There are plenty of great books to read and films to watch during LGBTQIA+ history month, as well as throughout the year. Here are Rachel’s top recommendations for some with relationship themes.

Books

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.

Blackmail in Bloomsbury by Anna Sayburn Lane: Set in London, 1922, and inspired by classic murder mysteries from the Golden Age of British crime writing, this is the first in a series of stories following two lady detectives. From afternoon tea at The Ritz Hotel to peril in the illegal late-night clubs of Soho, the author challenges stereotypes and entertains the reader with interesting historical details.

Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke: A hilariously satirical novel about getting stuck inside Slack, work culture and relationships.

The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore: A satirical, decadent Mr Ripley-esque novel set in the 18th century about two brothers.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: An epic historical fiction novel following a Korean family and friends who immigrate to Japan and encounter racism, discrimination, stereotyping and corruption.

Find Me by André Aciman: The follow-up to the wonderful book and film, Call me by your name.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: The debut novel of a Vietnamese-American author, this is written in the form of a letter to his illiterate mother, as a memoir of his life.

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!

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.

Hold by Michael Donkor: A moving, funny, and sad novel about friendship, shame, forgiveness, and growing up, set between Ghana and London.

The Binding by Bridget Collins: A historical tale with a supernatural element of forbidden love, buried secrets and betrayal.

Inheritance by Balli Kaur Jaswal: Set in Singapore between the 1970s and 1990s, this is a story about a traditional Punjabi family as it gradually unravels and has to confront its legacies and accept change.

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.

Artificial Futures by Rachel New and Christian Darkin: It’s probably bad form to include your own book, but there are plenty of short stories in here with aliens and humans with a range of genders and orientations!

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar: When fake dating simmers into something more, will these two Bengali girls get their happily ever after? A novel for young adults.

Heartbreakers by Simon James Green: Another young adult novel, this one is a hilarious road trip rom-com about heartbreak, social media hijinks, and learning to be happy with who you are.

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.

The Gendered Brain by Gina Rippon: Neuroscientist Rippon provides compelling evidence that brains are not female or male and that gender is a social phenomenon.

Gender Mosaic: Beyond the Myth of the Male and Female Brain by Daphna Joel and Luba Vikhanski: Another book by neuroscientists showing the results of their studies comparing male and female brains and showing the differences within are greater than the differences between.

Films

Joyland (2022): Set in Lahore, this film revolves around a family and their forbidden desires.

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.

My Sole Desire (2023): Very sexy, sex-positive, body-positive, life-affirming film set in a strip club.

Blue Jean (2022): By day, Jean is a PE teacher,but by night, she frequents a local lesbian bar with her friends and long-term partner. The looming Section 28 ruling of 1988 means she has to be very vigilant about keeping her private life a secret.

The Blue Caftan (2022): Set in Morocco, a middle-aged tailor and his wife find their relationship challenged by the arrival of a handsome new apprentice.Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022): An absurdist comedy sci-fi queer film that explores existentialist themes.

Two of Us (2019): Two elderly women, who are neighbours, have also been lovers for decades, and plan to move to Rome. Things go wrong when one of them has a stroke and becomes mute and paralyzed, and is unable to tell her family the truth about her relationship.

My Fake Boyfriend (2022): A young man creates a fake boyfriend to keep his ex-lover away, but things go awry when he meets the real love of his life.

Bottoms (2023): An American satirical teen comedy.

La Plage (2023): This film tells the story of two same-sex couples who meet by chance on a train heading to the north of France. Boys go to their parents for a coming-out, and girls, enveloped in the passion of fresh feelings, head for new adventures. However, their meeting on the train changes everything: first – plans, later – consciousness.

All of Us Strangers (2023): A screenwriter drawn back to his childhood home enters into a fledgling relationship with a mysterious neighbour.

Monica (2023): A delicate and nuanced story of a fractured family, the story explores universal themes of abandonment, aging, acceptance, and redemption.

Carol (2015): In the 1950s, a glamorous married woman and an aspiring photographer embark on a passionate, forbidden romance that will forever change their lives.

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.

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.

Rachel welcomes all genders, sexual orientations, ages and backgrounds for coaching.