Whenever authors talk about how much they hate “forced diversity” and how annoyed they are that readers and bloggers now expect writers to create that they call “unrealistic” worlds where people who are not the default (by being queer, POC (or the fantasy/sci-fi equivalent), and/or not being cis), I always want to laugh.
Or ugly cry.
There’s this idea among these authors (who aren’t all white and straight, mind you) that it’s unrealistic to have more than one or two token queer characters, disabled characters, or characters of color interacting with one another at a time. That’s part of what they call “forced diversity”, the expectation that we seek out our own or that people just like to be around other people who “get” them.
I mean, these authors get it when it’s like the “kink community” or nerds but…
For every actual group of people who’re actually marginalized and who come together because community, it’s apparently unrealistic and impossible to imagine that we like hanging out together.
To these authors, it’s “forced diversity” to write a story about queer characters just hanging out and having adventures unconnected to or largely uncomplicated by their gender or sexuality. It’s unrealistic to have a story where characters of color do something together that has nothing to do with propping up a white character’s ego or making their journey easier. It’s unrealistic (and ableist) to write a story where the only thing disabled characters do is wait around to be “fixed” by the protagonist instead of living their lives and having fun.
And I mean… that’s not realistic.
Right now, I live and attend school in South Florida. Most of the people I come into contact with are people of color. Most of the people I have class with are Cuban-Americans or Puerto Rican. Almost all of my friends are queer people of color. I’m queer. Some of us are disabled. Others are neuroatypical. We’re not all cis.
No joke. We’re so diverse that I feel that some of these authors’ heads would freaking explode if they came across our crew talking about superhero comics in a corner of the English department because what’s unrealistic to them, is our life.
When writers complain about “forced diversity”, they’re really complaining about people rightfully critiquing their lack of interest in writing worlds that don’t center white, straight, and cis characters and that ignore the existence of disabled and neurodiverse characters. Because diverse readers wanting to read about diverse characters and showing that with their money isn’t forcing anyone to do anything except readjust their priorities as writers.
If you’re an author and you feel as though you’re being forced to write diversely, to acknowledge the existence of people who aren’t like you in your works, because there are people criticizing the lack of diversity of publishing and published works, that’s on you. You feel this way because you’re either not writing diversely or you’re not doing it well.
You’ve decided that instead of taking critique at face value and doing better, you’re going to rail against the injustice of people asking that they be represented in the works they consume.
As far as I know, no one’s being dropped from publishers or agencies for writing worlds centering straight, white, and cis characters in every role in their works. In fact, I do know that writers writing diverse characters (especially #ownvoices stories where a diverse author is writing diverse characters like them) often get those books turned down.
No one is “forcing” anyone to write diversely.
But plenty of authors are trying to force the idea that critiquing publishing and published authors for the focus on white and straight characters is both bullying and something that impedes the creative process.
You know, because no one in the history of the written word is allowed to tell writers that maybe they could stand to do their jobs a bit better.