On Being Different: What it Means to be a Homosexual by Merle Miller
Considered one of the earliest gay memoirs, this book was originally published as an essay in response to a homophobic essay in Harper's Magazine. It's exactly what the title describes: a seminal book that reaffirms the importance of coming out. This oldie but a goodie should be required reading for anyone who is or loves someone who identifies as LGBTQ.
Tomorrow Will Be Different
Love, Loss and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride: McBride became the first transgender person to ever speak in front of a national political convention at the age of 26, but that doesn't mean her transition has been easy. This book weaves her personal journey with the steps the country has taken toward trans acceptance in a memoir that's both deeply individual and a primer on national civil rights.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Lyrical, scorching, and deeply moving, the words of this poet will sear themselves onto your heart.
Black Girl, Call Home (Poems) by Jasmine Mans
Her work grapples with race, queer identity and feminism in today's America in a collection that belongs on your bedside table.
Stonewall by Martin Duberman
In Stonewall, renowned historian and activist Martin Duberman tells the full story of this pivotal moment in history. With riveting narrative skill, he re-creates those revolutionary, sweltering nights in vivid detail through the lives of six people who were drawn into the struggle for LGBTQ rights. Their stories combine to form an unforgettable portrait of the repression that led up to the riots, which culminates when they triumphantly participate in the first gay rights march of 1970, the roots of today’s pride marches.
The Queen’s English by Chloe O Davis
A landmark reference guide to the LGBTQIA+ community’s contributions to the English language—an intersectional, inclusive, playfully illustrated glossary featuring more than 800 terms and fabulous phrases created by and for queer culture.
We Have Always Been Here, A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samira Habib
How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don’t exist? A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one’s truest self.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjami Alire Saenz
This young adult book has won several awards for good reason: It's a breathtaking account of two young boys of color who fall in love, despite the many cards stacked against them. This star-crossed lover story is great for middle school kids and teens, but adults will find lots to love here, too.
Fairest by Meredith Talusan
Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a “sun child” from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to become a woman in America. Throughout her journey, Talusan shares poignant and powerful episodes of desirability and love that will remind readers of works such as Call Me By Your Name and Giovanni’s Room. Her evocative reflections will shift our own perceptions of love, identity, gender, and the fairness of life.
Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough
At once razor-sharp, profoundly brave, and often very, very funny, the essays in Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing interrogate our notions of ecstasy, queerness, and what it means to live freely. Each piece is a reckoning: of survival, identity, and how to reclaim one’s past when carving out a future.
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett
A surprising and moving story of two mothers, one difficult son, and the limitations of marriage, parenthood, and love. Blending warmth and wit with a candid take on queer family dynamics, With Teeth is a thought-provoking portrait of the delicate fabric of family—and the many ways it can be torn apart.
Sissy A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.
Kari by Amruta Patil
In Kari, two young lesbian lovers are driven to attempt suicide. They survive, but are forced to go their separate ways, and this graphic novel focuses on the story of the eponymous Kari. It tells of her struggles establishing her own identity in a typical modern city, primarily inhabited by heterosexuals and where lesbianism is still considered abnormal. This book is a great way to understand the issues with heteronormativity.
Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein
What begins as a chance encounter in a New York nightclub leads drag performer Arnold Beckoff on a hilarious yet touching pursuit of love, happiness, and a life he can be proud of. From a failed affair with a reluctant lover to a committed relationship with the promise of a stable family, Arnold’s struggle for acceptance meets its greatest resistance when he faces off against the person whose approval is most important to him: his mother.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.
Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
Gender Outlaw was decades ahead of its time when it was first published in 1994. Now, some twenty-odd years later, this book stands as both a classic and a still-revolutionary work—one that continues to push us gently but profoundly to the furthest borders of the gender frontier.
Unnamed by Glennon Doyle
In this powerful memoir and self-help book, Glennon Doyle talks about letting go of your inhibitions, years of ingrained social conditioning, and the need to please others, in order to really come into your own. Doyle doesn’t flinch away from vulnerability, and shares her own story of questioning where she found herself in life, and realizing she needed to realign herself to her true queer identity. Untamed talks about falling in love, being a good partner, but also learning to fall in love with yourself by rediscovering the self you knew in childhood and truly living your life. It’s a celebration, and certainly worth your time.
Queer, There and Everywhere
23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Pager: Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was almost certainly gay? Or that Sweden was once ruled by a gender nonconforming monarch who, in the modern era, may well have identified as nonbinary? What about Eleanor Roosevelt’s love letters to another woman? Throughout history, people across all ranges of the LGBT+ spectrum have been making a difference and shaping the world we live in, whether history chooses to remember that part of their identity or not. In Queer, There, and Everywhere, Sarah Prager sets out to highlight the lives and accomplishments of 23 extraordinary individuals, reminding us that queers have always been here — making the world a better place, one life at a time.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness, Aftab, born a male, transitions to Anjum, an intersex Muslim woman who strives to protect her community after witnessing communal riots. Not only is this book a commentary on current day India, but it also tackles the complex subject of gender identification.
