This post is geared a bit more towards those that have already or are in the process of reading the book - those that have seen the diverse characters I have introduced. Right now especially with how our country is shifting and changing, the election looming, this post makes me look political. In reality all of these characters and situations were in place long before the chaos of 2020. It boils down to one simple statement - representation matters.
Between Worlds kicks off pretty early with a wedding between two people who have been in love with each other since they were young teens, Jensen and Amir. Amir started off as Amaranthe but realized along his path that he wasn’t meant to belong to that name and gender. Faelyn goes so far as to point out that Amir had a procedure that removed his breasts. Amir is a female to male transgender person.It is mentioned in later chapters that Faelyn had a trist - or several, depending on how you look at it - with a tavern girl in Auburir. It is also said that Warren and Liam had a very toxic but still very real relationship. Both Warren and Faelyn are bisexual. The Traveller people are completely non-binary. They claim no gender at all, and the only role in their community that is dictated by the ability to give birth is the leader of the tribe.
I introduce multiple dark skinned characters, multiple races, many different relationships with the deities that exist in this world, with as much diversity as I felt I could with how the book went - and Book II will have the same strong essence.
But why? Why did I feel the need to go so strongly with these characters? Because representation matters.
Quoted from a friend of mine “Representation matters to me because it helps to normalize what others might find abnormal or scary when it's not like that at all. Take mental health for example; a lot of people will be deterred when you say you have one of the "scary" disorders like DID or schizophrenia or, in my case, BPD. They will believe that you're dangerous or manipulative or whatever other toxic stereotypes they've heard, even when that isn't the case at all. It's because of this harmful stigma that I believe representation is extremely important; it normalizes these things and shows people how we are just normal people with different difficulties, and good representation helps acceptance for things like this come to be.” - Rina
There are so many different people on this earth. We all believe differently, we interact differently, we’re wired differently, but most importantly is that we all live here together. I've had people tell me ‘but I don’t see people like this everyday’. Well, you do actually.
A lot of transgender people either hide really well or are not ‘out’ - and despite what some may believe transgender is not a new thing, there is evidence as far back as 2500 years ago. People on the LGBT+ spectrum are just... people. That's it. Mental illness and many physical illnesses aren’t visible from the outside, the struggle itself can be a very internal thing - and with the only symptoms to go on not always measurable they are easily brushed off even by medical professionals. In various situations, its just easier to brush someone off as ‘weird’ or ‘lazy’ than to think maybe there is something deeper going on, something that needs help and support - such as schizophrenia, autisim, borderline personality disorder, chronic pain disorders, etc. To top off this list you get to people who are from other religions, other skin colors, other places in the world, people who are different and are associated with stereotyping. And because of harmful stereotypes - people hide.
I have had the luck of working with some amazing companies that did not discriminate against my sexuality - it has never affected my ability to be a good physical therapist assistant, or a good customer service worker, or a good horsewoman. The problem has never really been with who I work for - but who I serve. I’ve had complaints pit against me purely because I married a woman. The most recent issue with this was a mother who ‘didn’t know how to tell her 11 year old about gay people’.
At work recently we had to go through a new training about acceptance. It delved a bit into how human beings are inherently racist - not because of upbringing, but because of the subconscious draw we have to things that are familiar. Way back in the day, and I mean way back to our origins, different often meant a threat. Because of that, we still have a tendency to shift away from people who ‘aren’t like us’. Its not a conscious thing - but bridging that gap and going beyond our psychological programming is.
A recent study took place where, if I remember correctly, 1000 resumes were sent to multiple companies. Half were ethnic sounding names while the other half were more typical names you would generally associate with caucasian people. Of those resumes, only 25% of the ethnic names were given call backs and around 10% were given call backs when they stated their ethnicity in the resume. Whats crazy about this study is that most of the choices for applicants weren’t consciously selected. This goes back to humans being geared towards the familiar in the long run, and for at least my country being majority caucasian descent.
This kind of thing affects people in negative ways - starting with Media representation. From how the media represents minority groups, to religions such as Islam and Jewish, to mental illnesses, to physical illness, down to how single parents are represented, if you really break it down and look at it, its no wonder inclusion is such a difficult thing for people who don't know much about these things. Media representation is HUGE from adults to small children. Its a massive force to be reckoned with and its powers can be used for good or evil. A lot of people I don't think truly realize the impact of media, how it can truly shape a nation's view on certain groups. The psychology behind it is amazing and terrifying.
There are stories all across the internet that support this statement. For example, Marvel movies have always been a big thing. Everyone loves superheroes right? Black Panther came out and of course got mixed reviews, but my favorite thing was in the wake of that movie how many children were so excited that there was a superhero just like them. So many little boys and girls who were over the moon that T’Challa and Shuri, two brilliant, kind, strong, and loving characters looked like them and were royalty, they were important. Another story I read was in relation to Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. A man had written a facebook post about how much his son loved Drax because Drax was just like him - not because of appearance, but in mannerisms. His son was autistic, and Drax’s interactions with the team, his importance and strength, was something that resonated with that little boy.
If you think about it, these characters are mostly young adult to adult - and they have taught these children that they can grow up to be scientists and kings, they can grow up and be kind and make a difference, that they can be different, be themselves, and be important. This sort of thing is vital for children developing and growing up in a world that kind of writes them off in the long run.
I wanted positive representation in this book, no, not just this book but in all the things that I write. I want people to read my stories and see themselves in the characters I create. I want to get away from stereotypes, and for once have a person’s sexuality/gender identity/race not the focal point of their existence - just a part of themselves as a person. I want to normalize the things that really are just normal but aren't usually portrayed that way. I want to help educate that difference isn't something to fear, or judge, or dismiss. I am just a small voice in a large crowd, but the more voices I can mine to, the louder we are. We are here. We exist. We are human.