All of the books I’ve written have at least a few LGBT characters. My YA writing focuses on LGBT issues, but even my science fiction and fantasy writing sports more than a few LGBT characters. The pack in the Bear Naked series includes a lesbian and the otters both have gender identities that are, well, not cisgender. The Mage Chronicles has a transgender character who is also bisexual. Children of a Quiet Earth has several side characters that are LGBT.
I am not attempting to write exclusively LGBT fiction. None of my works is intended as an issue piece. LGBT people show up constantly in my writing because they show up constantly in my life. Long before I came out as transgender they were in my life.
Growing up in a small town in the seventies and eighties, I didn’t know LGBT people even existed. But I was already sharing a house with a lesbian, my sister. One friend from school later confessed to me that he was a straight crossdresser.
My first foray outside of home was Iowa City, Iowa. At my first job, I worked with an openly gay man. I lived next door to a lesbian. Moving to Des Moines for nursing school I had a number of LGBT friends.
I suspect that most people know quite a few LGBT people, they might just not know. If you aren’t accepting, the LGB people in your life may not come out to you. (Trans people often don’t have a choice about being out, it may be apparent at first sight.) But that doesn’t mean you don’t know them. For a long time that was how it was, people just avoided talking about their sexuality with anyone who hadn’t given them some sign they would be accepting. Times are changing. More and more LGB people are out regardless of how others feel about them.
How many people are LGBT? According to the now infamous Alfred Kinsey, around ten percent of the population. Experts and critics have been debating that number for years. Experts have questioned the methodology. More recent studies range from 3 to 6 percent of the population. Studies vary depending on who does them and what exact methodology they use. Typically more men identify as gay then women as lesbians, but women are proportionally more likely to identify as bisexual. Transgender people are a fraction of that, less than one percent of the population most of the time. The point is that there are enough of us that you likely know a few, no matter how sheltered your life has been.
Part of my personal experience has to do with where I’ve lived and the lifestyle I’ve lived. Both Iowa City and Des Moines have large LGBT populations, at least relative to the rest of the Midwest. I have always had eclectic interests and pursuits. I’ve been going to sci-fi cons, pagan festivals and similar pursuits. It’s a community and subculture that is more accepting than the mainstream of society.
We write what we know. And I know LGBT people. I have trouble imagining a world where such people simply don’t exist. When I read novels that have no LGBT characters, they feel off. I often find it hard to suspend disbelief and accept that this just doesn’t happen because it’s a fantasy setting. I doubt that.
That doesn’t mean that I expect every author to write a token gay character just because. But I will probably always have at least one or two side characters somewhere on the LGBT spectrum, even when they aren’t the focus of the book. That’s just how I perceive the world.
I think that as our culture grows towards acceptance and LGBT people become more visible, you will see more writers including them in their fantasy stories, not to attempt to address the issues but simply because they are a part of life. And that is what true acceptance looks like.