21 LGBTQ Books To Read If You Want Become A Better Ally For The Community
More and more queer books are hitting the shelves as being LGBTQ becomes more mainstream in the media. Janet Mock's Redefining Realness, for example, became a New York Times' bestseller almost immediately after its release in late 2014. But Mock isn't the only LGBTQ author out there, and there a number of LGBTQ books to read if you want to become a better ally for the community. And even better — there a number of novels for young adults and children to read as well.
Even though I recently came out as a queer woman, it's been difficult getting my hands on LGBTQ books, and even harder to find child-friendly books about these topics when they're so desperately needed. Just because children aren't exposed to homosexual or transgender themes does not mean they won't grow up to be gay or transgender. Additionally, parents need these resources to be able to understand what their children are going through, especially in the wake of heartbreaking events surrounding parents' inability to understand what their children are going through.
This roundup of queer novels includes children's books, young adult fiction novels, historical non-fiction, and memoirs by lesbians, bisexual men and women, trans women and men, and all people across the gender and sexuality spectrum, because gender and sexuality are fluid, constantly shifting things.
1. 'Two Boys Kissing' by David Levithan
Based on true events, Two Boys Kissing tells the story of two 17-year-olds, Harry and Craig, who go out to break the Guinness world record for locking lips - a 35-hour marathon - to make a statement about homophobia. Through this, the story is narrated by a chorus of gay men who have died from AIDS. Although the book takes place over the course of 48 hours, some incredibly important and moving events take place, leaving readers contemplating the characters' lives long after the last page has been turned.
2. 'Annie On My Mind' by Nancy Garden
Nancy Garden's most well-known book, Annie On My Mind, revolves around Liza and Annie, two girls who meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both 17, the two duo help each other navigate both the struggles of high school and the difficulty in coming to terms with their sexual identities. There's also another lesbian couple through the book, and even though it sets itself up for a heartbreaking conclusion, there are (spoiler alert!) no unhappy endings.
3. 'Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America' by Mitchell Gold and Mindy Drucker
Unfortunately, suicide is one of the leading causes of death for LGBTQ students ages 10 to 24 years old. Crisis is a collection of short stories written by both members and allies of the LGBTQ community and showcases a diverse group of people sharing their experiences. Even those who are unfamiliar with the LGBTQ movement can relate to at least one of the characters in this heartbreaking but insightful book.
4. 'I Am Jazz' by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
I Am Jazz is a children's book written by the then-13-year-olds Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel. The picture book gives a small glimpse into the real life of Jazz, a transgender advocate and Youtube personality. The book, endorsed by Laverne Cox, came just after the release of Jazz's TLC reality show of the same name.
5. 'Out Law: What LGBT Youth Should Know About Their Legal Rights' by Lisa Keen
Not exactly a coffee table book, but still important for LGBTQ children and families. Questions like, "Can your principal tell you to cover up your 'gay pride' shirt?" and "If you tell your doctor you're gay, do they have to let your parents know?" are answered in great detail by Lisa Keen. Out Law plainly tells queer youth what their rights are; how, when, and where to exercise it; and where to seek legal help if they need it.
6. 'Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out' by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu
Referred to as the "Bisexual Bible," Bi Any Other Name contains personal stories of art, prose, poetry, and essays by more than 70 men and women living their bisexual lives. While most of the contributors grew up in the 1970s and '80s, it highlights the history of the LGBTQ movement back then, and was recently released with a new 25th anniversary introduction.
7. 'StoneWall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution' by David Carter
After the terrible flop that came from the truly awful Stonewall movie this summer, the world needs to know what truly happened at Stonewall. For LGBTQ kids wanting to know their history to curious readers interested in what the fuss is all about, David Carter's Stonewall brings the events of the single most important moment for the gay liberation movement straight to your living room. His account is not biased in favor of or against the police, and by splitting the book up into short snippets from both sides, it creates a rush and excitement that will make readers feel like they were actually in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969.
8. 'Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out' by Susan Kuklin
Beautifully photographed and compiled by Susan Kuklin, Beyond Magenta is a collection of coming out stories by transgender teenagers that's equal parts funny, heartbreaking, and poignant. Every story is different but with similar themes, and some accounts are told in narrative prose and others in chat-text blocks, depending on the tone and the interviewee. The back of the book even has a helpful glossary of transgender terms for people dipping their toes into trans issues for the first time.
9. 'For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home' by Keith Boykin
For Colored Boys addresses issues of sexual abuse, AIDS/HIV, suicide, homophobia, and racism in the African American and Latina communities. Created both to educate and inspire, Boykin has curated a collection of stories by people who have something to teach readers about what it is to be a gay man of color.
10. 'Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning' by Mark Thompson
Gay Spirit is anthology, collected and edited by Mark Thompson, that explores queer spirituality in the 21st century. The collective authors and artists combine queer politics with theories on religion, sexuality, and even where and how non-queer people fit into the movement. Thompson also has two other books out, Gay Body and Gay Soul, which are also worth a read through.
