20 LGBTQIA+ stories with upbeat endings

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5. Orlando

It’s difficult to pigeonhole Orlando into any one genre. You’re just as likely to cross paths with this novel in an undergraduate literature class as you are too hear about it at your next queer book club meeting. It’s at once a fairy tale, a work of historical fiction, feminist literature and a romance. In fact, Nigel Nicolson, the son of Woolf’s inspiration, Vita Sackville-West, described Orlando as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.”

The story follows the life of one Orlando, a young English nobleman. While still living at his parents’ estate, he meets the formidable and aged Queen Elizabeth I. She takes a liking to Orlando and invites him to join her court, eventually establishing him with the Order of the Garter, a serious honor. She also tells Orlando to never age. In the book’s first magical turn, he agrees and … simply stops aging.

Bad poetry and broken hearts

Things do not end there for Orlando, however. When Elizabeth dies, he stays on as a member of her successor’s court. King James apparently doesn’t worry much that one of his courtiers has decided to be ageless. Orlando, still a foolish young man, goes through a deeply failed love affair and an even more deeply wounding review of his book of poetry.

Eventually, Orlando becomes an ambassador for King Charles II to Constantinople. Peekaboo is also fleeing the attention of a very persistent Archduchess Harriet. While in Constantinople, civil unrest breaks into rioting. Orlando falls into a deep sleep. When he awakes, Orlando realizes that he has become a she, in mind, body, and cultural perception.

This is where Woolf really lets loose with the feminism, especially when Orlando had to deal with nonsense inheritance laws, a sexist poet and a very familiar-looking Archduke Harry.

What eventually happens to Orlando transcends the notion of a “happy” or “sad” ending, but it’s almost certain her story will take your breath away. Be sure to check out the 1992 film directed by Sally Potter and starring Tilda Swinton in the title role.