The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
The dress code at Liv’s school might not seem like a big deal — pants for boys, and skirts for girls — but for Liv, being forced into a skirt every day is just one more reminder that the world doesn’t see him for the boy he is. Thus, a plan is born, and Liv and his friend set out to change the rules for everyone who doesn’t fit in. The Pants Project is a classic in the making, a middle grade novel that touches on bullying, acceptance, and diversity with the trademark grace and humor of the best in the genre.
Let the Record Show
A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 by Sarah Schulman: This book is about ACT UP New York and the revolutionaries whose hardscrabble activism essentially waged war on the many systems of oppression perpetuating the AIDS crisis. This sweeping account, based on hundreds of interviews with former members of the group, offers both a street-level and birds-eye view of the kind of grassroots advocacy that can turn the world upside down.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Told in verse, this beautiful coming-of-age story focuses on Felix, a Jamaican-Greek Cypriot teenager, coming to terms with his identity as a gay man. From leaving his home in London, to finding a home to explore and celebrate himself in his university’s drag society, this joyful tale is full of heart and hope.
A Girl’s Guide by Kate Charlesworth: Part memoir, part LGBT history book, this substantial graphic novel takes a witty and creative approach to this seminal part of British history. From humble beginnings in the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley, to her transition into a self-proclaimed “dyke about town”, this is a heart-warming and humbling look at the remarkable fight for equality LGBTQ+ people have been forced to endure simply for being their authentic selves.
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
A fearless and hopeful account of one black man’s entry into adulthood that explores identity, family and sexuality against the backdrop of the Windrush legacy.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Sacrifice and survival are the major themes in this absorbing novel that follows Patsy as she leaves behind her five-year-old daughter in Jamaica in the hope of a better life (and love) in the US. Instead of the American dream and a romantic reunion with her childhood sweetheart, Patsy quickly discovers the reality of life as a black, undocumented immigrant in a racist world. Left with her absent biological father, the book also charts her daughter Tru’s struggles as she grows up with her own secrets.
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
LGBT romance novel
The Song of Achilles by Madelline Miller
Story of gay love from the ancient world between Patroclus and Achilles.
Lihaaf by Ismat Chugtai
Though this is technically a short story, it’s still one of the most significant (and controversial) works of lesbian fiction to emerge out of Indian literature. It documents the relationship between an unhappily married begum and her female companion in 19th century Lucknow, and is sneaky enough to never make things explicit despite the very obvious homoeroticism.
The Pregnant King by Devdutt Patnaik
The next time someone tells you Hinduism isn’t LGBT-friendly, hand them this book. Using the story of Yuvashnava, the book delves into the various instances of gender-fluidity and queerness that’s evidenced in Hindu mythology, questioning notions surrounding rigid gender norms.
Devdutt Patnaik’s Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell
You delves into our myths to show us that queer people have always found space in our society.
Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer
An outgrowth from John Paul Brammer’s advice column of the same name, Hola Papi is part words of wisdom, part raucous memoir careening through the misadventures of queer youth. Taken together, that adds up to a warm, witty compendium of hard-won life lessons, ripped directly from the annals of Brammer’s own experiences as a biracial gay man.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel follows the transformation of male English nobleman Orlando, who one day at the age of 30, mysteriously awakens to find he has become a woman. Rather than being alarmed, Orlando is emboldened. As she embraces the change, she sees her new self as who she was meant to be, physically and mentally. Over the course of several centuries, Orlando lives on without aging. Over the course of her long life, Orlando encounters a cast of other gender fluid and nonconforming characters with whom she develops relationships.
Stand by Me
The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs: In Stand By Me, historian Jim Downs chronicles decades of LGBTQ activism, from the Stonewall riots to the often forgotten figures who launched the gay rights movement. Through this rich historical perspective, Downs illustrates the complexities of being LGBTQ in the United States. Stand by Me acknowledges the nuances of LGBTQ identity while asserting that the community justly desires what many heterosexual individuals take for granted—basic human dignity and the right to be safe and accepted in society. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo: This book follows the life of 12 womxn and 1 gay man all of whose lives are interconnected in some way. Set in Britain, the women come from different backgrounds, they identify themselves as straight, lesbian, transgender.
