Hi everyone! I hope you’re all doing well! Recently I’ve been doing a lot of recommendation posts (including my queer m/f books post, and my post about sapphic 2021 releases you might have missed) and I think with all of the nonsense that’s been going on on Twitter and Goodreads surrounding an author I’d rather not name and potentially give more exposure, that we could all do with a list of some queer non-fiction that you should actually pick up instead of their book! Some of these I’ve read and the rest are ones that I can’t wait to pick up! I highly recommend looking into buying one of these from your favourite local indie bookshop!
Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought edited by Briona Simone Jones
African American lesbian writers and theorists have made extraordinary contributions to feminist theory, activism, and writing. Mouths of Rain, the companion anthology to Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s classic Words of Fire, traces the long history of intellectual thought produced by Black Lesbian writers, spanning the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century.
Using “Black Lesbian” as a capacious signifier, Mouths of Rain includes writing by Black women who have shared intimate and loving relationships with other women, as well as Black women who see bonding as mutual, Black women who have self-identified as lesbian, Black women who have written about Black Lesbians, and Black women who theorize about and see the word lesbian as a political descriptor that disrupts and critiques capitalism, heterosexism, and heteropatriarchy. Taking its title from a poem by Audre Lorde, Mouths of Rain addresses pervasive issues such as misogynoir and anti-blackness while also attending to love, romance, “coming out,” and the erotic. I was lucky enough to read an ARC copy of this book and I can really vouch for how great it is! I really enjoyed the essays in this book, as well as the prose and poetry mixed in! This is definitely a must read and I’m patiently waiting for my finished copy to arrive in the post!
The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes
Ellie always had questions about who she was and how she fit in. As a girl, she wore black, obsessed over Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and found dating boys much more confusing than many of her friends did. As she grew older, so did her fears and a deep sense of unbelonging. From her first communion to her first girlfriend via a swathe of self-denial, awkward encounters, and everyday courage, Ellie tells her story through gorgeous illustrations—a fresh and funny self-portrait of a young woman becoming herself.
The Times I Knew I Was Gay reminds us that people sometimes come out not just once but again and again; that identity is not necessarily about falling in love with others, but about coming to terms with oneself. Full of vitality and humor, it will ring true for anyone who has taken the time to discover who they truly are. I love non-fiction graphic novels and I’ve heard such great things about this one!
Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide by Kate Charlesworth
artoonist Kate Charlesworth presents a glorious pageant of LGBTQI+ history, as she takes us on a PRIDE march past personal and political milestones from the 1950s to the present day. Peopled by a cast of gay icons such as Dusty Springfield, Billie Jean King, Dirk Bogarde and Alan Turing, and featuring key moments such as Stonewall, Gay Pride and Section 28, Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide, is the first graphic history documenting lesbian life from 1950 to the present. It is a stunning, personal, graphic memoir and a milestone itself in LGBTQI+ history.
In 1950, when Kate was born, male homosexuality carried a custodial sentence. But female homosexuality had never been an offence in the UK, effectively rendering lesbians even more invisible than they already were—often to themselves. Growing up in Yorkshire, the young Kate had to find role models wherever she could, in real life, books, film and TV.
Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide is a fascinating history of how post-war Britain transformed from a country hostile towards ‘queer’ lives to the LGBQTI+ universe of today, recording the political gains and challenges against a backdrop of personal experience: realising her own sexuality, coming out to her parents, embracing lesbian and gay culture, losing friends to AIDS. Kate’s ex-navy dad said to her: ‘You shouldn’t have told her, love… you should have just told me.’ But it turned out her mother might have known a bit more about life, too. This is one of my favourite graphic novels that I own, and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful! This is both a general insight into queer culture and a memoir of the author’s life!
No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami
In the summer of 1945, just after the Nazi occupation, Truman Capote visited Romaine Brooks’s abandoned studio in Paris. The portraits there, large and imposing, were of women: Ida Rubinstein, Una Troubridge, Gluck, Elisabeth de Gramont, Renata Borgatti, Bryher. Romaine’s lover Natalie Barney said that Paris had been ‘the Sapphic Centre of the Western World’, and these women defined it. Capote himself called them ‘the all-time ultimate gallery of famous dykes’. This book is about that gallery and celebrates the central role they played in the cultural revolution that was Modernism.
