Breaking Norms; or, The Taboo of Difference

I’d like to write about different characters or topics without having to call them different.

I recently finished the first draft of a short story involving a transgender protagonist. I asked a friend for his opinion and his reaction was that the character might be different but the story arc was not, and it bothered him that I used gender as a plot twist. This is a fair observation. Indeed, my character goes through what you might want to call a perfectly normal situation involving his family and friends. In that sense, the story arc is quite banal. And I did use gender as a plot twist as the core of the story is the conflict arising within the family because of the protagonist’s gender. Thus far, I have to agree with my friend’s observations about my short story.

However, I think it is interesting to discuss the issue a bit further. I’m not sure whether my friend was put off by the different character in a normal plot, or by the different character in a normal plot. I think both raise an important issue: that particular character does not fit in that particular plot.

Which brings me to my central question here: the labeling of differences.

It is my opinion that writing about so-called different characters in a so-called normal plot diminishes the discrimination against those characters. Writing more diversity into normality would, I believe, make the different normal and thus there wouldn’t be the need for a distinction, and we would finally stop calling certain things “normal.” There would be no normal characters/plots opposed to different characters/plots, but only characters/plots.

If writers manage to break this dichotomy in their work and if diversity becomes more present in literature without being labeled as such, then acceptance is within reach. And as art always influences thinking, the world might just become a better place for each and every one.

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