LGBT Literature (Or, My Surprising Lack Thereof)

27 June 2014 by 29 Comments

i… have a lot of books.


bear with me for the pictures, they have a point.



i swear i (mostly) did not post pics to brag.


i just… i buy a lot of cheap used books, alright?


okay, okay.  you get the point.  books.  my life is books.  i have a shit ton of them.

seeing as i have a shit ton of them, and seeing as i am Real Queer, you would think that i would have a ton of LGBT literature.  i mean, i assumed that i would, when i started idly wondering just how many queer books i have, and decided to pull them out and see.

turns out?  not so much.  i just *thought* i had a lot of Queer lit.

when i started pulling out books, i used a basic criteria – LGBT literature must be
A. written by a queer person,
B. have a prominent gay character (no books with gay people on like 2 entire pages)
or, C., be about LGBT culture in some way, etc.

i’m sure i’ve missed a few from my collection (and i may have erred on a few i *did* pick out). i haven’t some of these books yet, or it’s been years since i have, in some cases.  but still.  what i found was disturbing.


i mostly found the usual suspects.  Burroughs (duh), Nin, (ditto), and YA books.

in fact… i found that 15 out of 47 total LGBT books on my copious shelves were YA books.  that’s over a quarter of them – almost a third, actually (yes, i had to pull a calculator out for that math).  sheesh.


i think that this has much less to do with my reading preferences than the dearth of Queer Lit in the adult fiction section – so many LGBT books are about OMG, coming out… and yeah, those stories usually happen when you’re young.

(by the way, MAY I RECOMMEND MALINDA LO if you haven’t read her? especially Ash and Huntress.)


whole stack of YA on the left – good, sure, but basic stories, mostly just stories about the beginnings of figuring out how to be A Young Gay Person.

(quick aside – yes, i think every book in the Outlander series has a gay character in it – but i’ve just pulled the books where a gay character is one of the the main characters, as opposed to a more minor character.)


another usual suspect – The Vagina Monologues.


i only have two books with intersex characters (as far as i know, anyway), and both of them are here (Annabel and Middlesex).  i have heard there’s a trans character in Beauty Queens, but i have not read it yet – tell me if i’m wrong, and then i’d likely be minus one LGBT book.  other than that, as far as i know, i don’t have *any* other books with trans characters – and i don’t know of any i could be buying, either.  (if YOU know of some, PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME!)


YA and Rice (uh, YUP)

i think Marr’s other book series has some LGBT going on, but i couldn’t remember, so i didn’t pull them – and they would not be the main characters, if so.  similarly, i know Rice has got to have some homo going on that i’m forgetting about, but i wasn’t gonna try pulling it by my (hella shady) memory.


…yeah, a book about Stonewall will have gay content for sure.

(another aside – my dad legit I SWEARTA GAWD actually used to know one of the main characters from Midnight – my dad is a gay antiques dealer, so i’m pretty sure you can figure out which one…)


and two complete no-brainers, to round things out!



i thought my collection was diverse as shit… instead, i found a lousy 47 books, out of how many hundreds???  i included pictures, because i think the visual is striking – each photo has all of the books i could find on an entire bookshelf.  and you see how many bookshelves i have.

Colbert face in hands

yeah, i feel about this facepalmy about it, too.

there’s a reason that campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks exist.

OF COURSE, this is not a problem of there not being Really Good LGBT authors – OR fantastic LGBT stories.  it’s definitely more a problem of queer narratives NOT BEING PUBLISHED, Because Of Reasons.  reasons which are bullshit, because i for one could use a few less boring-ass heteronormative, white people-driven stories about shit that’s been written about fourteen bazillion times.

i dunno.  this is maybe just a picture-laden not-very-ranty rantypants post, with no point.  but i’m not happy.  i thought i had LOTSA gay books.  turns out, nope.  tiny drop in the bucket of my book collection.  writing this has given me a minor case of The Sads, and if you are similarly afflicted, here’s a picture of my asshole kitteh to balance shit out.


so.  questions, comments, thoughts, QUEER LIT RECOMMENDATIONS??? am i completely missing all the good stuff out there… or is there really that much LACK of representation in literature?  i’m gonna go eat my feelings some fruit snacks.  bah humbug.



when i'm not busy ruling Hell, i read all the things. if i'm not reading, i'm writing, collaging, painting, making music, learning how to be in the circus, and/or chasing my cats.

29 thoughts on “LGBT Literature (Or, My Surprising Lack Thereof)

  1. I thought making suggestions was going to be easy but then I pulled up my LGBT collection in kindle and noticed I’ve not been adding books to it as I should to it. Mind you these suggestions are coming from someone new to reading LGBT.

    A number of my suggestions are going to be anthologies and in some cases that means not all the stories in them fit your criteria:

    Women Destroy Science Fiction has some stories that are LGBT – funded kickstarter

    Angel on the Ropes by Jill Schultz

    Long Hidden is an anthology that is full of diversity including LGBT – funded kickstarter

    Queers Dig Time Lords is up for a Hugo this year

    QU33R, from Ignatz-Award-nominated editor Rob Kirby, features 241 pages of new comics from 33 contributors—legends and new faces alike. – funded kickstarter

    • ooh, i love anthologies! i’ll have to check these out! i’m also particularly looking for adult LGBT novels, if you have any good ideas… you can see my entire collection up top… kinda sparse.

