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LGBT History Month: Fifteen essential reads on queer history

Hey, did you know it’s LGBT History Month? Every February, this month aims to help spread the stories of those who paved the way for us to live and be our big gay selves and to acknowledge that the battle is still far from won.

With that in mind, we thought it was about time we compiled a list of some essential queer books. Whether you’re struggling to come to terms with your identity, want to get all clued up on what a friend or family member might be going through, or just want to know your Holly Johnson from your RuPaul, we’ve got you covered.

Feel free to add a comment below with any books we’ve not included that you’d suggest people give a read. Sharing is caring, after all!

Without any further ado, and in absolutely no order, let’s get this started.

From Ace to Ze: The Little Book of LGBT Terms

By Harriet Dyer (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Language is one of the key paths to awareness, acceptance and empowerment, but it can sometimes be confusing for many people. Layed out as an easy-to-use dictionary, ‘From Ace to Ze’ introduces some of the most essential terminology surrounding gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ identity.

Whether you are simply interested in learning more about the world of gender and sexuality or are wanting to learn about how you might fit within this crazy world, then this book will become your go-to. From abrosexual (Someone whose sexual orientation isn’t fixed, and can change often) to your zedsexual (a less clinical version of the term allosexual, meaning someone who has sexual urges and feels sexual attraction towards others), it’s all neatly laid out for you.


From Prejudice to Pride: A History of the LGBTQ+ Movement

By Amy Lamé (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Covering ancient civilisations up to the present day, Lamé’s book is a comprehensive timeline of the LGBTQ+ movement and the shifting attitudes that have challenged lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Better yet, this book has been created for readers aged 11 and upwards, so it makes the perfect introduction for a younger person who wants to learn more about what it means to be LGBTQ+ today.


This Book is Gay

By Juno Dawson (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Acclaimed author and queer icon Juno Dawson provides us with an uncensored look into the LGBTQ+ community, one that is essential reading for both those who are and aren’t a part of it.

Incorporating testimonials from people across many gender and sexual spectrums, it’s a hilarious take on stereotypes associated with being LGBTQ+, how to come out, and even how to pull. Dawson’s hot-takes are accompanied with fun illustrations from Spike Gerrell.

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music

By Darryl W. Bullock (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Music has a way of making us feel a certain way, or giving us a voice that we feel represents us. That’s why music has been so important to the LGBTQ+ community over the years. Whether it’s Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Tegan & Sara, K.d. Lang, or Davie Bowie, we all have at least one musician that we look up to.

In the aptly-named ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’, Bullock looks into the wealth of history of recorded music by and for the LGBTQ+ community. Including stories of diverting attention away from their sexuality, or how Stonewall and the AIDS crisis impacted on music, it’s a fascinating alternative-angle to queer history, one that most of us will be able to recognise.

Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadow

Edited by Christine Burns MBE (Buy from Waterstones and Amazon)

‘Trans Britain’ was one of our first recommended reads way back in January last year, and it quickly became our go-to suggestion for anyone wanting to learn more about the transgender community.

Political activist Christine Burns MBE looks into the rich and varied history of the transgender community through a selection of powerful essays by established activists, film-makers, musicians, and actors, including Paris Lees and Hari Nef. Divulging into topics such as trans visibility, hostility, marginalisation, and representation, ‘Trans Britain’ is a first-hand account of the background of the trans community and why there is still much needed to be done in way of acceptance and tolerance.


Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory

By Mimi Marinucci (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Looping second-wave feminism into traditional queer studies through the latest developments in theories (such as online behaviour and the growing prominence of trans experiences in popular media), Marinucci helps to curate an understanding of gender, sex and sexuality and how they can come together to help make changes in the rights for women and LGBTQ+ people across the world.

‘Feminism is Queer’ is the perfect guide for anyone with an interest in gender, sexuality, and the connections between feminism and queer issues.

Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 Years of Gay Britain

By Paul Flynn (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

When The Quietus describes something as being “one of the most important books about gay culture in recent times,” you’ve got to stop and take notice.