11. 'Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders' by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Author of the bestselling book She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Jennifer Finney Boylan is back with Stuck in the Middle With You, a gorgeous memoir about what it's like to be a father, mother, and everything else in between. She also includes a few interviews with other mothers, fathers, and "former children," and her writing makes you feel like you truly get to know her as a person, not just as a character in a book.
12. 'Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender' by Nick Krieger
Nick Krieger's memoir won the Honor Book for the 2012 Stonewall Book Awards in non-fiction and for good reason. Krieger explores the spectrum of man and woman and what it means to be non binary in a refreshing, nuanced way that goes beyond the traditional transgender narrative. For some, explaining what it means to be nonbinary can be painful and confusing, but Nick does it with charm and emotional honesty. Krieger is also well-known for writing travel guides and navigating Nina Here Nor There is a guide to Nick's personal corner of the world.
13. 'Bi America: Myths, Truths, and Struggles of an Invisible Community' by William Burleson
Some people don't realize this, but bisexuals have the unique experience of being discriminated against in both communities. Marginalized by heterosexuals and held suspect or outright despised by some members of the LGBTQ community, it can be difficult to navigate your sexuality in America when you don't have a place of your own. Bi-America sheds light on the homophobia of the United States and the biphobia that's rampant in the queer community even today. While still keeping the content light and humorous, William Burleson goes deep into the scientific side of bisexuality, and with 2% of the general population identifying as bisexual, it's a must read for anyone who wishes to understand more about the B in the LGBTQ acronym.
14. 'Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive' by Julia Serano
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Julia Serano's Excluded fights back against the feminist movements that police gender expression and sexuality, and provides an in-depth look at biphobia and transphobia in the queer community. Serano talks about how there's been a history of lesbians and gay men dismissing queer minorities based on the idea that there is a "certain" way to identify, dress, and act based on your gender or sexuality. As a trans woman, bisexual, and activist, Serano is the best person to speak on this topic, and she does so with clear points that forces people to reevaluate their ideas on privilege, gender, and feminism.
15. 'The Great Big Book of Families' by Mary Hoffman
Mary Hoffman identifies many different kinds of families in the adorable children's book — from families with one parent, two mothers or two fathers, to foster parents and homeless families. Complete with gorgeous illustrations, The Great Big Book of Families is a great resource for young children who want to learn about the different kinds of families in the world.
16. 'One Man Guy' by Michel Barakiva
One Man Guy starts out with Alek Khederian's high-achieving Armenian family notifying him that he will have to attend summer school to bring his grades up. What first sounds like an awful experience changes when he meets Ethan, a cool and carefree boy, and who seems like he wants to be more than friends with Alek. This adorable, outrageously funny coming-of-age story is a great LGBTQ take on the thousands of young adult novels out there.
17. 'Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit' by Jeanette Winterson
Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best First Fiction, Orange Isn't The Only Fruit tells the story of Jeanette, a girl who is forced her adopted family and her strict congregation for the girl she loves. Diving deep into the mix of queerness and religion, and her incredible memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? - published 26 years later - is the "silent twin" to this not-quite-fiction book.
18. 'The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality In the Movies' by Vito Russo
Published eight years before the 1995 documentary of the same name, Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet examines how queerness is portrayed — and more importantly, isn't portrayed — in the media. Although this book was published before the rise of queer independent cinema, it does crack into the history of what it meant to be gay in films back when men were only allowed to be flimsy, fragile "queens" and lesbians were murdering femme fatales. It may only take a look from Hollywood's silent era to films in the early 1980s, but it's a great book to have on hand if you want to know about the history of LGBTQ people and the perceptions people had from watching queer people on the silver screen.
19. 'Show Trans' by Elliot DeLine
Elliott DeLine's third novel talks about his struggles with sex addiction, sex work, dissociative identity disorder, and being a non-binary trans person. Along with Refuse and I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, Show Trans is a small glimpse into Elliot's life as he struggles to find a place where he belongs. His work is honest and heartbreaking, and while it's maybe not the first LGBTQ-related book you want to reach for, it's definitely worth the read.
20. 'Allies At Work: Creating A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment' by David Hall
As an ally himself, professor and corporate diversity trainer David Hall was so horrified at the treatment of the members of the LGBTQ community that he wrote a book encouraging people to become straight allies. Although Allies At Work is primarily meant for people in the workspace, it's still good for all allies to brush up on how to act around queer folks. Not only is this an educational book, it's also a call to action to help shape a future in which "everyone can be out and equal."
21. 'This Book Is Gay' by James Dawson
Are you a parent coming to terms with the fact that your child might be part of the LGBTQ community? Are you struggling to find answers to the questions no one seems to be asking? Are you that child coming out of the closet? James Dawson has all the answers in This Book Is Gay. For kids and parents alike, this book gets down to the nitty gritty of sex, hooking up, politics, stereotypes, and includes hilarious illustrations every few pages or so. It's a perfect first-time book for anyone questioning their identity or wanting to know more about what it means to be gay.
Images: Denise Coronel/Flickr