Sensitivity editors can be hired for race, religion, gender, sexuality, chronic illnesses, mental disorders, physical disabilities, among others.
Sensitivity editing is not limiting authors, but allowing them to write about experiences that are not their own.
Yes, we should have more published works by diverse authors. I am not arguing against that.
But I definitely feel that character diversity within a book will only improve it, if it is done properly.
One of my favourite book series growing up was The Bobbsey Twins. This was written in the early 1900’s, to give you context if you’re unfamiliar with the books. The main characters were two sets of twins that solved mysteries. They had servants, named Sam and Dinah, who spoke with an accent and were…well, what a white person thought a black person was like.
The books have been re-written since the original. I have both versions, and the differences aren’t really visible, at least where Sam and Dinah are concerned. A sensitivity editor would change how these characters are portrayed, fix the language chosen to describe the characters and how they speak, and remove the tropes and stereotypes.
The old saying of “write what you know” is limiting, and frankly, boring. If my husband, Eric Desmarais, only wrote what he knew, the three books that he has published wouldn’t have female protagonists. (They also wouldn’t be set in fantasy…)
Sensitivity editors let authors expand their worlds without misrepresentation. Take Cait Gordon, for example. By her own words, she is allo cis-het (allosexual, cis-gender, heterosexual), but she writes fantastic stories about aliens, who are as diverse as can be. My favourite characters of hers are two gay lizard-like aliens that are amazing, and will have their own story soon in The Stealth Lovers. You can bet that she had a sensitivity editor; Talia C Johnson.
So please, write about anything you want. But if it’s outside your personal experiences, get a sensitivity editor. They are worth their weight in gold.
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