18 Classics of LGBTQ Literature

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(Image via W.W. Norton)

Queer people have created and inspired some truly great works of literature. Read up on some of the best LGBTQ literature with this list.

The honest, terrible truth is that LGBTQ people have been persecuted for much of human history. Simply existing as a gay person was often enough to get you killed. At the very least, living openly as a gay, lesbian, transgender, or other non-heterosexual person spelled a lifetime of exclusion and shame. So, many simply lived “in the closet”, concealing their true identities in order to fit with societal expectations.

However, this was not necessarily the only fate for LGBTQ people. A number of them were brave enough to live openly, despite outright prejudice in both their communities and their legal systems. Though today we still have much to work for in advancing gay rights, we came this far thanks to these pioneering individuals and communities.

Some spoke out in the realm of politics. Others became activists. Many simply lived their lives in their communities, using their visibility to show neighbors that they were also human beings that deserved peaceful, happy lives.

Others wrote. Literature remains as an avenue for people to show lives and worlds that are seemingly impossible. Yet, through imagining them and sharing these existences with others, some writers have helped to bring these to reality. Specifically, by depicting LGBTQ people in books, novelists have worked to popularize and, to an extent, normalize LGBTQ stories.

The mere existence of these works helps LGBTQ people as well. It can be immensely important to see the stories of people who have gone before, and to see those stories written about as if they were beautiful and right. Too often, queer youth hear that they are somehow “sick” or “wrong”. LGBTQ literature can be a powerful antidote to this hate.

Read on for eighteen works of LGBTQ literature that you should start reading (if you haven’t already, of course). While this obviously isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s certainly a good place to start.