1. ArcticOrchid
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    ArcticOrchid Member

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    A sort of likeable main character is homophobic

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ArcticOrchid, Jan 4, 2016.

    A part of my inspiration for my novel (or what is hopefully going to become one) is the effects of religion, their personal beliefs or organisations, societal norms and values on individuals. So when I create a character I begin with looking at what kind of society he or she lives in and their status within it. Obviously I then go deeper in individual personality, family situation. Do they conform or deviate (always a little of both).

    When I create the society one of the things I consider is sexuality and how it is handled basically.

    It actually came as a complete surprise to me that when I had the inspiration for a side character (haven´t decided how big he will be or how long he will stay) who is gay I realised there is no way that my main character is going to be able to tolerate that.

    What makes my main character interesting to me is her fanatic religious beliefs and the reasons behind them. I am having fun putting her in situations which challenge them, I did consider whether to have her have a homosexual love affair herself but Im not sure.

    Personally I really dislike it in a story where the character has that one enlightening moment and then its personality takes a U turn. I think personal change or growth is usually very gradual. Especially when it comes to some of your core beliefs.

    Im not really sure how to approach it. She is getting closer to meeting the other character. I could have him reveal his secret right away but then you have this huge unlike-able aspect of the main character within the first 15 000 words that the reader had been previously rooting for.

    On the other hand if I leave it for later, its a bigger betrayal for the main character. I think reasonably the MC´s response would be more extreme if she is allowed to form a close friendship with this man and then feels betrayed when the secret is out.

    I feel this could provide a very interesting conflict. It could also steer the story away from the situation where the main source of interpersonal conflict is a love affair (which is an option).

    While I personally find this a very interesting topic I don´t want the reader to get to that point and just not being able to get over that character flaw. Being completely unable to get passed the fact that the character they are meant to care for and root for is homophobic.

    what do you guys think?
     
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  2. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    You say that the MC has "fanatic religious beliefs," so it's certainly going to be on people's radar that she might have prejudice, or whatever her reaction is, against gay people. Some readers might not find the character likeable at all from the start, but for those who do have sympathy for a religious fanatic, the question might be how extreme the reaction is. I think you should do whatever you think is best, but bear in mind that anything that seems excessive or wanton in the reaction could cause a drop in respect for the character.
     
  3. Anaïs Rose
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    Anaïs Rose Member

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    Ignorant people are people too! I think forming a friendship with this man, discovering the secret, and feeling betrayed, AND THEN realizing that his sexuality makes no difference would make a tidy turning point. Does she really need to have a sort of gay conversion in order to drive home the point that her perspective has changed? That seems a little forced and trite. Also your concern over whether or not the reader would be turned off by someone to negative is quite valid; I think my advice would be that for ever negative trait she has, she should have a positive one. She doesn't seem to be an anti-hero, so give her real personality traits.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think bigotry tends to leak out fairly frequently - I'm having trouble imagining a character who's bigotry wouldn't be at least hinted at in the first chunk of the book. So I don't think my problem would be, so much, that I suddenly don't like this character, but more that I suddenly don't believe in this character.

    I haven't read your stuff, so obviously I could be wrong, but as I said, I'm having trouble imagining the scenario you're describing.
     
  5. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    When conflicted with hypocrisy, people usually go into denial before slowly reforming. Or not. Depending on your context, reactions could vary quite a bit.

    An added benefit of the gradual reform is that it gives you more material to write about.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would he reveal his sexual orientation right off the bat?

    Unless he's a comedy stereotype, he's probably going about his business without making a big deal of it. He'll be friendly with women...why not?...just not THAT friendly. It's only when she offers to set him up with a nice girl that he MAY use his orientation to get him off that hook. But, why would he? He will probably be aware, from talking to MC, of HER biases, and will probably not want the scene that is likely to ensue when she finds out, so he'll use some other excuse that steers clear of the topic.

    I'm also not seeing it as particularly likely that HE would form a close friendship with somebody who is so biased against "his kind".
     
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  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As @BayView mentions, the scenario can go a million different ways and we're not privy to how they are actually going to meet. You may not have figured it out yourself as regards writing it.

    So, a few words from a gay person's perspective (me).