  2. The e-novella In Sea-Salt Tears, by Seanan McGuire, is beautiful — and you can download it for free from her website, in the “Toby Shorts” section. Her October Daye series has a lesbian couple in it, but they’re secondary characters and they don’t show up (as a couple) until Book 4.

    That’s pretty much all I’ve got other than Annie On My Mind and a bunch of BBC Sherlock fanfiction… I really need to read some of the books from your shelves…

  3. I can recommend a couple of good trans* stories. The ones that are available in paper are:

    Static- LA Witt
    Blacker Than Black- Rhi Etzweiler
    Wallflower- Heidi Belleau
    Windows in Time- M. Jules Aedin

    My other suggestions are only available digitally, as far as I know.

    Pearl- Kelly Rand
    Circle of Change- Laney Cairo

    I keep an eye out for trans* stories, but there aren’t as many as I would like. I think my next one will be Luna by Julie Ann Peters.

  4. I can recommend “Pantomime” and “Shadowplay” by Laura Lam for a great intersex character. “I Am J” is perhaps the best book with a trans character I’ve ever read. They are also YA. And hell yes seconding the love of Malinda Lo. She. Rocks.

    Also read “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by emily danforth which is advertised as YA, but the author said she wrote with no target audience in mind and is possibly my favorite book ever full stop. At least on the top 5. Seriously.

    Basically I want to ditto this entire post. I also have an insane amount of books (mostly e-book these days since I’ve been moving at least once a year for the last decade) and a very small percentage of them are LGBTQ. and… like… I’m super gay so that just seems wrong.

    I too find that I read a lot of LGBTQ YA — much more than adult LGBTQ. I think part of it, for me, is that many of the adult lesbian stories are “married woman falls in love with other woman, must reevaluate her life priorities” and that’s just nooooot really my jam. Nothing wrong with it of course… that’s just not where my life has taken me. And so much of the rest of adult LGBTQ books are dominated by white cis men’s stories. And there again…. I’m not really interested. Like– great I’m glad you exist but .. meh.

    I can recommend “The House at The End of Hope Street” that features a lesbian character and is also amazing.

    Loving all the recommends in all these comments :)

    • YESSSS… why is it always a married woman in a crisis!??!????
      i’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of “Cameron Post” for forever, but always forget. i’ve heard great things!

      there are SO MANY great things to read that i’ve never heard of, i’m excited to add them to my wish list!

  5. 1. Get Raptor, by Gary Jennings, and then you’ll have a third book with an intersex character (the protagonist, even!).

    2. Where is your Tiffany Reisz shelf? DON’T TELL ME YOU HAVEN’T READ HER. If not, get on that.

    • I HAVEN’T. i knowwwww!!! i mostly shop at a used bookstore, and apparently NOBODY’S letting go of her stuff. which, if she’s anything like you say, i can’t blame them…

  6. Yes, there’s a trans character in Beauty Queens, and I think another character is a lesbian if I remember correctly. The other two books I can think of with trans characters are also YA: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills (main character is trans), and Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (main character is a straight guy who falls for a trans girl). I’m a librarian and we have a Queer Book Group at my library – the group leader is frequently frustrated by the lack of LGBTQ books out there, so it’s not just you. I think there’s more in YA than adult right now, in fact both the trans titles I recommended are YA.

    • GREAT, i’ll have to check those out! it may be YA, but that won’t stop me reading it. i just find it frustrating that it’s apparently the only genre with even slightly decent representation. where are my scifi/fantasy LGBT characters, eh??

      • Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold has a main character who is gay and lives on a planet of men. You have to have special governmental authority to get off planet materials that even reference women. So seeing him sent off planet and interact closely with a woman for the first time in his life was kind of fun. EoA is part of the Vorkosigan universe, which also has a major secondary character who is a hermaphrodite. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head with books Bel appears in- you’d probably want to read the whole series for it to make sense, anyway. (Ethan of Athos is kind of a side book in the series, and could be read as a stand alone.)

        And for fantasy, have you read the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling? I’ve only read the first book in the series so far, but really looking forward to book two.

  7. Oh! And if you like Urban Fantasy, I enjoyed Frost Moon by Anthony Francis. (Another series that I’ve only managed to read the first book from so far. Too many books! Not enough time!)

  8. Ask The Passengers by A.S. King is about a girl who is coming to terms with her sexuality and her identity. Like all of King’s novels, it’s smart, funny, and written with an empathy for her characters that is a pleasure to read.

  9. I don’t have much to add, am just enjoying the recommendations, but I did want to say that Middlesex was excellent. It was tear-inducing and just…amazing.

  10. I see most people have given you more recent recs so I thought I’d throw some older stuff into the mix for you: Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For, Fun Home, etc.), Fiona Cooper (Rotary Spokes, The Empress of the Seven Oceans), Lisa Alther (Kinflicks, Other Women, Five Minutes in Heaven), Dorothy Allison (Trash). Some of those may be out of print, but I reckon they’re worth digging out.

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