By S. G Gardner
Writing has helped me come out in two important ways—as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and as a writer.
Before I began posting my stories on Wattpad, I had not shared my writing with anyone—not even my parents or friends. Not only did I shy away from calling myself a writer, but I was also shy about what I wrote. The quality didn’t concern me as much as the content: I was writing LGBTQIA+ stories, and I was afraid that if people found out, they would ask me why. More to the point, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the courage to give an honest answer—which is that, like some of my characters, I’m asexual, aromantic, and nonbinary.
I’d been aware of my identity for a long time, but I didn’t have the terms to describe it until I was an adult. Discovering an asexual community online was life-changing for me. It was an unspeakable relief to realize I was not alone, that there were other people like me out there, and that we had a common language to describe our shared experiences.
In the meantime, I’d always been drawn to LGBTQ literature, but the kind of stories I liked best were hard to find in traditionally published spheres: fantasy, mystery, thrillers, romance, suspense—exciting stories that also just happened to feature LGBTQIA+ characters. I turned to digital publishing to find the stories I sought, and read ravenously.
Still, no matter how many stories I read, I was always hungry for more. It felt as if I was always searching for a story I couldn’t find, and eventually, I decided to write my own.
I told myself my stories were only for fun, and only for me—partly because I couldn’t imagine anyone else wanting to read them. I was shy and secretive with my little tales, keeping them hidden and rarely mentioning the fact I liked to write—because saying as much invited uncomfortable inquiries.
Another thing I didn’t do was finish a novel. For NaNoWriMo 2019, I decided I wanted to complete a book, and I wanted to share it somewhere—mostly to keep myself accountable. A Google search later, I found Wattpad and decided to give the platform a try.
Posting my story was nerve-wracking at first. The wilds of the internet seemed rife with negativity, vitriol, and hate, and I braced myself for the worst.
It didn’t come.
Instead, a community of readers and fellow writers embraced me, encouraged me, and gave me the confidence to grow. The main character in my first story is asexual, like myself, and the positive reactions I received taught me it was okay to expect acceptance and not rejection when I reveal who I am and what I write.
It’s the support that my non-binary characters have received, especially, that has inspired me to come out more fully in my personal and professional life.
When I began writing, no one knew I was nonbinary. I wore gender-neutral fashions and kept my hair short, but I hadn’t made it clear, explicitly, that this was the outward expression of my identity. Gradually, encouraged by the positivity and support of readers and fellow writers, I found the confidence to come out in wider circles.
I came out as a writer, as well—the two ‘coming outs’ often going hand in hand. When you tell someone you’re a writer, the first question is often, ‘What do you write?’ Where once I might have been cagey and evasive, now I’m proud to describe exactly what I write about and why.
Coming out isn’t something you do just once, or in only one way. For me, it’s been like a ripple: family, then friends, then co-workers and acquaintances, repeating every time someone new enters these spheres. Now, I include my pronouns when I introduce myself, and I wear a pin with the colors of the nonbinary flag next to my nametag at work.
One reason I do this is out of a desire to model the kind of acceptance and support I’ve received through the online writing community on Wattpad—acceptance and support I hadn’t realized how much I needed in order to grow and thrive.
Writing LGBTQIA+ stories has taught me the importance of visibility and representation and of seeing oneself and one’s identity reflected and celebrated in stories and in the real world. I’ve been very fortunate to discover I had no reason to fear coming out to my family, friends, and coworkers, but sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. With this in mind, I celebrate Pride year-round, and am proud to display my support for, and belonging in, the LGBTQIA+ community.
Since that first story, I’ve written and shared—and hope to continue sharing—many more. In the process, I’ve learned more about myself, about who I am and who I want to be, and I’m no longer shy about telling people the truth: I’m asexual and aromantic, my pronouns are they/them, and I am an author of LGBTQIA+ books.
What led you to write lgbtqia+ stories?
My stories have always been LGBTQIA+ stories, even when I wasn’t aware of it. I didn’t know the terms ‘asexual’ or ‘aromantic’ when, as a young teenager, I imagined a princess who runs away because she wants nothing to do with princes or romance, and only in retrospect do I see that the many tales featuring adventurers who gradually come to realize that their feelings transcend friendship are, in fact, LGBT romances. As I matured and grew into my own identity, I became a voracious reader of LGBT stories, but I found myself frustrated by the sense I was always searching for a particular story, or type of story, that was hard to find. Eventually, it occurred to me that I could write the stories I was looking for, myself.
Why is it important to you to write books with LGBTQIA+ themes?
Books with LGBTQIA+ themes give readers the chance to feel seen in the characters that share their experiences, and give writers the opportunity to share those experiences with the world. Stories with well-rounded LGBT characters can also give readers who don’t share those identities the chance to empathize with those experiences. Ideally, such stories have the power to promote tolerance, acceptance, and understanding both within, and beyond, the LGBTQIA+ community.
What have been the most influential LGBTQIA+ stories you have read and why?
One of the first LGBTQIA+ stories I read was Maurice by E. M. Forster. I found it quite by accident in the library when I was fourteen or fifteen, and it had a noted and lasting impact on me. First, I was astounded that a story about love between two men had been written so long ago (1913-1914). More astounding was the fact that it had a happy ending. Looking into it, I learned that it was never published during Forster’s lifetime, and he only showed it to close friends. This was my first introduction to the idea that LGBTQIA+ stories had always existed—because, of course, to love is human. It also made me terribly sad to imagine how many stories—even much more contemporary ones—had never, and would never, be told. This accidental opening of my mind by a chance encounter with an LGBT story is part of what inspired me to tell stories of my own—stories with hopeful and happy endings for people who, historically, haven’t seen their fair share of those.
Many people come to Wattpad to express themselves and find community. What advice would you give to a new writer, looking to express themselves by writing an LGBTQIA+ story?
Write the story that you want to read, and tell the story you’ve been looking for. Whether it’s fun and fantastical, gritty and real, or heartfelt and sweet, if you’ve been looking for that story, you can be pretty sure someone else is looking for it—and needs it—too.
S. G. Gardner lives in California with a small herd of cats. When not writing, they enjoy landscape gardening and working as a reference librarian at a local community college.