Books are friends. They are company. They are community. As readers, we spend enormous amounts of time with the characters and stories that are written between the pages of our books. The ideas that our favourite authors form in our minds, as readers, are powerful, important and often stay with us for the years that follow. That’s why, in today’s post, I am paying homage to and celebrating the authors and books that have given me comfort, community and have made me feel proud of who I am as a queer woman throughout my life so far.
This weekend (8 – 9 July, 2017) marks the annual Pride in London festival – a huge celebration of rainbow love and the LGBTIQA+ community. As most of you will know, I live in Melbourne, Australia, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate with our queer friends from across the pond as they dance, sing, kiss, and parade through the streets of London.
Although I can’t be at the festival physically, I can celebrate Pride in London in other ways – such as reading amazing books by and about LGBTIQA+ characters. Granta Books was kind enough to send me a lovely pack of LGBTIQA+ books to read and share with you guys as part of the celebration of Pride in London this year.
I feel incredibly fortunate to receive these books for my own reading pleasure, but this collection of books means more to me than any ol’ book haul.
I am a queer woman. I came out as a lesbian to my family and friends in 2012. Coming out is a challenging process – it’s emotionally taxing, daunting, frightening, exciting and life-changing. I sometimes think about the things I was worried about before and during that time – such as ‘will they still love me?’ ‘will I know how to be in a same-sex relationship?’ ‘should I have known this about myself as a teenager?’ – and I wish I could give my younger self advice and reassurance that everything will be fine.
One of the first places I turned to when I was making this life-changing decision to come out as a queer woman was the bookshop I worked in at the time.
I searched our catalogue to see if there were any books that could help me with the transition I was about to undertake.
Turns out, there wasn’t a lot available – I actually read a lot of Being Gay and Being Christian – You can be both! which, even though I’m not a christian, does give some good practical advice about how to broach the subject of your sexuality with the people in your life.
Thankfully, this has changed over the years and now I have a great source of LGBTIQA+ literature on my bookshelf that feels like family to me.
My hope for the future is that the publishing industry will continue to embrace and disperse the voices and stories of LGBTIQA+ writers, characters and stories. These books are so important because they not only provide a platform for people to tell their own stories and have agency over how they tell their stories, but they also help readers to understand themselves and their experiences more fully. Most importantly, as all great books do, they give us a sense of community and shared experience in the most vulnerable times in our lives – that’s something worth celebrating.
Before I get into the books that have helped me come to a place of acceptance of myself as a queer woman, I also want to mention a few magazines that are amazing for their coverage and exploration of diverse LGBTIQA+ voices: Archer, G3 and DIVA. I poured over these UK-produced magazines when I first visited London in 2013 and I couldn’t believe that there was a whole range of amazing publications for queer readers overseas. Archer magazine has brought the goods to Australia through their publication and it’s so well-considered and authentic.
Now, onto the books!
I’ve curated this stack of LGBTIQA+ literature from my bookshelf. Some of them I have read, some of them I am yet to read. But, all of these books have contributed in some way to me finding pride and community through literature:
Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser
Being Gay and Being Christian by Dr Stuart Edser
If you have any recommendations for LGBTIQA+ literature, please leave them down in the comments section so that we can all benefit from your knowledge.
Happy pride to all of my queer family from around the world. I hope today, and every day, we can continue to build a strong, welcoming and diverse community through books, writing and ideas.