There are plenty of great books to read and films to watch during LGBTQ+ history month, as well as throughout the year. Here are Rachel’s top recommendations for some with relationship themes.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: A hilarious and sharply honest novel about being trans, parenthood, friendship, cis divorce, sex, love, betrayal. The immediacy of the thoughts, emotions, insecurities and conflicts is a great vehicle for connecting with and warming to the characters. The descriptions of dissociation during sex were moving and insightful. Without wishing to play down the challenges of the trans life, there are useful overlaps with cis sex, gender and identity, such as the comparisons with cis women getting divorced and their journey. This book will help you understand how we are all affected by unnecessary categorization and how we all need to attribute meaning in our sexual encounters.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud: Set in Trinidad about a woman, her son, and her male friends, with the challenges of being gay, family betrayal and fitting religious faith into making sense of your life. Lots of delicious food is described too!
Sissy by Jacob Tobia: A coming-of-age memoir in which there is much honesty and humour. Tobia’s extraversion and vulnerability sit very well together. A wonderful journey in gender identities and such fun with clothes!
Queer Sex by Juno Roche: Great interviews with trans people about their sexual and identity journeys. We could all benefit from talking and thinking about these issues more, as we evolve and change and make sense of relating sexually in different ways at each stage of our lives. The ambiguities and blurring of lines that trans people draw attention to is a good challenge for us all. (Watch Rachel’s interview about this book with Juno here.)
Trans Power by Juno Roche: This book is so good on the way we tie ourselves up in knots with categorising people, body parts and behaviours to try and create meaning in our sexual relationships. Language is so powerful and it can be used for both good and bad. We must use it thoughtfully and kindly.
The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye: An up-to-date discussion of the many issues faced by the trans community in the UK. Easy to read despite the serious nature of the topic, and good to have the British data. This book is for anyone who doesn’t have any trans friends – as well as those who do – to gain a greater understanding of, for example, the structural reasons why trans people might be more likely to be homeless, the very small number of young people who want to transition, why cis clinicians making decisions about whether trans people should have surgery is like men deciding if women should have abortions, and the psychological effects of body dsyphoria.
Trans Love edited by Freiya Benson: This anthology includes poetry and autobiography, and there’s lots about love, relationships and identity for us all to be challenged and inspired by. The section by Meg John Barker is especially good on how binaries like together/single, romantic/sexual and partner/friend are artificial for all of us. The more we can grasp the way almost all of our categories are simplistic and convenient, rather than reflecting reality, the greater progress we can make in reducing prejudice and embracing nuance and ambiguity.
A Dutiful Boy by Mohsin Zaidi: A memoir of a Muslim guy’s inner turmoil about being gay. Zaidi is from East London, goes to the University of Oxford and then becomes a barrister. A very moving account with great insights into the Muslim culture as well as the identity crisis that the intersection of Islam, being gay, being an Oxford graduate and an East Londoner create.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor: A gay Black biochemistry graduate student with a traumatic background gets together with another emotionally damaged White student. Sensual, emotional, precise writing and lots of food for thought about sex and the early stages of a relationship. The daily experience of racism is really well conveyed too. A Booker Prize longlister.
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat: The legacy of a difficult mother on a bisexual Palestinian American woman’s relationships are explored insightfully and poignantly in her many relationships. Very honest on mental health and dating.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo: A wonderful range of character portraits in this Booker Prize winner, with lots of references to South London. A great range of relationships, sexual preferences, gender identities, ages, ethnicities, educational and economic backgrounds and much more. If you can’t get out and date, you can learn so much from a novel!
The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall: A classic for LGBTQ+ history month, this novel was banned almost immediately it was published in 1928. A completely engrossing read about an early twentieth century upper-class lesbian trying to work out her identity and role in the world. Very moving and emotionally written.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013): Emotionally charged French film about a teenage girl and her developing sexuality, class difference and the world of artists.
Love is Strange (2014): Set in New York, about two men getting married after 39 years together and the effect on their friends. Very gentle and touching.
Ammonite (2020): Based loosely on the story of British palaeontologist Mary Anning, this is a passionate love story between two women set in the nineteenth century.
Moonlight (2016): A multiple award-winning film about a black boy growing up neglected by his mother in Miami, his sexuality and identity. Beautifully shot and acted.
The Danish Girl (2015): Criticised for having the main character played by a cis actor, this film is loosely inspired by the lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Not very accurate historically, this film still provides some insight into the evolving nature of a relationship when gender identity is explored.
The Power of the Dog (2021): Western psychological drama with several ambiguous characters.
For a great selection of lesbian and bisexual films, visit www.lesflicks.com.
A list of forthcoming trans film festivals is here.
A database of all LGBT films and festivals is here.
Enjoy your reading and watching and consider joining us for one of our online book or film club discussions! Details of forthcoming events here.