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Why Christian Authors Should Consider Tackling LGBTQ+ Issues

June 10, 2024

You don’t have to look far to find someone talking about gay rights, whether on the news, social media, or—you guessed it—in fiction. At the library where I work, pro-LGBTQ+ novels are packed so tightly onto the shelves that books keep falling off. With the advent of the Sexual Revolution, sex and gender have become focal points of society, and gay pride is a sizzling-hot topic—for everyone except Christian authors, that is.

 

While secular authors propagate LGBTQ+ ideology through their characters, Christian storytellers shrink back. Many don’t see the need to address the lifestyle, or they’re afraid that acknowledging it means endorsing sin and creating stumbling blocks for readers. They don’t know how to grapple with it biblically without summoning the wrath of atheists and evangelicals alike.

 

Why give in to a market that insists upon LGBTQ+ representation and write stories that have a high chance of offending readers? Is balancing compassion and conviction possible when the demographic in question demands radical acceptance? 

 

Navigating the controversy-charged waters is risky, but if we’re striving to produce fiction that’s relevant to modern-day struggles, we can’t ignore the rising tide. 

 

Understanding the Necessity

Open discussion of sexuality can feel overwhelming, especially with the threat of being blacklisted hanging over us. But one of the purposes of Christian fiction is to bring light into darkness by exploring the dichotomy of good and evil. “Safe” fiction isn’t the goal. Accurate portrayals of sin reveal humanity’s need for salvation.

 

Of course, the existence of evil isn’t justification to gratuitously and graphically wallow in it for the sake of realism. The world’s fallenness must be handled tactfully. But caution does not mean avoidance. Fiction has the power to empathize and convict in a way pulpit-thumping never will.

 

Although classics like Crime and Punishment and Les Miserables revolve around horrific acts of human nature (premeditated murder and prostitution), instead of luring us away from God, the characters’ misery emphasizes our need for Him. Through Raskolnikov, we see the extent of Christ’s saving grace. Through Fantine, we ache for hurting souls trapped in both physical and spiritual poverty. These books increase our compassion for the lost and showcase the redemption of even the worst sinners.

 

Through storytelling, we can approach the world with honesty and offer hope beyond the pain. But we impair our ability to connect with our audience when we refuse to touch the widespread chaos. If we only address topics that old ladies approve of and secular media won’t ostracize, we’re overlooking a prime opportunity to craft stories as relatable to our culture as Les Miserables was to Victor Hugo’s.

 

Same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria are real and affect an ever-growing number of people. Shutting our eyes and letting secular authors take the lead only forces readers to seek comfort in stories that will point them away from God.

 

Preventing Hate Mail

Whether you’re worried about liberals banning your book or conservatives using it as an object lesson on loose standards, including LGBTQ+ characters is sure to ruffle someone. How do you convey your worldview without coming across as a hellfire-spewing legalist? How do you extend mercy without seeming like a compromising, watered-down hypocrite? I can’t supply an easy, step-by-step guide to all of the above, but I can share four tips to help you mitigate an uproar. 

 

1. Refresh Your Biblical Knowledge 

Before you attempt to cover any tricky subject, you need to root yourself in truth. How does Scripture define LGBTQ+? Are your preconceptions correct? When you align your perspective with God’s, not only will you boost your courage, you’ll also save yourself from spreading fallacies or muddying readers’ impressions.

 

2. Don’t Dehumanize the LGBTQ+ Community

Opposing a worldview doesn’t license you to villainize it or turn it into a caricature. Homosexual and transgender individuals are not the embodiment of black-lipsticked Satanists (nor are Christians bastions of incorruptible light). Assigning characters negatively skewed stereotypes will injure your testimony. Dispel any personal, preexisting biases and thoroughly research the struggles and ideology of the LGBTQ+ community. You can disarm hostile readers with understanding and fair treatment.