    As mentioned by @Shadowfax, unless you're going to paint the gay person as "obvious", he's just going to be a dude like any other dude in the going about of his daily life. If there's no real reason for me to be talking about my hubby or my relationship with him, it doesn't come up for the same reason it doesn't come up in most situations for pretty much anyone. If my daily tasks are going to bring me into the reach of someone who starts conversations with "Have you accepted the Lord, blah, blah, blah...." I find ways to circumvent the situation. And, believe it or not, it does happen. I work in a field that tends to attract people of faith, so it's a thing I deal with. I find something else to do, I look busy, I make myself busy, there's a bajillion+1 ways to avoid the situation. Improvisation is key.

    Now, if my hubby is with me, this doesn't happen. I'm not going to pretend that he's someone other than who he is. I introduce him matter-of-factly. The plainer and smoother the intro (no dramatic pause, no wait to see what they say), the clearer it tends to be to others that I'm not the kind of guy with whom you want to get into it. I know what I'm doing and if you try to take a hit, you're going to regret it. Believe it or not, most people take the hint and leave it alone. If their inner self doesn't accept having me in their circle, that's the moment they make their choice and I let them make it if that's what they want. I don't want the hassle either, so I'm not making a big thing of it if they just walk away. It's their choice and their right and I respect that. There are plenty of other people at whatever shindig to circulate with and laugh and have fun.

    So, more than anything, if Greg Homosexual and Sally Biblethumper are going to have this moment, know that Greg is clocking Sally from a mile away. Greg has skills and can cast a glamour over Sally with ease that lets her slip by. He's a Jedi. "I am not the homosexual you weren't looking for."

    I'm done prattling and have one last thing to comment/ask: I feel like maybe you aren't very sympathetic to the character because of this situation. And as a gay person myself, I get that, but if you're going to write her this way, you need to find a place where you and Sally can at least agree to disagree.
     
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  8. ArcticOrchid
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    ArcticOrchid Member

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    Well its a fantasy. So the setting is a fantasy society inspired by 16th century puritans. Not only is homosexuality illegal but so is any sexual relations outside marriage. Of course as where there are rules there are humans who break the rules. The main character however is only 17 and has not been exposed to such "sins", she has been very isolated all her life living on a farm being a carer for her disabled sister. Her only exposure to the outside world have been regular religious services, on top of that she has experience great personal tragedies like deaths. So I do sympathise with the character, I don´t think there is any other way for her to turn out considering her upbringing.

    The gay character (no name yet but lets call him John) comes from the same society but a bit more privileged and most importantly he had opportunities to socialise with people outside his family. He got caught being too affectionate to another man and is imprisoned.

    That´s where the characters meet. They end up in the same cell, John takes pity on her and helps her escape.

    So I am considering two options.

    1. She asks him why he was imprisoned and he tells her the truth. Which is sort of believable, she is wanted for murder she can´t tattle on him to anyone. She needs him more than he needs her. He could decide to be honest. I think she would just sort of bury the thought, I don´t think she would really understand it but decide to look past it for now as she needs him. This would leave room for the friendship to grow and for her opinion to change gradually and naturally.

    2. The more dramatic option would be that he answers her originally with a lie or half truth. Later he is exposed because he gets caught in another love affair, perhaps even with her love interest. Which is a great source of conflict and drama.

    I can´t choose between the two, I think it will depend on how much drama there already is when I get to the point where I would write nr 2. But thats ages away. If I get to that point and realise that adding nr 2 would create a huge distraction, too much drama for it to be believable and tolerable I will have to rewrite the whole book.

    But still I don´t find nr 1 very interesting. Also because I haven´t decided how important John will be passed the point of where she needs him for survival. By going with nr 1 I could be abandoning a huge plot point.
     
  9. ArcticOrchid
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    ArcticOrchid Member

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    He forms a relationship with her because he pity´s her. He is used to having to hide his sexuality and so that would not be out of the ordinary for him to be faced with extreme prejudice. He´s in prison for falling in love basically and he sees another sorrowful human being who is being persecuted by his persecutors and he knows that if he leaves her she will die.
     
  10. ArcticOrchid
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    ArcticOrchid Member

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    I would like to add that the only reason why I am talking about this character as a GAY character is because his sexuality is relevant to the storyline.

