On Orlando and the Importance of LGBT Characters

I woke up this morning to news that 103 people — many, if not all, of whom were LGBT individuals — had fallen victim to a gunman. A terrorist, a bigot who had managed to get his hands on a semiautomatic weapon and take out his homophobia in what is being called the worst mass murder in American history.

50 people dead, 53 more injured — all because one man’s hate and ease of access to weapons coalesced into the perfect storm of hatred and bloodshed.

I won’t use this space to argue for tighter gun control laws — though we need them. Nor will I use this space to argue that hateful rhetoric has consequences — though it does. I will briefly remind everyone that the actions of one individual do not reflect the views of entire religious faith — one shared by billions worldwide (including the late, great Muhammad Ali).

But I will say this: the tragedy in Orlando, Fla. means LGBT visibility is more important than ever. But why mention that on a page like this?

Because, dear readers, I am bisexual.

Because not only am I part of the LGBT community, I make it a point to reflect that in the books I write. Jill Andersen, the protagonist of my first three novels, is openly asexual. Her partner on the Baltimore police force, Ramon Gutierrez, is homosexual — engaged to marry his longtime boyfriend Jorge Santos.

Mitch, who I introduced to readers in Behind the Badge, is a young trans woman.

This hasn’t yet been explored, but supporting character Whitney Blankenship is bisexual.

Dr. Jack Corbett, the protagonist in my upcoming novel Notna, will be openly bisexual. And as long as I continue to write books and tell stories, LGBT characters will feature prominently throughout. Not just one character per story, either; multiple characters — across every gender, race, ethnic, and religious background.

Why?

Because these people exist. We are among us every single day. You might not ever know it, but LGBT people are there.We go to school. We have jobs. We drink coffee with our friends and we go dancing at clubs and we have all of the same dreams and aspirations as everyone else.

And the more visible we are, as a community and as individuals, the more we challenge the stigma and the hate that leads to tragedies such as Orlando. Obviously, not every LGBT person can be out — for several reasons — and those reasons are to be understood and respected. Still, we must fight for a society where LGBT individuals are more accepted, more welcomed… and that starts with visibility.

If he could, I’m sure the Orlando terrorist would put a bullet in my head, simply because I’m bisexual. And if someone ever does decide that’s my fate, then so be it. But atrocities such as this will not eradicate the LGBT community; if anything, it will strengthen us — as well as our allies.

We are here. There’s nothing anyone can do about that.

And I happen to believe fiction — the stories we tell — can go a long way in removing the stigma and the hate. LGBT representation (when done correctly and without falling into dangerous tropes) is an important step in that ongoing process, and I pledge to continue doing my best to make sure my works are properly representative on LGBT individuals across the spectrum.

It may not sound like much, but it’s my way of telling the Orlando gunman and those who think like him that dammit, we are human and we are not going away.

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