Happy Pride Month! In honor of this excellent celebration I’ve written about how I created my main character, Thomas Lynch, the gay police chief who stars in my Idyll mystery series.
When I wrote Thomas, I was very aware of the terrible history of fictional gay characters. In the past (and present) they have been presented as villains, predators, as diseased, or used solely as victims to be sacrificed for the narrative.
How then, to create a believable character who wasn’t a walking stereotype? First, I made Thomas somewhat, but not wholly, out. My novels begin in 1997, when openly gay police were a rarity. Thomas is closeted at work because he knows his fellow cops would be upset and shun him if they knew his secret. However, his family and his best friend and former partner know. He behaves differently depending on what social circles he is in.
Thomas is flawed because real people are. He’s impatient, quick to judge, and averse to seeking help. As much as I didn’t want to fall into the trap of recreating negative gay tropes I also sought not to create a gay ideal, someone so perfect they bely belief. Representation matters, and it’s important when portraying minority characters to make them fully rounded. So, Thomas isn’t perfect and I never wanted him to be. But he is a strong, loyal, quick, and brave man who loves organizations and people who don’t always love him back.
In the forthcoming second novel, Idyll Fears, Thomas is invited to participate as a gay leader within two organizations and he refuses. Why? Because, for now, Thomas doesn’t want to be known as the gay police chief. For him, being a cop is his most important identifier and he chafes at having that quality subsumed by the gay label. Every person, even made up ones, are complex and it’s my hope that Thomas is too.