Modernism happened in Paris, and these women were Paris. Shocking, free, blatant, they weren’t just expats. They’d grouped together to create their own world, far from the restrictions of home. They were talented, often well-off, and lesbian. They answered to no one but themselves. Among them, for example, was Sylvia Beach, the American who set up the legendary Shakespeare & Co in 1919 and published Joyce’s Ulysses when nobody else dared to, as well as Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness which was burned in Britain. The shop became the unofficial meeting place of the Modernists. Gertrude Stein, Beach’s friend, bought the work of her friends – Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso, Gauguin – when they were young and unknown. Hemingway, Scott Fitzerald, Paul Bowles and others gravitated to the shop and to the world around these women. Lesbians in Paris!!!!! Yesssss!!!
Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde
A little black girl opens her eyes in 1930s Harlem. Around her, a heady swirl of passers-by, car horns, kerosene lamps, the stock market falling, fried bananas, tales of her parents’ native Grenada. She trudges to public school along snowy sidewalks, and finds she is tongue-tied, legally blind, left behind by her older sisters. On she stumbles through teenage hardships — suicide, abortion, hunger, a Christmas spent alone — until she emerges into happiness: an oasis of friendship in Washington Heights, an affair in a dirty factory in Connecticut, and, finally, a journey down to the heat of Mexico, discovering sex, tenderness, and suppers of hot tamales and cold milk. This is Audre Lorde’s story. It is a rapturous, life-affirming tale of independence, love, work, strength, sexuality and change, rich with poetry and fierce emotional power. After reading some of Audre Lorde’s work in Mouths of Rain, I’m desperate to read some of her works, and this is top of my list!
Love Is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar
Randa Jarrar is a fearless voice of dissent who has been called “politically incorrect” (Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times). As an American raised for a time in Egypt, and finding herself captivated by the story of a celebrated Egyptian belly dancer’s journey across the United States in the 1940s, she sets off from her home in California to her parents’ in Connecticut.
Coloring this road trip are journeys abroad and recollections of a life lived with daring. Reclaiming her autonomy after a life of survival—domestic assault as a child, and later, as a wife; threats and doxxing after her viral tweet about Barbara Bush—Jarrar offers a bold look at domestic violence, single motherhood, and sexuality through the lens of the punished-yet-triumphant body. On the way, she schools a rest-stop racist, destroys Confederate flags in the desert, and visits the Chicago neighborhood where her immigrant parents first lived. I read an ARC of this book too and it didn’t click with me but the discussions on the author’s identity as a queer, Muslim, Arab-American fat woman are extremely important, so definitely check this one out!
She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak edited by Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan & Aisha Salau
This stirring and intimate collection brings together 30 captivating narratives to paint a vivid portrait of what it means to be a queer Nigerian woman. Covering an array of experiences – the joy and excitement of first love, the agony of lost love and betrayal, the sometimes-fraught relationship between sexuality and spirituality, addiction and suicide, childhood games and laughter – She Called Me Woman sheds light on how Nigerian queer women, despite their differences, attempt to build a life together in a climate of fear.
Through first-hand accounts, She Called Me Woman challenges us to rethink what it means to be a Nigerian ‘woman’, negotiating relationships, money, sexuality and freedom, identifying outside the gender binary, and the difficulties of achieving hopes and dreams under the constraints of societal expectations and legal terrorism.
These beautifully told stories of resistance and resilience reveal the realities of a community that refuses to be invisible any longer. I picked this book up last year on a whim and it’s been calling my name ever since! Most of the books on this list are from a more Western perspective, so I think it’s very important that you also read non-fiction from authors outside of the US and the UK!
Vita and Virginia: Love Letters
At a dinner party in 1922, Virginia Woolf met the renowned author, aristocrat – and sapphist – Vita Sackville-West. Virginia wrote in her diary that she didn’t think much of Vita’s conversation, but she did think very highly of her legs. It was to be the start of almost twenty years of flirtation, friendship, and literary collaboration. Their correspondence ended only with Virginia’s tragic death in 1941.
Intimate and playful, these selected letters and diary entries allow us to hear these women’s constantly changing feelings for each other in their own words. Eavesdrop on the affair that inspired Virginia to write her most fantastical novel, Orlando, and glimpse into their extraordinary lives: from Vita’s travels across the globe, to Virginia’s parties with the Bloomsbury set; from their shared love of dogs and nature, to their grief at the beginning of the Second World War. Discover a relationship that – even a hundred years later – feels radical and relatable. I’m not all that familiar with these two authors’ works but I have read snippets of their correspondence and I know that this is going to be so beautiful!
