Normalizing Queerness: Tips on Inclusive Editing for the LGBTQ Community

The role of an editor is to ensure throughout each stage of the editing process that the writer communicates their view of the world to the reader in the best way possible. With such a responsibility, editors should look at the ways in which the language and manuscripts they edit affect the world around them. Editors should look at how the representation of life and people on the page shape and change society’s understanding of real people in the real world. To gain further distance on the path towards impartial inclusion, here are some tips for inclusive and mindful editing in regards to the LGBTQ community:

  1. Ask members of that group how they would like to be referred to. Having someone in a position of privilege assign a name or term to a minority group can lead to further misunderstanding and misrepresentation. No one knows how to better represent and write about a group than a member of that group and hearing their real-world experiences will only deepen the authenticity of the story.
  2. Look for manuscripts that show structures other than the typical male-female relationship. The existing representations of gay and lesbian relationship in literature is a step in the right direction but simply not enough to truly represent the depth and range of human sexuality. Editors can look for manuscripts that don’t just normalize homo-sexual relationships but bisexual, transgender, intersexual, asexual, and pansexual relationships as well (to name a few).
  3. Look for manuscripts that don’t solely focus on a character’s sexual identity or how other characters are not accepting of it. If the story focuses on a gay male character’s career, the editor can make sure that the author talks about his sexuality in a way that does not make the reader assume his gayness as a detriment to his career. Unless the manuscript specifically discusses the horrors of sexual prejudice or historical homophobia, editors should look to ensure that the character’s gender identity or sexuality is discussed in a way that does not label it as abnormal.
  4. Try not to assume heterosexuality when not specified. When writing queries to the author or making suggestions in the manuscript, the editor can reference the character’s “partner” or “sexual relationship” as opposed to their “boyfriend” for a female character or “girlfriend” for a male character. This way of normalizing the homosexual and de-normalizing the hetero- will place the terms on a level playing field that does not assume one as superior to the other.
  5. Avoid terms such as “the opposite sex.” This assumes the gender binary of male/female and excludes the multitude of other gender identities that do not fall under the strict male/female understanding.
  6. Employ the use of gender-neutral pronouns. By using the singular “they/their/them” in place of the traditional he/she, the reader will not automatically assume the gender of a character, allowing space for the author to include genders that fall outside the male/female binary.
  7. Avoid referring to transgender peoples in terms of pre- and post-operation and only mention any sort of operation when absolutely pertinent to the story. Again, ask how transgender peoples want to be referred to, and use that name and pronoun. Note that this is usually the post-transition name, even when talking about the person before the transition. Taking this into consideration, editors will want to avoid reducing the transgender experience to a single surgery, as the process takes months if not years, as opposed to the commonly-misconstrued notion of it happening overnight.
  8. Turn the focus from a person’s appearance as the primary indicator of gender or sexual identity. Don’t reduce the character to their appearance and whether they dress as a “typical male” or “typical female.” Instead, writers and editors should allow space for persons to define themselves through behavior and personality as opposed to appearance.

Work-Life Imbalance

School, work, and life: The graduate school trifecta. It can be demanding, especially around finals week. Thankfully, the only thing at stake is our futures, a fact we’re so much more aware of than we were as undergraduates. So no pressure.

Everyone’s work-life situation is unique to them; the only thing we have in common here at Ooligan Press is that we’re all studying book publishing at Portland State University. The rest is up for grabs. We work, we have families, we’re looking for jobs in the industry—we’re trying to get enough sleep. It’s impossible, and that’s why we keep blogging about it.

For me, the work-life balancing act usually feels more like a juggling act. It’s pretty difficult to edit a manuscript while creating a portfolio for class, so multitasking is out the window— everything I’m doing for school or work requires my full attention while I’m doing it. This obviously makes time management crucial. And when I forget to employ my time management skills (read: procrastinate), I rely on my ability to work well under pressure and on very little sleep.

One of the challenges of being a busy student is remembering the end goal. For some, it’s getting a job in the publishing industry. For my friend and fellow Oolie Brian Parker, it was starting his own publishing company. For me? Well, it’s a bit complicated.

The short version is that my end goal is to make a living as a freelance editor to support my writing habit. I actually started my own business, Broken Top Editing, before I started graduate school. But when it’s week eight of a ten-week term, and you have projects and papers due, and your boss at your part-time job just called to ask if you can fill in for a sick colleague at work tomorrow, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of that.

Those kinds of things happen, so you triage your tasks and prioritize what you have to for the short term. But when the dust settles, you have to take a step back and remind yourself about your priorities for the long term. As much as I enjoy my part-time job, I have no career ambitions with that company, and I have to remember that if it comes down to continuing to work there or growing my editing business, the editing business has to take precedence. That may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re in the thick of it (and the fact that I have a very strong sense of loyalty doesn’t help), it’s actually rather difficult. I literally have to remind myself.

But Rachel, what about life? You’ve mentioned school, and you’ve talked about work. What about the third branch of the trifecta?

I’m glad you asked.

You see, when you’re a full-time student, a part-time employee, and a part-time entrepreneur, you don’t have an overabundance of free time. And when you spend some of that free time starting an arts ministry at your church, and the rest of it being a writer . . . Your days get pretty full. If you want to hang out with friends or family, you’re either sacrificing writing time or procrastinating homework. This is how it works, and most of the time it’s no big deal—you don’t write today; you do the assignment tomorrow. Those relationships are important, so you do what you must in order to enjoy them. But if you’re reckless, either with how much work you take on or how much time you spend having fun, you end up throwing your work-life balance out of whack.

I could give you a list of all the things that help me juggle my crazy life, like making to-do lists, reading for class on my bus commute, or deciding to quit the volunteer activity that I used to love doing (because, unfortunately, you can’t actually do everything). I could tell you about ways to prioritize tasks according to deadline, importance, or how much time is needed to complete them. And those things really do work. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, chaos descends.

When that happens, all you can do is hunker down, stay hydrated, and remember: you can sleep next week.