I am a white male in a relationship with a WoC, and wrote a novel in which every single character belongs to her ethnic group. The book is about members of a certain tribe; I interviewed members of said tribe and did extensive research prior to writing, also got feedback from them. Hope I am doing well so far, but wonder if I got some things right still: I wrote a gay character as one of the protagonists main allies but him being gay does not have a purpose, is this problematic?
As far as the characters of color go, it appears you’re taking all of the right steps to write them in respectful, authentic ways. Others’ feedback is welcome. So with that said, I’m just going to jump to the part of this ask that stirred me up.
"him being gay does not have a purpose"
Interesting way to put this. When you meet a gay man, do you ask him what the purpose of his gayness is? Do you ponder, “Why is his homosexuality relevant to the story arc of his life?” I’m going to guess not because you simply know that he is gay because some people happen to be gay. I’m also going to guess that you do not interrogate the purpose of your heterosexual characters’ heterosexuality. That’s probably because you don’t feel the need to since a) heterosexuality is part of the normative character archetype and b) you inherently know that straight people exist.
I want to invite you to consider your homosexual characters in a similar way. Your character is gay because he is gay. His homosexuality does not need to serve a purpose. It certainly can—and these stories are often powerful when done right—but it doesn’t need to serve a purpose for it to be a valid characterization (because, again, straightness is assigned to characters without interrogation, and so gayness bloody well can be, too).
I want to be careful here and make a note that you should be considerate when writing LGBTQ characters—just as you are writing about your girlfriend’s tribe. LGBTQ people are frequently tokenized and sort of sprinkled in as comic relief or PR points in a lot of TV shows and so on right now, so I by no means mean that you should be careless. Unlike straight characters, LGBTQ characters are under-represented and marginalized, so their characterization demands care. There are too few authentic, respectful representations.
You can have a respectful, authentic representation of a gay man or any other LGBTQ character without their story arc—or purpose—hinging on their LGBTQ status. Some people happen to be LGBTQ, so write them.