All the Things She Said: Everything I Know About Modern Lesbian and Bi Culture by Daisy Jones
A modern, personal guide to the culture of queer women and everyone in between. All The Things She Said explores the nature of 21st century queerness. Lesbian and bi culture is ever-changing and here, journalist Daisy Jones unpicks outdated stereotypes and shows how, over the past few years, the style and shared language of queer women has slowly infiltrated the mainstream.
(Think less hemp sandals, IKEA trips and nut milks and more freedom, expression, community. And Cate Blanchett.)From the dingy basement clubs of east London to the unchartered realms of TikTok, cutting in DIY mullets and christening Meryl Streep ‘Daddy’, Daisy explores the multifaceted nature of what it means to be lesbian or bi today, while also looking back and celebrating the past. The book shines a light on the never-ending process of coming out, what it’s like to date as a queer woman, how physical nightlife spaces have evolved into online communities and the reasons why mental health issues have disproportionately impacted LGBTQ+ people.
As someone immersed in the queer culture of women, Daisy brings both the personal perspective and a journalistic one to this changing landscape. Through interviews and lived experience, a cohesive image emerges: one which shows that being lesbian, bi, or anything in between, isn’t necessarily always tied to gender, sexual practice or even romantic attraction. With verve, humour and razor-sharp prose, Daisy paints a vital and insightful modern day portrait of what it means to be a queer woman in 2021. First of all, that title? Yesss!! Second of all I am so incredibly excited about this book, you have no idea!!
A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby & Mary Louisa Plummer
A Two-Spirit Journey is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote Ojibwa community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.
As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and by her teen years she was alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counselor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian. In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in her adopted city, Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Ma-Nee Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humor, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people. This sounds like such an impactful memoir all round, and it’s one that I’ll hopefully be picking up soon!
The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture by Terry Castle
In essays on literary images of lesbianism from Defoe and Diderot to Virginia Woolf and Djuna Barnes, on the homosexual reputation of Marie Antoinette, on the lesbian writings of Anne Lister, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Janet Flanner, and on Henry James’s The Bostonians, Castle shows how a lesbian presence can be identified in the literature, history, and culture of the past three centuries. This is a bit of an older book but I’m nonetheless so intrigued by it!!
This Forbidden Fruit: Male Homosexuality: A Culture & History Guide by David Ledain
Where are the gay legends and stories of the past? Where do we look to find them? What are the significant dates and events in LGBT history? Why exactly have societies differed so in thier acceptance, or not, of homosexuality through the ages? Why, against all odds, do homosexuals exist? This Forbidden Fruit uncovers the myths and answers these and many other questions about male homosexuality, its contribution to artistic culture, and the lives and stories of so many brave gay men who have struggled in their fight for acceptance and equality. Here you will find the facts and legends that every gay man needs to know, celebrate and be proud of. This sounds like such an interesting read, especially the sections about gay men’s contributions to art!
Gay Bar: Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton Lin
Strobing lights and dark rooms; throbbing house and drag queens on counters; first kisses, last call: the gay bar has long been a place of solidarity and sexual expression—whatever your scene, whoever you’re seeking. But in urban centers around the world, they are closing, a cultural demolition that has Jeremy Atherton Lin wondering: What was the gay bar? How have they shaped him? And could this spell the end of gay identity as we know it?
In Gay Bar, the author embarks upon a transatlantic tour of the hangouts that marked his life, with each club, pub, and dive revealing itself to be a palimpsest of queer history. In prose as exuberant as a hit of poppers and dazzling as a disco ball, he time-travels from Hollywood nights in the 1970s to a warren of cruising tunnels built beneath London in the 1770s; from chichi bars in the aftermath of AIDS to today’s fluid queer spaces; through glory holes, into Crisco-slicked dungeons and down San Francisco alleys. He charts police raids and riots, posing and passing out—and a chance encounter one restless night that would change his life forever.
The journey that emerges is a stylish and nuanced inquiry into the connection between place and identity—a tale of liberation, but one that invites us to go beyond the simplified Stonewall mythology and enter lesser-known battlefields in the struggle to carve out a territory. Elegiac, randy, and sparkling with wry wit, Gay Bar is at once a serious critical inquiry, a love story and an epic night out to remember. I read an ARC of this one and, admittedly, I didn’t fall in love with it, but I do recognise its importance and it features some really interesting facts about the history of the gay bar alongside Lin’s personal experiences.
