Make February the month of education.
As February is LGBT+ History Month, it’s time to revisit exactly what it is that we celebrate during this momentous occasion and remember the issues the LGBTQ+ community still fight to this day. From heartbreaking coming out stories, to the harsh realities that people of both queer and transgender backgrounds have faced throughout time, we’ve put together an essential list of books to further your education on LGBTQ+ history and culture.
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 enrol in conversion therapy by his religious family. The book exposes the harsh realities of gay conversion programmes, which Conley suggests lack compassion and cause more harm than good.
2. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle
Written by Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution is an important piece of literature which tells the history of the gay and lesbian movement, taking readers back to the 1950s – when it was criminal to be gay. 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 even cancer. The book is considered revolutionary in the realm of feminism, and is a great read to not only understand LGBTQ+ life, but racism too. An important read as the Black Lives Matter campaign continues to build traction.
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, and 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 film 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 dark, 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 which details the issues many trans people in our society face, as well as her journey to becoming a woman. 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 for the cause – 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.