    Your all right that most gay or bisexual people just go about their business they don´t wear the rainbow flag as a cape.

    Maybe the Captain who sails the ship she is on is gay but we will never know because it doesn´t matter, all he will do is sail the ship.
     
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Now you're getting into muddy waters.

    I think we all assumed it was more or less present-day with present-day attitudes.

    Going back to the 16th century and things are a lot less clear. Certainly the bible-thumpers would have been heavily against such sinning, but the prevailing morals were much more lax...in the UK.

    I'm guessing you're going for a colonial America setting, where a large number of colonists were motivated by the hope of achieving religious freedom. As such, you could characterise the WHOLE population as bible-thumpers.

    And "more privileged" is quite a relative thing; in the UK, more privileged would probably mean inherited wealth, quite a comfortable life-style, and possibly more relaxed morals. In the colonies, more privileged would mean far fewer generations of inherited wealth (probably no more than 2), thus the relative differences would have been much more minor, and the "more privileged" members of society would still have had to work hard for a living...they wouldn't have the opportunity for dalliance that you're implying. So, his being gay is a lot less convincing.

    I can remember when "coming out" was front-page news, when being gay was illegal, and how most people stayed in the closet, unless they were trying to make a point. That's where I'd see your gay man as being positioned...if he even dared to voice the thought to himself! He will have the unspoken example of a totally (anybody else who's gay will have hidden it, probably got married to conceal it) heterosexual population to copy, even if the biblical passages against sodomy aren't roared at him every Sunday; he's unlikely to dare to be the only gay in the colony!

    And the colonists are likely to put pressure on their neighbours to conform...look at the Salem witch trials!
     
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  12. ArcticOrchid
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    ArcticOrchid Member

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    well its neither a colony or the uk its a fictional place partly but not fully inspired by those places.

    I don´t know whether he himself would think of himself as gay, I dont think either of them would ever been exposed to that concept. He is simply a young man who was studying to become a priest when he fell pray to his desires with a fellow student and by some really bad luck he got caught. It wouldnt have to be a full on love affair or even sex just a passionate kiss seen by the wrong person.

    Since priests in that society are celibate I would suspect that one of the reasons for him to try to become one was because he had little desire to marry.

    the society that he lives in is very small and extremely isolated. There is only one Town, its a sparsely populated farming community. The history of the place is that its essentially a sect (or a cult) that broke off from the mainland religion. The isolation gives the priests extraordinary power, they rule the islands, its a theocracy.

    I agree that in such an extremely homophobic environment it is really unlikely that John will go for nr1 and tell the MC right at the start which leads me to nr 2 and the resulting conflict.
     
  13. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    In a world where homophobia is quite so pervasive then I think the answer is to show that it's society's problem, not your characters. They aren't a bad person for being homophobic, that's just the world they know. That's how you ensure the readers don't judge your character too harshly, especially if you are going to pay it off later.
     
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  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Homophobic is a broad word - I have Christian friends aplenty who are anti-gay-relationships, my own pastor included and he's a man I respect greatly, a man who is wise and very gentle. He's also a man I know to be against gay couples being allowed to adopt children - I never asked why but I assume probably because he feels it would set a bad - or evil - example to the child, portraying what is sinful as good and normal. Non-Christians tend to lump people like him into the homophobes, but I don't feel that it's fair. It's one thing to believe gay relationships is a sin - it's another thing to actually hate the gay individual for being gay.

    Another distinction to make for your Sally Biblethumper (by the way, I grew up thinking being a Biblethumper is a good thing haha) - does she believe gay relationships or the very fact of being gay is unacceptable/evil/sinful? Is she in the group who believe it's a choice or not a choice? This may have an effect on her response.

    The more loving anti-gay Christian might describe homosexuality as a sin like any other sin - offensive though that sounds, that's actually a Christian trying to accept the gay person. They're trying to put "being gay" in context and it's essentially an argument that seeks to include gay people - because if the gay dude is as much of a sinner as you or me and Jesus died for sinners after all, then the gay dude is as acceptable to the Lord as you or me, as righteous as you or me. It might help make your Biblethumper a bit more sympathetic if you somehow managed to communicate it from her perspective.

