Beginning with the 2003 ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the marriage equality movement has steadily gained ground. Friday gave us a great reason to celebrate: the Supreme Court ruled a ban against gay marriage to be unconstitutional!
It's been 40 years since Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan — whose relationship was the subject of the recent documentary Limited Partnership — received a marriage license in Boulder, Colorado and sparked an international controversy. Sadly, Adams, who died in 2012, did not live long enough to see the end of the fight he and Sullivan started, although he did witness the legalization of marriage equality in six states before his death.
To celebrate Friday's momentous occasion, I've picked 30 memoirs from LGBTQIA individuals for you to add to your reading list. These are important stories about what it's like to grow up different in a society that takes heterosexuality and cisgenderhood for granted. Some are happy and some are sad, but all deserve to be told, read, and shared. So knock back a rainbow Jell-O shot or two, pull out your most fabulous bookmark, and cozy up in your fiercest chair, because we've come a long way, baby. Let's have a rainbow reading party!
When We Were Outlaws by Jeanne Córdova
The story of a woman torn between love and revolution, Jeanne Córdova's When We Were Outlaws is a classic. In the 1970s, Córdova was at the heart of the lesbian, feminist, and leftist movements of the time. This is the tale of that time, when it seemed everyone was campaigning for something, and the previously isolated gained a shared identity.
Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) by Thea Hillman
Although Thea Hillman's Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) is a memoir, the book doesn't limit itself to the author's experiences alone. Instead, Hillman takes care to note the range of experiences within the intersex community, including surgical interventions and spectra of sex and gender. Despite — or perhaps because of — the lack of memoirs from intersex individuals, Hillman has crafted an inclusive memoir to speak for a highly marginalized group.
Every Step You Take: A Memoir by Jock Soto
As a half-Navajo, half-Puerto Rican gay man, ballet dancer Jock Soto knows all about intersectionality. Thanks to his well-deserved achievement of fame, you can read his one-of-a-kind, rags-to-riches story for yourself. It's a brilliant, determined, and touching memoir: one that is not to be missed.
Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir by Beth Ditto and Michelle Tea
If this is your first introduction to Beth Ditto, congratulations! You've just met your swanky new body-positive hero. After her success as the frontwoman of Gossip, she has made a name for herself by simply not giving a damn. Written with Michelle Tea, Coal into Diamonds is Ditto's story of growing up punk rock and sexually confused in small town America.
My Life in Hetero: An Ace in the Closet by C. Kellam Scott
One of the few asexual memoirs available, C. Kellam Scott's My Life in Hetero: An Ace in the Closet tells the tale of one man's struggle to accept his aromantic, asexual identity. After wrestling with his sexuality leads him down a self-destructive path, Scott begins to pull himself back up along the path of self-acceptance.
Being by Zach Ellis
Being is a novella-length memoir, written in poetic prose, in which author Zach Ellis recounts, in beautiful lines, the emotions and realities of transitioning from female to male. It's a vibrant and haunting tale, full of striking imagery. Ellis' unique voice is not to be missed.
She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood by Amie Klempnauer Miller
In She Looks Just Like You, Amie Klempnauer Miller recalls the personal identity struggles dredged up by her partner's pregnancy. Expecting a child she would not give birth to, Miller was caught in a confusing tide of emotion and reconciliation: not father, not stepmother, but certainly something somewhat like them both. Ultimately, She Looks Just Like You is an exposé of the trials and tribulations all first-time expectant parents must face.
Memoirs by Tennessee Williams
Published in 1975, Memoirs is a raw look at Tennessee Williams's colorful life. In it, the openly gay playwright recounts his loves and losses, sexual escapades, and substance abuses with frankness. With a cast of supporting characters just as interesting and famous as Williams himself, Memoirs is a must-read romp through modern bohemia.
Redefining Realness is the account of a life spent at the intersection of poor, multiracial, and trans*. Like Intersex, Mock's memoir tells her story inclusively, remaining aware of those living in similar circumstances with wildly different outcomes. It's a landmark title in the trans* rights movement.
Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics by Jennifer Baumgardner
In Look Both Ways, bisexual author and activist Jennifer Baumgardner examines how her sexual identity is excluded and erased from both gay and straight communities. As she wrestles with these social politics, the author also reconciles her marginalization as a bisexual woman with her privilege as a woman who "passes" for straight.
S/He by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Growing up gay in the South is hard. In her erotic memoir, S/He, Minnie Bruce Pratt recounts both youth and adulthood spent in an oppressively gendered society, her final bucking of the system to come out as lesbian, and her partnership with trans* activist Leslie Feinberg. Like many of the books on this list, S/He is ultimately the retelling of a journey toward self-identification.
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
Stone Butch Blues is a fictionalized account of Leslie Feinberg's life caught between genders. Unable to live life happily as either man or woman, Feinberg was forced to carve their own safe space in society. Their story will be hauntingly familiar to anyone who has struggled with an identity or been forced to find a new place to belong.
Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-century French Hermaphrodite by Herculine Barbin and Michel Foucault
In the 1970s, theorist Michel Foucault gathered the personal writings of Herculine Barbin — a 19th century intersex individual — and published them with his own commentary. Barbin lived as a lesbian until a medical examination revealed them to have male pseudohermaphroditism, which resulted in a court order for Barbin to live as a man. Barbin's story is a rich, poignant examination of sex and sexuality in a tumultuous France.