How We Fight For Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones
“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’”
Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves. I’m a big fan of memoirs and I’m really interested in picking this one up, particularly due to the discussions on the intersectionality between race, sexuality and gender!
Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride and Everything in Between by Amrou Al-Kadhi
Amrou knew they were gay when, aged ten, they first laid eyes on Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. It was love at first sight.
Amrou’s parents weren’t so happy…
From that moment on, Amrou began searching in all the wrong places for ways to make their divided self whole again.
Life as a Unicorn is a hilarious yet devastating story of a search for belonging, following the painful and surprising process of transforming from a god-fearing Muslim boy to a queer drag queen, strutting the stage in seven-inch heels and saying the things nobody else dares to …. I read an interview with Amrou in another of the books in this list and they were such a powerful speaker, so I’ve had my eyes on this ever since (and it’s been blurbed by Ian McKellan!)
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults. Of course this book is on this list! It’s a wonderful memoir/manifesto and if you haven’t picked it up already I highly recommend doing so!
Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad
One of nineteen children in a blended family, Hari Ziyad was raised by a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother and a Muslim father. Through reframing their own coming-of-age story, Ziyad takes readers on a powerful journey of growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio, and of navigating the equally complex path toward finding their true self in New York City. Exploring childhood, gender, race, and the trust that is built, broken, and repaired through generations, Ziyad investigates what it means to live beyond the limited narratives Black children are given and challenges the irreconcilable binaries that restrict them.
Heartwarming and heart-wrenching, radical and reflective, Hari Ziyad’s vital memoir is for the outcast, the unheard, the unborn, and the dead. It offers us a new way to think about survival and the necessary disruption of social norms. It looks back in tenderness as well as justified rage, forces us to address where we are now, and, born out of hope, illuminates the possibilities for the future. I read this book last month and cannot begin to recommend it enough! The author is friends with George M. Johnson and I highly recommend picking this book up if you loved All Boys Aren’t Blue!
Bisexual & Pansexual Non-Fiction
Bi The Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life by Lois Shearing
Whether you are openly bisexual, still figuring things out or just interested in learning more about bisexuality, Bi the Way is your essential guide to understanding and embracing bisexuality. With first-hand accounts from bi advocates, it includes practical tips and guidance on topics including dating, sex, biphobia, bi-erasure, coming out, activism and gender identity, demystifying a community that is often erased or overlooked. Rallying, honest and powerfully written, this must-read book is a manifesto for bisexual people everywhere and will empower you to live your most authentic bisexual life. This sounds like such an important read, especially if, like me, you are not bisexual, and it’s one I’ll definitely be picking up in June!
*Disclaimer: Since publishing this post it has come to my attention that there are some potentially panphobic comments in this book according to people who have read the ARC – this may be changed in the final copy but I do suggest researching this one a bit before picking it up!
The Bi-ble: An Anthology of Personal Essays About Bisexuality edited by Lauren Nickodemus & Ellen Desmond
Bisexuals inhabit a liminal space between cultures, often misunderstood or dismissed by the straight and LGBTQ+ communities alike. We are the sexual identity most likely to be closeted, most at risk of mental illness, domestic abuse, and even heart disease — but also the least visible. Now, a selection of intersectional bi voices has come together to share stories, helping our voices be heard and our identities seen. It’s time to stand up and spread the word. This is the first of (currently) two volumes and the amount of reviews I’ve seen of people feeling so seen by this book are many – definitely one I’ll be reading soon!
Bi: Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid, and Genderqueer Youth by Ritch C. Savin-Williams
What bisexual youth can tell us about today’s gender and sexual identities
Despite the increasing visibility of LGBTQ people in American culture, our understanding of bisexuality—perhaps one of the least visible sexual orientations—remains superficial at best. Yet five times as many people identify as bisexual than as gay or lesbian, and, if we were to include the many bisexual people who remain hidden from sight, including those who simultaneously identify as pansexual, fluid, genderqueer, and no label, as much as 25 percent of the population is estimated to be bisexual.
In Bi, Ritch C. Savin-Williams brings bisexuality out of the shadows, particularly as Gen Z and millennial youth and young adults increasingly reject traditional sexual labels altogether. Drawing on interviews with bisexual youth from a range of racial, ethnic, and social class groups, he reveals to us how bisexuals define their own sexual orientation and experiences—in their own words. Savin-Williams shows how and why people might identify as bisexual as a result of their biology or upbringing; as a bridge or transition to something else; as a consequence of their curiosity; or for a range of other equally valid reasons.