Focusing on Britain’s very own journey through LGBTQ+ history, ‘Good As You’ looks into the likes of Russell T Davies, Will Young, and Holly Johnson to see how their careers helped drive through a cultural shift of acceptance. Featuring monumental events, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage, it’s a look at how this one country has tried to accept a once ostracised community.

Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain

By Kate Harrad (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Written for and by bisexuals, ‘Purple Prose’ is a collection of interviews, essays, and insights into the definitions of bisexuality and its history through the years.

Providing first-person accounts from leading bisexual activists, this book offers an insight into the intersections of bisexuality and will help anyone gain a better understanding of what being bisexual is all about.

The Little Book of Queer Icons: The Inspiring True Stories Behind Groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Icons

By Samuel Alexander with illustrations from Phil Shaw (Pre-order from Waterstones or Amazon)

‘The Little Book of Queer Icons’ is a vivid and fun look into the extraordinary lives of some of the many queer icons, past and present, who have helped pave the way for validation, acceptance, and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.

Featuring a concise biography and hand-drawn illustration, this book serves as a powerful insight into the many queer-oes of the world, including Ian McKellen, Marlene Dietrich, Munroe Bergdof, Juno Dawson, Marsha P. Johnson, Billie Jean King, Amanda Lepore, and Alan Turing.


The Stonewall Reader

Edited by Jason Baumann (Pre-order from Waterstones or Amazon)

This one’s not released yet (it’s due out in April) but it’s one to add to your wish list, for sure.

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Baumann delves deep into the New York Public Library’s archives to look at how the 1969 event was reported in magazines and newspapers at the time and what happened after. The book also promises to shine a light on a few pivotal figures who may not be largely known, such as Lee Brewster, head of the Queens Liberation Front and Ernestine Eckstine, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s.

To My Trans Sisters

Edited by Charlie Craggs (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Activist Charlie Craggs brings together a collection of heartfelt letters from celebrated trans women, including Andrea James, Isis King, Laura Jane Grace, and Emily Brothers, addressed to those who are transitioning.

Providing emotional and powerful advice and stories from their own experiences, ‘To My Trans Sisters’ is an inspirational read that looks into everything from make-up to battling dysphoria.


The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism

By Adrian Brooks (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Referencing American heroes like Eleanor Roosevelt and Harvey Milk, this book focuses on the United States’ efforts for a diverse and inclusive country and how the LGBTQ+ community has always been at the forefront of the fight for social change.

Using first-person accounts to tell a 100-year story of queer activism, ‘The Right Side of History’ includes lesser-known activists and pioneers, including underground artists, writers, and collectives, including the Names Project, a national phenomenon memorializing 94,000 AIDS victims, to underground artists and writers.

The Velvet Rage

By Alan Downs, PhD (Buy from Waterstones and Amazon)

‘The Velvet Rage’ was first published in 2005 and has since become a prominent player in the lives of many gay men as they grow up and learn to come to terms with their sexuality.

Looking into why substance abuse, depression and sex addiction are highest amongst the LGBTQ+ community, psychologist Alan Downs tries to describe the stages of a gay man’s journey out of shame and offers practical and inspired strategies to stop the cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behaviour.

Straight Jacket

By Matthew Todd (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Described as an “essential read for every gay person on the planet,” by Sir Elton John, ‘Straight Jacket’ was shortlisted for the Polari Book Prize in 2017.

Part memoir, part critical theory, Matthew Todd looks into contemporary gay culture and asks if gay people are as happy as they could be. Anyone who is or has questioned their sexuality and felt ashamed, or even just wants to learn more about what it means to be queer today, needs to get a hold of this book.

The Queeriodic Table: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Culture

By Harriet Dyer (Buy from Waterstones or Amazon)

Serving as a unique way to learn your queer history, ‘The Queeriodic Table’ takes a more scientific approach to all things LGBTQ+.

Giving you the who, the what and the where of queer culture, from the Kama Sutra and Kinsey to the Romans and RuPaul. Colourful, graphic timelines help to map out key moments in LGBTQ+ history – it’s a yes from us.

Think we’ve missed out another essential read? Tell us in the comments below.

Written by Adam Maidment

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