Butterfly Boy: Memoirs of a Chicano Mariposa by Rigoberto González
Butterfly Boy is a bildungsroman about growing up gay in a hypermasculine community. After a troubled and tragic childhood, Rigoberto González goes looking for his place in the world, but finds an abusive relationship instead. His memoir is the story of finding one's intersectional identity at the place where race, class, and sexuality collide.
Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser by Rita Mae Brown
As the first out lesbian writer to gain mainstream literary success, Rita Mae Brown knows a thing or two about standing out from the crowd. She's an adopted child, a transplanted Southerner, and an outspoken feminist. In Rita Will, Brown retells her independent, ornery life with a heavy dose of humor.
In Whipping Girl, transsexual lesbian activist Julia Serano shares her thoughts and observations on societal depictions of femininity — as silly, weak, and submissive — and their impact on the lives of all women in general and trans women in particular. Her arguments tear through pervasive myths and misconceptions about the female gender, leaving bare the microaggressive misogyny fueling transphobia.
Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
In her poignant memoir, Jennifer Finney Boylan examines what differences, if any, exist between the experiences of mothers and fathers. Having parented her children as a man, as a woman, and as a person outside the gender binary, Boylan is the author best-suited to tell this story. Stuck in the Middle with You is at turns gripping, funny, and sad, just as parenting always is.
Second Son by Ryan K. Sallans
Second Son is the story of a life in transition. Author Ryan K. Sallans, born Kimberly Ann, walks readers through his life, from girlhood to manhood. It's a journey that spans three decades, several hospitalizations, and multiple identities before resolving to prove that everything really does get better.
The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
What does marriage look like to a gay couple who already have a son? Depends on the gay couple. This funny memoir from one of America's most beloved sex columnists invites readers to experience life in a family dynamic where your mother wants a wedding, your partner likes being different, and your kid just wants to eat cake.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
Rejected by her highly religious mother for being a lesbian, adoptee Jeanette Winterson sets off on a quest to find her biological parents and — hopefully — familial acceptance. It's a story of revived childhood trauma, coping with manipulation, and finding your truest self.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
I think we can all agree that Neil Patrick Harris is just the best. And if NPH is the best, then his memoir must also be the best, right? Right! Choose Your Own Autobiography is a hilarious look at the issues facing a child star wrestling with both his career and his burgeoning sexuality. Full of Harris's signature brand of cheeky humor, this memoir is a must-read for any NPH fan.
Bumbling into Body Hair: A Transsexual's Memoir by Everett Maroon
All teenagers have body issues, but trans man Everett Maroon had more than his fair share. Bumbling into Body Hair is Maroon's humorous take on living life as a clumsy, geeky, and just plaid awkward dude. It's as if Pretty in Pink were genderswapped for a new generation. Yet although Maroon's approach is comedic, his perspectives on gender are critically important.
Palimpsest: A Memoir by Gore Vidal
As one of America's most prolific authors, Gore Vidal certainly did his fair share of hobnobbing in literary circles. Palimpsest is a gossipy, backbiting tell-all that lampoons prominent figures — such as Charlton Heston and Truman Capote — for the sake of revenge. The memoir is Vidal's attempt at rescuing his reputation from those whom he claimed lied about him incessantly. If you like reality television, you'll love Palimpsest.
A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein
Not many books have a subtitle as interesting as A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today. Kate Bornstein's memoir recounts her repeated attempts to flee from her trans* identity before finally accepting it and becoming one of queer theory's biggest contemporary rock stars.
Fun Home by Allison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel's graphic novel memoir, Fun Home, is the story of her troubled relationship with her abusive father, a closeted gay man. Following her father's death, Bechdel examines how his sexual repression influenced his emotional problems. As she navigates her own sexual orientation, Bechdel finds parallels between her life and her father's, and questions whether her coming out as a lesbian contributed to his death.
Gad Beck's survival of the Holocaust is nothing short of miraculous. A young, gay Jew and resistance leader, Beck managed to escape detention until the war was almost finished. His Jewish pride spurred his family to activism; even his mother's Christian siblings took to the streets to protest the Nazis' internment of German Jews. An Underground Life isn't just Beck's story, but is instead the tale of activism in the face of history's heaviest oppression.
GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins
Unlike most of the books on this list, GenderQueer isn't the story of one person's experience with gender and sexuality. Rather, it's a compilation of 30 accounts, presented as a whole to document the reality of life outside the gender binary. Covering the history of gender constructs are editors Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins, who provide insight into the cultural and political aspects of gender theory.
Full Service by Scotty Bowers and Lionel Friedberg
Scotty Bowers went from gas station attendant to Hollywood sex worker overnight. At the height of his career, Bowers claims to have arranged sexual encounters for Katherine Hepburn, Vincent Price, and Cary Grant as part of his party business. Whether or not Full Service is entirely truthful, it's a campy read full of Hollywood gossip and intrigue.
Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender by Nick Krieger
Nina Here Nor There tells the journey of one young man's journey through lesbianism to trans manhood. It's an evolving, evocative tale, hailed as a Stone Butch Blues for Millennials. Nick Krieger's delineations between cismale, transmale, and lesbian aren't necessarily new, but they're rarely discussed in public with such frank honesty. At times uncertain, Nina Here Nor There has quickly become part of the queer literary canon.
Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?: Confessions of a Gay Dad by Dan Bucatinsky
After his father dies, Dan Bucatinsky is a new dad left in the lurch, without fatherly guidance on how to be a good parent. Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? follows Bucatinsky and his husband's adventures in fatherhood as they adopt two biological siblings and struggle to figure out whether parenting while gay is different than parenting while straight.