Who do you relate to?

latestPart of the fun of reading or watching good fiction is getting inside the head of the characters, and being able to relate to them, and imagine yourself in their shoes. A long-standing issue in mainstream science fiction and fantasy (which is changing, but slowly) is that the main characters are most frequently white straight men, making it harder for people who aren’t that to relate to them.  (This, by the way, is also true of science fiction/fantasy themed games – which can be a bigger issue since you are actually acting as that character.) Anyway, when we see characters we could relate to, they are generally trivial and token, either added for specific effect, or as a throwaway (or, often in the case of women, simply a love object for the main character.)

I’m currently binge-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. DS9 has always been my personal favorite of the Star Trek series. Yes, even ahead of TOS, or TNG. And as I was watching it last night, it dawned on me why it’s my favorite.

One of the main characters is Benjamin Sisko, the Star Fleet commander of the station. He’s the only black leader in the Star Trek Universe. One of the other main characters is Kira Nerys, who is a badass female character, and fairly androgynous as female characters go in the Star Trek universe.

Because my gender identity (and presentation) veers toward the masculine, I generally relate most to male characters, especially when female characters are represented as feminine and straight. So in DS9, I get to relate well to two characters – Sisko and Kira.

When I write, of course, I’m always writing characters I can relate to – for some, it might be a little stretch. But that stretch is finding common ground, commonalities between me and the characters I’m portraying.

So who do you relate to? And how does that affect how you read, and how you write?

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