Skip to main content Accessibility

A reading list for celebrating the LGBTQ+ community

As a queer and trans kid growing up in a queerphobic home decades ago in the South, I had little access to LGBTQ+ representation. I relied on the glimpses of queer people and gender nonconformity in books so that I might find myself and know that other people like me existed.

Most of my life, when people found out or thought I was queer, I was bullied, harassed or teased for being “deviant” or an “abomination.” Other kids believed I should be feared because they learned from their parents that all queer and trans people were predators. It was easy to accept these messages because I didn’t meet my first out queer person until college.

I began seeking out queer books at the library. Earlier, I’d discovered that books gave me access to other worlds. I could melt into a world of witches who rejected traditional notions of femininity and beauty or explore a universe where shapeshifters could change their bodies.

It was a liberatory experience discovering queer books, but also fraught because all the LGBTQ+ books were classified next to books on sexual violence, such as pedophilia. Every time I looked for books, I was reminded of what society thought of me – and of us.

LGBTQ+ books gave me new possibilities. I learned that others like me live happy and fulfilling lives. We didn’t have to be isolated and discarded by society. Books gave me the freedom to accept and love myself and others while helping me envision a future for myself where I saw none before.

I hope the books I suggest below bring freedom and healing to your lives, too. And as we say every day, but especially during Pride Month in June: Out of the closets and into the streets!

Black/Gay: The Harlem Renaissance, the Protest Era, and Constructions of Black Gay Identity in the 1980s and 90s

By Simon Dickel

This book explores how Black arts and organizing movements have contributed to the development of uniquely Black queer identities, culture and spaces.

Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability

By Robert McRuer

This book examines ways queer people and people with disabilities shape culture, creating a liberatory space for people of all bodies, genders and sexualities.

For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home

Edited by Keith Boykin

A recommendation by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, this collection of essays from queer men of color explores living, surviving and thriving amid racialized homophobia.

Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History

By Blair Imani, illustrated by Monique Le

The lives and impact of 70 women and nonbinary activists are featured in this richly illustrated book.

Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America

By Mary L. Gray

This award-winning book explores the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in the rural U.S., how queer people form culture in isolated space and how capitalism and privatization affect these experiences.

Q & A: Queer in Asian America

Edited by David L. Eng and Alice Y. Hom

This anthology explores how sexuality, race and nationality intersect and create unique cultural and historical experiences for LGBTQ+ Asian Americans.

Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States

By Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie and Kay Whitlock

This award-winning book examines the history and legacy of criminalizing, pathologizing and incarcerating queerness, nonconformity and LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.

Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces

By Juana María Rodríguez

The topic of queer identity in the Latinx community has been largely unexamined. This book explores some of the ways queer Latinx identities are enabled or constrained in the areas of activism, immigration law and online.

Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America

By Gregory D. Smithers

A detailed history of North American Indigenous gender and sexuality before and after colonization is presented in this award-winning text.

Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution

By Susan Stryker

This foundational book digs into trans history from the post-World War II era through the 2000s.

We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation

By Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown

This book introduces LGBTQ+ resistance and movement building from Reconstruction through 1994 with 300 photographs from 70 photographers.

Skylar Kantola (she/they) is a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion training specialist for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Illustration at top: Book titles that highlight queer voices and experiences include (from left) Reclaiming Two-Spirits, For Colored Boys, Queer Latindad, Transgender History and Modern HERStory.