20 LGBTQIA+ stories with upbeat endings

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Cover of Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Water (Cover image via Riverhead Books)

7. Tipping the Velvet

You may recall Sarah Waters as the writer of Fingersmith, the lesbian crime novel set in 19th century England. Her work was the template for Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, though the film was set in 20th century Korea during the Japanese occupation there.

Fingersmith isn’t the only work published by Waters. Neither is it her only work that focuses and women loving women and even gives them a happy ending. Waters is also well known for another LGBTQIA+ story set in Victorian Britain: Tipping the Velvet.

Tipping the Velvet is actually Waters’ first novel, published in 1998. It follows a young woman, Nan, living in the British region of Kent. Nan is a sheltered young woman who spends much of her time helping in her family’s oyster restaurant. She crosses paths with Kitty Butler at the local theatre, where Kitty is working for a season as a “masher,” or male impersonator.

Trouble in the city

Nan quickly becomes enamored of Kitty. For her part, Kitty develops a close friendship with Nan. However, it’s difficult for the more urbane Kitty to admit that she, too, is attracted to Nan. They travel back to London together, with Nan initially acting as Kitty’s assistant and eventually co-performer as early versions of drag kings.

Alas, the relationship starts to crumble after Nan returns from a visit to Kent. Kitty marries her male manager and Nan is out on the streets. The girl starts to dress as a boy and starts to make money and plenty of connections on the sordid streets of 19th century London.

Nan makes friends with the feminist Florence and nearly finds a home with her. Unfortunately, the picaresque novel format used by Waters requires its protagonist to endure a few more trials first. Nan leaves Florence for the streets once again. She even lives as a kept boy of sorts in an upper-class home, going by “Neville” for a whole year.

Eventually, Nan meets both Kitty and Florence again. But which relationship will result in her desired and, by now, much-deserved upbeat ending?