    You're right that core beliefs change gradually. If you wanted your Biblethumper to change her views in this regard, try appealing to her other, more basic beliefs. If she believed in loving all God's creatures, she might try to show love to the gay character despite her own feelings. If she believed in fairness and justice, she might come to the gay character's defense when he's being wronged, regardless of how she feels about him. Show her integrity in other things and show the reader that liking or not liking gay people isn't the only thing that makes her who she is - just like being gay isn't the only thing that makes a gay person who they are. People are often more than what we make them out to be.
     
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  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is all only true for a very limited definition of "Christian". There are lots of Christians who welcome gay people with open arms, don't consider homosexuality a sin of any sort, and are, in fact, not homophobes.

    So I can't really accept that a Christian who believes gay relationships are sinful isn't being homophobic because he's somehow driven to that belief by his Christianity. There are too many Christians who aren't homophobic, despite their belief in Christianity. The Christian homophobe may not be a hateful asshole, but he's a homophobe.

    Back to the topic at hand - I think it'll be easier to accept the character's homophobia if you show her being devout in other ways. If she follows dietary restrictions, says some judgemental things about other so-called sinners ("Oh, she's wearing mixed fabrics! I guess they'll burn off her fast enough ONCE SHE GETS TO HELL!") and is otherwise shown as a creature of her limited upbringing, I'd accept the homophobia as just being part of her character. But if she's a liberal, modern, intelligent thinker in all ways except the homophobia? Then I'd have a lot less sympathy for her.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
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  16. ArcticOrchid
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    ArcticOrchid Member

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    haha I actually have a very similar scene about that just with jewellery which is forbidden.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If the idea is that she finds some kind of change of heart/mind on the topic, I would go with #1. Option #2 leaves little room for a believable change of heart. I mean, what incentive would she have? I've already gathered that this isn't Earthly Christianity about which we are speaking. Fantasy world, fantasy religion, I am assuming. He's already imprisoned, so there's a moment of weakness here where I think it's believable that he would at least admit to what he's accused of, if not actually admit to being guilty. Its a messed up situation, being in prison. He may be rationalizing and denying his guilt away in his own mind as well. I could see that happening.

    She's also in prison, and I'm guessing she's genuinely not guilty of her crime? Be that the case, there's a parallel that can be made between her factual lack of guilt and his basically guiltless/victimless crime. I mean, who's hurt by two guys snogging? No one. She could perhaps draw this parallel. She may also not necessarily have to come to the conclusion that "gays are groovy", but her's seems a harsh culture with lots of rather arbitrary rules that result in some pretty harsh penalties. She may instead canalize the situation as one where, due to her close scrape, she realized how easy it is to be cast as the villain in this world she lives in and that maybe a little understanding of the flaws of others is wanting, by her, and in general. There's lots of ways she can arrive at a change.
     
  18. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    A few things to consider before a simple summation like this...

    There are clear references to homosexuality as a sin in the New Testament, just as there are for adultery, fornication, etc. The big question is if the Bible is only referring to volitional sex and if exception can be made for people who are naturally gay following their conversion. That remains a point of debate, and not one that especially outsiders can chalk up to being a question of conservativism vs. liberalism. I do not question whether a person is naturally gay or not; I believe they can be. But because the notion of being "born again" is prominent in a Christian's thinking, and how that means more self control and a greater ease to follow the Bible -- and this is believed to be a spiritual blessing, not a question of blind following -- a Christian could be confused about whether someone is naturally gay or not, in addition to real testimonies of people who stopped being gay to add to the confusion. That, however, doesn't preclude a social acceptance of gay people as we see here: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/18/most-u-s-christian-groups-grow-more-accepting-of-homosexuality/ So much of life is sin in Christianity that it would be more accurate to assess how targeted homosexuality is by Christians until the debate is resolved, if ever, before assuming that there is no Biblical reason for it to be considered a sin.

    It might be apparent to some that I'm not a practicing Christian, and that is true. At this point in time, I am not, but for years I was a sincere believer, who completed conversion. I'm saying what I am since it's not really fair to, what I see as, pressure people into believing what's a sin and what isn't when it's right there in black and white.
     
