I don't. And I hate the term "The Other".
If you aren't aware, some writers and critics have been describing authors writing characters outside of their perceived cultural group as "Writing the Other". It's a horrible term that draw lines where there shouldn't be. I've heard many many arguments by people espousing against a "Majority" author writing about "Minority" characters, and they all boil down to "Don't do it badly". And frankly, if you are writing another character from the perspective that they are someone "Other" than oneself, you are doing it badly. Writing takes imagination. The point is to immerse oneself in a character's life—destroying the "Other-ness" of it—and write them genuinely. People are people and if you write people as people, then you aren't writing about the mysterious and unknowable.
There is always something an author can identify with. The trick is double and triple check to ensure that the "identification" isn't manufactured. So much media has been created with bad representations of minorities, that majority creators can make the mistake of thinking the media they've been fed is valid. And that is almost always not the case. The only way to learn about real people is to meet and talk to real people. If you base your characters around real people, you are more likely to write a valid character.
Some communities are more difficult to reach as an outsider, and there is no single reason why this is. Earning a community's trust is not as important as earning the trust of multiple individuals. Communities have their own subcultures and politics, and so immersing oneself in a community can trick one into thinking that local "majority rules" information is universal. Furthermore, one can be lured into local politics, as the whole or one side may attempt to manipulate you into supporting something you don't understand.
No person in real life stands for their their ancestors or supposed cultural background. In real life, Asian people can have an extremely complex relationships with their families, their "religion", and whatever presumed "culture" their ancestors may have been a part of. I've known a lot of people with Asian heritage who are sincere about what they love and dislike about their ancestral culture. But there have been a few that are fiercely conservative and insist that all representation fits their very specific model that ensures their "Face" is well represented. Outsiders who only listen to the latter risk committing the cultural crime of stereotyping all Asians as conservative.
I write modern Western stories where characters have agency, defy stereotypes, and break rules. The traditional story-telling style of Buddhism (to which many Asian cultures subscribe) is called Kishōtenketsu. In this tradition, the main characters have no agency. The stories revolve around the main characters being dragged into impossible circumstances and remaining "pure" throughout, mostly unchanged, proving some Buddhist lessons. Many Studio Ghibli stories are written this way. Conservative advisors on Asian culture will absolutely demand that Asian characters must adhere to societal pressures and peers and remain pure through adversity in a story at all times. That they would NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES betray their conservative culture. But that's both unrealistic and offensive to the countless Asian people who do not subscribe to their families' stereotypical conservative values.
I had a Japanese friend in college break down in tears because her family back in Japan refused to let her attend her sister's wedding because she had become "too Americanized" (after only about 6 months). It is ridiculous to demand that only her family could be written about as TRUE representatives of Japan and that no one should ever write about her bawling into her pillow for not being allowed to date non-Japanese men, especially Black men. (My friend then went out, got drunk, and shaved her head.)
And while I don't know what it's like to be such a conservative member of her family, I can relate to being ostracized by asshats for not being an asshat. Writing her as a character would be much easier than trying to write them. And there is nothing wrong with taking the easy route towards character development. Just know that easy shouldn't mean lazy.
To properly write characters, one has to strip away the boundary of "Other-ness" and delve into those characters lives. While some aspects may be difficult to imagine—THAT'S THE PURPOSE OF AN IMAGINATION!
I don't know exactly what it is like to be trans. I have had doubts about various aspects of my own identity, but most of those were just creative explorations of "Who could I be?" But I have had serious bouts with body dysmorphia. I've had days where I stared in the mirror asking myself "why am I like this?" and "why am I cursed with this body?" and "I don't look the way I feel." Of course, my issues were far less difficult than trans-genderism, but I can imagine those feelings magnified. So, I am not writing the "Other"— I am writing my own feelings but attributing them to something more appropriate to the character. To figure out what is appropriate, I had to listen to trans-people.
Which bring up a very important point: Don't talk to others about their experiences. Listen to them.
Don't talk to others about their experiences. Listen to them.
I have some autistic traits that I was raised were "contrary to being a man". I am a GenX child of the 70s and 80s where autism and related traits were slowly being recognized as just another way of being, but pop-culture was fitting those traits into stereotypes to be feared or pitied or insulted at every turn. And at one point, I felt that I was feeling emotions much more deeply than my masculine peers (I wasn't. They were better at hiding it). My mother was a card-carrying feminist (literally, a long-standing member of NOW). She also had very strong autistic traits. (So did my father.) She taught me what it was like for a woman to live "in a man's world", including the prejudice she faced from other women. At one point, I started imagining what my life would be like if I were a woman and that took me on meandering thought processes that I practiced in my storytelling for years. I also went to art school, where examining the world and other people was literally part of the educational process. AND I studied psychology and sociology and marketing/advertising/propaganda. AND I lived in New York City—the Great Melting Pot—and travelled the country/world and met all kinds of people from every walk of life. Over time, I learned how to observe and listen to people to understand their thoughts, emotions, motivations, and rationalizations. I won't say I know people better than themselves—what I will say is that I have been professionally trained to leverage people against themselves, as most people desire to be someone else so strongly that they refuse to accept the reality of who they are.
In my novel, I have one trans-woman who suffers from complicated dysmorphias (trying not to spoil anything). At one point, she explains that she kinda-sorta realized she might be a woman when she thought of a question that made her stop in her tracks. She says, "It's wasn't—for lack of a better term—a masculine question." And I leave it at that. I don't explore the question itself in the novel because 1. I thought it was best being vague in context to best show the relationship between the characters interacting, and 2. my choice of question might be too triggery for some readers. I won't go into it now, either, but there is an article in the novel's appendix about it for those who wish to know more.
My transgender readers, including a professional advisor on trans-issues in genre fiction, were all complementary on my treatment of this character—and this very scene in particular. And it's all because I shed my own identity in order to attempt to embody someone else. In no way did I try to write "the Other".
I wholly accept and admit that this process has limitations. But I'm also limited to the kinds of "White Males" I write about because I don't have enough of those experiences to draw on, either. I can't imagine what it's like to live in any culture or sub-culture that reinforces itself to the community so deeply that it violently abhors anyone/anything outside of it. Nor can I imagine being so narrow-minded and sheltered that I could live my entire life within a 20-mile radius. And yet there are people who do. So, admitting that I can't imagine what it's like to live as a Native American on a modern reservation or in the 1920s deep south as a Black woman, is no reflection on my talents. It's just a reflection of my knowledge and experience — which I might one day earn. And there is no reason to assume someone else might have the experiences to do what I can't.
It is also so much easier—and more valid—to write people at the threshold between their culture and the one I am more familiar with. And since so many Americans are living that way on a daily basis, it validates my story-telling. I can't and won't tell the story of a minority person struggling every moment, exiled into a ghetto (literally or figuratively) by a racist society because that requires more detailed experiences than I will ever know. But I can tell the story of people at the threshold, from what they are willing to share with me at that threshold. (And sometimes, that can get pretty deep.)
There are many amazing minority creators out there—marginalized creators—who haven't had the opportunities majority creators had and have. I want to read those marginalized authors and their stories. But I also want to express myself as the kind of person who writes—not as who I am—as the people in my stories to the best of my ability.
Hopefully, readers will acknowledge my attempts to "do it right" over any accidental faults I might include. But so far, I've had so many positive responses from qualified readers of the material, that I might be in good shape.