When you're writing about something you don't know, a culture you're not a part of, a life experience you have no way of experiencing, you have to ask questions. You have to approach people who do have those life experiences, who do live in those cultures, who know those things you don't. Books are great resources, the internet is a great resource - but these sources also stratify and normalize and homogenize. Some experiences are universal, but many of them differ, all of them have facets, all of them are impacted by individual experience.
I am never, ever offended when someone approaches me with questions respectfully. I understand the fear that your desire for knowledge may be unwelcome - so I've jotted down a few guidelines to remember when asking those questions:
- Be respectful. This is an obvious one, but still worth mentioning. Don't dismiss the things you're talking about, don't say what's that thing on your head, don't belittle what you want to know about. Don't condescend to the person you're asking questions.
- Come as armed with knowledge as possible. Be prepared, show that you did research, that you genuinely care, that you want to learn more. Don't expect this person to be a fountain of free knowledge for you. Recognize that you have to pull your own weight - you are benefiting.
- Some people don't want to answer questions. Be okay with that! Some people don't want to share their experiences with you. Some people don't want to be helpful, they don't want to answer your questions, they don't want to enlighten you. For some people, doing that is painful, recounting things is hurtful, having to educate someone else time consuming and bothersome. Recognize that you are not entitled to the knowledge they have, and they are not obligated to give it to you.