If you’ve read the introduction to this series, welcome back! If you haven’t, please check it out at How To Write LGBTQIA+ Characters: An Introduction.
Today we concentrate on writing female characters that like women. We’ll talk about the stereotypes they experience and how to avoid these pitfalls that society has trained us to expect. I’ll point out right now that this is a very diluted guide and you should still do more in-depth research on your own to make sure your writing is as accurate as possible. Additionally, I use “you” in my explanations as a royal you to explain the topic to the best of my abilities.
Some major stereotypes to watch out for when writing a lesbian character are that there are only two types of lesbians:
- The dyke or butch. The butch is perceived as a hyper-masculine lesbian and they’re usually portrayed as having short hair and dressing very manly. However, not all lesbians look like this, not all butch women will be lesbians, and more importantly, just because they dress like this does NOT mean that they will necessarily like only masculine things. More on this later.
- The femme. According to Wikipedia, this type of lesbian wasn’t as well known in the media until 2005 when Portia de Rossi divulged her sexual orientation. The femme is perceived as a hyper-feminine woman. Though they might prefer it, this doesn’t mean that they only like wearing dresses and lipstick, or that they only like “more feminine” activities. Remember, lesbians are PEOPLE which means that they are entitled to have a wide variety of interests.
Keep in mind, that there are MANY different types of lesbians in the queer community and that they don’t all fit under one of these two stereotypes. Yes, there are some people that do and like it but then there’s so many more. The ‘sub-categories’ that our brains are prone to creating for people (and this is unfortunately normal) are not necessarily a ‘one size fits all’ thing, so try not to create characters that are one dimensional by writing them like that.
Not only are lesbians bunched up under two separate umbrellas by society, but they are also victims of behavioral stereotyping as well. Society assumes that:
- They haven’t found the right guy. I can’t stress this enough, a character that identifies as a lesbian is not identifying as such because they haven’t found their perfect male counterpart or haven’t had enough experiences with men. It’s just because they like women and that’s it.
2. They move in on the second date. This is a behavior that might seem a bit rushed for some of us, but there’s nothing wrong with it and straight people have done it too (don’t you have that aunt/uncle that met her partner and got engaged in a month and married in three? I sure as hell do.) If you find someone who makes your soul sing it’s completely normal to want to rush into things, and some people have the means to do so while others don’t. In addition, finding a partner for people in the LGBTQIA+ community is NOT easy. There’s a lot of people that hide their true selves, that refuse to come out, that come out only partially (ie. only to friends not to family, etc), and more. There is a big LGBTQ+ community but it’s also very hard to find someone that they could be interested in, that also lives in their area, and is as comfortable with their true selves as the other is. Which is why many relationships tend to be long-distance or end up with the couple moving in together so soon.
3. They prey on and seduce straight women in relationships. Please, for the love of everything that is good and holy in this world, lesbians don’t make straight women gay. It is very likely that if they started dating someone who YOU thought was straight up until now (and it is important to note that this is your impression), this person is likely BI or PANSEXUAL (more on that in a later article). Lesbians are not predators, they do not force themselves on straight people.
4. They hit on every woman they encounter. There’s this belief that because they like women, they will like ALL women, but that can’t be farther from the truth. People in the LGBTQIA+ community, like any other person in the world, have a ‘type’ they prefer over others. I, for instance, do not date men with beards because they’re not part of my type, I don’t find them attractive, but one of my best friends only dates guys with beards, she finds them extremely attractive. This works the same way for lesbians too. If you don’t fit their type they most likely won’t find you attractive (but even if they did, it’s completely normal to have friends that fit that type and not have an innate sexual attraction or not try to hit on them). Just because a character is lesbian does not mean that they will be into EVERY character of the same sex. So, unless you’re purposefully creating a homophobic character, keep the “We can be friends, just don’t hit on me,” comment out of your vocabulary. It’s offensive.
5. They can and will change their sexual orientation. There are many instances where someone who identifies as a lesbian might decide they want to marry a man and have children with them. The reasoning behind this is VERY subjective and changes from person to person, but as I said in #1 if they identify as lesbians they don’t automatically change their sexuality. It’s more likely that they wanted a traditional family, that they might have some sort of internalized homophobia that they don’t realize they have, or some other reason of the sort. TALKING to people that made this decision will give you more insight into your writing journey to give you the skills necessary to better portray this type of character. (PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH).
6. If they came out late, they’re not actually lesbian (this goes for gay men as well). There are SO many good reasons for people to come out later on in life. Such as they didn’t realize that they were homosexual until later on because there was never any representation in the media, or they couldn’t come out out of fear for their life (see history books AND/OR any country where being homosexual is illegal), or for the fear of being ostracized by their family, and many more. There are plenty of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to/couldn’t come out. Some women are even married and have kids by the time they realize they are lesbian and go through a lot both externally and internally when they come out even if it’s just to themselves. This is a touchy topic, so do your research and be mindful.
When you’re creating a character, especially if you are a planner, you might like to know a lot of things about your characters. Favorite color, meal, movie. Least favorite activity, person, animal. It’s also important to know what they like and dislike in a possible partner (which counts for all types of characters really). Such as what is one thing they could live with, in their SO’s physical description if they really loved them? What kinds of things won’t they live with? For instance, I have a character that absolutely hates the sound of chewing, so my character would never, ever date someone who eats with their mouth open. Another character doesn’t particularly like long hair in their possible SO, but they could live with it if they really liked the person they’re interested in. Just because they’re female and a lesbian doesn’t change the fact that they have a preference in who they date.
And as I stated in the first article of this series, do your own research, read LGBTQIA+ themed books, ask people in the community, and most of all, be accepting of any and all constructive criticism of your characters, not as an attack on yourself, but as a way to become a better writer overall. I’m still learning myself, so it is possible that something I say in this guide could be wrong and I look forward to the constructive criticism so I can be sure that I do a better job at representing them as people.
In the next installment of the series, we’ll go over how to avoid stereotypes when creating a gay character.
- 13 Types Of Lesbians You’re Most Likely To Meet IRL
- Writing Lesbian Characters
- 21 Novels With Lesbian Characters That You Need To Read, According To Reddit
Featured image by Isi Parente on Unsplash