Savin-Williams provides an important new understanding of bisexuality as an orientation, behavior, and identity. Bi shows us that bisexuality is seen and embraced as a valid sexual identity more than ever before, giving us timely and much-needed insight into the complex, fascinating experiences of bisexual youth themselves. This is one that I only recently discovered but that I’m really intrigued to read!
Pansexuality: A Panoply of Co-Constructed Narratives by Karen Morgaine
Pansexuality: A Panopoly of Co-Constructed Narratives expertly weaves contemporary research on sexual and gender identity with personal narratives of individuals who have navigated social norms and constructs to carve out an understanding of their own sexuality. The text provides readers with an innovative and intimate lens through which they can begin to understand the dynamic nature of sexuality.
The text begins by providing readers with theoretical and historical context regarding nonbinary sexualities. The following chapters outline the methodologies the author used to support and generate new research on pansexuality—including one-on-one interviews, collage, transcript poetry, and a qualitative survey—and the results of that research. Eleven chapters highlight the personal stories of individuals who identify as pansexual and other nonbinary sexualities, summarizing important experiences, defining moments, the meanings they attach to sexuality and gender, and observations they have made over the years, testimony gleaned from the author’s interviews with them. There are, frustratingly, not very many non-fiction books out there on pansexuality, but this is a more recent one that I’m so intrigued by!
Trans & Nonbinary Non-Fiction
Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows edited by Christine Burns
Over the last five years, transgender people have seemed to burst into the public eye: Time declared 2014 a ‘trans tipping point’, while American Vogue named 2015 ‘the year of trans visibility’. From our television screens to the ballot box, transgender people have suddenly become part of the zeitgeist.
This apparently overnight emergence, though, is just the latest stage in a long and varied history. The renown of Paris Lees and Hari Nef has its roots in the efforts of those who struggled for equality before them, but were met with indifference – and often outright hostility – from mainstream society.
Trans Britain chronicles this journey in the words of those who were there to witness a marginalised community grow into the visible phenomenon we recognise today: activists, film-makers, broadcasters, parents, an actress, a rock musician and a priest, among many others.
Here is everything you always wanted to know about the background of the trans community, but never knew how to ask. This is a book that’s been on my radar for a wee while because I’ve seen so many glowing reviews! I don’t know all that much about British trans history, so this sounds amazing!
Spectrums: Autistic Trans People in Their Own Words edited by Maxfield Sparrow
Written by autistic trans people from around the world, this vital and intimate collection of personal essays reveals the struggles and joys of living at the intersection of neurodivergence and gender diversity. Weaving memories, poems and first-person narratives together, these stories showcase experiences of coming out, college and university life, accessing healthcare, physical transition, friendships and relationships, sexuality, pregnancy, parenting, and late life self-discovery, to reveal a rich and varied tapestry of life lived on the spectrums. With humour and personal insight, this anthology is essential reading for autistic trans people, and the professionals supporting them, as well as anyone interested in the nuances of autism and gender identity. As an autistic nonbinary person, this book and the next are of real interest to me, and I think that the intersection between being trans and autistic is so important to learn about!
The Autistic Trans Guide to Life by Yenn Purkis and Wenn Lawson
This essential survival guide gives autistic trans and/or non-binary adults all the tools and strategies they need to live as their very best self. Blending personal accounts with evidence-based insights and up-to-date information, and written from a perspective of empowerment and self-acceptance, the book promotes pride, strength and authenticity, covering topics including self-advocacy, mental health and camouflaging and masking as well as key moments in life such as coming out or transitioning socially and/or physically. Written by two leading autistic trans activists, this book honestly charts what life is like as an autistic trans person and is vital, life-affirming reading. Much the same as the previous book, this is very high up on my to buy list, and it should be on yours too!
Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
Sarah McBride is on a mission to fight for transgender rights around the world. But before she was a prominent activist, and before she became the first transgender person to speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, she was a teenager struggling with her identity.
With emotional depth and unparalleled honesty, Sarah shares her personal struggle with gender identity, coming out to her supportive but distraught parents, and finding her way as a woman. She inspires readers with her barrier-breaking political journey that took her, in just four years, from a frightened, closeted college student to one of the nation’s most prominent transgender activists walking the halls of the White House, passing laws, and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. She also details the heartbreaking romance with her first love and future husband Andy, a trans man and activist, who passed away from cancer in 2014 just days after they were married.
