A Guest Post with Sophie Whittemore, “Writing an LGBT+ Found Family”
Family isn’t necessarily just the bonds formed by blood. A found family is a connection through shared experience.
And having that shared experience is a strong tie in the LGBT+ community.
And this, the concept of an LGBT+ found family, was what I wanted to explore with my punk fantasy mystery novel Catch Lili Too (Book 1 of the Gamin Immortals Series). The book’s main character, the asexual siren detective Lili, finds herself slowly building a queer found family of her own. Together, the cast of living, reanimated, and immortal beings help each other past internal struggles and external battles against the living (and the dead). And that family bond draws them tight, even when the world (and a rampant string of supernatural killings) threatens to tear them apart.
A found family isn’t bound by just one definition. There are also intersections of identity based on race, religion, ability, gender, and more. The LGBT+ found family is one that is built of a shared experience of being a part of the LGBT+ community, and all the wonderful rainbows of identity that might follow.
Especially considering that young people might end up in the street for coming out or otherwise disowned later in life, the found family becomes an incredibly integral part of the LGBT+ experience (though not all LGBT+ people find it so easy to gain a found family as this varies by whether or not being LGBT+ is legal in their respective geographies).
However, in fiction, one’s bonds with the character aren’t limited to geography. One can travel the world through the pages of a book. And an LGBT+ found family can be presented for someone who never knew that was a possibility.
Even if someone lives in a place that isn’t accepting of who they are…
They should still be told they are accepted, even if it’s through a book.
Often, we see the found family literary trope presented as ragtag groups of superheroes or a team of misfits in heist films. However, it’s important that, through fiction, LGBT+ people can see themselves represented as having a found family and being in an environment that is accepting and understanding of their experiences. Fiction gives them the validation and acceptance that they might not know exists otherwise.
Coming out and joining the LGBT+ community, reckoning with my gender and sexuality, wasn’t an easy process. I am so incredibly grateful I had amazing, understanding friends along the way. And honestly, when I was in the closet and didn’t have the vocabulary to say what I felt and understood about myself, watching media was the only way I knew how to make sense of myself. The main characters in Catch Lili Too have their own coming-out and coming-of-age experiences (yes, even immortals and undead young adults manage to have those too), and it was important that they not be alone in it.
I remember reading a book about a knight who presents as a different gender in a fantasy novel and thinking “this feels right” when I read it. I remember reading fantasy novels where the hero feels like they don’t fit quite right into society, like an outcast for things beyond their control. I remember thinking if they can accept themselves, so can I. So, I wanted Catch Lili Too to also have that, to show people they aren’t alone.
I know there’s no one book or movie or video game that can perfectly encapsulate a person’s life experience. However, I want to continue writing about LGBT+ found families in fiction because I want young LGBT+ and questioning kids and adults and all people to read fantasy and think:
And if that character is accepted…
Then I can be too.
About the Author
Sophie Whittemore is a Dartmouth Film/Digital Arts major with a mom from Indonesia and a dad from Minnesota. They’re known for their Gamin Immortal series (Catch Lili Too) and Legends of Rahasia series, specifically, the viral publication Priestess for the Blind God. Their writing career kicked off with the whimsical Impetus Rising collection, published at age 17.
They grew up in Chicago and live a life of thoroughly unexpected adventures and a dash of mayhem: whether that’s making video games or short films, scripting for a webcomic, or writing about all the punk-rock antiheroes we should give another chance (and subsequently blogging about them).
Sophie’s been featured as a Standout in the Daily Herald and makes animated-live action films on the side. Their queer-gamer film “IRL – In Real Life” won in the Freedom & Unity Young Filmmaker Contest (JAMIE KANZLER AWARDS Second Prize; ADULT: Personal Stories, Third Prize) and was a Semifinalist at the NYC Rainbow Cinema Film Festival.
Their prior works include “A Clock’s Work” in a Handersen Publishing magazine, “Blind Man’s Bluff” in Parallel Ink, a Staff Writer for AsAm News (covering the comic book convention was a dream), and numerous articles as an HXCampus Dartmouth Correspondent. Ultimately, Sophie lives life with these ideas: 1) live your truth unapologetically and 2) don’t make bets with supernatural creatures.
You can find more information about Catch Lili Too here.