About QUILTBAG+ characters, biological and nonbiological family.

(No current events in the thread! This is purely about writing and worldbuilding.)
There will be some discussion of anti-QUILTBAG discrimination, indended and unintended.

And hopefully how to avoid unintended consequences of worldbuilding. :)
If you are new to these threads: hi, I'm a writer and I currently edit the #Transcendent series (Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction). #Transcendent3 just came out.

I have a lot of threads about trans worldbuilding, but this thread will be a bit more general.
(If you are new to this variant of the acronym -

QUILTBAG+: Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Gay and a + to cover related identities and enable further expansion.)
First off: when you are creating your fictional setting, it's good to think about how families are created, and which kinds of families are accepted.

How many generations can be in a family? What does the usual family look like? What are the family ties: biological, social, or?
I think in modern Western thought there is a biological essentialism to how families are thought of. And this especially affects QUILTBAG+ people even if it's not specifically targeted against them (us)

Blood ties are considered crucial above all else -
And often the blood ties are also very restricted, the classic "nuclear family" as opposed to an extended family.

If you keep this unquestioningly in your worldbuilding, this can be a problem in unexpected ways.
I think this is where tropes like Evil Stepmother come from, to bring a relatively uncomplicated (??) example.

The stepmother is not like a "real" (i.e., biological) mother in this way of thinking, and "inferior" easily slides into "evil".

This is biological essentialism -
Usually people think of "chromosomes = gender" and similar stuff as biological essentialism, but this kind of thinking also reduces a complex social relationship to BIOLOGGYYYY

Which, besides being biologically incorrect too, also shuts out a lot of QUILTBAG+ people.
If only "biological relatives" are "real relatives," then that doesn't leave QUILTBAG+ people in a nice place.

Trans people, intersex people, many queer people etc. often cannot have biological offspring. Yet might want *and have* offspring. Right now & also in fiction :)
There is a lot of discussion of "queer found families" in fiction right now. This theme is especially popular in space opera SF, I think, and fills a *massive* gap.

But QUILTBAG+ families cover an even broader spectrum. Spaceship found families are often 1-generational:
They tend to be the same age.

I discussed this at Worldcon at the Queer Families panel and I think it was either @cyborgyndroid or @fozmeadows who pointed out that they are also the same age as the author.

(Btw my panel notes: bogireadstheworld.com/worldcon-panel… )
I think these stories are VERY important and speak to many of us, bc that's often our lived experience.

But multigenerational QUILTBAG+ families & interactions are also very important. (@caseyplett said elsewhere that just showing multigenerational trans interactions is so rare)
So I'm just trying to say that QUILTBAG+ families can be very varied and often do not rely on "blood" (i.e., biological) ties.

Just like families in many non-Western cultures in general (regardless of how inclusive the mainstream of those cultures is - mine aren't very.)
There are some very big areas where this can play out, especially in fantasy.

* Hereditary wealth

You have nobles. Feudalism!

What about the QUILTBAG+ nobles? Can their offspring inherit? How can they get offspring? Is this different from issues of infertile nobles in general?
Sometimes we see QUILTBAG+ nobles (I think this is really popular as a theme!) but characters still say biologically essentialist things about children and parents.

How does this work in your setting?

But one that throws me out of the narrative even faster is...

If you have hereditary magic in your setting (which is surprisingly common in contemporary fantasy), that is by necessity going to impact QUILTBAG+ people.

I seldom if ever see this discussed and handled.

Do the QUILTBAG+ mages scramble to adopt a magical kid?
Note please that hereditary magic (especially the very strictly blood-based systems) can in itself be biologically essentialist. I think this was @quartzen's point a while back.

I talked previously about magic tied to gender and it is related to these points, too -
If your magic is tied to biological sex, that will be very confusing for intersex and/or trans and/or GNC characters, and often texts do not engage with this in worldbuilding.

(An exception is The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag, which is a head-on engagement with this trope.)
It is similar with family ties. If the magic HAS to follow the blood, that'll likewise be very difficult for a lot of QUILTBAG+ characters &this needs to be handled in some way.

I occasionally see it handled in an exclusionary way as a quick way out of worldbuilding conundrums.
This is not a thread about real-world traditions, but I note that both of my cultures do *not* have strictly blood-based transmission of mystical practices. There is always a social aspect and it is usually an aspect of mentoring.

(I obvs can't speak for all cultures.)
It is good to remember:
* It is not a good distinction to have purely environmental OR purely hereditary
* "Instinct" is a term often so broad as to be meaningless ("mothering instinct"?!)
* Practically everything has a social interpretation, biology doesn't happen in isolation.
You don't have to have giant dollops of worldbuilding dropped into your narrative.

All this can be handily shown with asides, minor characters, and so on. People have families all the time :) And QUILTBAG+ readers very much notice and reward casual inclusion.
Of course, this can also provide a huge amount of major plot elements too, and I hope this especially helps QUILTBAG+ writers contemplate worldbuilding. :)

I did not discuss negative interactions with families, bc that would be a whole thread + it is more frequently discussed.
Also, please note that your characters might have various negative beliefs, beliefs which are not true in the fictional setting, etc. and this can all be targets of engagement.

You can absolutely write about massive biological essentialism that your CHARACTERS profess by -
And you can subvert this, etc. and have an "issue story" (I love those too)

But if this is not something related to your own identity, you need to think about why are you writing that story. As with any other marginalization, and as has been said many times.
For a general thread about writing outside your experience, I loved this recent one by @jeannette_ng -
As a conclusion:
* Think about families as potentially multigenerational, including found families
* Try to avoid overemphasizing biology / "blood"
* Think about whether you are going for casual inclusion or focusing on families as a theme (both are fine, and a mix too) and why.
I have many more threads:

For writing more casual inclusion, I recommend this particular one:
Thank you for reading!!

If you enjoyed the thread, RTs and likes are very welcome and helpful.

I will do my best to answer questions soon, but my STEPCHILD :) is almost here with the school bus. In the meanwhile...
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Oh and I also wanted to link an earlier thread I had about infertility. (Note that it includes discussion of different kinds of racism, cis- and intersexism.)

Not "worldbuilding" per se, but this is also something to consider when worldbuilding.
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I am now up to +$3/mo. (total) on Patreon and $2 on Paypal.me! Thank you!

Now I will head offline for the night, but tomorrow I'll try to make a post gathering these threads (sorry, I thought I had one...)
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