of human beings that love and walk and live like they do in the real world.
And in the real world, there are gays. Lesbians. Bisexuals. Pansexuals. Asexuals. Demisexuals. All the colors and hues of every conceivable sexual orientation and identity.
So why is it so surprising that I’d write my characters to be these different, amazing, beautiful hues. Different from the classic shade “heterosexual”?
“Why do they have to be gay?”
I’ve heard this complaint too many times. Whether I’m watching TV with someone and one of the side characters is revealed to be interested in someone of the same sex, or whether I’m explaining one of my own characters and stories to someone, I hear this same complaint, to which I reply, “Why not?”
But it does pose an interesting question. Why DO I write gay characters? I myself identify as bisexual and I enjoy putting myself into my characters. Am I only making my characters interested in the same sex because I am interested in the same sex? Am I just creating a mirror for myself to watch as I explore all these different adventures in my worlds, enjoying my eternal bisexuality within the pages of my stories?
No, it can’t be that simple, that selfish. There has got to be more to it.
In media – TV shows, movies, literature – there’s a serious lack of representation that has become increasingly apparent to the LGBT+ community. I only know of one current network TV show, How to Get Away With Murder, where the main character is confirmed on screen to be attracted and romantically involved with both a man and woman at some point. It’s an added bonus that this character, Annalise Keating played by Viola Davis, is a person of color! But that’s only one instance that I know of in a sea of content. The only other times I see representation is in side or background characters, or around the clichéd tropes where the person’s sexual orientation is the focal point of the plot and of their character, rather than just one flavor to the whole of their being.
Isn’t that what sexuality is, just a piece of the whole puzzle?I’m not just a bisexual. I’m a woman, an American, a Puerto Rican, a writer, a student, a daughter, a sister, a fangirl. I’m shy, loud, self-conscious, selfish, short. All these are pieces,along with my preference in romantic partners. Why then,if I am real and here, is there a lack of characters with as much depth and complexity represented in the media, showing that someone as complex and interesting as me or you can be the main character, while also being bisexual? Why can’t I look at a character that hasn’t been confirmed either straight or gay in the canon and believe they are in love with someone of the same sex? What’s so wrong with wanting gay characters in the stories I love to watch and live to create?
This is why I write: to create characters people like me can love and look up to; characters I can laugh and cry with; characters I can relate to and learn from. There are so many children and adults; males and females and those of other genders; bisexuals, pansexuals and all flavors and hues; aching for more characters to be like them. We need more strong females, more sensitive males, more people of color with meaningful stories, more bisexuals falling in love. We need more identity. We need more representation.And why should I patiently twiddle my thumbs waiting for that perfect story or movie to come along with my perfect character? Why can’t I just create them myself? Why can’t I paint characters of the most beautiful hues and shades, with the deepest complexity and variation, with hearts and flaws and dreams and struggles and desires just like mine? Just like yours.
I write to explain the world around me. I write to express myself, who I am, who my family is, who my friends are. I will write all the gay characters I want because gay characters are just as important and just as beautiful. We need to finally start taking the spotlight.
Jazmine Nieves is a student at Central Connecticut State University, studying English and Writing.