Perfect for enriching your understanding of LGBT+ Experiences this Pride Month.
As we celebrate Pride Month this June, it’s time to revisit exactly why this month exists and to appreciate the importance of the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You don’t have to pour through pages and pages of political theory to understand why this month is important, but books have that fantastic way of really getting us in the feels, and giving us a deeper understanding of life from different perspectives. You don’t have to be LGBT+ to read books on the struggle for equality. In fact, it can be so refreshing to see straight and cisgender people really engage with LGBT+ literature, and it can give the reader buckets of perspective, helping us all in our efforts to build an inclusive society.
1. Boy Erased
Now an award-winning film, Boy Erased is a memoir written by Garrard Conley, retelling the struggles of his childhood in which he was forced to enroll in conversion therapy by his religious family. The book exposes the harsh realities of gay conversion programs and exposes the real harm the writer experienced because of these conversion programs.
2. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle
Written by Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution is an important piece of literature that tells the history of the gay and lesbian movement, taking readers back to the 1950s – when it was criminal to be LGBT in many countries. The book highlights important points in LGBTQ history, from revolutionary protests in the ’60s, the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s, to the changes that have been made in the modern day.
3. Sister Outsider
Sister Outsider is a collection of essays and speeches by author Audre Lorde – covering a broad range of topics from life as a black woman and a lesbian, to her role as an activist and a cancer survivor. She was one of the pioneers behind the idea of ‘womanist’ – articulating an intersectional understanding of what it means to be both a woman and a black woman.
[See also: 10 Books To Invest In Now That Will Help Educate You On Systematic Racism]
4. We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation
The perfect coffee table book to share with friends and pass on the education, We Are Everywhere is a collection of photographs taken by more than seventy photographers, helping us to see queer history through the eyes of those who’ve experienced it themselves. The book details LGBTQ+ history as far back as the 19th century, including the Stonewall Riots and activism from the modern-day. We Are Everywhere features a beautiful narrative that honours the lengthy and unfinished history of the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for equality.
5. Rainbow Milk
The bestselling novel by Paul Mendez, a Black writer from the West Midlands – Rainbow Milk uncovers the struggles of a black, gay, Jehovah’s Witness in the ’90s, and is based on Mendez’s own life. The novel was only released this year, however, has been met with critical acclaim thanks to its daring content and thrilling storyline. The important novel acts as the voice for the harsh realities of struggling with two identities – blackness and queerness – and is essential reading for all those looking to understand both.
6. The Color Purple
Also a movie with the same name, The Color Purple is a hard-hitting American novel about a young Black girl named Celie who faces a number of injustices in her early life – from being born into poverty and segregation, being raped by her father, having her two children taken from her and being trapped in a marriage with a man she hates. The haunting story shows Celie embark on a journey to find joy when she meets a woman named Shug Avery. The controversial book is both beautiful and soul-stirring and is considered one of the most influential novels written.
7. Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution
A non-fiction essential read, Transgender History digs deep into the past, from the 20th century to the modern-day – and everything in between. The book covers major movements in time and includes emotional excerpts from transgender memoirs, as well as discussions about the treatment of transgender people throughout history.
8. The Last Time I Wore A Dress
A true story detailing the life of author Daphne Scholinski, who was committed to a mental institution in her teens for her “Gender Identity Disorder”, The Last Time I Wore A Dress is a powerful memoir that details the author and protagonist’s transition and the difficulties she and many other trans people faced and still face to this day. As the trans community continues to fight for basic rights, this book has never been more relevant.
9. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality
A memoir by Sarah McBride, an American transgender rights activist, Tomorrow Will Be Different is considered a must-read when delving into educational resources about trans equality. The book covers Sarah’s struggles with coming out, before touching on her bright future as an activist, which has so far seen McBride make headlines while serving as Student Body President at American University when she came out to her college, and becoming the first trans person to speak at a national political convention. McBride’s story is both empowering and heartbreaking, and an informative read for anyone looking to learn more about trans rights.
10. On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual
A thought-provoking piece originating as a response piece to a homophobic article in Harper’s Magazine, On Being Different is a book adaptation of that essay – which was described in its time as “the most widely read and discussed essay of the decade,”. The book uncovers what it’s like to be gay in America, and carries the same sentiment that it did 50 years ago, with a message that relays the importance of coming out.
11. Fairest: A Memoir
Fairest: A Memoir was written by the fantastic and influential Meredith Talusan, on how she has transitioned throughout life. She was born with albinism, in the Philippines, and was subject to unwanted attention because of the colour of her skin. On moving to the United States she had the fantastic opportunity to attend Harvard, and this pushed her into elite social circles, forcing her to think about her own identity and where she would fit into this kind of society as a transgender, Phillipino person amongst others who saw her as an object of curiosity.
Stonewall was complicated, heartbreaking, liberating and at the forefront were black, trans women. It’s one of those pivotal moments in history that changed American society forever, and the ripples are still echoing throughout the world. So if we’re going to understand where we’ve been and where we’re going then understanding Stonewall is key, and this book, written by historian Martin Duberman offers a really in-depth reading of the events preceding and following Stonewall.
13. We Have Always Been Here
This fantastic memoir follows the amazing Samra Habib, growing up in Pakistan as a persecuted Ahmadi Muslim. She is forced to flee to Canada as a refugee and there she flees again, this time from an arranged marriage at the age of 16. As a queer, Muslim woman in a foreign country she has to build her own life. The protagonist grows to love herself in this book, and fights so that those around her will also accept the person that she truly is, and it’s simply a stunning piece of literature.
14. Queer Love In Colour
In recent years the world has tried to open its eyes to literature written by people with a more diverse experience of life. However, there has always been writers like Jamal Jordan producing fantastic literature on what it means to be black and queer. Queer Love In Colour challenges the preconception that everyone’s experiences of being queer fit the white and queer mold, and it’s an amazing, enlightening read full of stories and photographs that illustrate real lives.
15. Finding Latinx
This groundbreaking, debut book from Paola Ramos examines what it really means to be queer and Latinx (the gender-neutral term that presents an alternative to Latino or Latina) in the United States of America. To collect the stories of Latinx people, Ramos traveled the width and length of the country and so the stories we hear in the book are so diverse, reflecting the diverse make-up of the Latinx community in the US.