Sarah’s story of identity, love, and tragic loss serves as a powerful entry point for readers who want to gain a deeper understanding of gender identity and what it means to be openly transgender. From issues like bathroom access to healthcare, identification and schools, Sarah weaves the important political milestones, cultural and political debates, and historical context into a personal journey that will open hearts and change minds.
Tomorrow Will Be Different highlights Sarah’s work as an activist and the key issues at the forefront of the fight for trans equality, providing a call-to-arms and empowering look at the road ahead. The fight for equality and freedom has only just begun. I really enjoy learning about politics so any nonfiction book that goes into depth on policy, etc. is one that I need to read!
To My Trans Sisters edited by Charlie Craggs
Dedicated to trans women everywhere, this inspirational collection of letters written by successful trans women shares the lessons they learnt on their journeys to womanhood, celebrating their achievements and empowering the next generation to become who they truly are.
Written by politicians, scientists, models, athletes, authors, actors, and activists from around the world, these letters capture the diversity of the trans experience and offer advice from make-up and dating through to fighting dysphoria and transphobia.
By turns honest and heartfelt, funny and furious or beautiful and brave, these letters send a clear message of hope to their sisters: each of these women have gone through the struggles of transition and emerged the other side as accomplished, confident women; and if we made it sister, so can you! I’ve been following Charlie on Instagram for a few years now and she’s honestly just such an amazing woman! This sounds like such a beautiful, impactful read and I know so much heart has gone into it!
In Their Shoes: Navigating Non-Binary Life by Jamie Windust
There is no one way to be non-binary, and that’s truthfully one of the best things about it. It’s an identity that is yours to shape.
Combining light-hearted anecdotes with their own hard-won wisdom, Jamie Windust explores everything from fashion, dating, relationships and family, through to mental health, work and future key debates. From trying on clothes in secret to iconic looks, first dates to polyamorous liaisons, passports to pronouns, Jamie shows you how to navigate the world and your evolving identity in every type of situation.
Frank, funny, and brilliantly feisty, this must-read book is a call to arms for non-binary self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-celebration. I read this book at the very start of the year and I’m already forcing my girlfriend, who’s also nonbinary, to read it too! It’s definitely a good place to start if you want to learn more about being nonbinary!
Transgender Marxism edited by Jules Joanne Gleeson & Elle O’Rourke
Transgender Marxism collects a set of reflections on the relations between gender and labour, showing how these linked phenomena structure antagonisms in particular social and historical situations. The collection contributes to Marxist Feminism and Social Reproduction Theory through both personal and analytic examinations of the particular social activity demanded of trans people around the world. The aim of the publication is not to provide an exhaustive overview of all trans thinkers using Marxist frameworks, but rather to provide a provocative and illuminating entry point to this mode of theorisation.
No one is spared gendered enculturation, but the contributors to this collection argue that transgender people face particular pressures, oppressions, and state persecution. The first part of the book explores particular movements, and lives, through a Marxist lens. The second section emphasises the ‘Marxism’ in Transgender Marxism, exploring the particular experience of surviving as trans in light of the totality of gendered experience under capitalism. The contributors also consider how the particular case of transgender life offers opportunities to revise and renew Marxist theorising more generally. The final part twins Marxism with other schools of thought, such as psychoanalysis, mainstream psychology, phenomenology, and Butlerian performativity, to offer clearer insight into transgender experience. This is genuinely THE queer left-wing non fiction book I’ve been waiting years for, and you’d best believe I’ve preordered it and will be telling all my friends about! Plus if you preorder it from the (indie) publishers’ website by May 20th you get a free enamel pin!!
Gender Explorers by Juno Roche
Life-affirming interviews with young trans people who share their empowering experiences of questioning and exploring gender.
“I believe that children who are questioning and exploring their gender are the gender bosses that we all so desperately need. I believe that they are our future.”
In this life-affirming, heartening and refreshing collection of interviews, young trans people offer valuable insight and advice into what has helped them to flourish and feel happy in their experience of growing up trans. I read this book last year and it genuinely filled me with so much hope that I started crying! In amongst all of the transphobic vitriol that we’re exposed to day-to-day this is a real ray of sunshine!
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere. This is the perfect memoir for graphic novel lovers and for those of us who don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction (but definitely want to!), I’ve heard lots of great things about this book!
Ace & Aro Non-Fiction
How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess
“When I was in school, everyone got to a certain age where they became interested in talking about only one thing: boys, girls and sex. Me though? I was only interested in comics.”