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
A celebration of what it means to be queer, Sister Outsider is a breath of fresh air amidst the often-difficult personal exploration of sex, gender, and identity. This collection of essays and speeches given by the famed African-American womanist and lesbian writer Audre Lorde is considered a groundbreaking book that defines and celebrates LGBTQ identity amidst its social challenges.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex is the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. Following the life and ancestral lineage of intersex Cal—or Calliope—Stephanides, Middlesex is written as a fictional first-person memoir, yet it sprinkles in Greek mythology and even magical realism-like genre elements. Middlesex was a critical and commercial hit, spending weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and becoming an Oprah’s Book Club selection.
The Truth About Me
A Hijra Love Story by A. Revathi and V. Geetha: The autobiography of A. Revathi, a transsexual woman who is a leading activist and a strong voice for the hijra community, is a must-read to understand the issues faced by transsexuals and intersexes in India. Assigned the male gender at birth and named Doriasamy, Revathi was bullied mercilessly for her feminine ways growing up. It ultimately drove her to run away from home, start living with the hijra community, undergo a painful sex-change operation and resort to sex work to make ends meet. She finally becomes a famous activist and this book tells of the pitiable conditions in which hijras have to live, the sexual abuse they face by policemen, the lack of earning opportunities and the prejudice, scorn and even fear afforded to them by society.
Principles of Predictions by Anushka Jasraj
‘It’s an assorted collection of stories deeply rooted in human conditioning, it plays with the heart of the reader as it often renders them looking for a perfect ending, finds meaning in the bizarre, and places the most indecipherable of dreams and motivations at the forefront. There are parts where the writer is playing with the fluidity of its characters’ sexuality, the ambiguity in what they want, and the sheer audacity to change the levers of the story.;. In the author’s interview “She also mentions not knowing whether Zena or Sita — characters in her short stories ‘Entomology’ and ‘Circus’ respectively — “identify as ‘not straight’ and I don’t define a character’s orientation unless the narrative calls for it. People who are strict about heteronormative standards are probably afraid of their own capacity for being a little bit queer. I guess you could say the lack of those labels is important to me.”
Queeristan LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian workplace by Parmesh Shahani
It highlights the lags in the Indian corporate with respect to LGTBQ friendly work environments and suggests measures that need to be taken to ensure an inclusive and comfortable workspace for all, irrespective of gender, class and caste. However, it doesn’t restrict itself to being just a business guide but rather contextualizes the need for the book in line with understanding the historical and social realities of the queer community in India.
Globalization, Love and (Be)longing in Contemporary India by Parmesh Shahani : It is considered as the holy grail of information for those who wished to understand the nuances of being gay and desi — two identities that are inextricably linked. It was one of the first scholarly attempt to study and chart the growth and changes of the gay community (in India) but also relates both the personal and public through anecdotes and research. It is personal and yet universal in its ability to point out the expectations and realities of the Indian gay community. The author drives home one point throughout the book, that coming out is not equivalent of freedom, and that tolerance of queerness exists as long as it doesn’t come in the way of normative heterosexuality. The book is a great starting place for those who wish to understand the ethos of the gay community.
The Weightlifting Princess- A children’s book
written by Sowmya Rajendran It is a short, engaging and sharp commentary on femme agency intertwined with a growing child’s need to dream, discover and develop their life’s aspirations. Sowmya Rajendran has succeeded in engaging multiple realities beyond what is being primarily sold: femme agency; they have brought to us a fierce, restless, and brimming child, who is extremely competitive, has a unibrow and muscular arms, and is very conscious of her interpersonal relationships
Same-Sex Love in India by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai
This book is a collection of essays that lay out evidence of how same sex love has found itself in ancient Indian literature spanning over more than two thousand years. From the Vedic era to the modern one we live in, this book is a comprehensive storehouse of LGBT literature from a multitude of sources.
Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India by Maya Sharma
The book tells ten real-life narratives of queer working class women from North India from different class, caste and religion. Loving Women paints a vivid picture of intersectional existence of female queerness which till date remains vastly underrepresented in mainstream media.
The Boyfriend by R. Raj Rao
The story is not a perfect storytale but is steeped in tragedy mirroring how same sex relationhips often play out in Indian context. It plunges into a no-holds-barred narrative of Mumbai’s gay and somewhat posh subculture and explores angles of hidden homophobia and casteism than run through the city’s veins.
Me Hijra, Me Laxmi by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
The book is a memoir of Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and follows her journey from being born a male in an upper caste Brahmin household to the strong voice of transgender activism that she is today.
Love’s Rite : Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West by Ruth Vanita
Love’s Rite is a one-of-a-kind book which analyses same-sex weddings, suicides committed by same-sex couples and reflects on how India and the Euro-American culture have represented homosexuality and same-sex union in the past and in the present.