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  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's so much in black and white in the Bible. Things that are morally reprehensible - support for slavery, sexism, homophobia, etc., and things that are just weird - dietary restrictions, tattoos, touching pigs, cutting your hair or shaving your beard, crossbreeding cattle or crossplanting crops, etc. Most modern Christians have the sense to ignore the rules that don't make sense in the current day and age. So if you show me a Christian that follows every "black and white" rule in the Bible, including the stuff about homosexuality, then, okay, maybe that person isn't a homophobe. (But that person is probably in jail, because we don't stone adulterers or keep people in slavery any more).

    But as soon as you start picking and choosing, at all, you have to take responsibility for what you've picked and chosen. So if someone choose to ignore the part about societal stoning of rebellious sons, but chooses to follow the parts about homosexuality? They can't use the Bible as an excuse for their bigotry. Not with me, at least.
     
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  20. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, @BrianIff , can you give chapter and verse?

    @BrianIff was quite clear that it was the New Testament to which he was referring, and that is the primary book of the Christian faith.

    There is much in the New Testament that contradicts the Old..."Turn the other cheek" vs "An eye for an eye".
     
  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think perhaps your problem stems from not knowing what you want to do here. Is this character's gay-ness simply a plot device to create an 'awakening' in your main character? Or are you trying to say something about bigotry in general? Is it your gay character's story, rather than hers, that you feel you want to write?

    You say the inclusion of the gay character has come as a 'surprise' to you ...so maybe you need to back off and re-think what you're doing. This is a big change to your story. Just sticking him in there as a token character who simply interacts with your protagonist seems shallow to me, and will evoke nothing but stock responses in your other characters and your readers. You've actually struck onto a theme that might matter more than your original story concept did. So give yourself some space to think it through, and see where you end up?
     
  22. oTTo
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    The isolated, sparsely populated farming town... which I religious... would have very distinct, established routines. Culture would be very against a gay man or woman. Sparsely populated? Religious? What would the elders or leadership think of the loss of a valid breeder or child bearer? Sparsely populated? Who's well off or privileged except the religious leadership in a small, isolated town?

    The last year I have interacted heavily with a gay guy friend of mine. Long story short, he makes his sexual orientation the most interesting thing about him. A topic comes up, he has to make it about him and gay somehow. A man walks by, "oh he's cute" (even if he's married with kids), and none too subtly. Women friends? Only because he likes flirting with their husbands or boyfriends. He wants a straight man, but also wants kids, and doesn't want to adopt. He spent 3 months living with me, 3 months on my couch in front of my TV being a lazy slob.

    In summation, as it isn't pointless I mention him, not every human is a good human. Some suck really bad, like my friend. His being gay is just what makes him more obnoxious, it is the root of a lot of other issues I have with him that I won't point out. But what I will point out is.... it isn't that he IS gay that I dislike about him. Your MC has opinions about norms, has norms she knows she must follow, and has norms she wishes to rebel against. I find her unbelievable she would be entirely accepting of John's homosexual acts but accept him as a person, even if feminine traits are prominent (in a society like hers I'm sure masculine is the norm for men, even of the cloth). Just my take on this.
     
  23. oTTo
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    Leviticus 18:22

    A man shall not lay with a man as though he is a woman, it is an abomination. Paraphrased.
     
  24. oTTo
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    ^not saying I agree, just @Shadowfax asked for a citation from New Testament saying homosexuality is a sin.
     
  25. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    So it's a colony.

    The scenario you've set up is essentially analogous to the Mayflower pilgrims, or their descendants.

    As a "sparsely populated farming community" it's hard for me to believe in a priesthood that is sufficiently elevated above the level of hard-working farmer (it was that kind of theocracy that the Mayflower pilgrims were fleeing!) to have a seminary. The kind of class-consciousness that is implied doesn't develop in just a couple of generations, and usually develops along with an authoritarian ruler who both backs and is backed by the clergy...UK, France, Japan, India, etc.

    Leviticus is Old Testament, hence why I highlighted New Testament when I asked @BrianIff for chapter and verse on where - in the New Testament - homosexuality is forbidden.

    As an aside, Leviticus only appears to forbid homosexuality, not lesbianism?
     

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