Growing up, Rebecca assumes sex is just a scary new thing they will ‘grow into’ as they get older, but when they leave school, start working and do grow up, they start to wonder why they don’t want to have sex with other people. In this brave, hilarious and empowering graphic memoir, we follow Rebecca as they navigate a culture obsessed with sex – from being bullied at school and trying to fit in with friends, to forcing themself into relationships and experiencing anxiety and OCD before coming to understand and embrace their asexual identity.
Giving unparalleled insight into asexuality and asexual relationships, How To Be Ace shows the importance of learning to be happy and proud of who you are. This is another graphic novel memoir that I’m really excited by as so many people whose reviews I trust have said how amazing this book is!
A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality by Molly Muldoon & Will Hernandez
This book is for anyone who wants to learn about asexuality, and for Ace people themselves, to validate their experiences.
Asexuality is often called The Invisible Orientation. You don’t learn about it in school, you don’t hear “ace” on television. So, it’s kinda hard to be ace in a society so steeped in sex that no one knows you exist. Too many young people grow up believing that their lack of sexual desire means they are broken – so writer Molly Muldoon and cartoonist Will Hernandez, both in the ace community, are here to shed light on society’s misconceptions of asexuality and what being ace is really like. This book is for anyone who wants to learn about asexuality, and for Ace people themselves, to validate their experiences. Asexuality is a real identity and it’s time the world recognizes it. Here’s to being invisible no more! This teeny graphic novel doesn’t get released until 2022 but I’m already so excited about it (plus that cover art is gorgeous!)
Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians edited by Esther D. Rothblum & Kathleen A. Brehony
This collection of theoretical essays and personal stories is not just about “Boston marriages,” a term referring to two women in a nonsexual but nonetheless deeply committed relationship. As the book so well concludes, there is no language for this type of relationship, not just for lesbians but for anyone—gay, straight, male, or female—who relates to others outside the traditional roles of friend, lover, spouse, or relative. Living in a society that invalidates a love that has not been sexually validated, the women subjects of this book speak passionately about relationships they have kept hidden even from their own lesbian community; the essays by well-known writers in the area of lesbian studies pale in comparison. This book’s apparently specific nature should not deter academics and others interested in the study of human relationships. For academic libraries and women’s studies collections. Though perhaps slightly outdates in its language, this is a topic that I’ve never encountered before and that I’m so interested in learning more about!
Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen
An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that’s obsessed with sexual attraction, and what we can all learn about desire and identity by using an ace lens to see the world
What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.
Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, ACE invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.
Journalist Angela Chen uses her own journey of self-discovery as an asexual person to unpretentiously educate and vulnerably connect with readers, effortlessly weaving analysis of sexuality and societally imposed norms with interviews of ace people. Among those included are the woman who had blood tests done because she was convinced that “not wanting sex” was a sign of serious illness, and the man who grew up in an evangelical household and did everything “right,” only to realize after marriage that his experience of sexuality had never been the same as that of others. Also represented are disabled aces, aces of color, non-gender-conforming aces questioning whether their asexuality is a reaction against stereotypes, and aces who don’t want romantic relationships asking how our society can make room for them. This sounds like such an impactful and thoroughly researched book, and again I’ve heard fantastic things about it!
The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend: Advice on Queer Dating, Love, and Friendship by Maddy Court & Kelsey Wroten
This illustrated book of advice on love, dating, and friendship—written by and for queer women and people of marginalized genders-is the new go-to queer relationship handbook.
Fix yourself a cup of non-caffeinated herbal tea and prepare to laugh, cry, reminisce, and feel your feelings as you read through these quintessentially queer dating dilemmas.
In The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend, advice columnist Maddy Court (a.k.a. Xena Worrier Princess) answers anonymous queries from lesbian, bisexual, and queer women and people of marginalized genders.
Illustrated by comics artist Kelsey Wroten and based on Court’s viral zine of the same name, this book features never-before-published letters and responses about first loves, heartbreak, coming out, and queer friendship—all answered with the warmth and honesty of the gay big sister you wish you had. This is a wonderful, queer self-help book that is so, so affirming to queer women and people of marginalised genders! It has gorgeous illustrations and I highly recommend checking it out when it’s released next month!
Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance by Moya Bailey
When Moya Bailey first coined the term misogynoir, she defined it as the ways anti-Black and misogynistic representation shape broader ideas about Black women, particularly in visual culture and digital spaces. She had no idea that the term would go viral, touching a cultural nerve and quickly entering into the lexicon. Misogynoir now has its own Wikipedia page and hashtag, and has been featured on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time. In Misogynoir Transformed, Bailey delves into her groundbreaking concept, highlighting Black women’s digital resistance to anti-Black misogyny on YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, and other platforms.
At a time when Black women are depicted as more ugly, deficient, hypersexual, and unhealthy than their non-Black counterparts, Bailey explores how Black women have bravely used social-media platforms to confront misogynoir in a number of courageous–and, most importantly, effective–ways. Focusing on queer and trans Black women, she shows us the importance of carving out digital spaces, where communities are built around queer Black webshows and hashtags like #GirlsLikeUs.
Bailey shows how Black women actively reimagine the world by engaging in powerful forms of digital resistance at a time when anti-Black misogyny is thriving on social media. By the person who coined the term, mysogynoir, this is definitely a must read and it’s one that I will be picking up next month!
Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker & Julia Scheele
Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel.
From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.
Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.
Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking. Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele are really well known for their amazing queer graphic novels, and for good reason! I highly recommend checking them out!
The Stonewall Reader by The New York Public Library
June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Drawing from the New York Public Library’s archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots. Most importantly the anthology spotlights both iconic activists who were pivotal in the movement, such as Sylvia Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), as well as forgotten figures like Ernestine Eckstein, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s. The anthology focuses on the events of 1969, the five years before, and the five years after. Jason Baumann, the NYPL coordinator of humanities and LGBTQ collections, has edited and introduced the volume to coincide with the NYPL exhibition he has curated on the Stonewall uprising and gay liberation movement of 1969. This is a collection of first hand accounts from those who were at the Stonewall uprising, including Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson – this is one I’m hoping to pick up over the Summer!
Queer Intentions: A (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ+ Culture by Amelia Abraham
Today, the options and freedoms on offer to LGBTQ+ people living in the West are greater than ever before. But is same-sex marriage, improved media visibility and corporate endorsement all it’s cracked up to be? At what cost does this acceptance come? And who is getting left behind, particularly in parts of the world where LGBTQ+ rights aren’t so advanced? Combining intrepid journalism with her own personal experience, in Queer Intentions, Amelia Abraham searches for the answers to these urgent challenges, as well as the broader question of what it means to be queer right now. Join her as she cries at the first same-sex marriage in Britain, loses herself in the world’s biggest drag convention in L.A., marches at Pride parades across Europe, visits both a transgender model agency and the Anti-Violence Project in New York to understand the extremes of trans life today, parties in the clubs of Turkey’s underground LGBTQ+ scene, and meets a genderless family in progressive Stockholm. This was one of the first works of queer nonfiction that I read and I really do recommend it for nonfiction newbies because it’s not super dense and it has a really approachable, chatty writing style!
We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ Rights edited by Amelia Abraham
We talk about LGBTQ+ equality. But what does it actually mean? And how do we get there?
In this powerful and thought-provoking essay collection, 35 people – from actors, pop stars and athletes to scientists, writers and activists – set out to answer these vital questions.
We Can Do Better Than This meets the famous drag queen who wants to eradicate the stigma around dating trans people, a gay Bangladeshi activist calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality after his best friends were murdered in a hate crime, the Russian lesbian sex blogger skirting around the law to educate young people, a well-known trans author and journalist who wants to reimagine trans media representation, and the supermodel calling for the end of intersex surgeries on children.
Featuring deeply moving personal stories and provocative new arguments, this is a book about how we can make our world better, and why LGBTQ+ equality should matter to everyone. This is Amelia Abraham’s second book and I’m so excited by it, especially since she interviews a number of influential queer people (including Pabllo Vittar!!).
The Book of Queer Prophets: 21 Writers on Sexuality and Religion edited by Ruth Hunt
Is it possible to believe in God and be gay? How does it feel to be excluded from a religious community because of your sexuality? Why do some people still believe being LGBT is a sin?
The book of Queer Prophets contains modern-day epistles from some of our most important thinkers, writers and activists: Jeanette Winterson tackles religious dogma, Amrou Al-Kadhi writes about trying to make it as a Muslim drag queen in London, John Bell writes about his decision to come out later in life, Tamsin Omond remembers getting married in the middle of a protest and Kate Bottley explains her journey to becoming an LGBT ally. This is a truly wonderful collection of essays on what is quite a difficult topic, and I did tear up when I read this, especially when I got to Ruth Hunt’s essay at the end!