Wattpad Creator Sondi Warner (@Sondi_Is_On) has been writing on Wattpad since 2012. She is known for Lead Me Astray, available on Wattpad and in stores near you. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Wattpad corp. or affiliated companies.
Love wins. Two of my favorite words hooking up in one of the most impactful sentences known to all of humanity, not just one community.
Celebrating the power of LGBTQ+ romance
I write LGBTQ+ romance because I'm a Lesbian and a believer in the victoriousness of love. I'm also Black, nonbinary (she/her, they/them), and neurodivergent, which lends extra color to the spectrum of my Pride All Year Long. My vocation allows me to develop and bring to life a wide variety of characters, some of whom remind me of myself and some who are wildly different. Therefore, I am constantly thinking about the importance of diversity in LGBTQ+ stories.
Over the last few years, many of us have spent a significant amount of time reflecting on what sets us apart—and for good reason. The pandemic sent us to our respective corners and forced us to confront our own thoughts and feelings.
In my opinion, one of the positive outcomes of the incredibly distressing global crisis was that even though it forced us to abandon our natural social instincts, we saw undeniable proof that everyone is much more alike than different. As a result, we emerge from our cocoons with new perspectives, and there is a desire to find our tribes and discover where our unique self-expression fits best.
Exploring the importance of diversity
Diverse LGBTQ+ representation in books, television, movies, and other entertainment mediums helps bring visibility to people living at multiple intersections of marginalization. It not only gives audiences relatable characters to champion. It also broadens our worldview, revealing the rich complexity of the human experience. But it's not enough to give token nods to diversification.
It's all too easy to filter our understanding of the groups we're not a part of through the lens of one or two major icons. After all, by definition, icons are representative symbols worthy of veneration. Even though we understand that no community is a monolith, and we might feel a twinge of guilt for calling RuPaul the face of drag queens everywhere or Lil Nas X the posterboy for Black gay men, it's sometimes easier to latch onto the rare LGBTQ+ person of color, disabled, or neurodivergent person that we can find.
Deconstructing diversification: Going beyond race and ethnicity
The bottom line is, there isn't a lot of diverse LGBTQ+ rep out there. Some authors feel uncomfortable delving into writing outside of their own experiences. Others are happy to write diverse lit but may feel there isn't an audience for it. How can we foster an organic desire for more diversification in literature for the next generation of readers and writers?
One method I have utilized is deconstructing how "diversification" in LGBTQ+ stories can look. It's a common mistake to use the word as a stand-in for adding token Black or Brown characters. However, there are plenty of other ways to respectfully showcase perspectives that have little to do with race or ethnicity. Diversification is a rare opportunity for writers to positively shape the culture by bringing awareness to non-mainstream conditions.
More realistic and positive representations of people living with mental illness can have an outsized effect on how this population is treated in real life. Furthermore, readers experiencing similar situations may benefit from seeing characters who persevere through the obstacle of living with mental health issues.
Writing about a character from a less well-known socioeconomic background can expose readers to financial hardships they might not otherwise be aware of. For example, in my latest work, Into the Wild Dark, I provide a glimpse into the difficulties of being unhoused, including social isolation, reliance on extended-stay hotels, and the burden of asking for help.
Readers are hungry for stories featuring characters with disabilities and neurodivergent characters, as well. From people on the autism spectrum to people with ADHD, writers have an opportunity to change the way the public understands and interacts with those who are not neurotypical. As someone who has struggled to interact with others because of the way my brain works, I always get excited when I read books with characters who think like me.
Other ways to diversify include writing characters of different faiths, characters with distinct cultural practices that are outside of the norm, characters who are of an age that is generally not explored in literature, and many more.
Connecting through diversity with love
As human beings, we have a fundamental desire to feel connected to others, while also maintaining our individuality. It is therefore essential that LGBTQ+ stories reflect the diversity of our experiences, and show that the unifying theme of all stories, no matter the genre, is, at core, love itself.
To be human is to love, and love always triumphs.