 

3. Avoid Sermonizing

Same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria can be painful and confusing. As much as you may want to pull people out of the brokenness, your goal isn’t to change people’s sexualities. Fiction isn’t a soapbox for you to shout your beliefs from, and only God can tame people’s impulses. Your responsibility is much simpler: to squeeze the shoulder of the lonely girl wrestling with temptation, to raise questions in the mind of the boy who’s searching for identity, to softly rebuke the Pharisaical rule follower, and to display the transformation that’s possible through Christ.

 

4. Compassion Does Not Equal Compromise

You can write gently and compassionately while still expressing disagreement with a worldview. Les Miserables sympathizes with the circumstances motivating Fantine’s choices, but it never implies that her descent into prostitution is right, and she still experiences hard-hitting consequences. Whether or not an LGBTQ+ lifestyle seems innocuous to outside observers, the mental and spiritual effect can run deep. Consider the spike in suicide rates for LGBTQ+ youth, or the prevalence of depression within the community. Internalized shame, identity struggles, and irreversible surgery are merely a few factors behind those statistics that you can incorporate into your story. 

 

Facing Backlash

Sadly, no matter how much skill or sensitivity you employ, dipping your pen into an electrically-charged pool will draw attention from both secular and Christian reader bases. In 2020, the media crucified Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling for her stance on transgenderism, and the trend of cancelling unpopular opinions continues to gain momentum. Before dabbling with topics that may harm your reputation and career, you need to define your why and brace yourself for the mammoth of discord ahead. If you’re not 100 percent convinced this is the story you need to tell, you’re likely to falter when the world holds your feet to the fire.

 

Depicting LGBTQ+ isn’t for everyone, and straying into a political minefield isn’t a requirement for writing impactful fiction. So bathe your ideas in prayer and examine any potential inhibitions to appropriately tackling the subject (such as lack of maturity or experience). When you surrender your story to God, you’re also entrusting Him with the outcome. Ultimately, you can’t stop backlash. But God’s wisdom can lead and strengthen you as you wade through upheaval to reach readers.

 

Answering the Call

“Finish writing your book, Sarah,” a fellow librarian once urged me. She was cataloging newly released middle-grade fiction, sorting them by category. Fantasy, humor, LGBTQ+. The last stack towered above the others. “We need more good authors addressing this.”

 

Her words hit a nerve. I’d always prided myself in writing “relevant” fiction: stories that contrast the nature of good and evil, not shying away from brokenness or hard topics. But even as I claimed that commitment, I closed my mind to one of the world’s most prevalent issues. Sure, a book can deal with stealing, killing, and even adultery, but none of those are inflammatory. No one will accuse me of hate speech if I punish a character for pickpocketing.

 

Except that excuse doesn’t hold up when I glance at the rapidly expanding LGBTQ+ section in my library. Secular authors are churning out empowering stories for kids confused by their own basic attractions—and they’ll be even more confused after reading the material that’s available.

 

The good news is, God equipped us with a powerful sword when He laid the burden of writing upon us. We have the ability to sway feelings, open eyes, and soften souls with nothing more than ink marks on a page. We shouldn’t fear LGBTQ+, or any other difficult topic. Instead, we should use our God-given talents to craft emotionally charged stories that nudge readers’ aching, tumultuous hearts toward the true source of peace.

9 Comments

  1. Julia

    Masterfully put👏👏 Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  2. RJ Catlin

    Convicting article. Good work, Sarah!

    Reply
    • Vella Karmam

      Thanks, Sarah! I’ve been pondering this problem for awhile and I really appreciate your insights.

  3. D. T. Powell

    Truth is truth, no matter how many (or few) are saying it. Thank you for writing this. I heartily agree with everything you’ve said here.

    Reply
  4. D. Rose

    This is great! So true. I’ve actually been thinking of writing a story that addresses this topic and your words have encouraged me.

    Reply
  5. Naomi

    Yes, YES Sarah! I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic – I live in Seattle and LGBTQ+ symbolism and activism pops up everywhere. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing about this (often extremely loaded) topic.

    Reply
  6. Rebecca

    Great points 👍

    Reply
  7. Joelle Stone

    *slammed with conviction* You’re not wrong and this is definitely something I’ll be thinking more on. Thank you!

    Reply

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