Wattpad Creator S.G. Gardner (@OwlieCat) has been writing on Wattpad since 2019. They are known for the Ari & Soren series and the Heart's Desire series. 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.
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.